Can I Build an AR15 in California?

A simple question with a less-than-simple answer. Can I build an AR15 in California? The shorter answer currently is, no, you cannot build a traditional AR15 in California. For a detailed answer, we suggest consulting a firearms lawyer who is versed in California firearms law. However, this article will go into a little about why you can or cannot build an AR15 in California, the reasons why, and what you CAN build.

Previous Means of Building an AR15 in California

There were certain parameters that needed to be met to make an AR15 style rifle California-compliant. The magazines used in them had to have a certain round count, usually 10, which was achieved either by manufacturing a new magazine with less than standard capacity. The second method is to pin a standard capacity magazine to accept no more than 10 rounds.

Additionally, AR’s would have had to been modified to have a fixed magazine and be top loaded with clips, or have a so called “bullet button” installed. A bullet button is a device that inhibits the use of a magazine release on an AR style rifle, making the use of a tool (or a bullet tip) necessary to remove a magazine from the firearm. With these restrictions and a few others, such as banning the installation of pistol grips and forward grips, the rifle in question would be California legal. That was the old way. Now let’s look at the new way.

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Modern way of Building an AR15 in California

Due to recent legislation, “bullet button” firearms are now considered to be assault weapons in California law. The new legislation went into effect January 1, 2017 and gives citizens roughly a year’s time to register their “assault weapon”, with the current cut-off date being June 30, 2018. Those registering can be charged up to $15 for registration, but at least have the moderate convenience of registering online.

Because of these new regulations combined with older regulations, standard capacity magazines, pistol grips, and generally every standard feature of an AR style rifle must be removed for them to be even close to California compliant. There is a list of rifles by name and manufacturer that count as “assault weapons”, in addition to a list of rifles that do not count as ”assault weapons”. This available list might be out of date and professional legal counsel should be consulted before endeavoring to build an AR in California, especially if you are using something like an incomplete lower that will require milling.

As of this article’s publishing date, milling out an 80% lower in California is still legal. When it comes to the question of how long will it be legal to complete an 80% lower in California, and, therefore, build an AR in California, time is of the essence. When it comes to restrictive laws pertaining to firearms, specifically the AR15, California is almost always the first to enforce the laws.

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The state, as a whole, has a personal vendetta against the AR platform and are always pushing laws, or attempting to, through to get as much as possible banned in the state. It is advised that anyone who is considering building their own AR should check local, federal, and state laws for official guidance. These questions should be looked into with a firearms lawyer, in order to determine the best legal method of equipping yourself for defense in the future.

As a general rule, we always conclude these types of “can I legally” articles with a disclaimer that we are not lawyers. and recommend that every AR builder in states with restrictive gun laws educate themselves on the laws within their state.

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The author

Tyler Capobres has years of experience torture testing guns, knives and gear to their limit. If he's not writing about gun projects, reviewing products or mocking anti-gun zealots on Twitter, you'll find him at the range. Owner of thegoodgun.com, a website dedicated to all gun and knife enthusiasts. Author of "Punching Holes", a book showing how anyone can save 15-40% on guns, ammo, knives and more, by purchasing them at wholesale prices.

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