News & Updates

Can Felons Own Black Powder Guns?

This question was asked on our Facebook Group. Due to the length of the answer, we have created this post.

First, it's already known that it's illegal under Federal and State laws for a restricted or prohibited person to purchase, transfer, possess, use, or have under the person's custody or control any firearm or any dangerous weapon.

To answer the original question, yes it's LEGAL for a prohibited person to purchase, transfer, possess, use, or have under the person's custody or control black powder firearms. That's because black powder firearms are defined as an "antique firearm" under Federal and State laws.

Utah follows Federal law, and also allows a restricted person in Utah to own, possess, or have under the person's custody or control, archery equipment, including crossbows, for the purpose of lawful hunting and lawful target shooting as long as the restricted person is not restricted by a court as a condition of pre-trial release or probation, or the Board of Pardons and Parole as a condition of parole.
HOWEVER, depending on how the muzzle loader is being used, it could fall under a "dangerous weapon" and the person could still be charged with a crime for having it in their possession.

 

Federal Laws

Can a person prohibited by law from possessing a firearm own a black powder firearm? (link)
Because black powder firearms are considered antique firearms, the possession of a black powder firearm by a person subject to Federal firearms disabilities is not prohibited by the GCA. However, a person subject to Federal firearms disabilities may not receive and/or possess black powder firearms that can be readily converted to fire fixed ammunition by replacing the barrel, bolt, breechblock, or any combination thereof which are classified as "firearms." Additionally, State law may prohibit the possession of a black powder firearm by persons who are not Federally prohibited from possessing them. Please contact your State Attorney General’s Office for information regarding black powder firearms.
[18 U.S.C. 921(a)(3) and (16); 27 CFR 478.11 and 478.141(d)]

Do antique firearms come within the purview of the GCA? (link)
No, assuming the antique firearm is not a replica designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition. The antique firearm also cannot be a black powder muzzle loading weapon that incorporates a firearm frame or receiver, have been converted into a muzzle loading weapon, or uses fixed ammunition (or readily converted to do so).
[18 U.S.C. 921(a)(3) and (16); 27 CFR 478.11 and 478.141(d)]

Can a person prohibited by law from possessing a firearm acquire and use a black powder muzzle loading firearm? (link)
The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) prohibits felons and certain other persons from possessing or receiving firearms and ammunition (“prohibited persons”). These categories can be found at 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) and (n) in http://atf.gov/publications/download/p/atf-p-5300-4.pdf.

However, Federal law does not prohibit these persons from possessing or receiving an antique firearm. The term “antique firearm” means any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or before 1898. The definition includes any replica of an antique firearm if it is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition, or uses rimfire or conventional centerfire ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States, and which is not readily available in ordinary channels of commercial trade. Further, any muzzle loading rifle, shotgun, or pistol which is designed to use black powder or black powder substitute, and which cannot use fixed ammunition, is an “antique firearm” unless it (1) incorporates a firearm frame or receiver; (2) is a firearm which is converted into a muzzle loading weapon; or (3) is a muzzle loading weapon which can be readily converted to fire fixed ammunition by replacing the barrel, bolt, breechblock, or any combination thereof. See 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3), (a)(16).

Thus, 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.
In addition, the GCA defines the term “ammunition” to mean “ammunition or cartridge cases, primers, bullets, or propellant powder designed for use in any firearm.” Because an “antique firearm” is not a “firearm,” it would is lawful for a prohibited person to receive or possess black powder designed for use in an “antique firearm.” Also, the Federal explosives laws do not make it unlawful for a prohibited person to acquire and possess black powder in quantities not exceeding fifty pounds if it is intended to be used solely for sporting, recreational, or cultural purposes in “antique firearms.” See 18 U.S.C. § 845(a)(5)

