The Advantages of a Pellet Rifle - Part I
By Kirk Lawson


A Pellet Rifle, sometimes called an Air Rifle or an Air Gun, is a long-arm which uses compressed gas, usually air, to propel a small caliber pellet down the barrel. Pellet Guns are often associated with cheap children's toys, usually called a "BB Gun." But the humble Pellet Rifle often does not get the respect that it deserves. There is a growing recognition that a Pellet Rifle has many advantages over a classic rifle, even the tried-and-true standby .22LR Rifle.

So what are the advantages of a Pellet Rifle?

First, a Pellet Rifle may be legal, or "more legal," to own and use. The Federal definition of a firearm is defined by U.S.C. § 921(a)(3) as:
A. 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;
B. the frame or receiver of any such weapon;
C. any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or
D. any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.

Because a Pellet Rifle uses compressed gas instead of "the action of an explosive" a Pellet Rifle does not qualify as a "firearm" under Federal law. That means that Federal laws which govern sales, transfer, ownership, usage, and transport of firearms do not apply to Pellet Rifles. Without violating Federal law, a person can purchase, "over the counter," a Pellet Rifle without being required to subject themselves to a Federal NICS "background check." It can be shipped across state lines without using a Federal Firearms Licensee.

That said, legal caution is still suggested. Just because there are limited Federal regulations on Air Rifles does not mean that there are no State or Local regulations. In about half of the U.S. States, there are no specific laws regarding Air Rifles. That leaves the other half which may hold "gotchas" for Air Rifle users. No bonus points if you guessed that States such as California legally define an Air Rifle as a "gun" or that Massachusetts has special laws regulating who can own or possess. But it might surprise some that Michigan also classified an Air Rifle legally as a "gun" up until 2015 and, even now, still allows for local regulations. Even if you can purchase an Air Rifle over the counter, carefully check your State and Local laws regarding carry, use, and storage, including whether or not minors are allowed to possess an Air Rifle or possess unsupervised.