HOW TO: ​Build a California Compliant, Featureless AR15 thumbnail image

HOW TO: ​Build a California Compliant, Featureless AR15

Preston Arnet   |   Oct 9th 2019

With California hell-bent on restricting 2nd Amendment rights, it can seem like a daunting task to build a California compliant AR15 that won’t leave you with a hefty fine, or even a possible prison sentence. That's why I want to help spell out exactly what to do, and most importantly what NOT to do when designing your AR15 build in order to meet California regulations. With new bills and laws being pushed and reviewed all the time, make sure to check periodically on the current rules and regulations; California’s gun laws can be read in all their wisdom and glory by visiting California’s Bureau of Firearms website.

fn15-tactical-ii-ca-thumb-600x250.png

A "Featureless" AR15 with a Compliance Kit



What IS an "Assault Weapon" according to California?

Put into effect as of January 1, 2000; and referring to Senate Bill 23-- California defines an ‘assault weapon’ as a rifle that meets any of the following: 

1. A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and 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.
  1. A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.
  2. A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches.
  3. A semiautomatic pistol that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:
    • A threaded barrel, capable of accepting a flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer.
    • (B) A second handgrip.
    • A shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel that allows the bearer to fire the weapon without burning his or her hand, except a slide that encloses the barrel.
    • The capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip.
  4. A semiautomatic pistol with a fixed magazine that has the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.
  5. A semiautomatic shotgun that has both of the following:
    • A folding or telescoping stock.
    • A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, thumbhole stock, or vertical handgrip.
  6. A semiautomatic shotgun that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine.
  7. Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder.
    • "Assault weapon" does not include any antique firearm.
    • The following definitions shall apply under this section:
    • "Magazine" shall mean any ammunition feeding device.
    • "Capacity to accept more than 10 rounds" shall mean capable of accommodating more than 10 rounds, but shall not be construed to include a feeding device that has been permanently altered so that it cannot accommodate more than 10 rounds.
    • "Antique firearm" means any firearm manufactured prior to January 1, 1899.


Taking into account the information above when building an AR15 in California, you have two options: Featureless, or Maglock. Both options are equally ridiculous, but I’m going to break down these options for you so you can pick the least ridiculous choice for your needs. It is important to note, that with either option you choose, and even with an 80% lower receiver, you MUST register your firearm in California, which requires your 80% lower to have a serial number issued by the state, and then engraved into your lower receiver.

BUILDING A FEATURELESS AR15

California considers a featureless rifle as one without any bells or whistles that make the gun “more lethal”, however this does not include standard capacity magazines. To reiterate, with a featureless rifle; the consumer can run any capacity magazine legally. The following list is what your rifle cannot have in order to be considered featureless:

Pistol Grip

A stand alone vertical pistol grip is unlawful. Your hand should not be able to grasp around the grip uninterrupted.

Magpul pistol grip for an AR15

Thumbhole Stock

Again, the action of grasping the grip all the way around is unlawful.

A thumbhole stock on a SpaceForce AR15

Telescoping/Folding Stock

Any folding, or collapsible stock is prohibited. Fixed stocks only.

Magpul CTR 6-Position Stock. Look how terrifying it is.

Flash Hider

Not to be confused with a muzzle brake or compensator, flash hiders are the only muzzle device banned by California.

Curious about the difference between "flash hiders" and "muzzle brakes? Check out our article on it.

Grenade or Flare Launcher

This seems pretty self explanatory. If you find yourself bolting on a grenade launcher, stop. But if you don't, I'm not going to stop you. You have a grenade launcher, I don't.

An M203 Grenade Launcher. Sadly prohibited in California.

Forward Pistol Grip

No vertical grip of any kind is allowed, however angled grips are permissible.

Magpul MOE vertical foregrip.

When looking at the above list, it can certainly be confusing at first glance. But just as California is determined to make ridiculous laws, the gun community is determined to find work arounds. My advice when designing your 80% build, is to find a California compliance kit to ensure your build is without a doubt, 100% California compliant. These kits will come with everything you need (or rather nothing you don’t) and give you complete peace of mind in your firearms legality, without any of the guess work. Check with your 80% lower manufacturer to see if they offer any California compliant options.

CALIFORNIA COMPLIANT USING A MAGLOCK

The Maglock option is essentially the exact opposite of the featureless California compliant option. When exercising the Maglock option, the consumer can have a pistol grip, collapsible stock, flash hider, and even the forward pistol grip (the grenade launcher is unfortunately still illegal). However, with this option, standard 30 round magazines cannot be utilized (unless blocked to 10-round capacity), and the mag release button cannot be functional; hence the term "Maglock."

The Maglock option provides you with 2 different parts for your standard AR15; a replacement rear takedown pin, as well as a replacement bolt catch. Since the Maglock option makes it impossible to change your magazine with the rifle is intact, these replacement parts make “taking apart” your rifle extremely efficient, so that mags can be changed more quickly.

There are numerous Maglock options, and the best options will be reviewed in a later blog post, but for now I advise you to choose a reputable company with history in the 80% market, and enjoy the workaround to a law that does nothing but infringe on law abiding citizens like you.

A demonstration of 80% Arms Freedom Button Kit


BUILD A CALIFORNIA LEGAL AR15 WITH 80% ARMS!

To sum up your options, you can run a standard 30-round magAZINE with a featureless rifle, or run a locked 10 round mag on a rifle with your favorite attachments. Like most decisions involving guns, it all boils down to personal preference and what your intentions for the firearm are. Some might choose the comfort of having features, and sacrifice quick reloads, but others may want just the opposite. 80% Arms caters to both sides of this choice, offering a wide variety of high end and affordable California Compliant built kits, parts, and instructions. Regardless of whatever you choose, we at 80% Arms just want to thank you for continuing to support the 2nd Amendment in a state that tries to make it so difficult to do so.

Interested in building your first AR15? Make sure to shop our entire selection of products!