60 California Hunting Firearm Regulations for 30 Firearms and Other Weapons

What’s a “firearm” for the purpose of hunting in California? They include everything from shotguns to slingshots, depending on the hunter, hunting method, and location! On this page are over 60 topics about 30+ firearms every hunter should know about “California hunting firearm regulations.” You can take a “shot” at “hunting” for them yourself or let us “guide” you with hunter-friendly summaries that “target” federal, State, and local laws. If you still need more “ammo,” just “shoot” us a question or comment.

TOPICS

After reading the Introduction to California Hunting Firearm Regulations, link to summaries of California hunting firearm regulations and other federal, State, and local laws for: (1) Weapons and Ammunition, (2) People and Professions, (3) Public and Private Land, (4) Specific Activities, and (5) Definitions and Abbreviations.

Weapons and Ammunition

California hunting firearm regulations for Ammunition, Firearms, and Other Propulsive Devices.
Firearm Shotguns

In general, California hunting firearm regulations categorize firearms with other devices and distinguish them by the force required to “propel” a projectile  (e.g. combustion to “fire” a shotgun shell and elasticity to shoot an arrow). Link to the following summaries for each weapon and any ammunition restrictions.

    1. Ammunition Restrictions
    2. Firearms, including Combination Rifle-ShotgunsHandguns, Long GunsMuzzleloadersPistolsRevolvers, Rifles, and Shotguns
    3. Archery Equipment
    4. Air and Gas Guns, including Air Rifles, Airbows, and Pellet Guns
    5. Other Propulsive Devices, including BB Guns, Blowguns, Capture Guns, Crossbows, Dart GunsSlingshots, Spear Guns, Starter Guns, Trap Guns (trip wire), and Zip Guns

People and Professions

In addition to California hunting firearm regulations, there are federal, State, and local laws that relate to hunting with “firearms” and protecting people, property, wildlife, and other animals. Link to the following summaries for people and professions to which those laws might apply.

California hunting firearm regulations for People and Professions.
Dart Guns for Animal Control Officers

Animal Control Officers, Archers, Criminals, Dealers, Disabled Hunters, Dog Trainers, Fishermen, Hunter Education Instructors, Manufacturers, Muzzleloaders, Native Americans, Private Landowners, Sellers, SurvivalistsYouth

Public and Private Land

In addition to California hunting firearm regulations, there are federal, State, and local laws relating to possession or use of “firearms” on or near public and private land. Link to regulation summaries for the following locations.

California hunting firearm regulations for wildlife areas
Firearms at Wildlife Areas

BLM Land, CDFW Land, Counties, Ecological Reserves, Fish and Game Refuges, Forests, Game Bird Clubs, Morro Bay, National Wildlife Refuges, Parks, Private Property, Recreation Areas, Reservoirs, Sea Otter Translocation Zone, Utility DistrictsWildlife Areas

Specific Activities

In addition to simply hunting with firearms, there are California hunting firearm regulations relating to how and when firearms are used. Link to summaries for the following activities.

California hunting firearm regulations for specific activities, like using alcohol while intoxicated.
Firearms and Intoxication

Computer-Assist Remote Hunting and Fishing, Drinking Alcohol, Firearm SeasonsFree Hunting Days, Hunting MethodsInjuries and AccidentsNight Hunting

Definitions and Abbreviations

Link to definitions and abbreviations used in this page and/or the California hunting firearm regulations and other sources.

    • Definitions, including words and terms like “California hunting firearm regulations,” Firearms, Projectiles, Propulsive Devices, and Weapons
    • Abbreviations and symbols, including “CDFW,” “FGC §” and “14 CCR §.”

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Introduction to California Hunting Firearm Regulations

California hunting firearm regulations from the CDFW
What are California hunting firearm regulations?

What are “California hunting firearm regulations?” As used on this page, they refer to codes from the Fish and Game Commission and regulations from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (“CDFW”). Ironically, neither source defines what a “firearm” is. They do, however, identify several firearms as methods for hunting species of birds and mammals (e.g. pistols, rifles, and shotguns), and often restrict use to specific firearms. To hunt wild turkeys, for example, shotguns must generally be at least 10-gauge using “No. 2” non-lead shell shot or smaller. The regulations also describe some firearm characteristics (e.g. they have barrels). Finally, they incorporate a narrow definition from Penal Code Section (§) 16520, which includes the following elements:

    1. A device,
    2. With a design for use as a weapon,
    3. That expels a projectile (e.g. bullets),
    4. Through a barrel,
    5. By force of explosion or other form of combustion.

Other “firearm” rules, like county ordinances, often broaden the definition to include the devices listed below that “fire” by means of other kinds of force.

    • Air pressure
    • Gas pressure
    • Breath
    • Elasticity
    • Propellants
    • Other means

Other “firearm” rules might also expand the definition by listing some of the specific “firearms” below.

    • Bow and arrows
    • Crossbows
    • Dart guns
    • Slingshots
    • Other devices

Choosing the applicable definition depends on the weapon, plus the specific person, place, and activity.

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Air Guns

California hunting firearm regulations for air guns.
Air Gun  Hunting Restrictions

Under California hunting firearm regulations, Air Guns are pistols and rifles that expel or “fire” Projectiles through a barrel by force of air pressure or gas pressure. Air Guns commonly include the weapons below.

    1. Airbows
    2. Air Rifles
    3. BB Guns
    4. Dart Guns
    5. Pellet Guns
    6. Spear Guns

They are not Firearms under California hunting firearm regulations because they don’t “fire” by force of explosion or other form of combustion. They are, however, Propulsive Devices. In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for Air Gun hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. Second, you’ll find restrictions relating to specific people, places, and activities. Finally, you’ll find summaries of other regulations (e.g. county ordinances) that often define “firearms” to include Air Guns.

Ammunition Restrictions for Air Guns

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a “Firearm” capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. While Lead Projectiles include a “pellet or other device,” the ban excludes Air Guns and other Propulsive Devices that “fire” by force of air pressure, gas pressure, or other means (e.g. Crossbows). For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1.

Methods of Take for Air Guns

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of Air Guns for hunting any bird or mammal unless it’s an authorized Method of Take for the species. Subject to restrictions, the regulations authorize Air Guns for hunting resident small game. One restriction is that the Air Gun must be a rifle that “fires” pellets by force of compressed air or gas. (See Pellet Guns for additional restrictions, like pellet size). With fewer restrictions, the regulations also allow Air Guns for hunting most nongame birds and nongame mammals. For restrictions, see 14 CCR §§ 472(a) and 475 and use our Menu for each species of “Fur & Nongame.” Also, see Ammunition Restrictions below.

Specific Activities Using Air Guns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. See Night Hunting, for example, where regulations often prohibit possession of any all Weapon. Also, see Injuries to others while hunting with any Weapon, where regulations require hunters to assist any person he or she injures.

Specific People Using Air Guns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or include other Propulsive Devices like Air Guns, and either allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Convicted Felons, Muzzleloaders, Survivalists, and Youth).

Specific Places for Air Guns

Before hunting, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might further define “firearms” to include Air Guns, and allow, prohibit, or restrict use. See Arbuckle Utility District, BLM Land, and Colusa County, where local rules define “firearms” to include Air Guns. Also, see Fish and Game Refuges, where regulations prohibit “any firearm,” and CDFW Land, where regulations prohibit or restrict use of all “propulsive devices” in certain areas.

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Airbows

Airbows are essentially Air Guns that function like Crossbows. They are not Firearms under California hunting firearm regulations because they don’t “fire” arrows by force of explosion or other form of combustion. They are, however, Propulsive Devices. In this section, you’ll find Airbow hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. Second, you’ll find summaries of other regulations (e.g. county ordinances) that often define “firearms” to include Airbows. Finally, you’ll find restrictions relating to specific people, places, and activities.

Ammunition Restrictions for Airbows

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a “Firearm” capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. While Lead Projectiles include a “pellet or other device,” the ban excludes Aibows and other Propulsive Devices that “fire” by force of air pressure, gas pressure, or other means (e.g. Crossbows). For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1.

Methods of Take for Airbows

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of Airbows for hunting any bird or mammal unless they are a Method of Take for the desired species. Subject to restrictions, the regulations only allow Airbows for hunting most nongame birds and nongame mammals. For restrictions, see 14 CCR §§ 472(a) and 475 and use our Menu for each species of “Fur & Nongame.” Also, see Ammunition Restrictions and the CDFW opinion in Hunting with an Airbow, California Outdoors Q&A, July 28, 2016, that Airbows are unauthorized for hunting game birds or game mammals.

Specific Activities Using Airbows

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. See Night Hunting, for example, where regulations often prohibit possession of any all Weapon. Also, see Injuries to others while hunting with any Weapon, where regulations require hunters to assist the person he or she injured.

Specific People Using Airbows

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or include other Propulsive Devices like Airbows, and either allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Convicted Felons, Muzzleloaders, Survivalists, and Youth).

Specific Places for Airbows

Before hunting, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might further define “firearms” to include Airbows, and prohibit or restrict use. See Arbuckle Utility District, BLM Land, and Colusa County, where local rules define “firearms” to include Airbows. Also, see Fish and Game Refuges, where regulations prohibit “any firearm,” and CDFW Land, where regulations prohibit or restrict use of Propulsive Devices at certain locations.

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Air Rifles

California hunting firearm regulations for air rifles and California hunting firearm regulations for pellet guns.
Air Rifle Hunting Restrictions

Air Rifles are weapons that “fire” pellets and/or BBs through a barrel by force of air pressure, gas pressure, or springs. They commonly include Pellet Guns, Blowguns, BB Guns, and Dart Guns. They are not Firearms under California hunting firearm regulations because they don’t “fire” by force of explosion or other form of combustion. They are, however, Propulsive Devices.

In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for Air Rifle hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. Second, you’ll find summaries of other regulations (e.g. county ordinances) that often define “firearms” to include Air Rifles. Finally, you’ll find restrictions relating to specific for specific people, places, and activities.

Ammunition Restrictions for Air Rifles

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a “Firearm” capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. While Lead Projectiles include a “pellet or other device,” the ban excludes Air Rifles and other Propulsive Devices that “fire” by force of air pressure, gas pressure, or other means (e.g. Crossbows). For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1.

Methods of Take for Air Rifles

California hunting firearm regulations for hunting resident small game, like rabbits, with Air Rifles
Air Rifles for Hunting Small Game

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of Air Rifles for hunting any bird or mammal unless it’s an authorized Method of Take for the species. Subject to restrictions, the regulations allow Air Rifles for hunting resident small game. One restriction is the Air Rifle must “fire” pellets by force of compressed air or gas (See Pellet Guns for additional restrictions, like pellet size). With fewer restrictions, the regulations also allow Air Rifles for hunting most nongame birds and nongame mammals. For those restrictions, see 14 CCR §§ 472(a) and 475 and use our Menu for each species of “Fur & Nongame.” Also, see Ammunition Restrictions.

Specific Activities Using Air Rifles

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. See Night Hunting, for example, where regulations often prohibit possession of any all Weapon. Also, see Injuries to others while hunting with any Weapon, where regulations require hunters to assist any person he or she injures.

Specific People for Air Rifles

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or include other Propulsive Devices like Air Rifles, and either allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Convicted Felons, Muzzleloaders, Survivalists, and Youth).

Specific Places Using Air Rifles

Before hunting, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might further define “firearms” to include Air Rifles, and prohibit or restrict use. See Arbuckle Utility District, BLM Land, and Colusa County, where local rules define “firearms” to include Air Rifles. Also, see Fish and Game Refuges, where regulations prohibit “any firearm,” and CDFW Land, where regulations prohibit or restrict use of Propulsive Devices at certain locations.

