M. Royal Artillery
"Artillery lends dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl"
Very often we get asked if all of our weaponry is legal. The short answer is yes, it absolutely is. The long version is a bit more involved.
Regulations regarding muzzleloading black powder cannons and small arms fall under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). They have determined that our cannons, mortar and small arms are considered to be "antique firearms" under current federal law and as such do not come under the provisions of either the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA) or the 1968 Gun Control Act (GCA). These are the two major Federal laws regarding firearms.
Our weapons are specifically excluded from the provisions of the NFA and GCA as follows:
First, 18 USC 921(a)(3) defines what a firearm is:
"The term "firearm" means (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."
Next, 18 USC 921(a)(16) defines an "Antique Firearm" as:
A. Any firearm (including any
firearm with a matchlock,
flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system)
or before 1898; and
i. is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition, or
ii. uses rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade.C. Any muzzle loading rifle, muzzle loading shotgun, or muzzle loading pistol, which is designed to use black powder, or black powder substitute, and which cannot use fixed ammunition.
Even though all of our weapons are of relatively recent manufacture, they are considered to be "replicas". The definition of antique firearms is actually stated in several different sections of the US Code, so we are legally on very firm ground.
Even though there is no specific reference to muzzleloading cannons in the US Code, they also fall under the section(s) regarding antique firearms. The BATFE has issued a ruling about this which states:
"Muzzleloading cannon not capable of firing fixed ammunition and manufactured in or before 1898 and replicas thereof are antiques and not subject to the provisions of either the GCA or NFA."
Since a mortar is nothing more that a short barrelled cannon that is fired at a high angle it also falls within the above ruling.
While black powder is actually a low explosive, it is handled and shipped by licensed dealers as a flammable solid. It also comes under Federal law with the BATFE having jurisdiction. According to 27 USC 555, which deals with Commerce in Explosives, black powder is exempt if it meets certain requirements.
Section 555.141(b) states:
Except for the provisions applicable to persons required to be licensed under subpart D, this Chapter does not apply with respect to commercially manufactured black powder in quantities not to exceed fifty pounds, percussion caps, safety and pyrotechnic fuse, quills, quick and slow matches and friction primers, intended to be used solely for sporting, recreational, or cultural purposes in antique firearms as defined in section 921(a)(16) of title 18 of the United States Code...
If stored and handled properly, black powder is quite safe. However, careless handling or storage can result in damage to or destruction of property as well as serious injury or death. For more information on this subject see our "Black Powder" page.
If you are thinking about becoming involved with black powder weapons, keep in mind that all of the statutes quoted above are Federal law.
Current Florida law basically mirrors Federal law regarding muzzleloading cannon, small arms and black powder with one exception. FS 552.241(2)(a) allows a person to keep only 25 pounds of black powder at any given time without first obtaining a State explosives user license.
Outside of Florida, state and even local laws regarding this subject may be different and possibly more restrictive. You MUST become familiar with all statutes that may apply to you before engaging in this activity.
Make sure to get proper training in the safe handling and use of black powder along with any muzzleloading weapon that you intend to use.
H. M. Royal Artillery can and will help you with this. See the "Contact Us" page.
Remember that SAFETY is ALWAYS the primary consideration.
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