Once you’ve been convicted of a felony, you lose your right to own, possess, and use firearms. This is a problem for anyone who wants to hunt with guns, enjoy recreational target practice, or protect their home and family. Is a muzzleloader the answer to that problem? Can a felon own a muzzleloader without breaking the law?
In this article we’ll go over some details for you because the answer, unfortunately, isn’t a straight yes or no.
Can A Felon Own A Muzzleloader Under The Gun Control Act?
The 1968 Gun Control Act bans “prohibited persons” from owning, possessing, or using firearms. Felons are “prohibited persons”.
But the law makes an exception for antique firearms made before 1898, and replicas of that type of antique firearm.
For the purposes of the Gun Control Act, a firearm is a weapon that will expel a projectile by the action of an explosive. Weapons that can be converted to function in this manner are also classed as firearms.
So far that’s all easy to understand. Here’s where it gets confusing. According to federal law an antique firearm isn’t a firearm.
Even though muzzleloaders use black powder to create an explosion which expels a projectile, muzzleloaders manufactured before 1898, and replicas of those weapons, are classed as collectibles or antique firearms, and they aren’t therefore considered “firearms”, nor are these weapons regulated by the Gun Control Act.
An antique firearm possess a matchlock, flintlock, or percussion cap ignition system, and uses black powder and a projectile rather than rimfire or centerfire fixed ammunition.
Under federal law, this type of muzzleloader doesn’t require a license or registration.
BUT, you need to be aware that while the Gun Control Act is a federal law which covers the entire country, some states have passed their own laws which prohibit felons from owning muzzleloaders.
So under federal law, a felon can own a muzzleloader, but if you live in a state which has banned felons from owning muzzleloaders, it’s the state law that you need to comply with.
Many states simply follow the federal regulations which means that you’ll most likely find that you can own a muzzleloader, but you must investigate further to find out if it’s legal for a felon to own a muzzleloader in your state.
What Type Of Muzzleloader Can Felons Use?
A muzzleloader is a gun that is loaded by the barrel rather than the breech. Muzzleloader guns can be pistols, shotguns or rifles.
With a muzzleloader you load the gun by dropping the projectile and black powder into the barrel of the gun from the open end.
For a muzzleloader to be legally owned and used by felons the gun cannot use fixed ammunition or be capable of being converted to use fixed ammunition.
You must make sure that the muzzleloader you use does not have a firearm frame or receiver. Any weapon incorporating a frame or receiver is not classed as an antique firearm and is subject to the regulations imposed by the Gun Control Act.
Your gun cannot be a regular firearm that has been converted into a muzzleloader. And the weapon must not be able to be converted to a gun that can fire fixed ammunition by replacing the barrel, bolt, or breechblock.
Another very important point to know is that you can’t use a muzzleloader that is designed to operate with shotgun primer because shotgun primer is classed as firearm ammunition and felons cannot own, receive, or use firearm ammunition.
Felons have been prosecuted for that mistake, so don’t make the same error.
Remember, these rules refer to the federal law. You must check if you can legally own a muzzleloader in your state, city, or county.
Before you go out to shoot your muzzleloader, you should learn how to safely use the gun. There’s a lot to learn about loading and using a muzzleloader correctly, and you can get badly hurt if you have an accident because of improper black powder handling and use.
What Is Black Powder And Can A Felon Legally Use It?
Black powder (also called gunpowder) is the earliest known type of chemical explosive. Traditional black powder has been replaced by nitrocellulose in modern ammunition, and the ammunition used for regular guns contains the propellant, primer and projectile in a convenient casing.
Guns that use black powder or black powder substitute, require the separate loading of all the components necessary to fire a shot.
Can felons use black powder? Yes, under federal law “prohibited persons” banned from owning a firearm and firearm ammunition can legally own and use black powder for sporting, recreational, or cultural purposes as long as the amount you hold is less than 50 pounds.
The Gun Control Act defines ammunition as cartridge cases, bullets, primers, and propellant powders designed for use in firearms. Because muzzleloaders aren’t firearms, and black powder isn’t a propellant powder designed for use in firearms, felons can use black powder under federal law.
Again, you’ll need to check with your local and state laws to find out if you can legally own and use black powder, and if there are lower limits on the amount you can possess.
Do You Need A Firearms License For A Muzzleloader?
As far as federal regulations are concerned a Federal Firearms License is not required for antique or replica muzzleloaders.
Your state, however, may require a license or a permit.
Can Felons Hunt With A Muzzleloader?
If it’s legal for a felon to own a muzzleloader in your state, then you can hunt with a muzzleloader as long as you comply with all of your state’s hunting regulations.
States set the dates for muzzleloader hunting season, they specify which caliber of weapon must be used for certain game animals, and have rules about the type of black powder and ignition system you can use.
You may also be required to take a course on muzzleloader hunting.
One positive about hunting with a muzzleloader is that muzzleloader season is usually much quieter than regular hunting season, and you’ll have fewer hunters out in the woods competing for game.
You’ll still need to obtain a hunting license before you can hunt with a muzzleloader, and that could be a problem for you if the hunting license application requires a background check in your state, or if a hunting license is only available to those with a gun license.
How To Check Your State Laws
The best way to find out if you can legally own and use a muzzleloader as a convicted felon, is to ask a firearms lawyer to confirm the law in your state, city, or county.
You’ll need to pay a fee, but you’ll get a definitive answer that you can rely on, and you’ll know which statute covers your legal right to own and use a muzzleloader.
You can also keep a copy of your lawyer’s legal opinion with you whenever you leave home to shoot your weapon. Then if you’re challenged by a police officer, who may not be familiar with the law regarding muzzleloaders, you can save yourself a lot of inconvenience by showing the officer the relevant law.
Another way to check the legal situation where you live is to search through the criminal code for your state, and then check your county and city ordinances. Use any search engine to find the criminal code for your state, then search the code for firearms regulations and weapons regulations.
When you get to the relevant sections of the code, read carefully to understand the definition your state applies to firearms and look for specific references to muzzleloaders, antique firearms or black powder.
As you probably know, gun control laws are subject to change, and lawmakers are often keen to find ways to tighten up restrictions. Because of this, it’s in your best interest to get a legal opinion initially, and then make an annual check of the statute to make sure nothing has changed.
If you fall foul of firearms regulations, you’ll face a charge of owning a weapon as a prohibited person. Such a charge is usually a felony and can lead to a prison sentence and extremely heavy financial penalties.
Under the federal Gun Control Act (GCA), muzzleloaders are not classed as firearms as long as the weapon was manufactured before 1898 or is a replica of that type of weapon. Muzzleloaders fitting that description are classed as antique firearms and the regulations of the GCA don’t apply. That means that prohibited persons (felons) banned from owning firearms by the GCA can in fact legally own some types of muzzleloaders.
A felon can own and use a muzzleloader as long as it can only fire ball rounds or shot propelled by separately loaded black powder or black powder substitute. Felons cannot legally own or use shotgun primer, so you won’t be able to use some muzzleloader guns designed to use those primers.
While federal law doesn’t prohibit felons from owning or using muzzleloaders, some states class muzzleloaders as firearms which means that felons cannot have access to these weapons. To stay on the right side of the law, you’ll need to check what the law says in your state before you purchase a muzzleloader.
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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.