A Grimes gun dealer has launched a campaign to keep a pellet gun he has
designed from being classified as a firearm by the federal government.
Chris McAninch designed the prototype pellet gun to make it easier for
people to use, yet still have enough power to be used for small-game
But he doesn't know how long the process will take or if he'll ever get to
have the gun manufactured.
"My goal in designing the pellet gun is to make it easier for people,
particularly people with disabilities, to use a pellet gun," he said.
Because the gun uses a primer to propel the pellet, the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms is classifying it as a firearm, according to a letter
in response to McAninch.
If McAninch's pellet gun is classified a firearm, he will be able to sell
it only through federally licensed dealers. No sales could be done through
catalogs or small shops that don't hold federal firearms licenses.
Interstate sales would not be allowed.
McAninch likens his situation to that of the effort made by Tony Knight of
Centerville, founder of Modern Muzzleloaders/Knight Rifles. In the 1990s,
Knight's company fought a federal battle dealing with the definition of
one of the company's most popular rifles.
The ATF attempted to classify the rifle as a firearm, claiming the
ignition system, which used a primer rather than a percussion cap, was not
an antique system. The company lost a lawsuit against the bureau. The
company appealed, but it was dropped after a lobbying effort resulted in
an amendment to the 1968 Gun Control Act to clarify the definition of a
Jim Nelle of Winterset wants to see the pellet gun manufactured.
"I've shot it a couple of times," Nelle said. "I would use it for
small-game hunting such as rabbits and squirrels. Even if a person is
handicapped, it would be easy to use because you don't have to pump it up
and there is no kick."
Nelle said he thinks McAninch's gun could be as successful as the Knight
rifles. In fact, McAninch's PrimeGun Web site,
includes a photo of Knight shooting the gun.
McAninch's prototype feels light and is easy to break open, slip in the
pellet, close, and cock to fire.
The pellet gun is lighter because the propulsion method uses a primer
placed behind a pellet.
McAninch recites disadvantages of other pellet guns. The pump, or air gun,
works through a pumping action. The more a person pumps, the harder it is
to do so. A spring gun takes a lot of force to cock and can move during
firing. On gas-type pellet guns, tanks need to be refilled or replaced,
are bulky and often ineffective in the cold.
Reporter Juli Probasco-Sowers can be reached at (515) 284-8134 or