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Ammunition Restrictions

California hunting firearm regulations for ammunition used for hunting with firearms.
Firearm Ammunition Restrictions

California hunting firearm regulations often restrict ammunition type and size for Firearms and Non-Firearms, as well as Lead Ammunition for certain species and in specific locations, like Wildlife Areas and the California Condor Range.

Firearm Ammunition Restrictions

In addition to the sections below, also see Lead Ammunition Restrictions above.

Pistol Ammunition Restrictions

See Rifles and Pistols for Big Game and Lead Ammunition Restrictions above.

Shotgun Ammunition Restrictions

California hunting firearm regulations generally prohibit use of Shotguns larger than 10-gauge or that hold more than six shells. See FGC § 2010. Warning shots!! At Specific Places, however, the regulations often prohibit use of “shotguns” larger than 12-gauge or that hold more than three shells (e.g. Type A and Type B Wildlife Areas and Morro Bay). For specific birds and mammals, the regulations often prohibit use of shotguns larger than 10-gauge (e.g. migratory game birds like waterfowl).

California hunting firearm regulations for ammunition used for turkey
Firearm Ammunition Restrictions for Turkey Hunting

Similarly, the regulations often prohibit the size of shotgun shell shot or pellets (e.g. “Size 2” or smaller for turkey hunting). When hunting deer, bear, and wild pig, the regulations generally allow the use of “shotguns with slugs.” If a County prohibits the use of slugs, the regulations generally allow the use of buckshot, size “0” or “00.”

Non-Firearm Ammunition Restrictions

Air Guns Ammunition Restrictions

Air Guns are not Firearms and include weapons that expel Projectiles by force of air pressure or gas pressures. Examples are AirbowsAir RiflesBB GunsDart GunsPellet Guns,* and Spear Guns. For each of them, see Lead Ammunition Restrictions.

* Also, see Pellet Gun Restrictions below.

Pellet Gun Ammunition Restrictions

California hunting firearm regulations for ammunition used for resident small game, like tree squirrels.
Ammunition Restrictions for Pellet Guns

Subject to ammunition restrictions, air rifle Pellet Guns are a Method of Take the CDFW allows for hunting resident small game. In general, the pellets can be of any size. For turkey, however, the pellets must be no smaller than 0.177 caliber. See 14 CCR § 311(b) and (f). Also, see Methods of Take for Pellet Guns below and Lead Ammunition Restrictions above.

Lead Ammunition Restrictions

For the time being, California hunting firearm regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles (i.e. ammo) at specific locations and for certain wildlife. The ban also applies to possession of both Lead Projectiles and any Firearm capable of firing it. The ban appears to–but does not–apply to Non-Firearms or ammunition like Pellet Guns and pellets.

Lead and Nonlead “Projectiles”

When applicable, the ban applies to lead “projectiles,” which include any bullet, ball, sabot, slug, buckshot, shot, pellet, or other device.  The regulations limit the ban to projectiles “expelled from a firearm through a barrel by force.” That means the ban only applies to lead Firearm ammunition and excludes non-firearms, like Air Guns and Crossbows. For Firearms in general, “nonlead ammunition” includes “centerfire, shotgun, muzzleloading, or rimfire ammunition containing projectiles.” For Shotgun Shells in particular, pellets are certified if they are steel or other non-toxic material approved by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Refer to 14 CCR § 250.1.

Firearms and Lead Projectiles

Subject to limitations, the regulations ban the possession of both Lead Projectiles (see above) and a Firearm capable of firing it. As of July 1, 2016, limitations include specific locations, firearms, and/or species. In the Condor Range, the ban applies to all Firearms but only big game, nongame birds, and nongame mammals. At all Ecological Reserves and Wildlife Areas, the ban applies to all Firearms and wildlife.

For bighorn sheep, the ban applies to all Firearms. The ban is limited to Shotguns for the following species: furbearing mammals, migratory game birds (e.g. waterfowl), nongame birds, nongame mammalsupland game birds except doves, quail, snipe and at licensed game bird clubs), and resident small game mammals. Also for Shotguns, the ban applies to Depredation Permits.

Warning shot!! By no later than July 1, 2019, the ban will apply to use of all Lead Projectiles when “taking” any wildlife, anywhere in the State, for any reason. The same will apply to the possession of any Firearm capable of firing Lead Projectiles. For more details, see our page for Non-Toxic Shot.

Non-Firearm Lead Ammunition Restrictions

While the ban against the use of lead ammunition includes a “pellet or other device,” the ban presently applies only to Firearms per a CDFW opinion published on its website. The reason given is that they are not a Firearm, which means the ban excludes all other Propulsive Devices that “fire” by force of air pressure or gas pressure (e.g. air rifle Pellet Guns for hunting resident small game). It also excludes Propulsive Devices that “fire” by other means like elasticity and breath that might be used for nongame birds and nongame mammals.

Species Ammunition Restrictions

In addition to the sections below, also see Shotguns for Wildlife above.

Big Game Rifle and Pistol Ammunition Restrictions

California hunting firearm regulations for ammunition used for hunting big game, like deer, with rifles and pistols.
Big Game Ammunition Restrictions.

When using Rifles to hunt big game, California hunting firearm regulations generally restrict ammunition to “centerfire cartridges with softnose or expanding projectiles.” When using Pistols or Revolvers to hunt deer, bear, and wild pig, the same rule applies. When using a Pistol or Revolver to hunt elk or bighorn sheep, the same rule applies, but there are barrel-length restrictions. For more information, follow the links above and go to the sections for Hunting Methods. Also, see Lead Ammunition Restrictions  above.

Big Game Shotgun Ammunition Restrictions

See Shotgun Ammunition Restrictions above.

Resident Small Game Ammunition Restrictions

See Pellet Gun Restrictions and Shotgun Ammunition Restrictions above.

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Animal Control Officers

California hunting firearm regulations for Dart Guns
“Firearms” for Animal Control Officers

Animal control officers can use Firearms and Penal Code § 830.9 defines them to also include Airbows, Air Guns, Air Rifles, Dart GunsPellet Guns and Blowguns. California hunting firearm regulations never incorporate that definition–just the one in Penal Code § 12520 that only includes weapons that “fire” by force of explosion or other form of combustion. For examples, see Criminal Laws below. Specifically, Penal Code § 830.9 states,

For the purposes of this section, “firearms” includes capture guns, blowguns, carbon dioxide operated rifles and pistols, air guns, handguns, rifles, and shotguns.

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Archery Equipment

California hunting firearm regulations for Archers using Archery Equipment, which includes Bow and Arrows.
Archery Equipment Firearm Restrictions

In general, Archery Equipment is limited to Bow and Arrows, which are weapons that release arrows by means of elastic force. They are not Firearm under California hunting firearm regulations. They, however, Propulsive Devices subject to Firearm restrictions.

In this section, you’ll find Firearm restrictions during Archery-Only Seasons and with an Archery-Only Tag. Second, you’ll find summaries for Archery Equipment hunting methods, and other regulations (e.g. county ordinances) that often define “firearms” to include Archery Equipment. Finally, you’ll find restrictions relating to specific people, places, and activities. (Also, see Airbows, Crossbows, and our page for California Archery Laws).

Archery-Only Seasons

When hunting during any archery-only season, the regulations generally prohibit possession and use of “any firearm of any kind.” See FGC § 4370, 14 CCR § 311(k) [small game] and 14 CCR § 354(h) [big game].

Archery-Only Tags

When hunting during any Firearm Season under the authority of an archery-only tag, the regulations generally prohibit possession and use of “any firearm of any kind.” See FGC § 4370, 14 CCR § 311(k) [small game] and 14 CCR § 354(h) [big game].

Methods of Take for Archery Equipment

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of Archery Equipment for hunting any bird or mammal unless it’s an authorized Method of Take for the species. For authorized species, see our page for California Archery Laws.

Specific Activities Using Archery Equipment

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. See Night Hunting, for example, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon. Also, see Injuries to others while hunting with any Weapon, where regulations require hunters to assist the person he or she injured.

Specific People for Archery Equipment

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or include other Propulsive Devices like Archery Equipment, and either allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Convicted Felons, Muzzleloaders, Survivalists, and Youth).

Specific Places Using Archery Equipment

Before hunting, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might further define “firearms” to include Archery Equipment, and prohibit or restrict use. See Arbuckle Utility District, BLM Land, and Colusa County, where local rules define “firearms” to include ­­­Archery Equipment.

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BB Guns

California hunting firearm regulations for BB Guns
BB Gun Restrictions

BB Guns “fire” spherical BBs through the barrel of a rifle or pistol by force. Those that use air pressure or gas pressure fall into the category of Air Guns. Those that “fire” by mechanically or by force of springs are “other” Propulsive Devices. They are not Firearms under California hunting firearm regulations because they don’t “fire” by force of explosion or other form of combustion. They are, however, Propulsive Devices

In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for BB Gun hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. Second, you’ll find summaries of other regulations (e.g. county ordinances) that often define “firearms” to include BB Guns. Finally, you’ll find restrictions relating to specific people, places, and activities.

Ammunition Restrictions for BB Guns

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a “Firearm” capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. While Lead Projectiles include a “pellet or other device,” the ban excludes BB Guns and other Propulsive Devices that “fire” by force of air pressure, gas pressure, or other means (e.g. Crossbows). For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1.

Methods of Take for BB Guns

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of BB guns for hunting any bird or mammal unless they are a Method of Take for the desired species. Subject to restrictions, the regulations only allow BB Guns for hunting most nongame birds and nongame mammals. For restrictions, see 14 CCR §§ 472(a) and 475 and use our Menu for each species of “Fur & Nongame.” Also, see Ammunition Restrictions.

Specific Activities Using BB Guns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. See Night Hunting, for example, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon. Also, see Injuries to others while hunting with any Weapon, where regulations require hunters to assist the person he or she injured.

Specific People Using BB Guns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or include other Propulsive Devices like BB Guns, and either allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Convicted Felons, Muzzleloaders, Survivalists, and Youth).

Specific Places for BB Guns

Before hunting, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might further define “firearms” to include BB Guns, and prohibit or restrict use. See Arbuckle Utility District, BLM Land, and Colusa County, where local rules define “firearms” to include ­­­BB Guns. Also, see Wildlife Areas, where local regulations might prohibit hunting with an air rifle that “fires” spherical BBs. [update links for Counties]

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BLM Land

There are federal and California hunting firearm regulations for land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”).

Federal Regulations

Federal regulations for visiting BLM Land generally allow hunting with Firearms, subject to State regulations. Consistent with California hunting firearm regulations, BLM regulations define them to include weapons that expel Projectiles by force of explosion or other form of combustion. Unlike California hunting firearm regulations, they also include weapons that expel a projectile “such as a bullet, dart, or pellet by force of air pressure, gas pressure, or other means.” That means it includes other Propulsive Devices (e.g. Pellet Guns). For the BLM definition, see 43 CFR § 423.2. (Also see 43 CFR § 423.32, authorizing firearms for hunting on BLM Land subject to restrictions in subsection 423.30).

California Regulations

As noted above, BLM firearm regulations are subject to State hunting regulations. So, when State regulations allow Firearms as a method for hunting, it excludes weapons that “fire” by force of “air pressure, gas pressure, or other means.” While those additional weapons are not “firearms,” State regulations generally allow them for hunting most nongame birds and most nongame mammals. (See 14 CCR §§ 472(a) and 475). State regulations also allow Pellet Guns for hunting resident small game. See 14 CCR § 311(f).

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Blowguns

California hunting firearm regulations for Blowguns
Blow Gun Hunting Restrictions

Blowguns are weapons that “fire” darts or other objects through the barrel of a pipe or tube by force of breath (also, see Dart Guns). They are not Firearms under California hunting firearm regulations because they don’t “fire” by force of explosion or other form of combustion. They are, however, Propulsive Devices.

