New York has a quite unusual law regarding airsoft and replica guns, so I had to make a research by looking into the law to look for answers.
The question regarding New York airsoft and firearm laws is often asked by people who want to start playing airsoft or by those who just like the idea of airsoft replicas and they want to own one in the privacy of their home in such case you can check if it smart to use airsoft guns in your backyard once you understand the New York law.
I am not a lawyer, nor can I give you legal advice regarding any issue, but I like to create helpful summaries for people who need a starting point for their research.
So, do not take me for a word and always double-check the facts with officials if it is an important matter, in other words, contact the lawyer or police department.
I have previously looked into the law of other states and I must say that New York has specific local ordinances that I did not bump into before.
Most often when you look into the law, you check the state law and federal law to find answers, but in this case, I also had to dig into the ordinance to find a complete answer.
However, I have managed to find the answers to all usual questions regarding this problem and I must state that in short, this is what the law says about playing airsoft and purchasing airsoft guns in New York:
New York State and New York City are cautious about airsoft guns and limit their use, selling, and trading. Airsoft can be played anywhere in New York where such a place is officially registered for it, but any possession and brandishing of airsoft guns outside of fields is illegal.
Any law that forbids or limits the use or possession of airsoft guns is there because people have committed intentional crimes with them in the past.
When people ask about the airsoft law in New York, they may want to hear about the state law, however, New York City has a specific law that also needs to be mentioned because it differs from the general law in New York State.
I will first begin with the state and then move to the city law, You can inform yourself from the official government site here.
By the way, If you are looking for the best airsoft fields in NYC, I reviewed a few legit fields which will ensure you have a great time full of airsoft fun!
New York State airsoft laws
In the state of New York, „Imitation weapon“ is defined as any device or object made of plastic, wood, metal, or any other material that can be used for manufacturing purposes that can be reasonably perceived as a real firearm, whether it is „BB“ gun, pellet gun or any kind of air rifle and it is considered „illegal“ for unlicensed use
Unless such an „imitation weapon“ is:
- Colored other than black, blue, silver, or aluminum (permanent)
- Marked with a non-removable orange stripe that is at least one inch in width and runs the entire length of the barrel of a gun on each side and front end of the barrel
- And the law continues to describe it under other important factors that can be checked in the law
What can be concluded in short is that the replica needs to be properly marked and colored otherwise it can be mistaken for a real gun and this is what is being targeted with this state law.
There is also a Federal Law that affects all airsoft replica guns you can find in stores and it clearly states that the gun must have orange markings such as the most common and mandatory orange tip at the top of the gun and so on.
The thing with the state law is that it either additionally defines the rules that need to be respected regarding airsoft guns within that state or it remains silent about it and then only Federal Law is applied.
In this case besides the Federal Law there is also the state law that additionally adds up to the limitations regarding airsoft guns.
The state law also sets the age limit for playing airsoft
The state law states that you can not be younger than 16 to play airsoft in any airsoft field unless you are at least 12 years old and there is supervision present from parents, guardians, or instructors.
Selling and trading of airsoft guns within the state of New York
No person, firm, or corporation is allowed to sell „paint pellet gun“ (read airsoft replica guns) to those under the age of 16, and in case they do the following punishment shall be applied.
Punishment for those who break this law
Any person, firm, or corporation who has sold an airsoft gun to a person under the age of 16 is violating the law and thus shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than five hundred dollars as it is stated in the law.
The minors would probably serve some kind of community service in a given amount of hours decided by the judge in case they broke some law.
New York City Airsoft laws
New York City also limits the use of airsoft guns
The reason why I have stated above that airsoft guns are limited in New York City is because of the fact that airsoft guns have a very realistic appearance which may result in misunderstandings regarding real guns the law wants to prevent any misunderstanding and therefore they have written this law.
