How to Build a California Compliant AR 15 Rifle

How to Build a California Compliant AR 15 Rifle!

The Golden State, California, is quite a strict one regarding gun laws. The state of California regulates the sale, ownership, use, and transfer of semi-automatic firearms, classifying them as ‘assault weapons.’ Although AR comes from (AR)ma Lite, California calls it an ‘Assault Rifle’ and establishes its gun laws based on the ‘Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989.’ This blog talks about the definition of a semi-automatic firearm (assault weapon) per California gun laws based on its characteristics, the different options to build a California compliant AR 15 rifle, and how you can build one.

The Definition of an Assault Weapon as Per California Gun Laws

California considers Senate Bill 23 (Statute of 1999) to determine semi-automatic firearms like the AR 15 rifle and other firearms as assault weapons. Effective since January 2000, the bill states an assault weapon as any of the following:

  • A semi-automatic, centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:
  • A pistol grip. 
  • A thumbhole stock.
  • A folding or telescoping stock.
  • A grenade launcher or flare launcher.
  • A flash suppressor.
  • A forward pistol grip.
  • A semi-automatic, centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.
  • A semi-automatic, centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches.

Let us go in detail through the features you cannot have on your AR 15 rifle if you do not want it to come under the assault weapon category in California or any other state that regulates them as assault weapons. But before that, check out the legal regulations states put on AR 15 rifle in our last blog, along with the parts needed to build AR 15 rifle

If your AR 15 rifle has a detachable magazine, it cannot have

    • A Pistol Grip.How to Build a California Compliant AR 15 Rifle
    • You cannot have a standard pistol grip as in all other firearms. You need to have a pistol grip where the web between your thumb and index finger rests above the exposed trigger area.
    • A Thumbhole Stock. You cannot have a stock with a thumbhole because the thumb of the trigger hand cannot pass through the stock when firing. This is because a thumbhole gives you a better grip on the rifle to keep it steady and take an accurate shot.
    • A Folding or Telescoping Stock. The one that folds onto the side so that the overall AR becomes smaller and easy to store when not in use is a folding stock. The one that collapses over to the buffer tube without changing its length or side is a telescoping stock, also called a collapsible stock.
    • A Grenade Launcher or a Flare Launcher. A grenade or flare launcher goes below the barrel and is used to launch grenades or flares. 
    • A Flash Suppressor. A flash suppressor is a muzzle device that suppresses or hides the flash generated with each shot so that the user can take continuous shots without being blinded by them.
    • A Forward Pistol Grip. Because it gives more stability to the firearm and more accuracy to the shots, a forward pistol grip is banned in the state of California.
  • Your AR 15 rifle cannot have a fixed magazine that holds more than 10 rounds. It means you cannot have a magazine that accepts more than 10 rounds even if it is fixed.
  • Your AR 15 rifle cannot have an overall length of less than 30 inches. Being less than 30 inches in length would make the rifle easy to hold with accurate shots.

The Different Options to Build a California Compliant AR 15 Rifle

Following the features of the Assault Weapons ban as per the Senate Bill 23, you are left with either of the two options.

  • Go with a fixed 10-round magazine and have all the other features as any other regular AR 15 rifle.
  • Or, go Featureless with a detachable magazine of more than 10-rounds.

Let’s discuss the options…

Option 1. Going with a fixed 10-round magazine. The option to go with a fixed 10-round magazine allows you to use all the features of a regular AR 15 and still makes your rifle California compliant.

The ‘Bullet Button’ Roll Over 

Back until 2017, AR builders in California used the ‘bullet button’ to work around the fixed magazine feature of the assault weapon ban. The bullet button was incorporated directly in the lower receiver, in the place of the factory mag release, and was so small that it could only be pushed with some kind of a tool to release the mag. It qualified the magazine as fixed since it required the use of a special tool to release the mag. This was until Senate Bill 880 was passed to curb the freedom of using the ‘bullet button’ for fixed mags.

Senate Bill 880 made clear that the user needs to disassemble the action in order to release the fixed magazine, not just with a bullet button. It cleared the air around the fixed magazine hack as “A fixed magazine is an ammunition feeding device contained in, or permanently attached to, a firearm in such a manner that the device cannot be removed without disassembly of the firearm action.”

This required the introduction of a device that disassembles the action meaning, separates the lower and upper receiver to release the magazine.

Introduction to MagLocks

The ban on bullet buttons gave rise to the invention of maglocks for AR. The maglock works with a rear takedown pin. It requires you to pull the takedown pin, separate the upper and lower receivers and push the magazine release to drop the mag. Some automatic maglocks require you to only pull the takedown pin, which separates the upper and lower receivers to automatically drop the magazine. The crux of working around a fixed magazine to make your AR California compliant is in separating the upper and lower receivers or disassembling the action, which until now runs with a maglock.

Option 2. Going with a detachable magazine more than 10-rounds – Featureless AR 15. 

If you always fall on the detachable magazine side, your option to build your California Compliant AR 15 rifle is to go featureless or not equip your rifle with

  • A regular pistol grip.
  • A thumbhole stock.
  • A folding or telescoping stock.
  • A grenade launcher or flare launcher.
  • A flash suppressor.
  • A forward pistol grip.

You can go around the aftermarket for AR 15 parts to make your rifle California compliant and still enjoy some features. For example, you can replace the forward pistol grip with an angled foregrip or a handstop, but make sure the manufacturer calls it an angled foregrip or a handstop. Instead of a flash suppressor, you can use a thread protector or a muzzle brake/compensator, but again, make sure the manufacturer says so. The California compliant pistol grips for ARs are modified so that the web of your thumb and index finger rests above the exposed trigger. Explore the aftermarket for California compliant pistol grips. For a buttstock, you will need to get one that’s neither folding or collapsible. You can completely avoid the grenade or flare launcher.

Which Option to Go for?

It depends on your choice. However, the downside to a fixed magazine with a maglock is its inability to quickly release the magazine and clear the chamber during a malfunction. In case of a double feed, a missed feed, or any other malfunction when half of the bolt is locked in the buffer tube and the other half is locked in the upper receiver, you will need to perform a complete overhaul to fix this because you won’t be able to separate the lower and upper receivers to release the magazine. And if there’s a live round in the chamber, it would be totally unsafe to fix this. On the other hand, a featureless rifle with a detachable magazine eliminates the possibility of a long overhaul. But then, you will have to make yourself work with a rifle without many of the enjoyable features.

Wrapping Up

Those are the features that you cannot have in your AR 15 rifle if you’re building it in the state of California. Mostly, we’ve got all the features covered. But still, you should check with the state laws to confirm all the parts you cannot have in your AR 15 rifle if you are going for a featureless one.

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