Black Powder Legal Info


Black Powder Type Firearms

Black Powder Hunter Alert

"Break Open" Style Muzzleloader Notice

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Black Powder Type Firearms


Massachusetts law does not require an LTC or FID for a person to
purchase or possess standard "Black Powder" type guns (Chapter 140,
Section 121:). The laws covering this issue are listed below.

However, you do need at least an FID to purchase the ammunition for the
black powder type guns in Massachusetts.

If you wish to read the full law, you should refer to the official Commonwealth
of Massachusetts web site of the General Laws.

Chapter 140, Section 129C:

(p) Carrying or possession by residents or nonresidents of so-called
black powder rifles, shotguns, and ammunition therefor as described in
such paragraphs (A) and (B) of the third paragraph of section 121, and
the carrying or possession of conventional rifles, shotguns, and
ammunition therefor by nonresidents who meet the requirements for such
carrying or possession in the state in which they reside.

Chapter 140, Section 121:

The provisions of sections 122 to 129D, inclusive, and sections 131,
131A, 131B and 131E shall not apply to:

(A) any firearm, rifle or shotgun manufactured in or prior to the year
1899;

(B) any replica of any firearm, rifle or shotgun described in clause (A)
if such replica: (i) is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or
conventional centerfire fixed ammunition; or (ii) 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


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Black Powder HUNTERS Alert:

Individuals that hunt with black powder type guns should be aware that
there is a conflict in the laws regarding the "loaded" status of these
guns. The problem arises from the different definitions in Chapter 131:
Section 1 and Chapter 269: Section 12D. Depending upon which law
enforcement agency you may encounter might determine which specific law
is being enforced.

Chapter 131: Section 1. Definitions; rules of construction.

"Loaded shotgun or rifle", any shotgun or rifle having a shell or
cartridge in either the magazine or chamber thereof, or, in the case of
a muzzle loading shotgun or rifle, containing powder in the flash pan, a
percussion cap and shot or ball.

Chapter 269: Section 12D. Rifle or shotgun loaded with shells or
cartridges; unloaded rifle or shotgun; carrying on public way
prohibited; exceptions; punishment.

Section 12D. (a) Except as exempted or provided by law, no person shall
carry on his person on any public way a loaded rifle or shotgun having
cartridges or shells in either the magazine or chamber thereof. For
purposes of this section, "loaded shotgun or loaded rifle" shall mean
any shotgun or rifle having ammunition in either the magazine or chamber
thereof, such ammunition including a live cartridge, primer (igniter),
bullet or propellant powder designed for use in any firearm, rifle or
shotgun and, in the case of a muzzle loading or black powder shotgun or
rifle, so-called, a shotgun or rifle containing powder in the flash pan
or in the bore or chamber or containing a percussion cap, shot or ball;
provided, however, that "loaded shotgun or loaded rifle" shall not
include a shotgun or rifle loaded with a blank cartridge, so-called,
which contains no projectile within such blank or within the bore or
chamber of such shotgun or rifle.

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"Break Open" Style Muzzleloaders

There have been quite a few questions directed at GOAL concerning the
new "break open" style muzzleloaders and the legality of using them for
hunting in Massachusetts. Below are excerpts of a letter from the
Director of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
regarding this matter.

I am in receipt of your letter, in which you express your concerns
regarding the recent changes to the Division's regulations regarding
"muzzle-loading firearms", specifically with regard to those
muzzleloaders with a break open breech.

The changes in the Primitive Firearms Season were made in response to
requests from muzzleloaders to allow the use of sabots, scopes, inline
rifles and other modern technology. Concern was expressed by various
individuals that modernization could result in a FID card being required
to hunt with a muzzleloader during the Primitive Firearms Season. We
have thoroughly researched both federal and state gun laws and
regulations and have concluded that muzzleloading firearms with a
break-open breech require a FID card. We, therefore, did not change the
regulations to permit the use of break-open breech muzzleloaders in the
Primitive Firearms Season. Of course, such firearms are allowed during
the shotgun season.

Regarding the recent liberalization of the Primitive Firearms Season
regulations, it is important to consider the context of the changes made
in 2001. The specifics of the proposed changes were set forth well in
advance of the July public hearing. The Division received several
comments prior to the hearing, as well as many at the hearing itself and
later within the 2-week written comment period after the hearing.

Primitive (i.e., "muzzle-loading") firearms with a break-open breech
were prohibited in approximately August 1979 after a public hearing and
detailed comment from the sporting public. There was no internal or
external proposal to make such a change in 2001, nor did anyone make any
such proposal either at the public hearing or during the written comment
period thereafter. The change regarding "closed ignition systems" was
clearly stated in the initial proposal prior to the public hearing and
at the presentation at the hearing. It never included, and was never
intended, to include "break open breeches". The subsequent News Release
was a follow-up to the hearing and stated only the changes that were
made (in accordance with the proposals at the hearing) not those aspects
that were unchanged, such as break-open breeches.

The Division has received comments from both those who would seek to
further liberalize the primitive firearms regulations and those who
would seek to further restrict those changes which have already been
made. Please keep in mind that not all sportsmen are of a like mind on
these regulations.

Thank you for your interest in the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
and hunting with muzzle-loading firearms.

Sincerely yours,

Wayne F. MacCallum

Director, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife