Felons who haven’t had their firearms rights restored cannot own, possess, or use firearms. Does that prohibition also apply to antique or replica guns? Can a felon own a black powder gun for hunting or for target shooting?
Whether you can legally own a black powder gun depends on the design of the gun and on the laws of the state you’re living in or visiting.
While we’ll outline the federal law on black powder guns for felons, each state has its own rules. For your own protection and peace of mind, contact your state Attorney General’s office or an attorney in your state for advice before you purchase or use a black powder gun.
Can A Felon Own A Black Powder Gun Under Federal Law?
The law which prohibits felons from owning and using firearms in the United States is the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968. Under the GCA, felons are prohibited persons who cannot purchase, own, use, possess, or receive firearms.
However, as far as federal law is concerned, a felon can own a muzzleloading black powder gun for sporting or recreational purposes. That’s because black powder muzzleloaders are not firearms, according to the Gun Control Act.
The GCA defines a firearm as a weapon that uses an explosive to expel a projectile or which can be converted to operate in that manner.
Black powder guns manufactured in or before 1898 are classed as antique firearms and are not regulated under the Gun Control Act. Antique firearms are firearms with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of primitive ignition system.
Modern replica black powder guns also fall into the category of antique firearms as long as they are muzzleloading and aren’t designed to use, or modified to use, rimfire ammunition or centerfire fixed ammunition.
- Black powder guns for felons cannot incorporate a firearm frame or receiver.
- A felon cannot use a conventional firearm that has been converted into a muzzleloader.
- Legal black powder guns for felons cannot be muzzleloaders able to be converted to fire-fixed ammunition.
- You cannot replace the barrel, bolt, breechblock, or any combination of those parts to turn the muzzleloader into a firearm.
- Black powder guns for felons cannot be loaded from the breech.
The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) helpfully clarified the federal law on felons owning black powder guns. In their firearms FAQ, they explain that federal law does not prohibit felons from owning or using black powder antique or replica guns.
The ATF document states “A muzzle-loading weapon that meets the definition of an “antique firearm” is not a firearm and may lawfully be received and possessed by a prohibited person under the GCA”.
As you can see, federal law doesn’t restrict black powder guns for felons but don’t rush out to buy one just yet because many states have their own laws which ban felons from using black powder guns.
What States Can A Felon Own A Black Powder Revolver?
While federal rules allow felons to own and use black powder guns which meet the definition of an antique firearm or replica of an antique firearm, you also need to make sure you can legally own a black powder gun in your state.
If your state law prohibits felons from purchasing, owning, possessing, or using black powder guns, you risk facing charges for the offense of firearms possession by a prohibited person, if you buy or use a black powder gun.
In what states can a felon own a black powder gun? To find out the laws in your state, you’ve got several options.
- Go to the website for your state Attorney General’s office and find the “contact us” option. Use the contact form provided to ask about the legality of black powder guns for felons in your state.
- Contact an attorney in your state and ask for their advice.
- Look up the criminal code in your state.
Your state’s criminal code will be freely available online. If you want to look up state law yourself, you’ll need to check several sections of the code.
- Look for the definition of “firearm” used in the criminal code. Specifically, look for mention of antique and replica guns.
- Look for the definition of “dangerous weapon”.
- If black powder guns are included in the definition of a dangerous weapon, you’ll also need to search the code to find out if your felony prohibits you from owning or carrying a dangerous weapon.
The way that laws are written makes them confusing. Unless you’re confident you understand the definitions and classifications, it’s a better idea to get help from an attorney.
Examples Of State Laws On Black Powder Guns For Felons
Laws are subject to change and the information below is not legal advice.
Utah law technically allows former felons to own and use black powder guns as long as the use of the gun does not constitute the use of a dangerous weapon.
- A former felon can use a black powder gun for hunting or target practice.
- A former felon cannot use a black powder gun if the conditions of their probation or parole prohibit the use of this type of weapon.
- Utah does not allow felons to own or use dangerous weapons.
When is a black powder gun considered a dangerous weapon? According to Utah law, a dangerous weapon is “an object that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury”.
Source: Utah Code 76-10-501 (6)(a)(ii)
While a felon can own a black powder gun, it could be classed as a dangerous weapon in Utah depending on how you use it. The full implications of the Utah law would be best explained to you by an attorney.
Only felons convicted of non-violent crimes may own and use antique or replica black powder muzzleloading guns in Virginia.
Individuals convicted of an act of violence or a violent felony are prohibited from owning or using a black powder gun.
The Virginia code includes a long list of offenses which are classed as violent offenses, so again, this is a state where getting the advice of an attorney would be in your best interest.
The law in Tennessee is clear and straightforward.
A 2019 change to the definition of “firearm” in Tennessee now makes it lawful for felons to own black powder guns as long as the guns are antique guns or replica guns.
Source: Possession of Antique Firearms by Felons. Office of the Attorney General of Tennessee. Opinion No. 19-19.
Wyoming is another state where legislation clearly gives an answer to the question: can felons own a black powder guns?
Wyoming state law applies the federal definitions of black powder antique and replica firearms. Under House Bill HB0231 enacted in 2017, felons are allowed to use black powder guns in Wyoming.
Source: HB0231 – Firearm possession-allow felons antique firearms.
What States Can Felons Own Black Powder Guns?
Under federal law, a felon is allowed to own a black powder gun as long as the gun is a muzzleloading antique gun or replica. A black powder gun cannot be modified to fire modern ammunition, and the gun cannot include a firearm frame or receiver.
Felons should only purchase black powder guns that meet the very specific requirements allowed under the law.
Before you purchase a black powder gun, you’ll also need to find out if you can legally use an antique or replica black powder gun in your state.
State laws vary. Some states follow the federal rule, some classify black power guns as regular firearms, and others consider them to be antique firearms but also rule them to be dangerous weapons that felons are not allowed to possess.
The best way to get an accurate assessment of the law in your state is to contact an attorney.
Robert Eric (a lover of Cats and Dogs) is the co-founder of HireFelonsJobs. In our search for a better life, after… A platform was created for the purpose of easing the search for ex-convicts.