By contrast, a prohibited person may not receive or possess black powder firearms that can be readily converted to fire fixed ammunition by replacing the barrel, bolt, breechblock, or any combination thereof. ATF has classified certain muzzle loading models as firearms. All of these models incorporate the frame or receiver of a firearm that is capable of accepting barrels designed to fire conventional rimfire or centerfire fixed ammunition. These muzzle loading models do not meet the definition of “antique firearm” as that term is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(16), and are “firearms” as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3). Furthermore, as firearms, these and similar models, regardless of the barrel installed on the firearm or provided with the firearm, are subject to all provisions of the GCA. Persons who purchase these firearms from licensed dealers are required to fill out a Firearms Transaction Record, ATF Form 4473, and are subject to a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check. Felons and other prohibited persons may not lawfully receive or
possess these firearms or ammunition.

The following is a list of weapons that load from the muzzle and are classified as firearms, not antiques, under the GCA, because they incorporate the frame or receiver of a firearm:
• Savage Model 10ML (early, 1st version)
• Mossberg 500 shotgun with muzzle loading barrel
• Remington 870 shotgun with muzzle loading barrel
• Mauser 98 rifle with muzzle loading barrel
• SKS rifle with muzzle loading barrel
• PB sM10 pistol with muzzle loading barrel
• H&R/New England Firearm Huntsman
• Thompson Center Encore/Contender
• Rossi .50 muzzle loading rifle

This list is not complete and frequently changes. There may be other muzzle loaders also classified as firearms. As noted, any muzzle loading weapon that is built on a firearm frame or receiver falls within the definition of a firearm provided in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3).

Finally, even though a prohibited person may lawfully possess an antique firearm under Federal law, State or local law may classify such weapons as “firearms” subject to regulation. Any person considering acquiring a black powder weapon should contact his or her State Attorney General’s Office to inquire about the laws and possible State or local restrictions.
General contact numbers may be found at www.naag.org.

 

State Laws

76-10-501. Definitions.
As used in this part:
(1) (a) "Antique firearm" means:
(i) any firearm, including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system, manufactured in or before 1898; or
(ii) a firearm that is a replica of any firearm described in this Subsection (1)(a), if the replica:
(A) is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition; or
(B) uses rimfire or centerfire fixed ammunition which is:
(I) no longer manufactured in the United States; and
(II) is not readily available in ordinary channels of commercial trade; or
(iii) (A) that is a muzzle loading rifle, shotgun, or pistol; and
(B) is designed to use black powder, or a black powder substitute, and cannot use fixed ammunition.
(b) "Antique firearm" does not include:
(i) a weapon that incorporates a firearm frame or receiver;
(ii) a firearm that is converted into a muzzle loading weapon; or
(iii) a muzzle loading weapon that can be readily converted to fire fixed ammunition by replacing the:
(A) barrel;
(B) bolt;
(C) breechblock; or
(D) any combination of Subsection (1)(b)(iii)(A), (B), or (C).

76-10-512. Target concessions, shooting ranges, competitions, and hunting excepted from prohibitions.
(2) It is not a violation of Subsection 76-10-503(2) or (3) for a restricted person defined in Subsection 76-10-503(1) to own, possess, or have under the person's custody or control, archery equipment, including crossbows, for the purpose of lawful hunting and lawful target shooting.
(3) Notwithstanding Subsection (2), the possession of archery equipment, including crossbows, by a restricted person defined in Subsection 76-10-503(1) may be prohibited by:
(a) a court, as a condition of pre-trial release or probation; or
(b) the Board of Pardons and Parole, as a condition of parole.

76-10-501. Definitions.
As used in this part:
(6) (a) "Dangerous weapon" means:
(i) a firearm; or
(ii) an object that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.
(b) The following factors are used in determining whether any object, other than a firearm, is a dangerous weapon:
(i) the location and circumstances in which the object was used or possessed;
(ii) the primary purpose for which the object was made;
(iii) the character of the wound, if any, produced by the object's unlawful use;
(iv) the manner in which the object was unlawfully used;
(v) whether the manner in which the object is used or possessed constitutes a potential imminent threat to public safety; and
(vi) the lawful purposes for which the object may be used.

 

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