Is Having a Bow and Arrow Illegal?

If you’ve had some experience at archery, or you’re looking to get started, you may be interested in how to advance your hobby. To do so, you might want to purchase your own equipment, rather than relying on clubs and rentals. However, the legalities of archery can be complex and confusing.A bow and arrow falls into that space between sporting equipment, recreation, and weapon. While a bow and arrow can be used as a weapon, most of us won’t be purchasing with that intent. A bow and arrow requires precision and skill, training and dedication.So what are the legalities of owning a bow and arrow?

Is having a bow and arrow illegal?

No, it’s not illegal to own a bow and arrow in the United States. Some states have differing laws regarding the size and weight of the bow.

Before purchasing, it’s best to check the laws in your own state to ensure that what you buy is within the guidelines. Different states have different laws around the usage of the bow as well (e.g. hunting versus recreation).Owning a bow and arrow isn’t in itself illegal. However, as they can be dangerous, it’s important to be careful when using them.

Can you carry a bow in public?

It’s not recommended to carry a bow in public. A bow and arrow can be seen as an offensive weapon, and therefor the carrying of it is illegal. Especially if you don’t have a valid reason for using it – exceptions might be if you’re driving to an archery range, for example. Walking around with a bow might be seen as threatening.If the bow is not strung, then you are safe to carry it in public. As it can’t be used, it doesn’t pose a threat. Arrows are trickier, as they are a sharp object. They should be kept in an enclosed container, rather than open carry. Arrows on their own may be seen as dangerous as well.The laws around carrying a bow in public are less clear, because it may not always be seen as an offensive weapon. However, as arrows are a sharp object and a bow and arrow can cause damage, they may be seen as such. Before going, consider the reaction you might elicit by carrying your bow. An open carry bow and arrow may be perceived as a threat.A bow and arrow is not the same as a crossbow. Don’t carry a crossbow in public, you could find yourself in trouble with the law.

Do I need a license to buy a bow?

No, there is no specific license required to purchase a bow and arrow in the United States. However, the differing state laws mean that before purchase you should check to make sure what you wish to buy is within regulations.

Purchasing a bow for practice and recreation doesn’t require a license. Where the bow and arrow are used may need differing permissions. The size of the bow and arrow may be effected by restrictions as well.There is no age limit to purchase a bow and arrow in the United States. Some stores may refuse service at their own discretion.Purchasing a crossbow is a different matter. As a crossbow may be considered a weapon, there are sometimes license required for purchase.

Is it illegal to do archery in your backyard?

Not necessarily, but there may be restrictions. Practicing archery in your backyard may be prohibited in certain counties and not in others. Before setting up a range, check your local and city laws. These restrictions are generally based on space. So while a state may not prohibit backyard archery, a city might due to the lack of space. If you live in a rural area, it’s unlikely there will be any restrictions. However, it’s always best to check anyway.

If you live closer to the city, you may find shooting arrows is not allowed. Some counties require a certain amount of distance for a range, and others ban it outright. If you’re unsure, contact your local courthouse for advice.While you may be a safe shot, remember that a bow and arrow can be purchased by anyone. The restrictions are not just to ensure the safety of others, but to ensure your own safety as well. If you aren’t allowed to shoot in your backyard, the best place to go is an archery range. These places may charge, but they offer a safe environment for practice and fun. Plus, they off more variety than a back garden.

In what states are crossbows illegal?

Unlike a bow and arrow, there are numerous restrictions around the ownership and use of a crossbow. To purchase a crossbow you need to be over 18, and may require a license (depending on the state). The requirements around crossbow use for hunting are generally strict. In Oregon, the use of a crossbow is illegal.In many states the use of a crossbow counts as a firearm, not as archery.For hunting, a crossbow can be used during archery season in the following states: Arkansas, Alabama, Connecticut, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

It can be used during firearm season is Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Washington, and West Virginia. In Delaware, Missouri, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, it can be used during both.

Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota require a disability permit. 

Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, have a minimum age limit.

Florida has a specific crossbow season.This only acts as a guide. If you’re interested in using a crossbow for hunting, contact your local courthouse for licensing and advice. Regulations often change, and each state has different guidelines. If you wish to use a crossbow in your backyard, don’t. A crossbow will be seen as a firearm.