Can a convicted felon legally hunt with a muzzle loader in Mississippi?

Not a hunting season goes by that someone doesn’t ask me this question so I figured it would be helpful to put the answer in writing for any convicted felons that might be considering hunting with a muzzle loader.

With respect to federal law, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has a handy Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions section on their website.  The number 1 question is “Can a person prohibited by law from possessing a firearm acquire and use a black powder muzzle loading firearm?”  The ATF’s response is:

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. A list of State Attorney General contact numbers may be found at www.naag.org.

As referenced in the third to the last sentence above, a state may also classify muzzle loaders as firearms subject to regulation.  That is exactly what an Attorney General’s opinion does in Mississippi. See 2004 WL 555121 (Miss.A.G.) Opinion No. 2004-0043, dated February 13, 2004.  The opinion states:

Office of the Attorney General

State of Mississippi

Opinion No. 20040043

February 13, 2004

Re: Possession of Weapons by Felon

Honorable Mark A. Maples

George County Prosecutor

362 Summer Street

Lucedale, Mississippi 39452

Dear Mr. Maples:

Attorney General Jim Hood has received your letter of request and has assigned it to me for research and reply. Your letter states:

Sheriff Garry Welford and I hve recently been asked a question about a convicted felon and a firearm, and we pose the following question:

Section 97-37-5 of the Mississippi Code, 1972, as amended provides:

“(1) It shall be unlawful for any person who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of this State, any other State, or the United States, to possess any firearm…”.

An individual in George County was previously convicted of burglary of a building and accessory after the fact to armed robbery. He received an eight-year and four-year sentence, respectively, and served a period of ten years before being discharged from the Department of Corrections custody. He is no on any type of parole or Department of Corrections supervision at this time. He wishes to hunt using a muzzle loading rifle or muzzle loading shotgun or bow and arrow.

Our question is this: Can a convicted felon possess (and consequently hunt) with a muzzle loading rifle, muzzle loading shotgun, a traditional bow and arrow, or a cross bow?

In response, Mississippi Code Annotated Section 97-37-5 provides:

(1) It shall be unlawful for any person who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of this state, any other state, or of the United States to possess any firearm or any bowie knife, dirk knife, butcher knife, switchblade knife, metallic knuckles, blackjack, or any muffler or silencer for any firearm unless such person has received a pardon for such felony, has received a relief from disability pursuant to Section 925(c) of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, or has received a certificate of rehabilitation pursuant to subsection (3) of this section.

(2) Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), or committed to the custody of the State Department of Corrections for not more than three (3) years, or both.

(3) A person who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of this state may apply to the court in which he was convicted for a certificate of rehabilitation. The court may grant such certificate in its discretion upon a showing to the satisfaction of the court that the applicant has been rehabilitated and has led a useful, productive and law-abiding life since the completion of his sentence and upon the finding of the court that he will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety.

The above quoted statute prohibits a convicted felon from possessing of any “firearm” among other weapons. Black’s Law Dictionary defines “firearm” as:

An instrument used in the propulsion of shot, shell or bullets by the action of gunpowder exploded within it. A weapon which acts by force of gunpowder. The word comprises all sorts of guns, fowling pieces, blunderbusses, pistols, etc.

It is the opinion of this office that a muzzle loading rifle or a muzzle loading shotgun is within the meaning of the term “firearm” as used in Mississippi Code Annotated Section 97-37-5. However, the statute does not include weapons such as a traditional bow and arrow or crossbow. Therefore, a convicted felon may possess (and consequently hunt with) a traditional bow and arrow or crossbow.

If we may be of further service to you, let us know.

Very truly yours,

Jim Hood,

Attorney General

By: David K. Scott

Special Assistant Attorney General

Long story short, while the ATF is ok with felons possessing some black powder muzzle loaders under federal law, felons are prohibited from possessing any type of muzzle loader under Mississippi state law.  If you have been convicted of a felony and intend to hunt in Mississippi, you are limited to the use of a bow or crossbow unless you have received a pardon for the felony, have received a relief from disability pursuant to Section 925(c) of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, or have received a certificate of rehabilitation pursuant to subsection (3) of 97-37-5.

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About randywallace
I am a husband, father, attorney, outdoorsman and cook.

