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New law allows approved pistol cartridges for use in rifles to hunt deer

  • 11/15/2017 10:00:00 AM
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Iowa hunters will have a new option this fall while hunting deer during the youth season, disabled hunter season and both shotgun seasons – rifles that are capable of shooting straight walled cartridges.

The law was enacted to allow for a lower recoil option for older and younger hunters, but is available to all hunters in those four seasons.

The law allows for straight wall ammunition that was previously approved for pistol hunting to be used in rifles. The list of acceptable calibers is in the Iowa Hunting and Trapping Regulations (p. 31, along with criteria for similar sized ammunition not on the list.

The new law requires individuals caught with a rifle capable of shooting ammunition not on the approved list while hunting deer to have their hunting privileges suspended for two years and receive a $250 fine.

Common Questions:

Is this a new season?
No, it is simply an option for the method of take during the existing youth, disabled hunter and both shotgun seasons.

Do I need any special license to use my rifle?
No special license is needed but a hunter must have the required Iowa hunting license, habitat fee and deer tag. 

What is allowed?
The following cartridges may now be used in rifles for the purpose of hunting deer in Iowa.

Center-fired straight-walled rimless cartridges chambered for handgun use with bullets from 0.357" to .500" diameter and a case length from 0.850" to 1.800"

Center-fired straight-walled rimmed cartridges chambered for handgun use with bullets from 0.357" to 0.500" diameter with a case length from 1.285" to 1.800"

  • 1.800" is currently the longest case for a mainstream cartridge designed specifically for handguns and registered with Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacture's Institute (SAAMI)
  • Criteria includes .450 Bushmaster and .45 Raptor

Why are some calibers outside of the approved size allowed but others are not?
The .375 Winchester, .444 Marlin, and .45-70 Govt. have been an option for hunters using handguns. Since they were allowed prior to 2017, those calibers were grandfathered in.

What defines a straight-walled cartridge?
The entire length of the case is the same diameter as the bullet.

Where/when can it be used?
Straight-walled cartridges may be used in rifles statewide during the youth, disabled and both shotgun seasons

Will the law be in effect for the 2017 deer hunting seasons?
Yes, it will be an option as a legal method of take.

Is this new?
The bullet caliber size has been allowed for handguns to hunt deer since 1997. What has changed is the type of gun allowed to fire the bullet has been expanded to include rifles.

Can I use this for turkey too or only deer?
No, this is only allowed to hunt deer.

Are all rifles legal?
No, not all rifles are legal. Only rifles shooting straight wall ammunition .357 caliber or largerwith an expanding-type bullet is allowed. The following center-fire cartridges may be used, along with others not identified in this list, that meet the straight-walled cartridge criteria:

.357 Magnum
.357 Maximum
.375 Winchester
.38 Super
.40 S&W
.401 Powermag
10 mm Auto
.41 Remington Magnum
.41 Action Express
.44 S&W Special
.44 Remington Magnum
.44 Automag
.444 Marlin
.445 Super Mag
.45 ACP
.45 Colt
.45 Super Mag
.45 Winchester Magnum
.45 Silhouette
.450 Bushmaster
.451 Detonics
.454 Casull
.45-70 Govt.
.460 Rowland
.460 S&W Mag
.475 Widley Magnum
.475 Linebaugh
.480 Ruger
.50 Action Express
.50 Linebaugh
.50 Beowulf
.500 S&W Mag

What is an expanding type bullet?
Expanding bullets, also known as hollow-point bullets, are designed to expand or mushroom upon impact versus regular bullets, or full metal jacket ammunition. Regular bullets, especially those that travel at a very high speed, tend to go through targets with minimal impact.

Can I use a rifle during the late muzzleloader season?
No, only the shotgun seasons, the youth season and disabled hunter season.

Is there a magazine restriction?
No, not this year, but hunters should watch for possible changes to this requirement in upcoming years.

My rifle does not meet the requirements, can I get a waiver?
No, there are no waivers available. Additionally, the new law includes stronger penalties for individuals caught with a rifle capable of shooting ammunition not on the approved list while hunting deer. These include having their hunting privileges suspended for two years and a $250 fine.


New law allows approved pistol cartridges for use in rifles to hunt deer. Only rifles shooting straight wall ammunition .357 caliber or larger with an expanding-type bullet is allowed.