In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for Blowgun hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. Second, you’ll find summaries of other regulations (e.g. county ordinances) that often define “firearms” to include Blowguns. Finally, you’ll find restrictions relating to specific people, places, and activities.

Ammunition Restrictions for Blowguns

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a “Firearm” capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. While Lead Projectiles include a “pellet or other device,” the ban excludes Blowguns and other Propulsive Devices that “fire” by force of air pressure, gas pressure, or other means (e.g. Crossbows). In addition, it’s a crime to possess or use Blowgun ammunition per to Penal Code § 20010,

Any person who knowingly manufactures, sells, offers for sale, possesses, or uses a blowgun or blowgun ammunition in this state is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Methods of Take for Blowguns

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of Blowguns for hunting any bird or mammal unless they are a Method of Take for the desired species. Subject to restrictions, the regulations would allow Blowguns for hunting most nongame birds and nongame mammals. It’s a crime, however, to possess or use Blowguns per Penal Code § 20010:

Any person who knowingly manufactures, sells, offers for sale, possesses, or uses a blowgun or blowgun ammunition in this state is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Specific Activities Using Blowguns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. See Night Hunting, for example, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon. Also, see Injuries to others while hunting with any Weapon, where regulations require hunters to assist the person he or she injured.

Specific People Using Blowguns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or include other Propulsive Devices like Blowguns, and either allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Convicted Felons, Muzzleloaders, Survivalists, and Youth).

Specific Places for Blowguns

Before hunting, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might further define “firearms” to include Blowguns, and prohibit or restrict use. See Arbuckle Utility District, BLM Land, and Colusa County, where local rules define “firearms” to include Blowguns. Also, see Fish and Game Refuges, where regulations prohibit “any firearm,” and CDFW Land, where regulations prohibit or restrict use of Propulsive Devices at certain locations.

Other Regulations for Blowguns

In addition, at least one other California regulation defines a “firearm” to include blowguns (see Animal Control Officers above).

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CDFW Land

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (“CDFW”) owns land and California hunting firearm regulations generally prohibit use of Firearms, Archery Equipment, Pellet Guns, and other Propulsive Devices. See 14 CCR § 550(cc)(2). There are only four exceptions:

    1. Where the CDFW designates hunting areas,
    2. Where the CDFW designates shooting sites,
    3. With a permit from the CDFW, and
    4. When fishing with bow and arrow tackle.

For CDFW Land that allows Firearms, and for area-specific restrictions, see Ecological Reserves and Wildlife Areas below.

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Capture Guns

See Animal Control Officers above, where criminal law regulations define “firearms” to include Capture Guns.

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Combination Rifle-Shotguns

Combination Rifle-Shotguns are guns with at least one barrel for a Rifle and another for a Shotgun. Most commonly, one barrel is over the other and known as an “over-under.” Some combination guns have “side-by-side” barrels and are commonly known a “cape guns.” Combination guns are Firearms under California hunting firearm regulations because they fire Projectiles from a barrel by force of explosion or other form of combustion. They are also Propulsive Devices.

In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for Combination Rifle-Shotgun hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. You’ll also find restrictions relating to specific places and activities.

Ammunition Restrictions for Combination Rifle-Shotguns

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a Firearm capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1. Warning shots!! By no later than July 1, 2019, the ban will apply to the take of all wildlife, anywhere in the State, for any reason.

Methods of Take for Combination Rifle-Shotguns

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of Firearms for hunting any bird or mammal unless it’s an authorized Method of Take for the species. For authorized methods, see Rifles and Shotguns.

Specific Activities Using Combination Rifle-Shotguns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. For examples, see Firearms, which often have Ammunition Restrictions, and Night Hunting, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon.

Specific Places for Combination Rifle-Shotguns

Before hunting, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might prohibit or restrict use of Firearms. Here are a few examples with links to more information. At Fish and Game Refuges, regulations prohibit “any firearm.” On CDFW Land, regulations prohibit all Firearms with a few exceptions, like where they designate hunting areas (see Ecological Reserves and Wildlife Areas for additional exceptions and restrictions). In and around Morro Bay, regulations prohibit Shotguns larger than 12-gauge. Finally, at State Parks the regulations restrict Firearms for certain species (e.g. only Shotguns and Rifles for deer and quail).

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Computer-Assist Remote Hunting and Fishing

When hunting birds or mammals (or when fishing), California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of a computer-assist remote to discharge “any” Firearm. See FGC § (f) and 14 CCR § 251.9(c) re birds and mammals, and 14 CCR § 2.45(c) re fishing. Warning shots!! The prohibition also applies to any other Weapon (e.g. Archery Equipment, Slingshots, and Spear Guns).

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County Ordinances

California hunting firearm regulations for Counties
County Ordinances for Firearms

County ordinances often prohibit or restrict use of Firearms, which expel Projectiles through a barrel by force of explosion or other form of combustion. Unlike California hunting firearm regulations, many counties define “firearms” to also include weapons that “fire” by force of air pressure, gas pressure, elasticity, springs, and other means (e.g. Air Guns. For examples, see below for Colusa County, Fresno County, and Los Angeles County.

Warning shots!! Very few California hunting firearm regulations refer to county ordinances. Most counties also have “no shooting zones.” So always review the ordinances and check with the county sheriff’s office before carrying a “firearm.”

Colusa County

Except for hunting and trapping, a Colusa County ordinance prohibits the use of “firearms” on Bureau of Reclamation land near East Park Reservoir. (See Ordinance No. 762 § 46-04(r) and 14 CCR § 364(d)(12)(D)(3) re elk hunting.) In addition to Firearms, the ordinance further defines them to include other weapons, like Air Guns, Air Rifles, Archery Equipment, BB Guns, Blowguns, Crossbows, Dart Guns, and Pellet Guns. Specifically, Section 46-03(h) states:

“Firearm” means any gun, pistol, rifle, revolver, air rifle, air gun, BB gun, pellet gun, bow, arrow, or crossbow, or any other instrument of any kind, character or description which throws or projects bullets, missiles or projectiles of any kind to any distance of means of elastic force, air or any explosive substance.

Fresno County

Like many others, Fresno County has a “no shooting zone” that prohibits the discharge of Firearms. The Sheriff’s Office has a map of the zone on its webpage.

Los Angeles County

In Los Angeles County, the definition of a “firearm” is consistent with California hunting firearm regulations. Its ordinances commonly prohibit or restrict use of Firearms, which specifically includes Rifles, Shotguns, and Revolvers “of any kind” (e.g. Combination Rifle-Shotgun). Specifically, it has firearm ordinances relating to Angeles Forest, hunting deer, safety zones, and firearm sales.

Angeles Forest

When visiting the Angeles Forest, Los Angeles County ordinances generally prohibit the discharge “any firearm of any kind.” There are exceptions for (a) hunting in the forest, (b) Private Property in the forest, and (c) unincorporated areas contiguous to the forest. See Ordinances 13.66.550, 551, 552, and 553, and the Paragraphs below.

Deer Hunting at the Bear Creek-Cogswell Reservoir

In many districts within Los Angeles County, its ordinances generally prohibit the discharge of “any rifle, shotgun, revolver or firearm of any kind.” It has an exception for the Bear Creek-Cogswell Reservoir (District No. 23), where it allows legal deer hunting with Firearms. See Ordinances 13.66.130 and 13.66.360(B).

Safety Zones

Where it allows hunting in Los Angeles County, its ordinances generally prohibit the discharge of “any rifle, shotgun, pistol, revolver or firearm” within one-half (1/2) mile in the general direction of a dwelling place, public road, public park, and certain districts. In other districts, the ordinances generally prohibit “firearms” within a range of one-half mile or more (e.g. the Antelope Valley and Castaic-Acton areas). See Ordinances 13.66.040, 13.66.130, and 13.66.500.

Sale of Firearms and Ammunition

On property of Los Angeles County, Ordinance 13.67.040 generally prohibits the sale of a “firearm” as it defines below.

“Firearm” includes all devices described in Penal Code Section 12001, including, but not limited to, any gun, pistol, revolver, rifle or any device, designed or modified to be used as a weapon, from which is expelled through a barrel a projective for the force of an explosion or other form of combustion. “Firearm” does not include any instrument as referred to in Government Code Section 53071.5.*

* Note: Government Code Section 53071.5 relates to imitation firearms.

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Criminal Laws

There are criminal laws, both federal and State, relating to the use of Firearms. They involve (1) convicted felons, (2) intoxication, (3) Fish and Game Refuges, (4) Native Americans salvaging bird feathers, and (5) the transfer of Firearms.

Convicted Felons

California criminal laws generally prohibit convicted felons from owning or possessing a Firearm, and define it as a weapon that expels Projectiles through a barrel by force of explosion of other form of combustion. See Penal Code § 16520. Depending on terms of probation, convicted felons might still be able to hunt with any “BB Device,” which include weapons that expel Projectiles by force of air pressure or gas pressure (e.g. Air Guns). See Penal Code § 16250. Specifically, that leaves opportunities for hunting resident small game with Pellet Guns, as well as most nongame birds and nongame mammals with Air Guns (e.g. BB Guns). See 14 CCR §§ 472(a) and 475. Also, refer Hunter Ed question regarding someone with a felony, May 30, 2013 and Can felons legally hunt?, April 22, 2010.

Intoxication

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit hunting with Firearms while intoxicated. See FGC § 3001, which incorporates a criminal law definition from Penal Code § 16520. The same rule applies to hunting with any “BB Device,” as Penal Code § 16250 defines them (e.g. BB Guns and Pellet Guns).

Fish & Game Refuges

When visiting an area the CDFW designates as a Fish and Game Refuges, California hunting firearm regulations prohibit possession or use of “any firearm.” See FGC § 10500 and FGC § 10506, which incorporate a criminal law definition from Penal Code § 16520. The same rule applies to any “BB Device,” as Penal Code § 16250 defines them (e.g. BB Guns and Pellet Guns).

Native American Salvaging Bird Feathers

See the section below for Native Americans, where California hunting firearm regulations prohibit possession of a Firearm or any “BB Device” (e.g. Pellet Gun) while salvaging bird feathers.

Transferring Firearms

See Dealers below, where federal regulations require a criminal background check prior to transferring Firearms, which also include the frame, receiver, mufflers, silencers, and “other destructive devices.”

Trap Guns for Firearms

See Trap Guns, where California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use.

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Crossbows

California hunting firearm regulations for Crossbows.
Crossbow Hunting Restrictions

Crossbows are weapons that “fire” a bolt through a grove by means of elastic force. They are not Firearms under California hunting firearm regulations because they don’t “fire” by force of explosion or other form of combustion. They are, however, Propulsive Devices.

In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for Crossbow hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. Second, you’ll find summaries of other regulations (e.g. county ordinances) that often define “firearms” to include Crossbows. Finally, you’ll find restrictions relating to specific people, places, and activities. Cross-reference Airbows and Archery Equipment above.

Ammunition Restrictions for Crossbows

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a “Firearm” capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. While Lead Projectiles include a “pellet or other device,” the ban excludes Crossbows and other Propulsive Devices that “fire” by force of air pressure, gas pressure, or other means (e.g. Air Guns). For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1.

Methods of Take for Crossbows

For Disabled Hunters using a Crossbow under the authority of a Disabled Archer’s Permit, there are restrictions against carrying a Firearm (see Disabled Hunters below).

Specific Activities Using Crossbows

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. See Night Hunting, for example, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon. Also, see Injuries to others while hunting with any Weapon, where regulations require hunters to assist the person he or she injured.

