Are You A Felon – Felons, Black Powder Firearms, And Wisconsin

Can felons own and use modern black powder guns in Wisconsin?
Can felons own and use modern black powder guns in Wisconsin?

On November 17th this year (2018) the Wisconsin gun deer opener starts.  The regular gun season lasts for nine full days.  I did manage to get myself a deer a few weeks ago bow hunting, but still plan to go to deer camp and hunt the opener weekend.

I’m probably not going to hunt the regular gun season to hard.  I like being up at deer camp, but I like the woods a little more quiet.  The regular nine day gun season in Wisconsin sees lots of hunters in the woods.  Since I hunt public land things can feel a bit crowded.

The black powder gun season starts the day after the regular gun season ends, and lasts for seven days.  Hardly anybody is the woods during the black powder hunt.  I like that a lot.  So yeah, I am looking forward to the black powder only season which I plan to hunt hard.

Felons And Black Powder Guns

A traditional black powder rifle - still, if you are a felon in Wisconsin you can't own one.
A traditional black powder rifle – still, if you are a felon in Wisconsin you can’t own one.

A few years ago a buddy of mine that I have know for thirty-two years, since we were kids in Webolos together, made the comment that when he hunts with his black powder rifle he can’t help but feel like he’s a felon.  That made me laugh, but I understood what he was getting at.

You see, a person who has a felony conviction cannot own firearms under federal law, but under federal law a muzzle-loader is not considered a firearm and does not require a person to fill out any FFL paperwork prior to buying one.  However, some States have their own laws that don’t allow people convicted of felonies the right to own a muzzle-loader.

Wisconsin is one of those States.  Under Wisconsin law if you are convicted of a felony you are breaking the law if you buy, own, or store a black powder rifle in your home or on property you own.

I Didn’t Know That

Public domain photo of William Henry McCarty Jr, otherwise known as Billy the Kid. He probably wouldn't have cared about any firearm laws...
Public domain photo of William Henry McCarty Jr, otherwise known as Billy the Kid. He probably wouldn’t have cared about any firearm laws…

For the longest time I believed that a convicted felon could own a black powder fun and hunt.  Luckily I don’t have to worry about that, as I am clean as the day is long.  But after my buddy made that comment a few years I did do some research and was surprised at what I found.

Convicted felons within the borders of Wisconsin, resident or non-resident, are not allowed to have in their position any modern firearm or muzzle-loader style guns.  In Wisconsin there is also precedent from a 2007 Court of Appeals case, State V. Jacobs, that upheld the felon gun possession law that was directly related to felons in position of traditional and modern day muzzle-loader firearms.

You Don’t Need To Feel Like A Felon – Use That Black Powder Gun

So good news to my life long friend and hunting buddy, he doesn’t need to feel like a felon when he is in the woods during the muzzle-loader deer season!  Of course, felons can still own a bow and go hunting, but that’s another story entirely…

I own a couple black powder rifles.  I bought a new one last year and harvested a nice doe with it.  The muzzle loader only season is a great time to be in the woods in Wisconsin.  It’s quiet in the woods.  All the regular gun hunters are gone.  I love that feeling of the having the woods to myself.

On a side note, if you haven’t read my post about deer camp, you should.  Its a wonderful place.  Read about my Deer Camp here.

Be sure to check out the comments below!  Some interesting information has been provided by a reader by the name of John regarding felons and black-powder firearms.

UPDATE To My Felons and Firearms Post:  If you are a non-violent offender, you can very possibly get your gun rights back depending on the State you live in.  Check out this link:  Get Your Gun Rights Back.



TD is the owner and publisher of TD All Outdoors. He has been enjoying the outdoors since since he was a child. Over the years he has spent as much time as he can solo wilderness canoe tripping, overlanding, hiking, fishing, bushcrafting, hunting, hammock camping, and more. Aside from this blog, he also own his own coffee brand,

17 thoughts on “Are You A Felon – Felons, Black Powder Firearms, And Wisconsin

  1. The Wisconsin law is wrong where felons cannot own a muzzleloader. Their appeal court got it wrong too – which is not surprising as it is well known nationwide Wisconsin appeal courts are really just terrible. Felons in Wisconsin can own a muzzleloader legally and this is the reason why: federal law trumps state law. Federal law allows felons to own muzzleloaders. Now more specifically a state can pass a law which is stricter than the federal law. However, the US Supreme Court has ruled that is not permitted when federal law is detailed, specific. Which federal law on the matter is, it is very, very detailed and specific. Including owning bullets for muzzleloaders, owning black powder for muzzleloaders. This is where Wis. appeal court got it wrong. Where the state statute on the matter is wrong.

