United States Federal Airsoft Gun Laws (USA)

United States Federal Airsoft Gun Laws

The Federal Airsoft Gun Laws consider that  BB guns are a gaming toy to the Federal Government of the United States. Airsoft guns are realistic imitations of modern-day firearms, aside from the one small fact that they don’t shoot real bullets. Instead, Airsoft Guns shoot airsoft pellets, typically made of plastic, at speeds relatively slower than real bullets.

However, due to their uncanny resemblance and similarity to real firearms, Federal Airsoft Gun Laws for purchase and ownership are: loosely set at the Federal level, however, they are, depending on the state, strictly legislated at the state level. The reasons for this are obvious: Without the use of airsoft gun laws, it can be easy for anyone to commit a crime.

Federal Airsoft Gun Laws

Safety Reasons for the Federal Regulation for Airsoft

The other concern about the purchase and possession of airsoft guns is that, though the guns are not real, they can cause injury, especially if the person using them does not take the necessary precautions. A study done by the Stanford University School of Medicine in 2015 showed that non-powder guns (a fancy word for airsoft guns and their cousins that you will hear in this and other legal posts done on this blog) caused more injuries to the eyes than all other causes of eye injuries combined. Many of these injuries were permanent to the poor guys who were unfortunate enough to be in front of a high-speed piece of plastic without the necessary protective gear.

Given this and other reports, it is logical to seek to regulate the purchase, transport, and use of airsoft guns for the sake of public safety in general. For this reason, the government, The state level have put laws in place that control where and how an airsoft weapon can be used, if they even allow the weapons in the first place.

Federal Airsoft Gun LawsTitle

Federal Airsoft Gun Laws: Airsoft Guns are NOT considered firearms in the eyes of the Federal Government.

Airsoft guns are NOT considered firearms in the eyes of the federal government. This is specifically due to the definition given to a firearm by the Federal government: The term “firearm” is defined in the Gun Control Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Section 921(a)(3), to include (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.

 Based on Section 921(a) (3), air guns, because they use compressed air and not an explosive to expel a projectile, do not constitute firearms under Federal law unless they are manufactured with the frames or receivers of an actual firearm.

How to Travel in an Airplane with an Airsoft Gun

If you are wondering how to travel in an airplane with your airsoft gun, this might help you. Never take your Airsoft Gun with you in the Carry On luggages inside the Airplane. If you want to put your Airsoft Gun inside the Checked Bags, inside an Airplane, you must make sure to comply with the necessary state requirements and regulations. Also, you must need to check with the specific airlines you are traveling with to comply with any protocol they might have when carrying these types of guns. 

Airsoft Orange Tip Law

The airsoft orange tip law requires that all manufacturers and distributors of airsoft guns should ensure that all the airsoft guns they deal with have a blaze orange 6mm tip that ilocated on the muzzle of the gun. This law only applies to manufacturers and does not specifically prevent you from removing the orange tip from your airsoft gun. However, you need to check your state laws to ensure that you are not breaking the state law that controls airsoft in your state.

State Laws for Airsoft Guns

Even though Federal Airsoft Gun laws do not exist: ie they are not considered as firearms or restricted in the federal law, there are many state laws that consider airsoft guns as firearms. This, therefore, negates the federal categorization of airsoft guns as not being firearms by the way that they define firearms in general. For this reason, it leaves a gaping legal hole in defining whether an airsoft gun can be defined as a gun. For instance, several states including New Jersey, Rhode Island define firearms in the following lines:

“Firearm or firearms” means any handgun, rifle, shotgun, machine gun, assault firearm, automatic or semi-automatic rifle, or any gun, device or instrument in the nature of a weapon from which may be fired or ejected any solid projectile, ball, slug, pellet, missile or bullet, or any gas, vapor or other noxious thing, by means of a cartridge or shell or by the action of an explosive or the igniting of flammable or explosive substances.

It shall also include, without limitation, any firearm which is in the nature of an air gun, spring gun or pistol or other weapon of a similar nature in which the propelling force is a spring, elastic band, carbon dioxide, compressed or other gas, or vapor, air or compressed air, or is ignited by compressed air, and ejecting a bullet or missile smaller than three-eighths of an inch in diameter, with sufficient force to injure a person


It can easily be argued that an airsoft gun falls into this category since they typically measure around 6 mm (0.24 in) in diameter.

Airsoft Gun Laws by State

Given this conflict between federal and state laws controlling the use of airsoft guns, you need to understand the full legal situation area. I have prepared a comprehensive state by state guide to the laws governing the purchase, transport, and use of Airsoft guns. Have a look at the Airsoft Laws by the state:

(Now this list is still in progress. The states that are complete are in bold check back later for the remaining states)



The 1988 Federal Toy Gun Law Restricts manufacturers of firearm imitations. They regulate by requiring them to manufacture a permanent bright orange plug at the tip of every airsoft gun. This is done to distinguish them from real firearms. This would explain why many airsoft weapons consistently have a bright orange tip.

A Final Word

Whatever the law states, you need to always remember that an airsoft gun is not a toy. It is  a dangerous tool and should be treated with the same respect you would have for an actual firearm.

In Addition to this, the fact that most airsoft guns are made as a 1:1 replica of an actual firearm means that a person who does not know airsoft would mistakenly assume that you are carrying an actual firearm. For this reason, It is really important to always carry your airsoft gun in a gun bag or case. If you don’t have one, Buy one now on Amazon. The links below have a list of affordable cases or bags that you might want to consider.

Check out Airsoft Gun Bags On Amazon

View Airsoft Gun Cases on Amazon

In Addition to this, You need to take safety really seriously when you are playing on the field. I have written a piece on Airsoft Safety that gives you a run-through the Airsoft safety Rules, Tips to stay safe when playing and what to do when you get an injury.