handgun hunting

Modernized Pistols Lead to New Missouri Definition of 'Hunting Handgun'

Tactical pistols could spark conversations about practical "alternative" hunting practices.

Among the states that allow the use of pistols during designated hunting seasons, legislators are starting to take a look at an overlooked gray area of firearms.

That niche comprises a variety of firearms that look much like AR-15 rifles, but sport a barrel short enough to be considered a pistol. While these guns are in fact pistols by definition, they still offer the stability of a rifle, making them much easier to shoot.

Missouri, a state that allows hunters to use handguns to take deer during its "alternative methods" season, has decided to clear up the differences between your classic revolver and a shortened AR-15.

"There's a lot less recoil with one of these," Nick Newman, owner of Cherokee Firearms in Springfield, told The Springfield News-Leader. "It's easier to shoot this gun well than this one."

Not only do the shortened AR-15s offer a more accuracy, but they also allow hunters to add a slew of different accessories, such as large-capacity magazines, forearm stabilizers, forward grips and adjustable stocks.

"And there's the cost," Newman said. "The AR pistol is $800, versus $1,300 for this Smith and Wesson Model 629 revolver."

The Missouri Department of Conservation decided it needed to update its definition of a "handgun" to include AR-style pistols, which the Conservation Commission approved.

Previously, the definition was "a firearm with a barrel length less than 16 inches and designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand. The essential distinguishing characteristic of a handgun is its ability to be operated with one hand; although, a second hand can be used as a brace. Any firearm with a total length of over 26 inches will be considered a rifle."

The MDC hopes to provide more clarity with its new definition, though, which reads, "Handgun: Any firearm designed, made and intended to fire a projectile from one or more barrels when held in one hand, and having a short stock designed to be gripped by one hand at an angle to and extending below the line of the bore(s), with a barrel less than 16 inches in length, measured from the face of the bolt or standing breech, and an overall length of less than 26 inches; excluding any firearm designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder."

In an interview with The Springfield News-Leader, MDC spokesman Joe Jerek said the decision to revise didn't come from any incident, but rather just confusion about the regulations.

"We have had some questions over recent alternative methods portions of deer season on what defines a handgun versus different types of firearms," he said. "Therefore, we want to provide better clarity for staff and the public to understand what type of firearm is allowed during the alternative methods portion of deer season."

He also added that the state's regulations magazine capacity are already very straightforward, as self-loading firearms may have a capacity of no more than 11 cartridges in the magazine and chamber combined when deer hunting.