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What Legal Requirements Must You Consider When Selecting A Firearm for Hunting?

From the beginning of this universe, predators have survived by hunting. With the advancement of society and lifestyle, humans don’t have to actively hunt anymore to survive.

However, our body still releases a good amount of testosterone and cortisol while hunting. That is why hundreds and thousands of people every year get their licenses and the necessary equipment to hunt all over the world. As a citizen of the United States, you must know the answer to a question.

What legal requirements must you consider when selecting a firearm for hunting?

Well, I can’t answer that in one line or two. Because different states have different regulations and requirements. In this article, I have listed the 10 most popular hunting destinations’ laws and guidelines regarding firearms and bows. Let’s get to know all starting with a quick overview in the table below.

Legal weapons and minimum hunting caliber by state:

Name of the State Legal Guns Archery
Alabama Centerfire or mushrooming ammunition rifles, air guns, shotguns, muzzleloaders, handguns, pneumatic arrow shooting rifles Longbows, compound bows, crossbows, hand-thrown spears
Alaska Rifles, muzzleloaders All types of bows including crossbows
Arizona Modern guns, centerfire rifle, centerfire handgun, muzzleloader rifle Different types of bows
Arkansas Modern guns, shotguns, muzzleloader rifles Longbows, recurve bows, compound bows, crossbows
Colorado Rifles, muzzleloaders, shotguns, handguns Crossbows, other types of bows
Connecticut Rifles, shotguns, muzzle-loaded rifles Specific archery equipment
Montana Muzzleloader, handguns, Crossbows, longbows, flatbows, recurve bows, compound bows
Vermont Handguns, rifles, muzzleloaders Almost all types of bows
West Virginia Almost all types of guns All types of bows including crossbows
Wyoming Centerfire rifle, muzzleloader Longbow, recurve bow, compound bow

Here, you are only seeing the name of the allowed guns and bows. However, what else should you consider when selecting ammunition? Below, I have enlisted the legal requirements for hunting firearms’ caliber size.

What Legal Requirements Must You Consider When Selecting A Firearm for Hunting?

Here, I have talked about some basics that apply to all hunters. After that, you will see minimum hunting caliber and other guidelines set by different states.

Indeed, it is a long list but you don’t need to read all of them. Only read the one that you are planning to hunt. It also includes an answer to the question, what else should you consider when selecting ammunition?

Basic/General Guideline

  • Different states have different laws and regulations for caliber, gauge, or the amount of energy produced by the ammunition’s projectile. So, check the table and act accordingly.
  • Make sure that the weapon and ammunition are powerful enough to kill the game quickly and successfully.
  • Don’t buy or use a weapon that doesn’t fit you properly.
  • Having the correct amount of recoil, it is possible to practice more often and shoot skillfully.
  • Choose your ammunition depending on the type of game you planning to kill.
  • Those who have chosen shotguns should ensure the proper choke and ammunition combination.

Choosing the wrong firearm or not maintaining the minimum requirements for certain games, you will not have a clean kill. As a responsible hunter, you must avoid only wounding a game in every possible way.

Laws and Regulations for Hunting Firearms (12 Popular States)

The above table has shown you a summary of the legal requirements for hunting firearms. Now, let’s have a simplified and descriptive version below.

  1. Alabama

The official legal arms, ammunition, and equipment for hunting in the state of Alabama are the following.

  • Rifles that use centerfire or mushrooming ammunition
  • Air guns compatible with 0.30 caliber or larger
  • 10 gauge or smaller shotguns that use buckshot, slugs, or single round ball
  • Muzzleloaders with 0.40 caliber or larger during the special season
  • Black powder handguns with 0.40 caliber or larger
  • Longbows, compound bows, crossbows, or hand-thrown spears matching with regulation 220-2-.03
  • Pneumatic arrow shooting rifles using broadhead arrows with a minimum cutting diameter of 7/8”

No matter how tempting it is, don’t use fully automatic firearms as it is prohibited in hunting.

  1. Alaska

In the Alaska hunting regulations, you can see a detailed guide with effective gun and ammunition recommendations. The webpage has a complete booklet as a free pdf.

  • .45 caliber or larger shoulder-mounted muzzleloader
  • Bows with 50 pounds of draw weight and 20 inches or larger arrows
  • At least 100-pound peak-draw crossbows with overall at least 16” length

Don’t forget to choose the right weapon for the animal you are trying to hunt. Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game doesn’t restrict any specific type of gun in hunting.

  1. Arizona

For licenses and more about the hunting guidelines, you can visit the official website of the state government. Almost all types of guns usually used for hunting are allowed in this state. It includes the following.

  • Modern guns
  • Centerfire rifle
  • Centerfire handgun
  • Muzzleloader rifle
  • Black powder or synthetic black powder rifle
  • Black powder handgun
  • Crossbow and other bows

There is no magazine limit in this state. However, it is important to choose the right caliber size depending on the size of the animal you are hunting.

  1. Arkansas

The government of Arkansas also provides a detailed guide for hunting different animals.

  • Modern guns
  • 10 gauge or smaller shotguns
  • Muzzleloaders with 9” or longer barrels, and 0.45 caliber or larger
  • Long, recurve, and compound bows with at least 35-pound draw weight
  • Crossbows with at least 125-pound draw weight

However, arrows propelled from a pneumatic system are prohibited.

  1. California

The regulations in California explains what you can and can’t do with brief explanations.

