Can I Shoot a Pellet Gun in My Backyard in California?

If you are a gun owner or enthusiast and live in California, you may be aware that while the state’s firearm laws are generally strict, the laws for non-powder guns (NPGs) are quite relaxed to other states’ laws.

So, what about the laws surrounding the possession and use of a pellet gun in particular? If you already own one, you may be asking yourself, “Can I shoot a pellet gun in my backyard in California?”

The short answer is yes.

Read on to find out more about pellet guns, what they are, how to use them, and the level of damage they can cause.

What Is a Pellet Gun?

Along with BB guns, paintball guns, and airsoft guns, pellet guns are NPGs. Instead of gunpowder, NPGs use springs, electricity, compressed air, or other types of gases to fire. Pellet guns vary in shape and size and fire small pellets, or projectiles, usually made of lead or another alloy material.

You can use pellet guns to perform a wide range of activities—from plinking (informal target shooting) to hunting. Many people enjoy them immensely, and while they are plenty popular among expert shooters, young shooters and beginners are the most common users of these guns.

Pellet guns come in various sizes and calibers, and calibers range from .177 to .50. As you may have already guessed, people use the smaller calibers for target shooting and plinking. Larger calibers can be quite ideal for hunting due to their high striking and knockdown power.

What Are The General Gun Laws in California?

In general, if you are interested in obtaining a firearm in the state of California, you must lawfully make all purchases or transfers through a dealer licensed in the state, and the dealer must make all transactions under their Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS).

Remember that there is a 10-day waiting period before the dealer can release the firearm you purchased into your possession.

Unless you have a specific exemption, you must be at least 21 years of age if you want to possess and have permission to use and control a firearm in the Golden State.

You may be exempt if you are 18 years old and possess a valid and unexpired hunting license issued by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

You may also be exempt if you are an active peace officer or federal officer authorized to carry a firearm during the period of your employment. Another instance of exemption is you being an active member of the United States Armed Forces, the National Guard, the Air National Guard, or any of the United States’ active reserve components.

To qualify for gun possession, you must present valid proof of your age—your California Driver’s License or Identification Card—and be a United States citizen or provide a valid and legal Alien Registration Number.

Suppose you are interested in purchasing a handgun. In that case, you have to provide proof of your California residency (such as a utility bill), and you must also possess a Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC) in addition to being able to demonstrate complete safety successfully.

You will also need to undergo a background check to possess a firearm. If you are a convicted felon, you cannot qualify for gun possession.

What Are the Pellet Gun Laws in California?

While general gun laws in California are more stringent than those in other states, the laws governing pellet guns’ access and usage are fewer and less severe. In several other states, the distinction between NPGs and firearms is fragile and pale. In many instances, the same safety requirements that apply to firearms apply to pellet guns as well, but this is not the case in California.

According to Giffords, Rhode Island and New Jersey, define all NPGs as firearms and treat them as such. Based on this, alll the firearm laws apply to NPGs as well. There are bans against convicted felons owning and using one of these guns.

Illinois and Michigan define high-caliber NPGs as firearms, and North Dakota, Connecticut, and Delaware define them as “dangerous weapons” and apply enhanced penalties for their improper use or possession.

On the other hand, in the Golden State, there is a clear distinction between NPGs and real firearms, and the laws that have to do with the prosecution and penalties one may face for causing pellet-gun-related injuries are primarily subject to interpretation.

As long as you are 18 years of age, you may possess and control a pellet gun in California. The state requires parental permission and supervision for those who are not yet 18 years old.

Since pellet guns are not considered firearms under state law, it is also perfectly legal for a person convicted of a felony to own and control a pellet gun.

Are Pellet Guns Safe?

To say that a pellet gun is completely safe and poses no real danger to you or others would be a false statement. If you can hunt and bring down wildlife using a pellet gun, imagine the damage you can do with this type of gun, particularly with a higher caliber one.

Keep in mind that because pellet guns can look so much like real firearms, you shouldn’t take precautions lightly when using them. A lot of thought and care should go into the decision to use a pellet gun.

Of course, you should always keep these guns out of the reach of children. Ensure that you are closely supervising anyone under the age of 18 if they are using an NPG. Not to mention it is illegal for a minor to use one without supervision.

Another thing to remember is that there have been cases of police officers mistaking an NPG for a real gun and responding with fire to the sight of one.

If you intentionally fire a pellet gun at someone else, you may face assault or battery charges, which is considered a misdemeanor. The same applies if you unintentionally harm someone. Unintentionally hurting someone falls under the category of “gross negligence.”

In 2005, the California Senate Office of Research generated a report titled “Pellet Guns and BB Guns: Dangerous Playthings in the Open Market” worth spending the time to look through. It talks about the concerns the use of pellet guns gives rise to and presents examples of injuries and damages caused by these guns, mainly and most commonly in children.


Hopefully, you have found some valuable information in this article concerning pellet guns.  Though the short answer to “Can I shoot a pellet gun in my backyard in California?” is yes, it is not sufficient because knowing as much as possible about these types of guns and what they can do is vital before you start shooting one.

Being knowledgeable and responsible is something you should never overlook when using guns—whether actual firearms or NPGs.

Always be safe and smart.

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