Airgun hunting steadily gains popularity over the last decade. Spurred by numerous factors like a lack of available 22 LR, tons of new shooters, and better airguns than ever; it seems airgun hunting is here to stay.
Before anyone begins with the sport, it is critical to understand airgun hunting laws. Federally, there are no laws regarding airguns and airgun hunting. But the differences come from various states.
Compiling every state’s air rifle laws is a long process and it may be inaccurate since it changes. So we’re going to point out what to look for regarding laws in your state.
What You Should Check
How your state classifies airguns can be a major factor in purchasing and hunting with it. Federally, airguns are not considered firearms so they are not regulated as firearms.
However, some states like New Jersey, classify airguns as firearms. So hunters must follow NJ’s firearms laws when possessing, transporting, and shooting them.
Other states classify it as dangerous weapons and not as firearms. This is another important distinction. While there are countries that do not classify airguns as firearms, but felons are not allowed to own them. And there are those that do not classify them at all.
Some states require specific licensing for specific weapons when hunting. This includes a separation between bow hunting, black powder, and firearms. It’s critical to make sure that you don’t need a special hunting permit when you’re out there hunting with your airgun.
This is another major concern for a variety of reasons. As a hunter, your goal is to kill an animal humanely and reduce the potential of suffering. Many states require a certain caliber based on the game’s size.
As a rule, anything with fur should be shot with a .22 caliber projectile or larger when appropriate. This is reflected by placing standards for caliber size on certain animals. .22 caliber projectiles are excellent for rabbits and squirrel, but not appropriate for deer.
Some states require .30 caliber, or even a .35 caliber projectile and larger. Missouri, for example, requires a .40 caliber projectile for whitetail deer.
Some states also determine both the weight and caliber of the projectile. Like in Rhode Island, they allow small game hunting with .177 and .22 caliber projectiles but requires them to weigh at least 7.5 grains.
The velocity of a projectile is another factor of taking a game humanely. The largest projectile can be rendered quite useless when fired at a slow speed.
New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Texas all have certain velocities that a round must meet for it to be legal to hunt with.
Different weapons are tied with respective seasons. Like in Florida, hunting season opens with bows only, then black powder, and then general gun season. Some states may regulate airguns to one particular time per year.
In Maryland, for example, you can hunt turkeys with an airgun but only in the fall turkey season. Some states may restrict you to a certain game in particular seasons, but allow you to hunt all hunting seasons for certain animals.
The latter is usually applicable with a small game like squirrels or pests. Typically, these animals aren’t as protected as deer or turkey.
Some countries allow a certain animal to be hunted with airguns and restrict certain game to bows and firearms. There is no issue with hunting small game and pests with airguns.
Most laws have not caught up with the times. Modern airgun technology makes it possible to take a deer or hog with an air rifle effectively and humanely. However, many state laws do not reflect this.
Other states may have peculiar rules regarding very specific animals. For example, Kansas allows airguns for hunting but you cannot shoot turtles or bullfrogs with it.
Many states regulate the user’s age in terms of when it can be purchased and used independently. Some require a person to be over 18, some over 16, and others don’t restrict it at all. This is certainly an important aspect of research since laws vary per state.
Many states take their hunting laws very seriously. Being labeled as a poacher is a serious crime in many states, and there is a broad range of fines that are imposed.
Make sure to check the current laws of your state here, and that your airgun abides to state requirements before you start your hunt.