Specific People Using Crossbows

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or include other Propulsive Devices like Crossbows, and either allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Convicted Felons, Muzzleloaders, Survivalists, and Youth).

Specific Places for Crossbows

Some area-specific rules and regulations prohibit “firearms” and define them to include Crossbows (e.g. Colusa County). Warning shot!! Always review the rules and regulations before hunting at Specific Places.

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Dart Guns

California hunting firearm regulations for Dart Guns
Dart Gun Hunting Restrictions

Dart Guns are wesapons that “fire” darts through a barrel by force. Those that use air pressure or gas pressure, fall into the category of Air Guns. Those that “fire” by force of breath or other means are “other” Propulsive Devices (e.g. Blowguns). They are not Firearms under California hunting firearm regulations because they don’t “fire” by force of explosion or other form of combustion. They are, however, Propulsive Devices.

In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for Dart Gun hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. Second, you’ll find summaries of other regulations (e.g. county ordinances) that often define “firearms” to include Dart Guns. Finally, you’ll find restrictions relating to specific people, places, and activities.

Ammunition Restrictions for Dart Guns

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a “Firearm” capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. While Lead Projectiles include a “pellet or other device,” the ban excludes Dart Guns and other Propulsive Devices that “fire” by force of air pressure, gas pressure, or other means (e.g. Crossbows). For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1.

Methods of Take for Dart Guns

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of Dart Guns for hunting any bird or mammal unless they are a Method of Take for the desired species. Subject to restrictions, the regulations only allow Dart Guns for hunting most nongame birds and nongame mammals. For restrictions, like the use of tranquilizers, see 14 CCR §§ 472(a) and 475 and use our Menu for each species of “Fur & Nongame.” Also, see Ammunition Restrictions above.

Specific Activities Using Dart Guns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review the regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. See Night Hunting, for example, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon. Also, see Injuries to others while hunting with any Weapon, where regulations require hunters to assist the person he or she injured.

Specific People Using Dart Guns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review the regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or include other Propulsive Devices like Dart Guns, and either allow, prohibit or restrict use. See Animal Control Officers, for example, where a Dart Gun is a “firearm” that may be used as a Capture Gun with tranquilizing darts.

Specific Places for Dart Guns

Before hunting, always review the regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might further define “firearms” to include Dart Guns, and prohibit or restrict use. See Arbuckle Utility District, BLM Land, and Colusa County, where local rules define “firearms” to include ­­Dart Guns. Also, see Fish and Game Refuges, where regulations prohibit “any firearm,” and CDFW Land, where regulations prohibit or restrict use of Propulsive Devices at certain locations.

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Dealers

The US. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) enforces the Brady Handgun Violent Prevention Act, which requires “firearm” dealers to run a criminal background check before transferring a firearm to another person. Under 28 CFR § 25.2, the DOJ incorporates the firearm definition below from 18 USC § 921(a)(3).

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.

Note: See Starter Guns above.

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Definitions and Abbreviations

Link to definitions of “California hunting firearm regulations,” Firearms, Projectiles, Propulsive Devices, and Weapons from the California hunting firearm regulations and other sources. For additional definitions, follow the links from the Topics. Also, see our separate pages with FGC Definitions (e.g. “take”) and CDFW Definitions (e.g. resident small game).

For abbreviations, “CDFW” means the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “FGC §” stands for Fish and Game Code Section. Finally, “14 CCR §” means Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations Section.

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Disabled Hunters

California hunting firearm regulations for disabled hunters.
Disabled Hunter Firearm Restrictions

For disabled hunters, there are California hunting firearm regulations with restrictions relating to the use of Firearms during Archery Seasons and from Vehicles. (Also see our page for California Disabled Hunter Laws.)

Archery Seasons

See Archers above, where a hunter with a Disabled Archer’s Permit is subject to Firearm restrictions during archery-only seasons and when hunting under the authority of an archery-only tag.

Vehicles

California hunting firearm regulations generally allow hunters with a Mobility Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle License to shoot Firearms from a vehicle. However, the vehicle must first come to a stop with the engine off. When using an able-bodied assistant, the regulations generally allow them to possess a Firearm. Warning shot!! However, the assistant must have a Hunting License and cannot shoot from the vehicle. See 14 CCR § 251.

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Dog Trainers

California hunting firearm regulations for Dog Trainers.
Dog Trainer Firearm Restrictions

During a dog training season, California hunting firearm regulations prohibit trainers from possessing a Firearm capable of killing an animal. See 14 CCR § 265. For dog training seasons and other related regulations, see California Hunting Dog Laws. Warning shot!! This regulation also prohibits possession of Archery Equipment, Crossbows, and other instruments capable of killing an animal.

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Ecological Reserves

When visiting an Ecological Reserve, California hunting firearm regulations generally prohibit possession of Firearms. Warning shot!! Also, see reserve-specific regulations by following the link above.

Ammunition Restrictions at Ecological Reserves

California hunting firearm regulations for Ecological Reserves.
Ecological Reserve Firearm Restrictions

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a Firearm capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. The ban applies specifically to all Ecological Reserves. For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1Warning shots!! By no later than July 1, 2019, the ban will apply to the take of all wildlife, anywhere in the State, for any reason.

License Requirement

When the CDFW designates hunting areas at an Ecological Reserve, a hunter can carry a Firearm if he or she is in possession of a Hunting License. See 14 CCR § 630(d)(22).

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Firearm Seasons

The CDFW establishes hunting seasons that commonly include a general season and archery-only season. During the general season, California hunting firearm regulations allow Firearms. For examples, see 14 CCR § 300 for upland game birds and 14 CCR § 502 for waterfowl.

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Firearms

California hunting firearm regulations for Firearms.
Firearm Hunting Restrictions

As used in California hunting firearm regulations, “firearms” generally refer to devices that expel or “fire” Projectiles from a barrel by force of explosion or other form of combustion. Firearms include Handguns (e.g. Pistols) and Long Guns (e.g. Rifles and Shotguns). They are also Propulsive Device. Ironically, the regulations don’t provide a specific definition of “firearms.”

In this section, you’ll find California hunting firearm regulations relating to:

    1. Firearm Characteristics ,
    2. Firearm Classifications,
    3. Firearms for Hunting,
    4. Firearm Ammunition Restrictions,
    5. Criminal Law Definitions, and
    6. Other Possible Meanings.

You’ll also find local “firearm” definitions that also include weapons that “fire” using air or gas pressure, elastic force, or other means. Those rules might allow, prohibit, or restrict use of those weapons (e.g. Air Guns). Finally, you’ll find Firearm restrictions relating to specific activities, people and places.

Firearm Characteristics

While California hunting firearm regulations don’t provide a straightforward definition of “firearms,” they do identify some characteristics. Most often, they describe them as devices that:

    • Expel projectiles,
    • Through a barrel,
    • By force.

As for the kind of “force,” the regulations rarely distinguish between devices that expel Projectiles through a barrel by force of explosion (e.g. Shotguns) from those that expel by force of air pressure or other means (e.g. Air Guns).* On a few occasions, they incorporate a definition from Criminal Laws that restrict “firearms” to those using force of explosion or other form of combustion.

* See 14 CCR § 250.1(b)(1) and 14 CCR § 353(a) re hunting with “projectiles” expelled from a “firearm through a barrel by force.”

Firearm Classifications

When protecting human life and for wildlife management, California hunting firearm regulations classify Firearms as:

When hunting near an occupied building, for example, FGC 3004(a) prohibits the discharge of “firearms or other deadly weapons” within a 150-yard “safety zone” around a residential homes and any building used in connection therewith (e.g. shed). Another example is at the Cal Expo, where 14 CCR § 4955 prohibits “dangerous weapons,” including Firearms (e.g. Pistols and Revolvers) and Propulsive Devices (e.g. Slingshots). Finally, when visiting CDFW Land, 14 CCR § 550(cc)(2) generally prohibits Firearms, Air Guns, and Other Propulsive Devices.

Firearms for Hunting

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of any Firearm to hunt birds or mammals unless it’s an authorized Method of Take.* Subject to restrictions, the regulations allow specific “firearms” for each species. Those Firearms only include the ones listed below.

California hunting firearm regulations for specific firearms, including muzzleloaders.
Firearms for Hunting
    1. Combination Rifle-Shotguns
    2. Muzzleloading Shotguns
    3. Muzzleloading Rifles
    4. Pistols
    5. Revolvers
    6. Rifles
    7. Shotguns

* For authorized hunting methods and restrictions, use our Menu to locate the species and review the sections for “Hunting Methods.” Warning shot!! Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for specific activities, people, and places.

Firearm Lead Ammunition Restrictions

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a Firearm capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1Warning shots!! By no later than July 1, 2019, the ban will apply to the take of all wildlife, anywhere in the State, for any reason

Firearms for Criminals

There are at least two definitions of “firearms” in the California Penal Code. The first relates to law enforcement officers, who can use “firearms” for the purpose of animal control. In addition to weapons that “fire” Projectiles through a barrel by force of explosion (e.g. Pistols), they can use “firearms” that fire by force of air pressure, gas pressure, and breath (e.g. Blowguns, Air Guns, Air Rifles, and Pellet Guns). For more information, see Animal Control Officers referring to Penal Code § 830.9.

The second Criminal Law Definition relates to Convicted Felons, who cannot own or possess any “firearm.” For them, that means “firearms” that expel projectiles by force of explosion or other form of explosion. California hunting firearm regulations incorporate that definition on a few occasions, but not for all purposes. Specifically, Penal Code Section (§) 16520, defines them to include the following elements.

    1. A device,
    2. With a design for use as a weapon,
    3. That has a barrel, and
    4. Fires a projectile through the barrel (e.g. slugs),
    5. By force of an explosion or other form of combustion.

While Convicted Felons cannot hunt with Firearms, terms of probation might allow use of other Propulsive Devices, like air rifle Pellet Guns.

Warning shot!! In general, it’s a crime to carry a loaded Firearm while under the influence of “cocaine, cocaine base, heroin, methamphetamine, or phencyclidine.” Violations are “punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not exceeding one year or in state prison.” See Health and Safety Code § 11550(e) and our page for other Controlled Substances at State Wildlife Areas.

Other Firearm Definitions

Other rules and regulations, like County Ordinances, also define “firearms” to include devices that expel Projectiles through a barrel by force of explosion or other form of combustion. Unlike California hunting firearm regulations, many of those regulations also include devices that expel Projectiles mechanically or by force of air pressure, gas pressure, propellant, breath, or other means. Some of those regulations also include weapons that “throw” Projectiles by elastic force and even firearm components and equipment (e.g. silencers). Those weapons include, but are not limited to, the list below.*

    1. Air Guns
    2. Air Rifles
    3. Archery Equipment
    4. BB Guns
    5. Blowguns
    6. Capture Guns
    7. Crossbows
    8. Firearm Frames
    9. Firearm Receivers
    10. Firearm Mufflers
    11. Firearm Silencers
    12. “Guns” in General
    13. Dart Guns
    14. Handguns
    15. Pellet Guns
    16. Pistols operated by CO2
    17. Rifles operated by CO2
    18. Slingshots
    19. Starter Guns
    20. Trap Guns
    21. Zip Guns

* For more information, including legal references, follow the links above.

Other Meanings of Firearms

There are California hunting–and fishing–regulations that prohibit or restrict the use of “firearms,” and appear to include the weapons identified above in the section for Other Definitions of Firearms. Otherwise, shooters could use other weapons to circumvent the regulations used as examples below.

Computer-Assisted Remotes

California regulations prohibit hunters and fishermen from using “any firearm” to take birds, mammals, or fish with Computer-Assist Remotes. See FGC § (f) and 14 CCR § 251.9(c) re birds and mammals, and 14 CCR § 2.45(c) re fishing.

