It is currently the position of the New Jersey State Police and the New Jersey State Park Police (part of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, under which the Division of Parks and Forestry falls) that reenactors may not carry reproduction or original pistols or revolvers at reenactment events. The Park Police is currently advising all reenactors not to bring pistols to events on state property.
New Jersey state law provides no distinction between antique and modern pistols. While the law provides an explicit definition of “antique firearm,” this definition only includes rifles and shotguns. The handgun definition, by contrast, covers all firearms designed to be fired one-handed. In New Jersey, in order to carry a handgun, an individual is required to obtain a carry permit which, as is well-known, is nearly impossible to obtain for non-law enforcement individuals. Thus, carrying a sidearm at a reenactment is technically a violation of New Jersey’s firearms law and subject to arrest and prosecution.
To my knowledge, there have not been any arrests made due to the carrying of a revolver at a reenactment. However, both NJSP and the State Park Police have advised reenactors to leave all functioning pistols at home. (Note: The statute does not apply to non-firing reproductions. However, since most non-firing reproductions are indistinguishable on their face from firing reproductions, you may still encounter initial problems from law enforcement. Therefore, it is advisable to leave even non-firing revolvers at home).
There are some exceptions for the travel and display of firearms, including pistols, for events sponsored by law enforcement, rifle & pistol clubs, and collector events. Reenacments, however, do not fall under these provisions. Therefore, it is highly recommended that all reenactors avoid bringing pistols as part of their impression. This, of course, makes it very difficult to accurately portray officers of any branch and reduces the options for more unique impressions, such as bushwhackers, home guards, militia, armed civilians, etc.
This issue will likely seriously affect the ability to host and participate in living history and battle reenactment events. It is my hope that everyone interested in history, the preservation of history through education, and historical interpretation will contact their legislators to address this problem.