MUZZLE LOADING WEAPONS THAT USE A MODERN IGNITION SYSTEM
All Federal firearms licensees and others
Purpose. The purpose of this
circular is to clarify the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF)
position regarding the classification of muzzle loading weapons that use
modern primers for ignition.
ATF has recently received a number of inquiries
regarding whether "in line" muzzle loading weapons that have been designed
or redesigned to use modern firearm primers are classified as firearms
under the Gun Control Act. An "in line" muzzle loading weapon is a muzzle
loading firearm designed such that the firing mechanism (striker) is located
directly behind the barrel. The striker moves forward in line with the
bore of the weapon.
Background. Section 921(a)(3)(A),
Title 18, U.S.C., defines the term firearm to include any weapon (including
a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted
to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive. The frame or receiver
of any such weapon is also a firearm as defined. However, antique firearms
are excluded from this definition.
Section 921(a)(16), Title 18, U.S.C., defines
the term antique firearm as:
(A) any firearm (including any firearm with
a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system)
manufactured in or before 1898; and
(B) any replica of any firearm described in subparagraph(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
Section 921(a)(17)(A), Title
18, U.S.C., defines the term ammunition to include cartridge cases, primers,
bullets, and propellant powder designed for use in any firearm.
Discussion. The cited definitions
make it clear that weapons actually manufactured in or before 1898 are
not subject to regulation as firearms. Further, modern replicas of antique
firearms using an antique form of ignition such as matchlock, flintlock,
or percussion cap are also not subject to regulation as firearms.
However, muzzle loading weapons with "in line"
firing mechanisms designed or redesigned to use modern conventional firearm
primers do not meet the definition of antique firearms and are subject
to regulation as a firearm. Primers are not an antique ignition system
and are ammunition for firearms subject to regulation.
Inquiries. Inquiries concerning
this circular should refer to its number and be addressed to: Chief, Firearms
Technology Branch, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 650 Massachusetts
Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20226.
John W. Magaw
This was last updated on August 25, 1998