Living in California and owning firearms can be like getting a tooth pulled. It can be painful. The good news is that Novocain exists for teeth, and genius exists for owning guns in California. Hats off to the creators, lawyers, and manufacturers who go above and beyond to make owning common rifles, like the AR-15, possible in states like California. California often carries the gun control banner that many states often follow.
If you are looking to build an AR-15 rifle in California you have to follow California AR-15 laws, and build what is known as a California compliant rifle. There are a variety of steps you have to take to produce a California Compliant rifle, before we start there it's good to understand why. California has an assault weapons ban. So what is an assault weapon according to California?
- A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that does not have a fixed magazine but has any one of the following:
- A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
- A thumbhole stock.
- A folding or telescoping stock.
- A grenade launcher or flare launcher.
- A flash suppressor.
- A forward pistol grip.
- A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.
- A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches.
So with this is mind let's look at the two options for building a California Compliant AR-15.
Fixed Magazine Option
The most common work around was addressing the first point of the legislation, and turning a removable magazine into a fixed magazine. In 2016, a new set of laws were passed commonly called the California Gunpocalypse. One of these new laws redefined what a fixed magazine is. A fixed magazine is now defined as a firearm in such a manner that the device cannot be removed without disassembly of the firearm action.
This takes effect in January of 2017, so bullet button rifles can still be built, but are required to be registered by 2018 as assault weapons. What's amazing is that there are always options to build an AR-15 because gun owners rock. One such option is the AR Maglock that requires the user to pull the rear takedown pin out of the rifle and open the AR-15 to expose the lower receiver. Then you press the magazine release, and the magazine drops. This complies perfectly with the new California laws.
The benefit of going with a fixed magazine is that it allows your rifle to have a flash suppressor, a forward pistol grip, telescoping stock, a pistol grip, etc. Because the magazine is fixed, it is not an assault weapon and does not have to be registered in California, Connecticut, or New York.
Featureless rifles are AR-15s built to exclude sections A through F on the California definition of an Assault weapon. This means you cannot have a flash suppressor and have to use a very unconventional stock system. The most common stock/grip combo is the Thordsen FRS 15 stock, but Hera Arms are also producing a California option. The cheapest option would be the Monsterman AR-15 grips with a normal fixed stock. The rest of the option is quite easy to avoid, do not attach any of the banned items to the rifle.
The main benefit to building a featureless rifle is that you can have a detachable magazine, it's still limited to ten rounds. A featureless rifle also avoids registration by not meeting the definition of an assault rifle.
Laws and Lawyers
Laws are always changing, especially in states that tend to be anti gun. One of the best ways to keep up with these ever changing laws is the NRA. The NRA ILA (Institute for Legislative Action) has an amazing website that keeps up with these always changing laws. Check it out here, https://www.nraila.org/gun-laws/state-gun-laws/california/. Remember to always check Federal, State, and local laws before building any firearm.