Free Hunting Days

On Free Hunting Days, a licensed hunter must accompany anyone hunting without a license and stay close enough to immediately assume control of the unlicensed hunter’s “firearm.” See FGC § 3040.

Frog Fishing

When fishing for frogs, California regulations prohibit fishermen from using “firearms of any caliber or type.” See FGC § 6854.

Injuries and Accidents

If a hunter injures another person with a “firearm,” the shooter must assist the injured person. See FGC § 3009.

White Sturgeon Fishing

When fishing for white sturgeon, California regulations prohibit fishermen from using “any type of firearm” to land them. See 14 CCR § 5.80(d) and 14 CCR § 27.90(d).

Wildlife Areas

At Wildlife Areas, hunting regulations prohibit “loaded firearms” in certain locations (e.g. parking lots and check stations). See 14 CCR § 550(cc)(4)(G).

Specific Activities Using Firearms

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. For examples, see Ammunition Restrictions above, and Night Hunting below, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon.

Specific People Using Firearms

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Disabled Hunters, Muzzleloaders, and Dog Trainers).

Specific Places for Firearms

Before hunting, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might prohibit or restrict use of Firearms. Here are a few examples with links to more information. At Fish and Game Refuges, regulations prohibit “any firearm.” On CDFW Land, regulations prohibit all Firearms with exceptions for where it designates hunting areas and shooting sites (see Ecological Reserves and Wildlife Areas for additional exceptions and restrictions). In Los Angeles County, ordinances prohibit discharge of Firearms in”safety zones.” In and around Morro Bay, regulations prohibit Shotguns larger than 12-gauge. Finally, at State Parks the regulations restrict Firearms for certain species (e.g. only Shotguns and Rifles for deer and quail).

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Fish and Game Refuges

When visiting any Fish and Game Refuge, California hunting firearm regulations prohibit possession or use of “any” Firearm. Refer to FGC § 10500 and FGC § 10506, and also see Criminal Laws.

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Fishermen

There are a several regulations in the fish and game regulations that involve fishing with a Firearm.

Computer-Assist Remote Fishing

See Computer-Assist Remote Hunting and Fishing above, where California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of Firearms to take fish with a computer-assisted remote.

Frogs

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit the take of frogs using Firearms “of any caliber or type.” See FGC § 6854.

Sturgeon

When landing a white sturgeon, California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of “any type of” Firearm. See 14 CCR § 5.80(d) and 14 CCR § 27.90(d). Warning shot!! The regulation also applies to the use of a snare.

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Forests

When hunting in a National Forest or State Forest, there a firearm restrictions relating to safety of humans. Warning shot!! Before hunting, also review topics for Specific People and Specific Activities.

National Forests

When visiting a National Forest, federal regulations generally allow the use of Firearms for hunting (see 36 CFR § 261.8). Those regulations define “firearm” in Section 1.4:

Firearm means a loaded or unloaded pistol, rifle, shotgun or other weapon which is designed to, or may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the ignition of a propellant.

Warning shots!! See Section 261.10(d), which prohibits things like shooting a Firearm at a National Forest (a) within 150 yard of a dwelling place, (b) in cave, or (c) in a way that could injure another person.

State Forests

California hunting firearm regulations for Forests, including National Forests and State Forests.
Firearm Hunting Restrictions in Forests

When visiting a State Forest, California hunting firearm regulations generally allow hunting with Firearms. Warning shots!! See 14 CCR § 1413, which prohibits the discharge of any “firearm” or “air or gas weapon” within 150 yards of a designated camping area or in any other way that could injure another person. See Air Guns, as well as 14 CCR § 1435 and 14 CCR § 1436, which prohibit hunting and Firearms in certain areas lying in or around State Forests (e.g. parts of Mendocino, Shasta, and Tulare counties). Finally, see Accidents and Injuries, where regulations require hunters to assist any person he or she injures while hunting with a Firearm or other Weapon.

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Free Hunting Days

When the CDFW designates a Free Hunting Day, California hunting firearm regulations require a licensed hunter to accompany anyone hunting without a license. See FGC § 3040. Warning shot!! The licensed hunter must stay close enough to “immediately assume control of a firearm from the unlicensed hunter at any time.”

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Game Bird Clubs

Game Bird Clubs can refuse to issue permits to visitors that handle Firearms in a careless or dangerous manner. See 14 CCR § 600.

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Handguns

Handguns are handheld Firearms, as opposed to Long Guns that rest on the shoulder to fire. Under California hunting firearm regulations, handguns include Pistols and Revolvers.

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Hunter Education Instructors

California hunting firearm regulations for Hunter Education Instructors
Hunter Education Incentives 2016-2017

Through the Hunter Education Incentive Program, the CDFW can give Firearms to instructors. Other incentives commonly include special hunting opportunities. See 14 CCR § 709. Also, see our page for Hunter Education, necessary to get a California Hunting License for the first time.

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Injuries and Accidents

If a hunter injures another person with “any” Firearm,” California hunting firearm regulations require the hunter to help the injured person. See FGC § 3009. Warning shot!! This regulation also applies to injuries while using any Archery Equipment, spear (e.g. Spear Gun), Slingshot, or other Weapon or device.

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Intoxication

See Criminal Laws: Intoxication above, where regulations prohibit possession and use of Firearms while intoxicated.

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Long Guns

Long Guns are Firearms with long barrels that are braced against the shoulder to fire, as compared to Handguns which are handheld. Under California hunting firearm regulations, long guns include Rifles, Shotguns, and Muzzleloaders.

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Methods of Take

California hunting firearm regulations for hunting methods, including rifles for coyotes.
Firearm Methods of Take

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of any Firearm—or other Propulsive Device—to hunt birds or mammals unless it’s an authorized “Method of Take” for hunting the species. For authorized methods and restrictions, use our Menu to locate the species and review the sections for “Hunting Methods.” Warning shot!! Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for specific activities, people, and places.

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Morro Bay

When hunting in, over, or adjacent to Morro Bay, California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of Shotguns larger than 12-gauge or that hold more than three shells. If a plug is used to reduce shell capacity, it must be incapable of being removed without taking the Shotgun apart. See 14 CCR § 507(a)(4).

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Manufacturers

See Zip Guns below, which are homemade Firearms (i.e. not made by a manufacturer or gunsmith).

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Muzzleloaders

There are California hunting firearm regulations for Muzzleloading PistolsMuzzleloading Rifles, and Muzzleloading Shotguns. Also, see our page for California Muzzleloader Seasons.

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Muzzleloading Pistols

California hunting firearm regulations for Muzzleloading Pistols.
Muzzleloading Pistol Hunting Restrictions

California hunting firearm regulations don’t define what “muzzleloading pistols” means. They are Firearms, though, because they fire Projectiles through a barrel by force of explosion.

They are also a Propulsive Device and Method of Take for hunting most nongame birds and nongame mammals. For restrictions, see 14 CCR §§ 472(a) and 475 and use our Menu for each species of “Fur & Nongame.”

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a “Firearm” capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms.  For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1Warning shot!! Also, see Pistols and regulations for specific people, places, and activities.

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Muzzleloading Rifles

California hunting firearm regulations for Muzzleloading Rifles
Muzzleloading Rifle Hunting Restrictions

California hunting firearm regulations don’t define what “muzzleloading rifles” means, but they specifically identify them as Firearms [see 14 CCR § 353(a)]. They describe them a rifle that loads a single Projectile (e.g. a ball) or pellet(s) through the muzzle and expels it through the barrel using black powder or “an equivalent substitute.” In 14 CCR § 353(c), the regulations identify the specific muzzleloaders below.

    • Wheellock
    • Matchlock
    • Flintlock
    • Percussion
    • In-line

Muzzleloading Rifles are also Propulsive Devices. In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for Muzzleloading Rifle hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. You’ll find restrictions relating to specific peopleplaces, and activities. (Also, see Pistols below.)

Ammunition Restrictions for Muzzleloading Rifles

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a Firearm capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1Warning shots!! By no later than July 1, 2019, the ban will apply to the take of all wildlife, anywhere in the State, for any reason.

Methods of Take for Muzzleloading Rifles

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of any Firearm to hunt birds or mammals unless it is an authorized Method of Take for the species. For authorized methods and restrictions, use our Menu to locate the species and review the sections for “Hunting Methods.” Also, see our page for California Muzzleloader Season.

Specific Activities Using Muzzleloading Rifles

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. For examples, see Firearms, which often have Ammunition Restrictions, and Night Hunting, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon.

Specific People Using Muzzleloading Rifles

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Disabled Hunters, Muzzleloaders, and Dog Trainers).

Specific Places for Muzzleloading Rifles

Before hunting, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might prohibit or restrict use of Firearms. Here are a few examples with links to more information. At Fish and Game Refuges, regulations prohibit “any firearm.” On CDFW Land, regulations prohibit all Firearms with exceptions for where they designate hunting areas and shooting sites (see Ecological Reserves and Wildlife Areas for additional exceptions and restrictions). Finally, at State Parks the regulations restrict firearms for certain species (e.g. only Shotguns and Rifles for deer and quail).

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Muzzleloading Shotguns

California hunting firearm regulations don’t define what “muzzleloading shotguns” mean, but they identify them as Firearms and Propulsive Devices. In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for Muzzleloading Shotgun hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. You’ll find restrictions relating to specific people, places, and activities.

Ammunition Restrictions for Muzzleloading Shotguns

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a Firearm capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1Warning shots!! By no later than July 1, 2019, the ban will apply to the take of all wildlife, anywhere in the State, for any reason.

Methods of Take for Muzzleloading Shotguns

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of any Firearm to hunt birds or mammals unless it is an authorized Method of Take for the species. For authorized methods and restrictions, use our Menu to locate the species and review the sections for “Hunting Methods.” Also, see our page for California Muzzleloader Season.

Specific Activities Using Muzzleloading Shotguns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. For examples, see Firearms, which often have Ammunition Restrictions, and Night Hunting, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon.

Specific People Using Muzzleloading Shotguns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Disabled Hunters, Muzzleloaders, and Dog Trainers).

Specific Places for Muzzleloading Shotguns

Before hunting, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might prohibit or restrict use of Firearms. Here are a few examples with links to more information. At Fish and Game Refuges, regulations prohibit “any firearm.” On CDFW Land, regulations prohibit all Firearms with exceptions for where they designate hunting areas and shooting sites (see Ecological Reserves and Wildlife Areas for additional exceptions and restrictions). In and around Morro Bay, regulations prohibit Shotguns larger than 12-gauge. Finally, at State Parks the regulations restrict Firearms for certain species (e.g. only Shotguns and Rifles for deer and quail).

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National Wildlife Refuges

California hunting firearm regulations for National Wildlife Refuges
National Wildlife Refuge Firearm Restrictions

When visiting a National Wildlife Refuge, California hunting firearm regulations apply. For hunting, therefore, Firearms only include weapons that expel Projectiles through a barrel by force of explosion or other form of combustion. Other than hunting, federal regulations prohibit possession of firearms, as well as Air Guns, Archery Equipment, Crossbows, and other weapons. See 50 CFR § 27.43 made applicable to hunting via Part 32..

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Native Americans

California hunting firearm regulations for Native Americans
Native American Firearm Restrictions

When Native Americans salvage bird feathers, California hunting firearm regulations prohibit possession of a Firearm or any “BB Device” (e.g. Air Guns and BB Guns). See FGC § 3801.6 referring to Penal Code § 16250 [“BB device” definition], and Penal Code § 16520 [firearms definition].”