  • No projectiles and ammunitions made from lead to hunt big games
  • Rifles with centerfire
  • Muzzleloader rifles with black powder or something equivalent
  • Pistols and revolvers within centerfire cartridges
  • Crossbows that don’t emit directional beam of light

Wildlife preservation in California is a bit strict than others. You should contact with the respective department for a guide and clearance.

  1. Colorado

The big game hunting brochure from the state government will give you the necessary insight.

  • Rifles with 0.24 caliber or larger and no more than 6 rounds in the magazine
  • No fully automatic rifle is allowed
  • Muzzleloader rifles and smoothbore muskets ranging from 0.40 to 0.50 caliber with bullets at least 170 grains in weight
  • Muzzleloader rifles and smoothbore muskets over 0.50 caliber must have bullets at least 210 grains in weight
  • 20 gauge of larger shotguns
  • 24 caliber or larger diameter handguns with a minimum of 4” barrel length
  • Crossbows with a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds and 14” length

Though elk hunting is one of the most popular sports in Colorado, you can find several other more animals to legally hunt.

  1. Connecticut

From the hunting and trapping guidelines provided by the Connecticut state government, the following firearms are allowed in the hunting seasons.

  • Rifles, shotguns, muzzle-loaded rifles, and bows with specific requirements
  • No rifles or handguns larger than 0.22 caliber
  • No shotguns with larger than standard #2 shot on state-owned lands
  • No muzzleloader less than 0.45 caliber
  • No firearms while bowhunting

For the sake of public safety and wildlife preservation, get the updated information from the official website.

  1. Delaware

According to the hunting regulations in Delaware, you can’t shoot within 15 yards of public road or across. Let’s see the eligible firearm types and caliber limitations.

  • Shotguns having smaller than 10 gauge or larger than standard #2 shot
  • No automatic loading gun or centerfire rifle
  • No poisonous or explosive tip arrows for bowhunting
  • No guns that are normally fired from the shoulder

Except frogs, raccoons, and opossum, you can hunt other animals stating from 30 minutes before sunrise till 30 minutes after sunset.

  1. Montana

The state government of Montana doesn’t have limitations for caliber sizes during big game seasons. However, there are some requirements for shotguns, muzzleloaders, traditional handguns, and bows.

  • Hunters can’t shoot deer or elk with shotguns
  • Muzzleloaders with a minimum of 0.45 caliber, no more than 2 barrels, and no lead projectiles
  • Handguns with a barrel of less than 10-1/2 inches, only straight wall cartridge, and not capable of a shoulder mount
  • No crossbows during archery season; only acceptable in general rifle season
  • Longbows, flatbows, recurve bows, compound bows, or other bows meeting minimum requirements and no shorter than 28 inches
  • Arrows with a minimum of 20” in overall length, 7/8” at the widest point, and at least 70 grains of weight

Also, the use of explosives, deleterious substances, or anything poisonous in bullets or projectile is strictly prohibited. Find out more from the official website linked below.

  1. Vermont

This state is an exception because hunters don’t need to wear orange during hunting seasons. However, wearing the color might save your life. Let’s see the rules and regulations for hunting firearms in this state.

  • No use of machine guns or an autoloading rifle
  • No magazine over 6 cartridges except 0.22 caliber rifle using rimfire cartridges
  • All handguns and muzzleloading rifles, shotguns, and pistols
  • Arrows with at least 20” in overall length, 7/8” at the widest point

In Vermont, it is illegal to throw or cast rays of spotlight, jack, to other artificial light intentionally on highways, fields, forests, or woodlands.

  1. West Virginia

In the state of West Virginia, you can’t hunt on state parks, safety zones, state forests, or wildlife management areas. On permitted lands with a license, you can shoot your game with the right guns, bows, and caliber sizes.

  • No hunting with a fully automatic firearm
  • No use of poisonous or explosive material in the bullet or projectile
  • No use of shots larger than standard #4 solid ball ammunition except 0.22 caliber or smaller centerfire rifle
  • Crossbows with a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds, bolts larger than 18 inches, and width of each blade ¾” or larger

Although the list shows almost all of the minimum requirements, you should check out the latest handbook for complete guidelines by the state government of West Virginia.

  1. Wyoming

Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is responsible for the regulations and legal requirements for selecting a firearm for hunting. During big game hunting seasons, you should keep the following points in mind.

  • Any centerfire rifle of at least 0.24 caliber and cartridges with a minimum length of 2 inches
  • Again, centerfire rifles with a 0.35 caliber or larger must have at least 1-1/2 inches cartridges
  • All types of muzzleloading rifles with a minimum of 0.40 caliber with at least 50 grains of black powder or its equivalent
  • Longbow, recurve bow, or compound bow with at least 40 pounds of draw weight (increased draw weight requirement for larger game animals)

Lastly, you should know that the Wyoming government doesn’t allow smart firearms to kill any game bird, trophy game, or big game animal. Also, it is mandatory to use larger caliber for killing large animals such as a grizzly bear.

Conclusion

Have you got the answer to the question, what legal requirements must you consider when selecting a firearm for hunting? I have summarized and simplified the laws and regulations in this article so that anyone can understand.

Yet, you should check out the official government websites for detailed and updated legal requirements for hunting firearms. Because we might miss any sudden changes made by the state government. I hope that you don’t get into trouble due to misinformation.

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About Ethan Jackson

Hi, I’m Ethan Jackson, a backpacker with some ordinary to exceptional experience on hiking & hunting and also the main author of Back-To-Hiking. Here, I and my team plan to explore some useful hiking gears and hunting tools along with motivating backpacking stories.