Pennsylvania Game Commission Gives Thumbs Up To Semi-Auto Shotguns

For many people, the shotgun is the ultimate do-all firearm. They’re capable of taking down just about any game you want them to, so long as you can get close enough. However, not all shotguns are authorized to be used for all game. Sometimes for good reason, but still…


In Pennsylvania, at least there’s been a bit of sanity interjected. Now, hunters can use semiautomatic shotguns.

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.

It seems that Pennsylvania is a little behind the times when it comes to guns. In particular, they seem to be just now recognizing semiautomatic weapons as being viable for hunting.

No, seriously. It’s not just shotguns. As Dean Weingarten over at The Truth About Guns notes:


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.

In other words, a 100-year-old design used for legal and ethical hunting pretty much all over the world is illegal for taking big game in the state of Pennsylvania.

At least now they can use semi-auto shotguns for big game.

The question is whether this rule would be reversed as well or not. At this point, I’d advise hunters in Pennsylvania to not purchase a semiautomatic shotgun for hunting alone unless you don’t mind it the state deeming it illegal shortly thereafter. But, if you’re willing to take that risk, have fun.


Personally, maybe I’m just overly cautious, but I wouldn’t want to hunt bear without something semi-auto. As a general rule, though, I don’t play around with any game animal that might eat me in turn. Call it a quirk.

With luck, the state of Pennsylvania will step up into the 21st century in the very near future and allow hunters to use whatever kind of action they deem appropriate for the various game. It’s one thing to say a caliber is insufficient to take a certain variety of game. It’s quite another to say certain action types should be banned as well.

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