USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- Welcome back to The Legal Brief, the show where we CRUSH the various legal myths and misinformation surrounding various areas of the gun world. I’m your host Adam Kraut and you should have received your ballot for the NRA Board of Directors election, so go vote! If you aren’t sure how to vote, be sure to check out the video I did on that.
Today we’re talking about antique firearms. And no this is not the C&R License episode, you’re going to have to keep waiting for that one.
When it comes to firearms, one of the least discussed are antique firearms. And these aren’t from your mother’s antique collection.
So what exactly is an antique firearm?
The definition in the Gun Control Act or GCA tells us that an antique firearm is;
(1) any firearm, including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system which was manufactured in or before 1898 (2) any replica of any firearm that I just described if the replica is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition, or uses rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade and lastly (3) any muzzle loading rifle, muzzle loading shotgun, or muzzle loading pistol, which is designed to use black powder, or a black powder substitute, and which cannot use fixed ammunition.
Pretty simple right? It’s important to note, that the law specifically states that an antique firearm shall not include any weapon which incorporates a firearm frame or receiver, any firearm which is converted into a muzzle loading weapon, or any muzzle loading weapon which can be readily converted to fire fixed ammunition by replacing the barrel, bolt, breechblock, or any combination thereof. Simply put, if the receiver is capable of being utilized as both a muzzle loader or a firearm that uses modern ammunition, it puts it outside of the scope of an antique firearm. Likewise, if a firearm was converted into a muzzle loader, it is not an antique firearm.
A similar definition is found in the National Firearms Act or NFA. So what’s the big deal? Well, if we look at the definition of a firearm in both we see that an antique firearm is not a firearm for the purposes of the GCA or NFA (a little bit more on the NFA part in a second). In other words, the restrictions on the transfer, possession, sale, transport, etc. of firearms does not apply with regard to antique firearms.
Antique firearms can be shipped to you directly, sold by anyone and owned by anyone. So if an individual is a prohibited person due to a federal prohibition, they are still able to use and possess antique firearms. Just a note of caution, state law may vary on that point.
So I know what some of you are probably thinking. Great! The NFA says that an antique firearm is not a firearm for the purposes of the NFA, that must mean that I can have an antique machine gun or destructive device! First, I’d like to commend you for really thinking outside the box, especially in relation to the machine gun aspect. Unfortunately for you, the NFA states that “the term ‘firearm’ shall not include an antique firearm or any device (other than a machinegun or destructive device) which, although designed as a weapon, the Secretary finds by reason of the date of its manufacture, value, design, and other characteristics is primarily a collector’s item and is not likely to be used as a weapon.” Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it sounds like Congress already thought of that idea and said no way. So no blunderbuss mini guns for you.
Then what does this mean in relation to barrel length? If you haven’t already, be sure to go check out the episodes on the NFA and Short barrel Rifles and Shotguns. As you may remember a rifle with a barrel length of less than 16 inches or an overall length of less than 26 inches is a short barrel rifle and a shotgun with a barrel length of less than 18 inches and an overall length of less than 26 inches is a short barrel shotgun. If you have an antique firearm, it is legal to have a barrel length less than 16 inches if it is a rifle and less than 18 inches if it is a shotgun, provided that the firearm employs a primitive ignition system identified as an exempting characteristic and is not modified to accept modern ammunition. I’ve included a link in the description to a guide that ATF published on the matter. Why is that? Again, like it’s GCA counterpart, the term firearm in the NFA exempts antique firearms, with the exception of machine guns and destructive devices.
While antique firearms are not nearly as popular as their modern counterparts, there certainly are a number of people who enjoy using and owning them. They are not regulated like their modern day cousins and as such individuals who are prohibited from owning modern firearms may still use them for activities such as hunting. Again, state law may differ.
Hopefully that gives you a better understanding of antique firearms and what they are. If you guys liked this episode and the blunder buss mini gun, you know what to do, hit that like button and share it around with your friends. Have a question you want answered on this show, head over to The Legal Brief section on theguncollective.com. Be sure to check out my website adamkraut.com for more information on my quest to serve YOU on the NRA Board of Directors. Don’t forget to like The Gun Collective on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Full 30, Snap Chat and wherever else you can catch us on social media.
And as always thanks for watching!
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Links for this episode:
- 18 U.S.C. § 921 – Antique Firearm : https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/921
- 27 C.F.R. § 478.11 – Antique Firearm : https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/27/478.11
- 26 U.S.C. § 5845 – Antique Firearm : https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/5845
- 27 C.F.R. § 479.11 – Antique Firearm : https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/27/479.11
- 18 U.S.C. § 921 – Firearm : https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/921
- 27 C.F.R. § 478.11 – Firearm : https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/27/478.11
- 26 U.S.C. § 5845 – Firearm : https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/5845
- 27 C.F.R. § 479.11 – Firearm : https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/27/479.11
- Antique NFA Classifications : https://www.atf.gov/firearms/firearms-guides-importation-verification-firearms-national-firearms-act-definitions-antique
- ATF Q&A : https://www.atf.gov/resource-center/docs/0813-firearms-top-12-qaspdf/download
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