Air guns have become increasingly popular in recent years among hobbyists and hunting enthusiasts. Federal law already differentiates between firearms and air guns, but recently Michigan caught up with this status quo. Hunting with airguns has also become easier in the state.
As of April 2016, air guns are now also differentiated from firearms in Michigan by a series of house bills and Senate Bill 85. Pneumatic guns are not included in the new definition of firearms. Any gun that uses spring, gas or air/pneumatic systems to launch pellets or BB will not be ruled by most firearm laws.
As a result, major air gun shippers are readily shipping to Michigan. Most of the legal barriers that had existed on air guns for Michigan residents have been lifted since July 1, 2015.
The authority body for implementing Michigan airgun hunting laws is the Department of Natural Resources for Michigan. It is important for hunting enthusiasts to be aware of some of the new laws concerning the use of air rifles and their transportation. It is advisable to keep checking the most recent state information to make sure that you are following protocol.
New laws regarding air guns post reclassification
The following new laws will apply to airguns in general following the reclassification of this type of gun:
- Transporting your air gun: Some air guns will have to follow Michigan’s casing laws when being transported in a motor vehicle. If your gun uses pellets or BBs greater than 0.177 calibers, you will need to take down the gun, enclose it in a case and carry it in the trunk of the car. It should not be accessible from the vehicle during transportation.
- Rules in Free School Zones: In Free School Zones, air guns are considered weapons. As a result, in these areas your air gun will have the same laws governing it that apply to firearms.
- Sound suppressors: The long ban on hunting with sound suppressors have been lifted since February 2016. The new laws apply both to firearms and airguns. Hunters can now hunt with baffled/silenced airguns.
- Legal age: Users of airguns below the age of 16 must be supervised by an adult 18 or older, except on private property with the authorization of a parent, guardian, and the owner of the property or the legal possessor of the airgun.
Rules About Hunting Small/Big Game with Air Guns
With these new rules, old hunting laws regarding firearms may no longer apply to airguns. Hunting with pellet guns has become easier for Michigan residents. However before venturing on an airgun hunting expedition, always be sure to confirm rules with the state regulation department beforehand. There can be conflicts between state, federal and local laws leading to various interpretations of laws, though the new bills have also limited the ability of the local governments to regulate these guns beyond state laws.
More details on airgun rules will soon be available with the publication of the Hunter’s Digest 2016, revised according to the reclassification. Some 2015 laws are likely to remain.
There are some specific rules about big and small game hunting. Michigan is divided into zones 1,2,3 for Hunting and Trapping. Waterfowl hunting zones are different. The entire Upper Peninsula lies in Zone 1. Zones 2 and 3 are divided by a line that runs from Lake Michigan shores to the international boundary. There is also a Limited Firearm Deer Zone in the southern half of another system of division, with special rules for hunting equipment. It is important to keep in mind that the two different deer hunting zones have different equipment rules and regulations.
The following rules and regulations exist for the hunting or big and small game in Michigan:
Big Game Hunting
Limited Firearm Deer Zone: This zone has replaced the original Rifle and Shotgun zone, and there is a legal restriction on firearms used here. You can only use an air rifle or pistol of 0.35 caliber or larger. Additionally, the air gun should be charged only from a high compression, external power source. North of this Limited Firearm zone, you can legally hunt deer with a wider variety of firearms. In Muzzleloading deer season, however, only crossbows (not in the Upper Peninsula) and muzzleloading guns and rifles are permitted. Turkey & Black Bear: As of 2015, it was prohibited to hunt turkey or black bear with anything other than a crossbow, bow & arrow, muzzleloading shotgun or a firearm. However, at the time airguns were considered firearms, so it is likely to still be possible to hunt black bears with an airgun. If using a firearm (by the old definition) on a turkey, however, it can only be one that fires a fixed shotgun shell. In other words, turkey cannot be hunted with airguns currently. The latest issues of the Spring Turkey and Bear Hunting digests will have the latest information, so be sure to stay updated. Elk: Elk can be hunted with all equipment and weapons that are legal for hunting deer with. In other words, air rifles 0.35 caliber or more charged from an external high compression power source such as an air compressor, air tank or external hand pump.
Small Game Hunting
The following small game and birds CAN be hunted with airguns, according to 2014 updates: badger, beaver, black squirrel, bobcat, Canada geese, common snipe, coots, coyote, crow, ducks, fisher, fox, grouse, marten, merganser, mink, moorhen, muskrat, opossum, other geese, otter, pheasant, porcupine, quail, rabbit, raccoon, skunk, snowshoe hare, sparrow, gray squirrel, ground squirrel, red squirrel, starling, waterfowl, weasel, woodchuck and woodcock. Note that it is illegal to hunt amphibians and reptiles with airguns or any other type of firearm.
The use of air guns for hunting is now regulated by the Michigan Department for Natural Resources, so check their website often for the foot per second or minimum caliber requirements from pellet guns or BB guns for hunting.
- Website: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr
- Hunting & Trapping Digests: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10366_37141_14724—,00.html
- Find more information on unlawful hunting activities here.
- The National Rifle Association also keeps you abreast of Michigan legislation related to hunting.
- For general questions on hunting contact: DNR-Wildlife@michigan.gov
- For questions on obtaining hunting licenses email: MDNR-E-License@michigan.gov
- You can also look at the latest Michigan weapon laws here
- Best CO2 Air Rifles Available
- Comprehensive Pellet Gun Purchase Guide
- Tips for having the most accurate air rifle
- Tips for pellet gun hunting