Can a Felon Own a Pellet Rifle in California?

By Argyle Anderson
Can a Felon Own a Pellet Rifle in California?

sport shooting image by Kostyantyn Ivanyshen from

The right to own a firearm is one of the civil liberties denied to felons in California. However, pellet rifles and air guns do not fit the state's legal definition of firearms.

Legal Definition

California Penal Code 12001 (a) defines a "firearm" specifically as any device from which a "projectile is expelled by the force of any explosion or other form of combustion." Pellet rifles and other air guns utilize compressed air rather than combustion and are thus not defined as firearms under California state law.


As pellet rifles are considered "BB devices" under California Penal Code 12001 (g), their sale and possession is "only regulated in regard to minors," says Joe Silvoso, a California attorney who specializes in firearm law at the firm of Michel and Associates. Thus, felons can legally possess these devices.


Before purchasing a pellet rifle or air gun, check your local laws and the terms of your probation. Some cities and communities have banned the possession and use of air guns altogether. Additionally, the terms of your probation may restrict your ability to own weapons.

About the Author

Argyle Anderson is a writer and editor residing in Nashville, Tenn. She began writing professionally in 1996, and has written everything from articles on urban mythology to theater reviews, and edited everything from serious literary critiques to volumes of sermons. She studied religion and philosophy at Belmont University.

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