12 Responses to Can a convicted felon legally hunt with a muzzle loader in Mississippi?

  1. Pingback: Search terms……….Ask Randy v2 | randywallace

  2. Pingback: Can a convicted felon hunt with a bow or crossbow in Mississippi? | randywallace

  3. Troy says:

    Dear Mr. Wallace, Thank you for taking the time to write this article. I have been an outdoorsman my whole life, starting with a little .22 on a hilltop in the Ozarks at age 5. I have been the local president of a NWTF chapter and a DUTCH chapter as well. After going to a doctor for Reumatoid Arth. I got caught up in a drug charge. Looking back on the situation I was wrong, but it didn’t seem so at the time. Anyhow to make a long story short, all my firearms were confiscated and I had a bad taste in my mouth about anything outdoors as it was embarrassing to explain my situation to other hunting friends and pretty hard to hunt without guns. I have since gone back out hunting again after rekindling my love for archery but I have all my duck decoys, calls clothes and a go devil duck boat collecting dust. My trusted Retriever died of cancer this year, I think , wondering why I quit taking her out hunting as I would close my business for 3 months in the slow season and not miss a day of waterfowl season. But since finding your article I will look into a muzzle loading shotgun and take duck and pheasant hunting back up. Also killing turkey will be a little easier with a Muzz. Shotgun rather than a bow even though I have had some success with it. Thank You for your time and effort in this article.

    • randywallace says:

      Make sure your state allows a convicted felon to possess a muzzleloader. As explained toward the end of the blog post, Mississippi allows a convicted felon to possess a crossbow, but does NOT allow a convicted felon to possess a muzzleloader unless the convicted felon has received a pardon for the felony, has received a relief from disability pursuant to Section 925(c) of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, or has received a certificate of rehabilitation pursuant to subsection (3) of 97-37-5.

      • Ed King says:

        FYI – A convicted felon may be able to “possess” a pre-1898 antique or replica black powder firearm in some states; however, it is unlawful for that person to possess the black powder to shoot it (18USC842(i)(7). A convicted felon or other prohibited person found in possession of any amount of black powder, smokeless powder or any other low explosive, high explosive or blasting agent is exposed to 10 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine. My advice is to stick with bows & arrows.

        ATF agent (retired)

  4. Danny Partin says:

    my question is in regards to Mississippi’s other”weapons” ,,including “bowie knives” dirks and BUTCHER knives,,,..is that really still on the books in MS?.and if so can or do they really put otherwise ,law abiding citizens in prison for having a butchers knife in their knife block on their counter?Surely not ! Worse treat having a knife with the same inhumane penalties as a person carrying a glock or 9 mm ?if that’s the case then I guarantee you at some point every single person in MS with any sort of felony no mater how harmless(a pot violation__) to rape has violated the law and could be in prison with a second life wrecking felony on their record not to mention doing a min of one year in one of MS;S infamous gulags ,,,,if that’s still on the books some lawmaker needs to grow a pair and correct that ,PERIOD

    • randywallace says:

      Yes. 97-37-5 (1) provides “It shall be unlawful for any person who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of this state, any other state, or of the United States to possess any firearm or any bowie knife, dirk knife, butcher knife, switchblade knife, metallic knuckles, blackjack, or any muffler or silencer for any firearm unless such person has received a pardon for such felony, has received a relief from disability pursuant to Section 925(c) of Title 18 of the United States Code, or has received a certificate of rehabilitation pursuant to subsection (3) of this section.”

      • Chad says:

        The knife laws are really stupid. What’s a person with a felon suppose to prepare food with in the kitchen, his hands and teeth? This is the most ridiculous
        Law ever.

  5. Brett says:

    i was convicted of a drug possession charge and was sentenced to long term alcohol and drug rehabilitation for 1 year i graduated with a certificate i was released fozr years ago andhave not had even a traffic ticket i started a hoe repair company and have three employees im a law abiding citizen and dont understand how the lawmakers of this state can take away my second amendment right as an american citizen for a mistake or bad decision i made over four years ago how can they think that its ok to tke my gun rights away and leave me and my wife wife two adolescent daughters and two sons defensless against. Threats that we face in a day to day inviroment with terrorists and crazed gunmen all over the place i could understand if i would have arm robbed or raped murdered or held someone against their will or some more violant crime but adrug charge of less than 1/10 of a gram of drugs that is a very harsh law just think about what im saying .

    • randywallace says:

      Brett, depending on your exact charge, when it occurred and where it occurred, you may be able to have it expunged. Check with an attorney in your area to see if that is available to you.

  6. Hello. I’m a convicted felon in the state of Tennessee and want to know if it’s ok to possess or use a muzzle loader for hunting purposes? I love to hunt and have been a avid Hunter all my life but was caught hanging with the wrong croud and caught a serious charge… Anyway I’d love to know my rights and would love to get back into the woods with my sons and Grandsons. Thank you kindly. Steve.

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