How to Search for Serial Numbers on Guns

By Si Kingston ; Updated June 16, 2017
Man holding a handgun in his hands

Every gun has a serial number. The serial number can tell you the manufacturer's date and model. Finding out whether or not a gun you purchased has been reported stolen can also be determined from a gun's serial number. If you want to look up information about a gun, you can contact the gun manufacturer or your local police, or visit online databases to find out whether the gun is stolen.

Locate the Gun Serial Number

The serial number can be found in many different locations. Typically the serial number can be found on the handle, slide, trigger guard or receiver. There is no typical serial number. For example, a Browning serial number can range in length from eight to ten characters, a Glock number is only five characters long. Serial numbers can contain both numbers and letters. A serial number is stamped in metal so it doesn't wear easily. If a serial number is worn, try looking for the serial number in a different place on the gun (some guns will have more than one serial number). A worn or filed-off serial number is an indicator of a stolen gun.

Contact the Manufacturer

Call the gun manufacturer or go to the manufacturer's website to access their online search tool. There is no central resource for gun manufacturers. See Resources for the gun manufacturer's online directory of many gun manufacturer websites. For lesser-known manufacturers, you can conduct a search online or look at your user manual for contact information. Submit the gun serial number to the representative over the phone or enter it into the search field online. Write down the gun manufacturing date and the gun model as provided by the representative or online search tool.

Gun History

Check the search tool in the state where you purchased the gun. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement agencies, for instance, provides a free online search tool. If that gun is reported stolen, the search tool will display that information. You can conduct a search online for checking firearm serial numbers in your state, or go directly to the police department as described in step two.

Visit Your Local Police Department

Give the officer the gun serial number and ask him to run a check on the gun. If the gun was ever reported stolen anywhere in the United States, the officer will be able to tell you. The police department will run the gun's serial number through the FBI's NCIC database which records all stolen guns that have been reported in every state.

Go Online

Enter the serial number into a third-party website like HotGunz or StolenWeapon. A gun owner may register the gun with one of these sites after he realizes that it is stolen. These sites, therefore, can only tell you if the gun has been previously registered to them as stolen, not if the gun has been reported stolen to a law enforcement agency.

About the Author

Si Kingston has been an online content contributor since 2004, with work appearing on websites such as MadeMan. She is a professional screenwriter and young-adult novelist and was awarded the Marion-Hood Boesworth Award for Young Fiction in 2008. Kingston holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mills College.