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Night Hunting

In general, California hunting firearm regulations prohibit artificial lights to help take game birds or game mammals. The regulations generally prohibit possession of a Firearm or Weapon while casting artificial light (e.g. spotlights and headlights) either:

    1. On any highway,
    2. In a field, woodland, or forest where game mammals, furbearing mammals, or nongame mammals are commonly found, or
    3. On such mammals, even without pursuing them.

See FGC § 2005(a) and (b). For more information, including exceptions and the use of night vision equipment (e.g. infrared), follow the links above to the species.

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Parks and Recreation Areas

When visiting National ParksState Parks, and Regional Parks, there are Firearm restrictions relating to specific parks, locations, species, and weapons.

National Parks

When visiting any National Park in California, federal regulations are consistent with the definitions of Firearms under California hunting firearm regulations. Specifically, in 36 CFR § 1.4:

Firearm means a loaded or unloaded pistol, rifle, shotgun or other weapon which is designed to, or may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the ignition of a propellant.

State Parks

When visiting any State Park, California hunting firearm regulations generally prohibit hunting except in State Recreation Areas (“SRA”) identified in 14 CCR § 4501. Those areas include the following.

    1. Auburn State Recreation Area
    2. Franks Tract State Recreation Area
    3. Harry A. Merlo State Recreation Area
    4. Lake Oroville State Recreation Area
    5. Lake Perris State Recreation Area
    6. Picacho State Recreation Area
    7. Providence Mountains State Recreation Area
    8. San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area

Otherwise, it’s illegal to possess or discharge a “firearm…capable of injuring, or killing any person or animal.” See 14 CCR § 4313. Warning shot!! The regulation prohibits applies to any other Archery Equipment, Weapon, spear (e.g. Spear Gun), trap (e.g. Trap Gun), net, or device (e.g. Propulsive Device).

In addition to California hunting firearm regulations, some SRA’s have restrictions relating to the species and type of Firearm. At the Auburn State Recreation Area, they restrict hunting to deer and quail using only Archery Equipment, Shotguns, and Rifles. To site another example, Harry A. Merlo State Recreation Area prohibits hunting and the possession of a “loaded firearm” above an elevation of 20 feet. See 14 CCR § 4501(b) [Auburn SRA] and 14 CCR § 4501(g) [Harry A. Merlo SRA].

Elsewhere, at the Cal Expo, 14 CCR § 4955 prohibits “dangerous weapons,” including Slingshots.

Regional Parks

There are also Regional Park Districts with “no shooting zones” that prohibit use of “firearms” or expand the definition to include more weapons (e.g. the East Bay Regional Park District might have a “no shooting zone” near the shoreline).

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Pellet Guns

California hunting firearm regulations for air rifles and California hunting firearm regulations for pellet guns.
Pellet Gun Hunting Restrictions

Pellet Guns are pistols and rifles that “fire” pellets through a barrel by force of air pressure or gas pressure. They are not Firearms under California hunting firearm regulations because they don’t “fire” by force of explosion or other form of combustion. They are, however, Propulsive Devices.

In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for Pellet Gun hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. Second, you’ll find summaries for other regulations (e.g. county ordinances) that often define “firearms” to include Pellet Guns. Finally, you’ll find restrictions relating to specific people, places, and activities.

Ammunition Restrictions for Pellet Guns

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a Firearm capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1.

While the ban includes a “pellet or other device,” it excludes air rifle Pellet Guns because they are not a Firearm. Warning shot!! By July 1, 2019, the ban will include the take of all wildlife, anywhere in the State, and for any reason. For more information, refer to 14 CCR § 250.1 and Nonlead Ammunition in California.

Methods of Take for Pellet Guns

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of any Firearm to hunt birds or mammals unless it is an authorized Method of Take for the species. Subject to several restrictions, the regulations allow Pellet Guns for hunting resident small game (e.g. rabbits). One restriction is that the Pellet Gun must be an “air rifle powered by air or gas used with pellets.” The pellets can of any caliber except for hunting turkey, which requires pellets no smaller than 0.177 caliber. See 14 CCR § 311(f). Subject to additional restrictions, the regulations also allow Pellet Guns for hunting most nongame birds and nongame mammals. For those restrictions, see 14 CCR §§ 472(a) and 475, and use our Menu for each species of “Small Game” and “Nongame.” Also, see Ammunition Restrictions above.

Specific Activities Using Pellet Guns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. See Night Hunting, for example, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon. Also, see Injuries and Accidents to others while hunting with any Weapon, where regulations require hunters to assist the person he or she injured.

Specific People Using Pellet Guns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or include other Propulsive Devices like Pellet Guns, and either allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Convicted Felons, Muzzleloaders, Survivalists, and Youth).

Specific Places for Pellet Guns

Before hunting, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might further define “firearms” to include Pellet Guns, and prohibit or restrict use. See Arbuckle Utility District, BLM Land, and Colusa County, where local rules define “firearms” to include air rifle Pellet Guns. Also, see Fish and Game Refuges, where regulations prohibit “any firearm,” and CDFW Land, where regulations prohibit or restrict use of Propulsive Devices at certain locations.

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Pistols

California hunting firearm regulations for pistols and California hunting firearm regulations for revolvers
Firearm Pistol Hunting Restrictions

Pistols are Handguns the California hunting firearm regulations specifically identify as Firearms and Propulsive Devices. In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for Pistol hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. You’ll find restrictions relating to specific activities, people, and places.

Ammunition Restrictions for Pistols

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a Firearm capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1Warning shots!! By no later than July 1, 2019, the ban will apply to the take of all wildlife, anywhere in the State, for any reason.

Methods of Take for Pistols

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of any Firearm to hunt birds or mammals unless it is an authorized Method of Take for the species. For authorized methods and restrictions, use our Menu to locate the species and review the sections for “Hunting Methods.” Also, see our page for California Muzzleloader Season.

Specific Activities Using Pistols

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. For examples, see Firearms, which often have Ammunition Restrictions, and Night Hunting, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon.

Specific People Using Pistols

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Disabled Hunters, Muzzleloaders, and Dog Trainers).

Specific Places for Pistols

Before hunting, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might prohibit or restrict use of Firearms. Here are a few examples with links to more information. At Fish and Game Refuges, regulations prohibit “any firearm.” On CDFW Land, regulations prohibit all Firearms with exceptions for where they designate hunting areas and shooting sites (see Ecological Reserves and Wildlife Areas for additional exceptions and restrictions). In Los Angeles County, ordinances prohibit the discharge of pistols in “safety zones.” Finally, at State Parks the regulations restrict firearms for certain species (e.g. only Shotguns and Rifles for deer and quail).

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Private Property

For private landowners, there are California hunting firearm regulations relating to animal control. For people hunting on or near private land, there are regulations relating to permission slips and safety zones.

Animal Control with Depredation Permits

California hunting firearm regulations for Private Property.
Firearm Restrictions for Private Land

Wildlife often pose a threat to people and property. Under California hunting firearm regulations, private landowners and tenants can apply to the CDFW for a Depredation Permit to protect people and property. The permit, however, might restrict the “caliber and type of firearm and ammunition.” See 14 CCR § 401. Warning shot!! Some County and city firearm regulations have additional restrictions. Depredation permits also apply to Archery Equipment and Crossbows.

Permission Slips

When hunting on private property, the regulations require hunters to carry a written permit from the landowner or tenant.

Safety Zone

Within 150 yards of any occupied dwelling house, the regulations prohibit hunting with “any” Firearm or “other deadly weapon.” See FGC § 3004(a).

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Projectiles

California hunting firearm regulations for Projectiles
Firearm “Projectiles”

What are “projectiles” for the purpose of hunting with a Firearm? California and federal hunting regulations define “projectiles” and have additional rules for projectiles that “fire” from a Propulsive Device.

California Hunting Laws

California hunting firearm regulations have at least two definitions of “projectile.” Both definitions define them as a “device” expelled through a barrel by force. One definition is from the ban on using lead “projectiles,” or possessing them with a Firearm capable of firing them, while hunting certain species and at specific locations.* The definition identifies the Projectiles listed below.

    • Balls
    • Buckshot
    • Bullets
    • Sabot
    • Shot
    • Slugs
    • Pellets
    • Shot

* See Firearm Lead Ammunition Restrictions, which refers to 14 CCR § 250.1).

The second definition relates to hunting big game with a Firearm. Specifically, 14 CCR § 353(a) states:

For purposes of this section, a projectile is any bullet, ball, sabot, slug, buckshot or other device which is expelled from a firearm through a barrel by force.”

For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions above.

Federal Hunting Laws

Federal hunting firearm regulations also define “projectiles” as a device expelled through a barrel by force. Without limitation, they identify Projectiles as:

    • Bullets,
    • Darts, and
    • Pellets.

See 43 CFR § 423.2, which allows hunting on BLM Land and defines “firearms” as “a device that expels a projectile such as a bullet, dart, or pellet by combustion, air pressure, gas pressure, or other means.”

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Propulsive Devices

California hunting firearm regulations don’t provide a specific definition for “propulsive devices.” Propulsion, however, is simply “a means of creating force leading to movement.” The regulations categorize Propulsive Devices by the type of force used to expel Projectiles. Categories include:

    • Firearms, which use explosion or other form of combustion (e.g. Rifles),
    • Archery Equipment, which uses elastic force,
    • Air and Gas Operated Devices (e.g. Air Guns), and
    • Other Propulsive Devices, which use force of breath, springs, etc. (e.g. Crossbows).

In this section, you’ll find restrictions for Propulsive Devices relating to ammunition, as well as specific devices, activities, people, and places.

Ammunition Restrictions for Propulsive Devices

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a Firearm capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1Warning shots!! By no later than July 1, 2019, the ban will apply to the take of all wildlife, anywhere in the State, for any reason.

Specific Devices for Hunting

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of Propulsive Devices for hunting any bird or mammal unless they are an authorized Method of Take for the desired species. (For authorized hunting methods and restrictions, use our Menu to locate the species and review the sections for “Hunting Methods.”)

    1. Air Guns
    2. Air Rifles
    3. Archery Equipment
    4. BB Guns
    5. Blowguns
    6. Capture Guns
    7. Crossbows
    8. Firearm Frames
    9. Firearm Receivers
    10. Firearm Mufflers
    11. Firearm Silencers
    12. Guns in general
    13. Dart Guns
    14. Handguns
    15. Pellet Guns
    16. Pistols operated by CO2
    17. Rifles operated by CO2
    18. Slingshots
    19. Starter Guns
    20. Trap Guns
    21. Zip Guns

Specific Activities Using Propulsive Devices

Before hunting any wildlife, always review the regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. See Night Hunting, for example, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon. Also, see Injuries to others while hunting with any Weapon, where regulations require hunters to assist the person he or she injured.

Specific People Using Propulsive Devices

Before hunting any wildlife, always review the regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms to include other Propulsive Devices, and either allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Convicted Felons, Muzzleloaders, Survivalists, and Youth).

Specific Places for Propulsive Devices

Before hunting any wildlife, always review the regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might further define Firearms to include other Propulsive Devices, and either allow, prohibit or restrict use. See Arbuckle Utility District, BLM Land, and Colusa County. Also, see Fish and Game Refuges, where regulations prohibit “any firearm,” and CDFW Land, where regulations prohibit or restrict use of Propulsive Devices at certain locations.

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Recreation Areas

See State Parks above.

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Reservoirs

See East Park Reservoir in Colusa County, where the local ordinance definition of “firearms” include any Air Rifle, Air Gun, BB Gun, and Pellet Gun.

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Revolvers

California hunting firearm regulations for revolvers.
Firearm Revolver Hunting Restrictions

A revolver is a type of Handgun that California hunting firearm regulations specifically identify as a Firearm and Propulsive Device. In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for Revolver hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. You’ll also find restrictions relating to specific activities, people, and places.

