Do you Need to Serialize an 80% Lower?
Typically, no. An 80% lower is, by the ATF’s definition, not a firearm in most states. Therefore, you are not required to serialize or register a rifle built using an 80% lower or blank receiver.
In California, however, things work differently. While still not technically a firearm, California requires all owners to serialize their lower receiver before cutting and drilling. According to California Bill A.B. 857, if you do not serialize your lower, the firearm is subject to immediate destruction by the U.S. Government. You risk a hefty fine and perhaps even prison. California likes to make things as difficult as possible on firearm owners, especially on those who want to build their own.
80% Lower Serialization Requirements
States such as California and Connecticut adopted standards set forth by the federal government for serializing a firearm. To comply, your 80% lower, frame, or blank receiver must include:
- Serialization engraved 0.0003" into the lower receiver.
- A text size no smaller than 1/16" in height.
Furthermore, the engraved serialization must include:
- Firearm model
- City and state of manufacture
- Firearm caliber
- Manufacturer’s first and last name
For the first and last name segment, you will use your own name, as you’re the manufacturer in the case of an 80% rifle.
How to Serialize an 80% Lower in California
Download, Fill Out and Submit a PFEC Application
First and foremost, to serialize an 80% lower in California, you must download a Personal Firearm Eligibility Check (PFEC, Form BOF 116), fill in the appropriate information using blue or black ink, notarize the form, then submit the completed paperwork to the California Department of Justice.
The PFEC is a state-level background check, similar to the ATF’s, which determines eligibility to construct and own a firearm in California.
To complete the PFEC, you will need to include the right thumbprint on a fingerprint-identification card, a copy of your California driver’s license, a check for $20, and notarization from a California public notary.
Once done, mail your completed PFEC to:
Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms – PFEC
P.O Box 820200
Sacramento, CA, 94203-0200
Should you have any questions on the matter, call the California DOJ at 916-227-7527.
Register on CFARS
Despite their strict requirement for yet another background check, California attempts to modernize the entire process for firearm owners.
You will need to register on the California Firearms Application Reporting System (CFARS) to submit your Unique Serial Number Application.
Submit a USNA Application
Once you have registered on the CFARS system, it is time to complete a USNA Application. You may download a copy and either email or regular mail it back to the California DOJ.
Tip: Read the entire application thoroughly. It is filled with legal jargon that, to most, will confuse and muddy the process.
The easier way to submit your application is through email via CFARS. You will pay a $15 application and processing fee, but it is less hassle than visiting the post office and waiting.
Receive Your Serial Number
Once all your applications are received and approved by the California DOJ, which typically takes around two weeks, you will receive a unique serial number. You have ten days to engrave your serial number on an 80% lower, something that we can actually do for you: Engrave Your Lower.
Once you are done, submit proof immediately. You need to take clear photographs of the engraving, then upload the pictures to CFARS.
If you have followed along step-by-step, you will soon have a unique serial number for your 80% rifle. If you have your serial number, congratulations because it is time to complete your 80% rifle build and take a trip to the range to test out your new firearm.
If you are still in the early stages of construction, consider an 80% lower kit. We have everything you need to build a California-Compliant AR-15!