However, In New York City it is actually legal to own an airsoft gun under the following circumstances:
- The entire exterior surface of an airsoft replica gun must be colored either white, bright red, bright orange, bright green, bright yellow, bright blue, bright purple, or bright pink. It can be colored by one of these colors singly or predominantly with one color and then combined with other colors in any pattern.
- It can be also entirely built in a manufacturing process from obvious transparent or translucent materials that unmistakably indicate that the replica is indeed a toy.
- An airsoft replica gun can be also used for television, theatrical, or motion picture presentation purposes if the replica complies with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations. ( In this case, I believe that it is important to contact the police and report in advance that you are about to use such a prop for mentioned purposes. Only after acquiring the permission, I would feel safe to use it for such a purpose).
As you can see, in order to own an airsoft gun in New York City it needs to be adequately colored which pretty much defies the realism aspect of airsoft and kills the immersion.
There is nothing you can do about it and you can forget about realistic appearance if you are purchasing an airsoft gun and as a matter of fact New York City goes a step further than the State of New York when it comes to these regulations by being more strict.
There are also mentions of how it is illegal to use airsoft guns anywhere in public areas and school premises (they are probably more strict than other states regarding this and therefore the punishments may be also), but I will mention this part in the best practices to stay out of trouble soon.
Can you buy airsoft guns in New York City?
The previous additional requirements for bright colors and this, are the reason for what I meant when I said that some cities have special ordinances within the state of New York, therefore selling and trading of airsoft guns within New York City is a big no-no.
There is a way to purchase such guns out of New York City via Internet stores or other physical stores outside the city. However, some online stores will refuse to ship it to you.
Punishments for those that break the law in New York City
New York City is especially rigorous about airsoft guns, but I am not able to say what the punishments would be.
It would depend on what happened and what was the law that a person broke, but I assume that something like unlawful possession in a public place could result in jail time for up to a year or something, in case a minor would do it it may be a lesser punishment.
Again, do not hold me for this because I am not a lawyer, In case you broke the law contact the police department or a lawyer.
The best practices to stay safe with the New York airsoft laws
Sometimes people break the law with airsoft guns even in states where there are no specific laws regarding airsoft guns. This is due to the fact that there are other public laws that need to be respected and can be broken with airsoft guns although they do not strictly mention airsoft guns.
The following practices are the best ways to stay out of trouble and follow the logic that if you do not commit anything that could be in any way perceived as „illegal“ either objectively or subjectively, then there is not much to worry about, whether you know a lot about the law or you just follow the common sense.
I have also written a short guide for safe traveling with airsoft guns, so check it out if you plan to travel anytime soon.
I believe that if you respect the airsoft gun just as you would treat and respect the real gun, then you can minimize the odds of breaching any law.
- Do not bring, brandish, or use in any meaning airsoft replica gun in public places including any roads, parks, and avenues.
- Avoid any school premises! This deserves special intention because schools are extremely cautious about guns and replicas indeed can cause serious panic.
- Do not ever mention or brandish it in any public transport such as in trains, buses, taxis, boats, and so on.
- Only play airsoft or discharge the replica in a field that has permission to run airsoft games, yeah any place out of it can put you in trouble in the States with rigorous airsoft law.
- Do not ever aim at any human no matters where you may be at
- Do not ever drive a car or travel in a car with the replica being visibly placed on nearby sits or anywhere within reach. ( Due to the police pullovers, so you do not want to cause any misunderstandings)
As you can see it is pretty much common sense, even if you had a non-functioning toy made out of wood that looks like a real gun you could still fall in trouble without following the mentioned rules.
If you need to transport your airsoft replica and gear make sure that it is well hidden in a bag or a case. You can find some of my best picks for bags and cases for airsoft.
That’s it, however, if you live somewhere else within the State of New York pay attention to possible regional ordinances.
Stay safe, use common sense, and enjoy your next airsoft game! Finding airsoft fields in NYC might be challenging because there aren’t many, but hopefully, there are a few fun fields that won’t disappoint you if you are looking for indoor and outdoor play.