Legal Issues Related To Airgun Use

The development of regulations related to use of arms of any type is a volatile area that undergoes rapid change. Just recently, the State of New York began to recognize airguns as legal tools for taking small game. Most states have done so for many years. However, even though some states allow hunting of small game with airguns, some species are excluded and only specifically designated species can be taken legally. In addition, regulations may not apply to the entire state with certain jurisdictions having unique regulations. The point is that anyone who plans to hunt with an airgun needs to do some homework first. Even a state by state list of regulations compiled a few months ago may be out of date. In general, the prevailing attitude is that an airgun is simply a “gun” and that regulations that apply to firearm use also apply to the use of airguns with the possible exclusion of certain species.

Regulations are in place in most states regarding transportation of “guns” as the term is applied to hunting. If it is required for firearms to be transported unloaded and cased, the same regulation applies to any airgun powerful enough to be used in hunting. If you are to be in error, make sure it is on the conservative side because you may have a difficult time convincing some conservation officer about the difference between a firearm and an airgun.

In my home state, any airgun that has a muzzle velocity over 700 ft/sec and any airgun of caliber larger than .18 (regardless of velocity) are considered to be firearms both with regard to purchase and possession. Age restrictions that apply to firearms also apply to such airguns. Consequently, a youngster can not simply take his or her airgun and go hunting. Such activity must be done in the presence of an adult who holds a legal firearm owners card. Obviously, all regulations that deal with licenses, permits, and bag limits apply equally to firearms and airguns. Whatever the rules are in the area where you plan to hunt, obey them religiously! One of the most sure ways to have more regulations imposed is to ignore those already in place. Hunters of all types must recognize that there is a rather large and growing segment of the population that believes that hunting should be abolished.

Jim House

Jim House began shooting with a single shot BB gun at a very early age. Now, seventy years later, he is an airgun enthusiast. After a 32-year career as a chemistry professor at Illinois State University, he has written extensively about shooting sports, which has resulted in the books American Air Rifles and CO2 Pistols and Rifles. His books also include The Gun Digest Book of 22 Rimfire and, with his wife Kathleen, Customize the Ruger 10/22. Jim is the Reloading Editor for Gun World magazine and a Contributing Editor for The Varmint Hunter Magazine, The Backwoodsman, Airgun Hobbyist, and The Illinois Shooter. Although a lot of his work is with firearms, he maintains a keen interest in airgunning while also serving as Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Illinois Wesleyan University.