Well, I’m about to confuse you even more. Yes, it might, but in some cases, it won’t. That’s not a very good answer. So let me clarify it a bit. You see this question does not have a simple answer. California’s laws are somewhat convoluted and a little crazy. They call them ‘common’ sense while proving that common sense is far from common.
You may be asking is it even worth it to build an AR-15 yourself? Can’t I just go out and buy one? That depends. Do you want to own an AR-15 pistol? Well, unless you can find one used and pay a pretty penny for it, you have to build one. Since the single shot exemption is basically gone AR-15s are not making it into the state unless they are produced there.
80% Builds that require a Bullet Button/Fixed Magazine Lock
AR-15 build kits made from 80% lowers are subject to all the rules and regulations of any other AR-15 in California. This dictates that any semi-automatic, centerfire rifle with one of the following features.
- Pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon
- Detachable magazine
- Flash suppressor
- Forward pistol grip
- Folding or telescopic stock
- Thumbhole stock
- Grenade or flare launcher
- Is Less than 30 inches in length
- Fixed magazine with the ability to load over ten rounds
For years past AR-15 builders were legal by using a bullet button. Our friends at The Trace define the bullet button as:
The bullet button is recessed in a small hole on an AR-15’s lower receiver, next to the magazine well, and can be engaged only with some kind of tool, such as the tip of a bullet. The buttons are sold as an aftermarket accessory or incorporated directly into weapons manufactured for the California market. The appeal of the buttons is that they allow California rifle owners to blow through ammunition at a much higher rate than if they were using standard “California-compliant” rifles, which can only be reloaded one round at a time by opening the receiver, as if for cleaning.
However, in July 2016,California Governor Jerry Brown enacted bills SB 880 and AB 1135 which place even more restrictions (sorry CA gun builders) on “assault weapons” such as the AR-15. These bills now make the bullet button illegal as in the eyes of our government, it allows shooters the ability to reload their weapon too easily, thus encouraging mass shootings. So now that the bullet button will soon be illegal, the company ARMagLock has created the fixed magazine lock.
The biggest difference between the method of the new release versus the classic bullet button is that the new ARMagLock method literally requires the firearm action to be disassembled (upper and lower receiver separated) before the magazine can be released.
There is nothing saying you cannot build an ultra modern rifle or pistol in California. As long as you abide by the current laws there is nothing illegal about building an AR-15. Let’s look at the menu of 80% lower AR-15 build kits. Do you want something modern? Keymod rail, stainless steel barrel, and Magpul stock, well Magpul furniture in general. That’s about as modern as you go. Luckily, it’s also a kit on AR-15LowerReceivers.com, complete and ready to go.
Simply order the kit, finish your 80% lower receiver, order a magazine lock, and build it. If you want something that is already California ready AR-15lowerreceivers.com can also cover you with their 80% complete lower kit. This kit is California compliant and comes with the magazine lock in the lower parts kit.
Featureless AR-15 can be made that are not subject to bullet button/magazine release laws. There are a variety of different steps you can take to building a featureless rifle. The two biggest are easy, remove the flash hider. Change the flash hider into a compensator or muzzle brake.
The is the biggest change you will make. It cannot collapse, fold, or be a thumbhole stock. You also cannot have a 90-degree pistol grip. This leaves you with an odd rearward pistol grip that curves horizontally. This makes it held like a traditional rifle. This is the biggest downside to the weapon doesn’t handle like a real AR-15. While you don’t have to worry about the bullet button you are left with what’s often a large, and clumsy weapon.
If you’ve never heard of a featureless AR-15 rifle, there is a good reason for it. They kind of suck. Going with an 80% AR-15 build kit and a magazine lock is an easier way to go, and a much more affordable weapon. It’s also well more comfortable to shoot, and much more modular. All the cost of a bullet button.