    1. I agree with you John and I wish that it could be clarified. I really miss hunting and shooting it was a tradition in my family that I could not passed onto my three boys, it’s something that will always haunt me and something I thought I would never lose. I do believe that state law is wrong and that it does not overseed the law of the land. I would love to go out and buy a Muzzleloader I used to hunt black powder when I was a younger man and loved it. Thanks for your thoughts I think you’re right on the money.

      1. and I also want to add that I was always a person who taught gun safety and was very cautious of each and everything I did well handling a gun, I respected the gun in my hand and those who were around of me at all times and I think that the court system and this law puts too many people in one category. I think robbery assault with a deadly weapon of any sort should definitely be something that would be a felon charge where you could never get your right to bear arms back. Other than that there should be a statute of limitations that would give people enough time to redeem themselves and give the court system some history of your lifestyle whether it be good or bad then make that decision. But we were given the right to bear arms, and I do believe that it is legal to possess a black powder gun in the state of Wisconsin but who has the money and the time to fight this in court if prosecuted. I think it’s 5 years if a felony is possessing a firearm in the state of Wisconsin.

        1. Hi and thanks for the comments! Lots if insight and thought into what you shared.

          It can be a tough thing. I can’t imagine not being able to hunt, or even grabbing a rifle and heading outside the cabin for a stroll in the forests for no other reason than because I can.

          I am not 100% sure, but I think there is a way to get a sort of ‘dispensation’ or the right to be able to own firearms again, but it is a legal process. Not sure you need a lawyer for it… it may be a matter of just filling out paperwork and submitting it. I had an uncle in another State other than Wisconsin who went through the process and got some limited privileges back.


  2. I’ll add the 2007 State v Jacobs case was only denied (against Jacobs) because he argued he was exercising his tribal Indian rights given to him/his tribe way back in 1850 or so. He never argued the point federal statute is very detailed, very specific that felons can own muzzleloaders. Where he should have begun with the Supremacy Clause stating federal law trumps state law. Then cite the US Supreme Court case law ruling specific, detailed statute does trump state law.

    1. Hi John,

      Thanks for reading and that good information into the 2007 State Vs Jacobs ruling. Very interesting indeed.

      Suggestion to any readers: If a person who is a felon is wondering about being able to own a muzzle-loader in light of the information John provided, they should check with the local law enforcement on the matter and see how they would handle it. The only reason I say this: Federal specific ruling may trump State Law… but if local law enforcement says otherwise a person can find their parole revoked and back in jail (if still on parole) until the Courts work things out. Or, if no longer on parole and just ticketed and fined, it could be some annoying legal battles and fees to clear things up. Both are nasty possible consequences. So checking with the county sheriff’s department may be a good idea to save some headache.

      Thanks for the info John!


  3. Hi I’m a convicted felon for protecting my self in jail in self-defense and I’d really like to know what kind of weapons I can possess legally??
    I live in Hayward Wisconsin the #1 town for police and judicial corruption can someone please give me the right answers

    1. Hi Darrin,

      Sorry, wish I could say definitively what you can and can’t have in your possession in Wisconsin. The best thing you could do to cover yourself is contact a lawyer. Aside from that there is the Wisconsin State Law Library that is online. They have a section for ‘Firearms and Weapons’. It may be worth taking a look. Here is the link:


  4. I unfortunately became a felon about 16 years ago now and never thought that would ever happen to me. With that said what I did was wrong and I did everything that was asked of me and also did the time in jail given to me. With that said I really miss my hunting and Target practicing I really wish I could at least use a Black Powder muzzleloader, I wish there was a statute of limitations or a way to redeem one’s self in the state of Wisconsin. 10 years I would think would be something to consider for the courts as a period of time in which someone who didn’t commit a crime with a gun or a weapon would be able to redeem his or her right to bear arms. It seems so easy these days to get a felony it seems that once they have their minds set you’re going to get prosecuted it’s hard to get out of at least where I live. I would love to be able to Muzzleloader hunt again and really feel that it is unfair and in my heart I feel that we all have the right to bear arms given to us by the Constitution and I do believe that state law should not overrule the laws of the land.

