What is the definition of a muzzleloading firearm and why doesn’t the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms view it as a firearm?
According to Section 921(3) of the “Gun Control Act of 1968,” a firearm is “any weapon 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; any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.”
Modern muzzleloaders are considered “antique firearms” as they are replicas of pre-20th Century designs, with certain other limitations.
In fact, the Gun Control Act of 1968 defines an antique firearm in Section 921(16) as any firearm manufactured before 1898, including those with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar ignition system. Replicas of such firearms are also considered antiques as long as the replica is not “designed or redesigned to use rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition.”
A replica is also considered an antique firearm if it uses rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition that is no longer manufactured in the United States and such ammunition is not “readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade.” Obviously this does not refer to muzzleloaders.
Finally, a muzzleloader is considered an antique if it is designed to use black powder (or a substitute), and therefore cannot use fixed ammunition.
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