Does the ATF Regulate Air Rifles?

Does the ATF Regulate Air Rifles?

An air rifle which would not typically be regulated by the ATF

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is a federal law enforcement agency responsible for regulating the sale and possession of firearms in the United States. While most people are familiar with the regulation of firearms, many are unaware of the scope of the ATF’s authority. This article will discuss the regulation of air rifles by the ATF and examine the factors that define an air rifle as a regulated firearm.

What is an Air Rifle?

An air rifle is a type of rifle that is powered by compressed air or gas rather than an explosive powder. Air rifles are commonly used by recreational shooters, hunters, and firearm enthusiasts for target practice and small game hunting. Air rifles are also used in the Olympic sport of 10-meter air rifle shooting.

Air rifles range in power from low-powered, single-shot models designed for youth and beginner shooters to high-powered, high-velocity models. While air rifles and firearms are both firearms that use projectiles, air rifles typically have a more limited range than firearms due to their lower power and velocity.

What does the ATF Regulate?

The ATF regulates the manufacture, possession, and sale of firearms, ammunition, and firearms components. Air rifles may not be regulated in the same manner as traditional firearms, depending on the power and features of the air rifle. While the ATF generally regulates all forms of firearms, air rifles are generally considered “non-regulated firearms” if they meet certain criteria.

In order to be considered a non-regulated firearm, an air rifle must be designed to expel a projectile by means of the contained spring-loaded pressurized air or gas at a muzzle energy of no more than 18 foot-pounds. 

In addition, the air rifle must:

  • Have a maximum muzzle velocity of less than 700 fps
  • Have a total overall length of at least 26 inches
  • Not be designed to fire shot cartridges
  • Be unable to contain multiple projectiles during a single shot
  • Not have rifling or a smooth bore
  • Have a barrel bore diameter of at least 0.177 inches, 
  • Not have an overall length of less than 17 inches.

States, Counties, and Municipalities

 While the ATF may not regulate air rifles, many states, counties, and municipalities do have laws that regulate what type of rifle you can use, where you can use it, and when you can use it. It is important to always check your state and local gun laws before taking your rifle out shooting.  

Understand Local Regulations

In conclusion, an air rifle is generally considered a non regulated firearm provided that it meets certain criteria provided by the ATF. Above is a list of regulations but because gun laws are always changing, owners of air rifles must take steps themselves to ensure that their air rifle meets the criteria for a non regulated firearm and is in compliance with all applicable laws.

Shop Air Fire Tactical for all of your air rifles and air rifle accessories.

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