  5. So I committed mail fraud in 1988 at the age of 21, became a felon. Spent 30 days in jail and paid a fine. I think it unconscionable that I cannot own a weapon in order to protect my family. I’m not a hunter but I do believe, in the very least, a felon who was never convicted of anything having to do with violence, children or guns, should be allowed to go through some process to enable gun ownership.
    I was a member of the NRA when I did this stupid thing. I took many safety courses as a kid, with my dad, and won sharpshooting contests via 4-H & NRA. Heck, I even took my .22 long rifle to school for Show & Tell one day. When my bus pulled up the driver asked “that isn’t loaded is it?” To which I responded with “of course not.” I got on the bus, put it in my locker at school and no one blinked an eye. Of course, this was Kansas in 1978, when I was 11 years old. My class went outside for my presentation and shot some targets. (Think about that for a moment)
    Anyhow, I’ve got a wife and three daughters…I think there should be a way to reinstate gun ownership rights. I own a business as well…one would think I should be allowed to protect my family and business.
    Anyhow…my two cents.

    1. Wow, I hear you. I totally agree with what you are saying. That totally sucks. There is a process I think you can go through to get your gun rights back, but in depends in which State you live and only applies to non-violent felons. This link may help:

      When I was in 5th grade in the mid 80s I brought a rifle to school for show and tell as well. It wasn’t even an issue, no big deal at all. Nobody cared. Times have changed.

      I will put that link in the post to for others…


  6. Heres my deal. I was convicted of operating a motor vehicle w/o owners consent and burglary party to a crime…..when I was 18. I’m 48 now. 30 years have passed and I served my short sentence and probation sentence long time ago and haven’t had so much as a traffic ticket since. I won’t get into the details of my crimes but long story short…was in the wrong place and the wrong time with the wrong people doing the wrong things.

    I bow hunt because that’s all I can do and unfortunately Wisconsin does not yet allow big bore PCP air rifle hunting otherwise me and my .50 cal would be right out there during gun deer and I wouldn’t even bother worrying about being a convicted felon. You can drop buffalo with those things and they are legal for felons to own. If your state allows pcp air rifle hunting…..Take advantage of it…mine doesn’t…..yet

    I just recently started the process of requesting pardon to restore my gun rights so I can hunt with a firearm. It’s a long process that requires a truck load of paperwork and the application process isn’t to be taken lightly. Cross the t’s, dot the i’s and have an attorney look over it before you submit. I’m still in the info collecting phase so a long road ahead.

    1. Hi Jim,

      Wow – I really hope you come back and give an update on how the process goes for you. I am genuinely interested in the outcome.

      Back when I first wrote this post I did it mostly as a ‘filler’ for my blog and never really took the post or the tone of the post seriously. However, over the course of the past few years I have actually come across a few people out in the world that have similar stories to yours – but have not taken the steps to get their rights back for firearm ownership.

      Rooting for you!


      1. Yes I know this is an old article, but I just came across it.
        My long story short is; wrong place and with the wrong people at 17yrs old in 1987. Charged with a felony U.
        Fast forward 20 years ( And NO other interactions with law)
        I now have 2 growing sons and an urge to teach them to hunt. I started the process for a pardon/clemency, which took well over a year, but I finally got it in late 2008 from Gov Doyle.
        I now have more firearms than Carter has peanuts!
        It’s worth the time, effort and trips to Madison!
        Don’t give up, it can sometimes take years, I’ve helped 2 other friends make it happen too!

  7. It use to be $50.00 gold coins and pistol, 6 cartriges and holster. Lucky to get horse and tack

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