Ammunition Restrictions for Revolvers

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a Firearm capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1Warning shots!! By no later than July 1, 2019, the ban will apply to the take of all wildlife, anywhere in the State, for any reason.

Methods of Take for Revolvers

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of any Firearm to hunt birds or mammals unless it is an authorized Method of Take for the species. For authorized methods and restrictions, use our Menu to locate the species and review the sections for “Hunting Methods.” Also, see our page for California Muzzleloader Season.

Specific Activities Using Revolvers

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. For examples, see Firearms, which often have Ammunition Restrictions, and Night Hunting, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon.

Specific People Using Revolvers

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Disabled Hunters, Muzzleloaders, and Dog Trainers).

Specific Places for Revolvers

Before hunting, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might prohibit or restrict use of Firearms. Here are a few examples with links to more information. At Fish and Game Refuges, regulations prohibit “any firearm.” On CDFW Land, regulations prohibit all Firearms with exceptions for where they designate hunting areas and shooting sites (see Ecological Reserves and Wildlife Areas for additional exceptions and restrictions). In Los Angeles County, ordinances prohibit the discharge of revolvers in “safety zones.” Finally, at State Parks the regulations restrict firearms for certain species (e.g. only Shotguns and Rifles for deer and quail).

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Rifles

California hunting firearm regulations for Rifles.
Firearm Rifle Hunting Restrictions

A rifle is a type of Long Gun the California hunting firearm regulations specifically identify as a Firearm and Propulsive Device. In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for Rifle hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. You’ll find restrictions relating to specific activities, people, and places.

Ammunition Restrictions for Rifles

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a Firearm capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1Warning shots!! By no later than July 1, 2019, the ban will apply to the take of all wildlife, anywhere in the State, for any reason.

Methods of Take for Rifles

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of any Firearm to hunt birds or mammals unless it is an authorized Method of Take for the species. For authorized methods and restrictions, use our Menu to locate the species and review the sections for “Hunting Methods.” Also, see our page for California Muzzleloader Season.

Specific Activities Using Rifles

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. For examples, see Firearms, which often have Ammunition Restrictions, and Night Hunting, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon.

Specific People Using Rifles

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Disabled Hunters, Muzzleloaders, and Dog Trainers).

Specific Places for Rifles

Before hunting, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might prohibit or restrict use of Firearms. Here are a few examples with links to more information. At Fish and Game Refuges, regulations prohibit “any firearm.” On CDFW Land, regulations prohibit all Firearms with exceptions for where they designate hunting areas and shooting sites (see Ecological Reserves and Wildlife Areas for additional exceptions and restrictions). In Los Angeles County, ordinances prohibit the discharge of rifles in”safety zones.” In and around Morro Bay, regulations prohibit Shotguns larger than 12-gauge. Finally, at State Parks the regulations restrict Firearms for certain species (e.g. only Shotguns and Rifles for deer and quail).

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Sea Otter Translocation Zone

When visiting the Sea Otter Translocation Zone, California hunting firearm regulations prohibit the discharge of “any” Firearm. See FGC § 8664.2.

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Shotguns

California hunting firearm regulations for Shotguns.
Firearm Shotgun Hunting Restrictions

Under California hunting firearm regulations, shotguns are Firearms because they expel Projectiles through a barrel by force of explosion or other form of combustion. Common projectiles include shell shot (or pellets), as well as slugs and buckshot. They are also Propulsive Device. In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for Shotgun hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. You’ll find restrictions relating to specific activities, people, and places. Also, see Muzzleloading Shotguns above.

Ammunition Restrictions for Shotguns

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a Firearm capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1Warning shots!! By no later than July 1, 2019, the ban will apply to the take of all wildlife, anywhere in the State, for any reason.

Methods of Take for Shotguns

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of any Firearm to hunt birds or mammals unless it is an authorized Method of Take for the species. For authorized methods and restrictions, use our Menu to locate the species and review the sections for “Hunting Methods.” Also, see our page for California Muzzleloader Season.

Specific Activities Using Shotguns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. For examples, see Firearms, which often have Ammunition Restrictions, and Night Hunting, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon.

Specific People Using Shotguns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Disabled Hunters, Muzzleloaders, and Dog Trainers).

Specific Places for Shotguns

Before hunting, always review California hunting firearm regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might prohibit or restrict use of Firearms. Here are a few examples with links to more information. At Fish and Game Refuges, regulations prohibit “any firearm.” On CDFW Land, regulations prohibit all Firearms with exceptions for where they designate hunting areas and shooting sites (see Ecological Reserves and Wildlife Areas for additional exceptions and restrictions). In Los Angeles County, ordinances prohibit the discharge of Shotguns in “safety zones.” In and around Morro Bay, regulations prohibit Shotguns larger than 12-gauge. Finally, at State Parks the regulations restrict Firearms for certain species (e.g. only Shotguns and Rifles for deer and quail).

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Slingshots

California hunting firearm regulations for Slingshots.
Slingshot Hunting Restrictions

Slingshots are handheld weapons that “fire” Projectiles using elastic force or other means. They are not Firearms under California hunting firearm regulations because they don’t “fire” by force of explosion or other form of combustion. They are, however, Propulsive Devices.

In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for Slingshot hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. Second, you’ll find summaries of other regulations (e.g. county ordinances) that often define “firearms” to include Slingshots. Finally, you’ll find restrictions relating to specific people, places, and activities.

Ammunition Restrictions for Slingshots

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a Firearm capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1Warning shots!! By no later than July 1, 2019, the ban will apply to the take of all wildlife, anywhere in the State, for any reason.

While the ban includes Projectiles, like a “pellet or other device,” it excludes Propulsive Devices (e.g. Air Guns) that “fire” by force of air pressure, gas pressure, elasticity, or other means. For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions.

Methods of Take for Slingshots

The regulations prohibit use of Slingshots for hunting any bird or mammal unless they are a Method of Take for the desired species. Subject to restrictions, the regulations only allow Slingshots for hunting most nongame birds and nongame mammals. For restrictions, see 14 CCR §§ 472(a) and 475 and use our Menu for each species of “Fur & Nongame.” Also, see Ammunition Restrictions above and CDFW opinion, Slingshot Hunting, February 2, 2012.

Specific Activities Using Slingshots

Before hunting any wildlife, always review the regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. See Night Hunting, for example, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon. Also, see Injuries to others while hunting with any Weapon, where regulations require hunters to assist the person he or she injured.

Specific People Using Slingshots

Before hunting any wildlife, always review the regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or include other Propulsive Devices like Slingshots, and either allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Convicted Felons, Muzzleloaders, Survivalists, and Youth).

Specific Places for Slingshots

Before hunting, always review the regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might further define “firearms” to include Slingshots, and prohibit or restrict use. See Arbuckle Utility District, BLM Land, and Colusa County, where local rules define “firearms” to include Slingshots. Also, see Fish and Game Refuges, where regulations prohibit “any firearms,” and CDFW Land, where regulations prohibit or restrict use of Propulsive Devices at certain locations. Finally, see California hunting firearm regulations for Classification of Firearms, where Slingshots are prohibited at the Cal Expo.

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Spear Guns

California hunting firearm regulations for Spear Guns
Spear Gun Hunting Restrictions

Spear Guns are mechanical guns that “fire” a spear as a Projectile, generally used for underwater fishing. Those that use air pressure or gas pressure fall into the category of Air Guns. Those that use elastic force or other means are “other” Propulsive Devices. They are not Firearms under California hunting firearm regulations because they don’t “fire” by force of explosion or other form of combustion.

In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for Spear Gun hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. Second, you’ll find summaries of other regulations (e.g. county ordinances) that often define “firearms” to include Spear Guns. You’ll find restrictions relating to specific people, places, and activities.

Ammunition Restrictions for Spear Guns

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a “Firearm” capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. While Lead Projectiles include a “pellet or other device,” the ban excludes Spear Guns and other Propulsive Devices that “fire” by force of air pressure, gas pressure, or other means (e.g. Crossbows). For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1.

Methods of Take for Spear Guns

The regulations prohibit use of Spear Guns for hunting any bird or mammal unless they are a Method of Take for the desired species. Subject to restrictions, the regulations only allow Spear Guns for hunting most nongame birds and nongame mammals. For restrictions, see 14 CCR §§ 472(a) and 475 and use our Menu for each species of “Fur & Nongame.” Also, see Ammunition Restrictions above.

Specific Activities Using Spear Guns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review the regulations  other rules for Specific Activities. See Night Hunting, for example, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon. Also, see Injuries to others while hunting with any Weapon, where regulations require hunters to assist the person he or she injured.

Specific People Using Spear Guns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review the regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or include other Propulsive Devices like Spear Guns, and either allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Convicted Felons, Muzzleloaders, Survivalists, and Youth).

Specific Places for Spear Guns

Before hunting, always review the regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might further define “firearms” to include Spear Guns, and prohibit or restrict use. See Arbuckle Utility District, BLM Land, and Colusa County, where local rules define “firearms” to include Slingshots. Also, see Fish and Game Refuges, where regulations prohibit “any firearm,” and CDFW Land, where regulations prohibit or restrict use of Propulsive Devices at certain areas (see 14 CCR § 551(r)(49) re Santa Rosa Wildlife Area).

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Sellers

See Blowguns above, where it’s illegal to sell Blowguns.

See Dealers and Sale of Firearms and Ammunition in Los Angeles County.

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Survivalists

When training for survival with a permit from the CDFW, California hunting firearm regulations prohibit use of “any” Firearm to take wildlife. See FGC § 312.

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Starter Guns

California hunting firearm regulations for Start Guns.
Start Gun Definitions

Many sources consider Starter Guns to include small Firearms and other Propulsive Devices, such as Air Guns, BB Guns, .410 Shotguns, and .22 caliber Pistols and Rifles. Other sources define a Starter Gun as any weapon that fires a blank cartridge to do things like call for help, train dogs, scare wildlife, and start sporting events. Warning shot!! If a Starter Gun is capable of firing Projectiles through a barrel by force of explosion or other form of combustion, it would be a Firearm under California hunting firearm regulations. Also, see and Youth below and Dealers above where federal regulations require a criminal background check prior to transferring a Starter Gun.

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Trap Guns

California hunting firearm regulations prohibit any Trap Gun from being set or discharged. Per FGC § 2007,

A “trap gun” is a firearm loaded with other than blank cartridges and connected with a string or other contrivance contact with which will cause the firearm to be discharged.

Also, see Starter Guns and Computer-Assist Remote Hunting and Fishing.

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Utility Districts

In general, a Colusa County ordinance prohibits Firearms in the Arbuckle Utility District. See County Ordinance No. 762 § 46-04(r) and County Code § 14-8.2. Unlike the California hunting firearm regulations, County Code § 14-8.1 for the Arbuckle Utility District defines a “firearm” below to include Air Guns, Archery Equipment, and Zip Guns.

For the purposes of section 14.8.2 to 14.8.4, the term “firearm” shall mean a weapon from which is shot or a projectile is discharged or propelled by an explosive, compressed air, compressed gas or mechanically, including but not limited to rifles, shotguns, pistols, revolvers, air guns, BB guns, pellet guns, zip guns and bow and arrows. (Ord. No. 315, §1).

Per Section 14-8.2, there’s an exception for hunting and other lawful sports with “ordinary” Rifles and Shotguns. That appears to exclude hunting with other Firearms (e.g. Pistols) and Propulsive Devices (e.g. Pellet Guns).

