Does Texas Consider a Muzzleloader a Firearm?

Does Texas Consider a Muzzleloader a Firearm?Muzzleloaders are popular in Texas. Often associated with historical firearms, they are commonly used in hunting and shooting sports, particularly in contexts such as black powder shooting competitions or historical reenactments.

What is a muzzleloader?

A muzzleloader is a type of firearm that is loaded through the muzzle (the open end of the gun barrel) instead from the breech (the back end of the barrel) the way modern firearms are typically loaded. There are several types of muzzleloaders, including:

  • Flintlock: This type of muzzleloader uses a flint striking against a steel frizzen to create a spark. This ignites the priming powder in the pan and sends flame through a small hole into the main charge of gunpowder in the barrel.
  • Percussion Cap: In this type, a percussion cap containing a small amount of impact-sensitive explosive material is placed over a hollow nipple at the back of the barrel. When the trigger is pulled, the hammer strikes the percussion cap and ignites it. This creates a spark that travels into the barrel, firing the main charge.
  • Matchlock: An early muzzleloader that uses a slow-burning match cord to ignite the gunpowder. It was operated by pulling a lever that lowered the match into contact with the priming powder in the pan, causing it to ignite and fire the main charge.

Muzzleloaders require careful loading procedures and are generally slower to load and fire than modern firearms. They are popular with those who appreciate the historical aspects of firearms and enjoy the craftsmanship involved in their use.

Is a muzzleloader a firearm under Texas law?

Texas law defines a firearm as “any device designed, made, or adapted to expel a projectile through a barrel by using the energy generated by an explosion or burning substance or any device readily convertible to that use.” Under this definition, it would seem that muzzleloaders would be considered firearms in Texas because they expel projectiles through a barrel using energy generated by a burning substance (gunpowder).

However, muzzleloaders and black powder guns do not fall under the legal definition of “firearm” under Texas law:

Firearm does not include a firearm that may have, as an integral part, a folding knife blade or other characteristics of weapons made illegal by this chapter and that is: (A) an antique or curio firearm manufactured before 1899; or (B) a replica of an antique or curio firearm manufactured before 1899, but only if the replica does not use rim fire or center fire ammunition.

Generally, Texas does not consider black powder pistols and long arms to be firearms and they may be freely carried, either open or concealed, without a permit.

Does federal law consider muzzleloaders to be firearms?

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) classifies 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

However, federal law specifically excludes certain muzzleloaders from being considered antique firearms. This includes firearms which can be converted into a muzzle loading weapon, or a muzzle loading weapon which can be readily converted to fire fixed ammunition. These muzzle loading models do not meet the definition of “antique firearm.”

The ATF exempts certain “antique firearms” from federal gun control laws. These antique firearms typically include any firearm manufactured on or before 1898, or a replica of such a firearm. Muzzle loading rifles, muzzle loading shotguns, and muzzle loading pistols are also considered antique firearms provided that they use black powder, or a black powder substitute, as opposed to fixed ammunition (cartridges and shells).

Can a felon possess a muzzleloader?

Texas and federal laws restrict those convicted of certain criminal offenses from owning firearms. Under the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), people convicted of felonies and certain other people cannot possess or receive firearms and ammunition. However, Federal law does not prevent them from possessing or receiving an “antique firearm,” meaning any firearm (including those with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or before 1898. This includes any replica of an antique firearm not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition, or one that uses rimfire or conventional centerfire ammunition no longer made in the United States and not readily available commercially.

Any muzzle loading rifle, shotgun, or pistol designed to use black powder or black powder substitute and cannot use fixed ammunition, is an antique firearm unless it:

  • Includes a firearm frame or receiver
  • Is a firearm converted into a muzzle loading weapon
  • Is a muzzleloading weapon easily converted to fire fixed ammunition by replacing the barrel, bolt, breechblock, or any combination.

A muzzle loading weapon that meets the definition of an “antique firearm” is not considered a firearm under the GCA and can lawfully be received and possessed by a prohibited person. However, the ATF classifies certain muzzle loading models of antique weapons as firearms, meaning they cannot lawfully be possessed by “prohibited persons.” The ATF has illustrated examples of antique firearms on their website.

What about the partner or spouse of a person convicted of a felony?

Although both Texas and federal law prohibit someone convicted of a felony from possessing a firearm possession after a felony conviction, “possession” is not clearly defined under these laws. If a person is charged with unlawfully possessing a firearm, the court would need to consider many factors to determine if the person was truly in “possession” of the firearm.

One legal concept that might apply is constructive possession. Generally, for a court to find that a person had constructive possession of an object, the person must have had knowledge of the object, and as well as the ability to control it. If the spouse knows that the firearm is kept in a safe and they know the combination, a court may find that the spouse legally has possession of the firearm.

Texans have the right to own a muzzleloader. However, the state and federal government have the authority to restrict those rights. The Killeen criminal defense attorneys at Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm are extremely familiar firearm charges and we’ll give you solid advice. Call us or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation today. We maintain an additional office in Copperas Cove and proudly serve Belton, Harker Heights, Waco, Williamson County, Bell County, Coryell County, and McLennan County.