Disclaimer: This piece doesn’t give legal advice, and it doesn’t guarantee accurate depiction of California’s present legal landscape. Rule-following gun owners must know and obey all relevant laws and rules. The article, simply shares the writer’s experiences and viewpoints at its writing time and location.
California’s anti-gun legislators cast little light on the state’s citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights. In 1989, it was the first to pass the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act, creating a lawful assault rifle ban. Since then, further regulations have been added to this law multiple times in an effort to restrict the market for semiautomatic weapons like to the AR-15 and other related systems. Although purchasing an assault rifle is illegal, there are legal ways to maintain an AR-style handgun within California’s permissible limitations. That’s why a lot of manufacturers are able to offer AR rifles that comply with California laws.
The Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 came into effect in 1990. It listed fifty different firearms that were classified as assault weapons. Consequently, their acquisition was prohibited in the absence of a special permission. Along with several different auto and semiauto kinds, AK and AR model guns were among the prohibited weapons. Mentioned were well-known brands as Steyr AUG, Armalite AR180, Colt AR-15, Fabrique Nationale FAL, HK-91, UZI, and another HK-91. Before the Act, owners of these weapons were permitted to keep them.
What is a CA Featureless Rifle?
Over time, different gun types not previously included became popular. This led to anti-gun lawmakers changing their strategies, broadening their scope, and revising their assault weapon definition. In 1999, updates were made to the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act (Penal Code section 35015). It pointed out specific features triggering a firearm to be classified as an assault weapon. According to the amendment, any center-fire semi-automatic rifle that can accept a removable magazine and has any of the below characteristics is deemed an assault weapon:
- A visibly sticking out pistol grip under the weapon’s body.
- A thumbhole stock.
- A grenade or flare launcher.
- A forward pistol grip.
- A foldable or extendable stock.
- A flash suppressor.
This list makes it clear that the law specifically targeted the AR-style rifles.
The law change led gun owners to find alternatives to stay within the law. A “featureless AR” is a rifle lacking the outlawed add-ons. The switches are straightforward. A finned grip is used in place of the typical pistol grip, keeping the thumb from encompassing the grip. The ban on stocks has multiple fixes. It’s clear, avoid using a thumbhole or collapsible stock, prefer a fixed stock or fix a sliding stock so its adjustment is restricted. Keep explosive or flare launchers removed. Go for a muzzle brake instead of a flash suppressor. (Be aware, the law strictly states that you shouldn’t use a muzzle brake that claims to control flash.) The previously favored forward pistol grip is currently prohibited.
Other Firearms Considered Assault Weapons
A semiautomatic, center-fire rifle with a removable magazine is one example of an assault weapon. Others include a similar gun with a fixed magazine holding more than 10 rounds, or one under 30 inches long. Semiautomatic pistols and shotguns can also fit the bill. This article, however, focuses more on the AR aspect, so we’ll leave those details out.
Fixed Magazine Alternatives
The law doesn’t say much about the specifics of a semiautomatic center-fire rifle’s fixed magazine, apart from size. This means if you use a magazine holding ten rounds or less, you can have pistol grips, telescopic stocks, and flash suppressors. They would be allowed again. Gun owners started to look for ways to change their standard detachable magazine AR into a fixed one.
In early days, a common method for this conversion was to swap the normal magazine release button with a bullet button. This bullet button, while resembling the usual release button, can’t be pushed down with a finger. For changing the magazine, one needs to poke a bullet’s tip into the center of the button to push down the inner core.
By 2017, the bullet button shortcut was sealed off. The law became clearer – a fixed magazine should demand that the rifle be disassembled, rendering it useless temporarily, while replacing a magazine. By June 2018, owners who wished to retain their assault rifles with a bullet button had to register them as such. The web-based registration was full of glitches, causing confusion and trouble for gun owners when trying to register or figure out if their application went through.
Since this time, the market has seen different fixed magazine alternatives. One notable conversion kit was the AR MagLock, as well as others that mimic it. The AR Maglock comes with a magazine release button and an arm resting on the upper receiver. The button can only be pressed when the upper receiver is open, thereby meeting the law’s rule for disassembly. The kit includes a back latch pin with a ring. This feature makes it easier to pull this back latch pin, opening the receiver. A drawback could be if there’s a feeding issue, it could prevent the bolt carrier group from moving out of the back of the receiver, so it won’t open. To solve this glitch, you’d need to pull both latch pins, separate the receivers fully, and then deal with the issue.
Fixed Or Featureless Fixed Magazine?
However, we like the featureless way primarily due to its standard magazine release. It allows you to clear out glitches without taking the AR apart. Time is crucial for a home defense firearm like this. If there’s a glitch, it needs to be fixed quickly. Having a fixed stock can feel restrictive, yet with the right length of pull, it isn’t a hindrance even in tight spaces.
The flash suppressor isn’t a problem, we favor a muzzle brake to lessen recoil and muzzle rise for a smoother AR performance. The odd part is a finned grip, but we employ a Strike Industries Megafin Featureless AR grip. His grip has a thumbshelf integrated into it, so my shooting hand lines up with the grip of my precision rifle. For safety control with my thumb, we incorporate an ambidextrous safety lever.
In today’s world, many companies make models of AR-15-style guns that adhere to California’s laws. Firms like Springfield Armory, Rock River Arms, and Radian Weapons have decided to take the featureless approach. They have a finned pistol grip, a muzzle brake, and a permanent stock. Daniel Defense chose the fixed magazine method with an AR Maglock.
Regardless of the choice, a 2016 law limits all magazines to 10 rounds or less – whether they’re fixed or removable. This may not be ideal, nor does it favor the pro-Second Amendment legislation. However, thanks to these state-compliant versions, passionate gun enthusiasts residing in California can still experience some advantages of Gene Stoner’s groundbreaking rifle.