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Weapons

California hunting firearm regulations refer to several Firearms as a “weapon” for hunting (e.g. Shotguns). See FGC § 2010. On other occasions, the regulations group Firearms with Propulsive Devices and other “weapons” capable of killing birds or mammals (e.g. Archery Equipment, Slingshots, and Spear Guns). See FGC §§ 3003(f) and 2005(b). At other times, the regulations classify Firearms as “deadly weapons” capable of taking human life. See FGC §§ 3004 and 3009. Federal regulations for National Wildlife Refuges also distinguish between Firearms and other Weapons (e.g. Air Guns and Crossbows). See 50 CFR § 27.43.

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Wildlife Areas

California hunting firearm regulations for Wildlife Areas.
Wildlife Area Firearm Restrictions

Wildlife Areas includes land where the CDFW runs or helps run the wildlife management program and designates it as a “wildlife area.”* Some wildlife areas are owned by the CDFW; others are owned by other government agencies (e.g. National Wildlife Refuges).

On all CDFW Land, California hunting firearm regulations generally prohibit possession or use of Firearms, Archery Equipment, Air Guns, and all other Propulsive Devices (e.g. Crossbows). There are four exceptions, including land where the CDFW designates hunting areas or shooting sites. See 14 CCR § 550(cc)(2). In this section, you’ll find restrictions relating to ammunition, visitor conductFirearms and other Propulsive Devices in general, and specific weapons.

* “Wildlife Areas” include National Wildlife Refuges where the CDFW administers the hunting program.

Ammunition Restrictions at Wildlife Areas

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a Firearm capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. The ban specifically applies to all Wildlife Areas. For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1Warning shots!! By no later than July 1, 2019, the ban will apply to the take of all wildlife, anywhere in the State, for any reason.

Conduct Within a Wildlife Area

Code of Conduct

Wildlife Areas have a Code of Conduct for expected behavior that prohibits things like shooting beyond the hunter’s effective range (e.g. sky busting).

Loaded

The regulations prohibit loaded Firearms in all CDFW facilities, including (a) check stations, (b) parking lots, and (c) visitor centers. See 14 CCR § 550(cc)(4)(G). Warning shot!! Many Wildlife Areas also prohibit possession of a Firearm within closed zones and/or shooting them from levees.

When hunting at Wildlife Areas, visitors must comply with requests by enforcement officers to search Firearms and other Propulsive Devices for regulatory compliance (e.g. Shotgun shell capacity and count).

Firearms and Other Propulsive Devices at Wildlife Areas

Where the CDFW designates a hunting area or shooting site, there are general and area-specific restrictions relating to Firearms and other Propulsive Devices.

Type A and Type B Wildlife Areas

On “Type A” and “Type B” Wildlife Areas that allow hunting, regulations generally prohibit all Firearms (except Shotguns), Archery Equipment, and all other Propulsive Devices (e.g. Air Guns). Exceptions may be “otherwise provided” in 14 CCR §§ 550, 551, or 552, like at the Los Banos Wildlife Area where they allow Archery Equipment during waterfowl and pheasant seasons. See 14 CCR § 550(cc)(4) and 14 CCR § 551(u).

Type C Wildlife Areas

Firearms and Archery Equipment

When visiting Type C Wildlife Areas that allow hunting, the regulations generally allow all “legal” Firearms and Archery Equipment unless 14 CCR § 551(r) restricts them—and there are many that do. Warning shot!! For any additional restrictions, see Specific Weapons below.

At some Areas, for example, Section 551(r) prohibits them in the Area or specific units (e.g. Battle Creek, Crescent City Marsh, Elk Creek Wetlands, Hill Slough, Napa-Sonoma Marsh (American Canyon Unit), and White Slough (Pond 9). At other Areas, Section 551(r) limits use of them to specific Units (e.g. the Upper Cottonwood Creek Unit of Cottonwood Creek. Finally, there are special hunts with a CDFW permit that allow Firearms (e.g. Lake Berryessa and Lake Sonoma). See 14 CCR §§ 551(o) and 551(r) for Area-specific restrictions.

Other Propulsive Devices (e.g. Pellet Guns)

It appears the regulations always allow other Propulsive Devices (e.g. Pellet Guns) at Type C Areas. Warning shot!! Some Area Managers and Enforcement Officers believe Section 551(r) restrictions apply to all Methods of Take (e.g. Air Rifles). For thorough legal analysis, see Air Rifles at Type C Wildlife Areas and refer to 14 CCR § 550(cc)(2) and (4)(B).

Specific Weapons at Wildlife Areas

There are California hunting firearm regulations relating to the use of the weapons at Wildlife Areas in general, as well as specific Areas.

Air Guns at Wildlife Areas

While it appears the regulations always allow Propulsive Devices, like Air Guns at Type C Wildlife Areas that allow hunting, some note other laws that prohibit them. At Santa Rosa Wildlife Area, for example, they point out that they are not allowed in the Fish and Game Refuge lying within it. See 14 CCR § 551(r)(49), which also prohibits Spear Guns and other Propulsive Devices. Also, see Air Rifles and Spear Guns below. Another example is the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge, where they are prohibited under federal regulations. See 14 CCR § 552(6)(B).

Air Rifles at Wildlife Areas

While it appears the regulations always allow Propulsive Devices, like Air Rifles, at Type C Wildlife Areas that allow hunting, some specifically allow them for special hunts that require a CDFW permit. At Daugherty Hill Wildlife Area, for example, permit holders can use Air Rifles during spring turkey season, so long as they fire pellets no small than 0.177 caliber using compressed air or gas. See 14 CCR § 551(r)(11), which also allows Shotguns and Archery Equipment.

BB Guns at Wildlife Areas

When visiting Type A and Type B Wildlife Areas, the regulations generally prohibit use of BB Guns. At Type C Areas with hunting areas or shooting sites, the regulations allow youth under the age of 16 to shoot BB Guns, but only if (a) an adult supervises them, (b) they don’t shoot at wildlife, and (c) it falls within the definition in 14 CCR § 550(cc)(3)(C) and (cc)(4)(B) below.

A BB gun is defined as an air and/or spring-actuated rifle…firing a spherical BB no larger than 0.177 inches in diameter (4.5 mm) at a muzzle velocity no greater than 350 feet per second.

Combination Rifle-Shotguns at Wildlife Areas

When visiting Type A or Type B Wildlife Areas that allow hunting, the regulations generally prohibit Combination Rifle-Shotguns while “in the field.” At Type C Areas that allow hunting, however, the regulations generally allow “all legal firearms” unless Subsection 551(r) prohibits or restricts them. See 14 CCR § 550(cc)(4)(B).

Muzzleloading Shotguns at Wildlife Areas

When visiting Type A or Type B Wildlife Areas that allow hunting, the regulations generally allow Shotguns and apparently include Muzzleloading Shotguns. At Type C Areas that allow hunting, the regulations allow “all legal firearms” subject to Subsection 551(r) restrictions. At the Bass Hill Wildlife Area, for example, the regulations limits to use of Firearms to Shotguns, Archery Equipment, and Muzzleloading Shotguns. See 14 CCR § 550(cc)(4)(B) and Subsection 551(r)(2).

Shotguns at Wildlife Areas

When visiting any Wildlife Area that allows hunting, the regulations generally allow the use of Shotguns, but there are several restrictions. First, it must be incapable of holding more than three shells. (If a plug is used to reduce shell capacity, it must be incapable of being removed with taking the Shotgun apart.) Second, shell shot must be steel and no larger than Size T. Third, they only allow slugs when they also allow hunting for big game. Fourth, non-shooters cannot carry shells “in the field.” Finally, Type A Wildlife Areas generally prohibit more than 25 shells “in the field” during waterfowl season. The same rule applies at Type B and Type C when noted in 14 CCR § 551(o) (e.g. Baldwin Lake Wildlife Area). Warning shot!! Loaded Firearms are prohibited in check stations, parking lots, and visitor areas. See 14 CCR §§ 550(cc)(4) and 507(a)(4).

Spear Guns at Wildlife Areas

While it appears the regulations always allow Propulsive Devices, like Spear Guns, at Type C Wildlife Areas, some specifically prohibit them. At Santa Rosa, for example, they prohibit Spear Guns in the Fish and Game Refuge lying within it. See 14 CCR § 551(r)(49), which also prohibits Air Guns and other Propulsive Devices. Also, see Air Rifles above.

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Youth

See BB Guns for Wildlife Areas above.

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Zip Guns

Zip Guns are improvised or “homemade” weapons that “fire” Projectiles. Those that fire by force of explosion or other form of combustion are Firearms under California hunting firearm regulations. Those that use air pressure, gas pressure, or other means, fall into the category of “other” Propulsive Devices.

In this section, you’ll find regulation summaries for Zip Gun hunting methods and ammunition restrictions. Second, you’ll find summaries of other regulations (e.g. county ordinances) that often define “firearms” to include Zip Guns. You’ll also find restrictions relating to specific people, places, and activities.

Ammunition Restrictions for Zip Guns

In general, federal and State hunting regulations ban the use of Lead Projectiles, and possession of them with a “Firearm” capable of firing, when taking specific wildlife, at certain locations, and/or with particular Firearms. While Lead Projectiles include a “pellet or other device,” the ban excludes Zip Guns and other Propulsive Devices that “fire” by force of air pressure, gas pressure, or other means (e.g. Crossbows). For more information, see Ammunition Restrictions and refer to 14 CCR § 250.1.

Methods of Take for Zip Guns

The regulations prohibit use of Zip Guns for hunting any bird or mammal unless they are a Method of Take for the desired species. Subject to restrictions, regulations only allow them for hunting nongame birds (e.g. English sparrows) and most nongame mammals. For restrictions, see 14 CCR §§ 472(a) and 475. Also, see Ammunition Restrictions above.

Specific Activities Using Zip Guns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review the regulations and other rules for Specific Activities. See Night Hunting, for example, where regulations often prohibit possession of any Weapon. Also, see Injuries to others while hunting with any Weapon, where regulations require hunters to assist the person he or she injured.

Specific People Using Zip Guns

Before hunting any wildlife, always review the regulations and other rules for Specific People, which might further define Firearms and/or include other Propulsive Devices like Zip Guns, and either allow, prohibit or restrict use (e.g. Archers, Convicted Felons, Muzzleloaders, Survivalists, and Youth).

Specific Places for Zip Guns

Before hunting, always review the regulations and other rules for Specific Places, which might further define “firearms” to include Zip Guns, and prohibit or restrict use. See Arbuckle Utility District, BLM Land, and Colusa County, where local rules define “firearms” to include Zip Guns. Also, see Fish and Game Refuges, where regulations prohibit “any firearm,” and CDFW Land, where regulations prohibit or restrict use of Propulsive Devices at certain locations.

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While we do our best to include all California hunting firearm regulations and accurately summarize them, we might have inadvertently left some out or made a few errors. If so, please help us all by leaving a comment in the box below. Thank you.

3 thoughts on “60 California Hunting Firearm Regulations for 30 Firearms and Other Weapons”

  1. Your section regarding “BLOWGUNS” implies that there are circumstances wherein it is lawful to hunt or possess these devices. Your focus seems to be based on whether or not a blowgun is a firearm within the confines of CFW regulations.

    I respectfully refer you to California Penal Code Section 20010:

    20010. Any person who knowingly manufactures, sells, offers for sale, possesses,or uses a blowgun or blowgun ammunition in this state is guilty of a misdemeanor.

    I believe this law was signed by then-Governor Reagan. It’s a pity because it prevents Californians from experiencing the recreational and competitive enjoyment of this ancient device. I can only imagine a Nanny-minded legislator wanted to protect us from ourselves and, facing no lobby to oppose him, drafted this bit of absurdity. Just a tiny example of what makes this state the laughing stock of sportsmen all over the nation.

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