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In 2017, Pennsylvania became the last state to restore legal hunting of game with semiautomatic rifles. Hunting with semiautomatic rifles had been outlawed in the Keystone State since 1907.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners voted to correct a strange twist of the Pennsylvania game laws. In five counties where rifles aren’t allowed for the hunting of big game, semiautomatic shotguns have been allowed for decades. But in the rest of Pennsylvania, semiautomatic shotguns were illegal for hunting big game.

Now Pennsylvania hunters will be able to use semiautomatic shotguns to hunt big game throughout the state.


Semiautomatic centerfire shotguns that propel single-projectile ammunition will be lawful sporting arms in most of Pennsylvania’s firearms deer, bear and elk seasons in 2018-19.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave unanimous approval to regulatory changes that permit these sporting arms for deer, bear and elk hunting. For elk, the shotgun needs to be 12-gauge or larger.

The Game Commission historically has permitted the use of semiautomatic shotguns for deer and bear seasons within its special regulations areas near Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

With today’s vote, such authorization is extended to the remainder of the Commonwealth, as well as to the state’s elk hunters.

There are several shotguns that use rifled barrels and sabots to give an accuracy and range potential comparable to center fire rifles.

In 2016, Pennsylvania gave the Game Commission the authority to approve semiautomatic rifles for hunting. In January of 2017, the Game Commission approved hunting big game, small game and furbearers with semiautomatic rifles. In spite of the 2016 law, the decision to allow hunting big game with semiautomatic rifles was reversed in March of that year.

Semiautomatic rifles are legal to hunt small game and furbearers in Pennsylvania, but not big game. Furbearers include coyotes, foxes, and raccoons.

The first semiautomatic rifle designed for big game was patented in 1900 and introduced in 1906 by Remington. It proved a popular and successful design.


©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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    • Hmmph.
      No “comments” on that page, ‘natch… So they won’t let us on to point out how wrong they are and why.
      Pity. It’s become a favorite hobby of mine of late to get on the links I see here to get on those sites and give them an alternative viewpoint.

  1. I’ve never seen the logic of hunters who are opposed to semi-autos. Even a decent hunter might occasionally have a bad shot, in which case the lack of a rapid follow up shot may allow the wounded animal to escape and die cruelly.

  2. “Semiautomatic centerfire shotguns that propel…”

    Are there any rimfire shotguns in major calibers? (I’m not counting .22 rimfire ratshot rounds…)

    • Elk and black bear, and unlike deer there is a caliber restriction on them. You have to use rifles of at least .27 caliber, which means if you have a Remington or Ruger 6.8 SPC you can hunt them with it. derp

  3. So you can legally use a .22 Hornet bolt action to hunt deer with, but you can’t hunt them with an M1A. Got it.

    • From what I understand, you could hunt deer with a single shot .25acp derringer under PA law, since the only requirements are that it has to be a manually operated firearm with a centerfire cartridge.

  4. Well, it’s a step forward in the series of baby steps the PA Game Commission is slowly taking to bring their hunting regs into the 20th century. So, I’ll take it. It’ll be nice to take my SBE2 slug gun outside of SE PA for deer season. All the better if it ticks off the PA Fudds, who seem to be eager to kill off hunting in the name of tradition.

    Legalizing semiauto rifles for larger game in PA will eventually happen, but, IMO, the really big win for hunting in PA would be legalizing Sunday hunting. Not all of us are self-employed/unemployed/retired with no kids, PGC…

  5. Just look at that 7400, ain’t she purdy, all that Walnut and Blued Steel, yah just don’t get that with plastic and ceracote. Nice n smooth contour’s, no lumps humps or bumps to snag brush. And it comes in ‘real’ big game calibers. The 7400 Rem Fuddomatic

    • Cousin had one and it was a nice gun. I would take one for the right price.

    • I’ve owned mine for nearly 25 years, and it’s been extremely reliable (not to mention gorgeous!) Never had a jam when it counted, but I can remember a couple while testing .30-’06 handloads at the bench – and I do mean just a handful or less in all these years. Still on its original extractor too, which reportedly fail fairly regularly. (But it’s probably time to change that before it actually does break…)

      Lots of Rem 740’s, 742’s, and 7400’s in the woods around here, and their owners generally love them. With a 3-9X 40mm Leupold mounted looooow on my receiver, it’s the quintessential Wisconsin deer rifle!

  6. Articles a bit confusing, Pa GC has only allowed semi auto rifles for small game and semi auto shotguns right now. Semi auto rifles for big game is still a no.

    100% of the problem in Pa with allowing semi auto rifles for big game or any game, is the old tradition, most of the older population do not understand the difference between an AK being used by ISIS and a semi auto for deer, they envision full auto mag dumps spraying the woods in hopes of a slaughter so when the PAGC does its survey, they get a negative response. The Game Commission cannot make rules, they must be supported by the general hunting population of the state.

    • ^this. Although I must admit, there are times when I hear the equivalent of a semi-auto mag. dump during deer season even with the current restrictions. If you are a sloppy unethical hunter, you’re a sloppy unethical hunter regardless of the equipment used. This is the problem, not semi-autos.

      • There’s a reason people refer to the Remington 7600 (pump action rifle, often in .30-06) as the “Mennonite Machine Gun” in these parts! 🙂

    • If you believe that line of BS the PGC gave about a survey and no one wanting Semi Rifles for big game then well…. No one I know IRL or online ever got asked anything about semis by the PGC.

      • Agreed! the liberals in the pa. government doesn’t want to give gun owners a legitimate reason to own semi auto rifles such as the evil death machines like an AR 15 so they can ban them at a later date.I know the game commission said 60% of hunters were against the use of large caliber semi auto rifle for hunting but I know of no one who ever was contacted for that poll.

      • I felt the same way.

        So I threw a fit and had quite the round with the PAGC as well as my local representatives. I’ll save the long story and give you the short. There most certainly was a survey done, however they only poll something like 10,000 people across the state, meaning its very unlikely you know anyone who was polled but it did happen.
        The PAGC does want semi autos to be released, the small game semi’s were approved as a kick starter to get the majority of seasoned hunters to see that there is nothing scary about it and how beneficial they can be in hopes that when the big game vote comes around it will have swayed enough people to easily pass.
        The best thing to do is to contact the various PAGC regions and voice your opinion. That’s where I started, I then had my local county representative contact them about my concerns.
        It was however painfully slow, but effective. I did this before semi auto shotguns were released.
        They informed me it would be in phases, first small game, then shotguns, then big game.
        So far they have been correct, we’re 2/3rds closer now than we were before 2015.

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