California Compliant Ar-15S: How To Follow The Rules

For firearms enthusiasts in California, staying compliant with the state’s strict gun laws can be challenging when it comes to AR-15 rifles. If you want to legally own one of America’s most popular semi-automatic rifles in California, it takes some specialized knowledge.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: To make an AR-15 California compliant, it needs to have a fixed magazine, a featureless stock and grip, and no other banned features like a flash hider or grenade launcher. But meeting all the requirements involves more nuance, which we’ll explore in depth below.

Overview of California Gun Laws

California has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States, and it is important for gun owners to understand and follow these laws to avoid any legal trouble. This article will provide an overview of the key gun laws in California, focusing on the regulations surrounding AR-15 rifles.

Assault Weapons Ban

California has an assault weapons ban in place, which restricts the ownership and sale of certain firearms. This ban includes specific features such as pistol grips, flash suppressors, and folding or telescoping stocks.

The purpose of this ban is to limit the availability of firearms that are deemed to have a high potential for misuse.

It is important to note that while the AR-15 is not specifically banned, many models of this rifle are classified as assault weapons under California law. This means that they are subject to additional restrictions and requirements for ownership and possession.

Handgun Roster

California has a handgun roster in place, which lists the handguns that are approved for sale and ownership in the state. This means that not all handguns are legal to possess in California, and it is essential to consult the roster before purchasing a handgun.

The AR-15 rifle is not included on the handgun roster, as it is considered a long gun. However, it is essential to ensure that any accessories or modifications made to the rifle comply with California law.

Other Notable Regulations

In addition to the assault weapons ban and the handgun roster, there are other regulations in place that gun owners in California must follow. These include background checks for all firearm purchases, a 10-day waiting period for firearm transfers, and restrictions on magazine capacity.

It is crucial for gun owners in California to stay informed about the latest changes and updates to the gun laws. The California Department of Justice website is a valuable resource for obtaining accurate and up-to-date information on the state’s gun laws.

By understanding and complying with California’s gun laws, gun owners can ensure they are following the rules and staying on the right side of the law. It is always better to be safe and informed when it comes to firearms ownership.

What Makes an AR-15 Legal in California?

California has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States, and owning an AR-15 in the state requires compliance with specific regulations. Understanding what makes an AR-15 legal in California is crucial for gun owners to avoid potential legal issues.

Here are some key factors that determine the legality of an AR-15 in California:

Fixed Magazine

One way to comply with California law is by using a fixed magazine on your AR-15. A fixed magazine is one that cannot be removed without disassembling the firearm. This modification prevents the quick release and reloading of ammunition, making the rifle compliant with California regulations.

While this modification may reduce the convenience of reloading, it ensures adherence to the state’s laws.

Featureless Rifle

Another option for AR-15 owners in California is to convert their rifle into a featureless rifle. A featureless rifle is one that lacks certain characteristics that are prohibited under California law.

These prohibited features typically include a pistol grip, collapsible stock, flash suppressor, and forward pistol grip. By removing or modifying these features, the AR-15 becomes compliant with California regulations.

Finned Grip

A finned grip is a modification that can be added to an AR-15 to comply with California law. The finned grip replaces the traditional pistol grip and prevents the shooter from wrapping their thumb around the grip.

This modification changes the ergonomic design of the rifle, making it compliant with California regulations without compromising its functionality.

Compliance Parts

Using compliance parts is another way to ensure that your AR-15 meets California’s legal requirements. These parts are designed to make the rifle compliant by limiting certain features or functionalities.

For example, there are specific muzzle devices available that are California compliant, reducing the rifle’s flash signature and noise. By installing these parts, AR-15 owners can ensure their firearm complies with California law.

It’s important to note that these regulations can change over time, so it’s always advisable to stay informed about the latest laws and regulations related to AR-15 ownership in California. Additionally, consulting with legal experts or contacting local law enforcement agencies can provide further guidance on compliance with state laws.

Banned Features on AR-15s

California Compliant AR-15s have specific rules and regulations that gun owners must follow. These rules aim to increase public safety and control the use of certain features on firearms. Here are some of the banned features on AR-15s in California:

Detachable Magazines

One of the key features that is banned on AR-15s in California is the use of detachable magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. The state law restricts the use of high-capacity magazines in an effort to reduce the potential for mass shootings and increase the time it takes to reload.

Pistol Grip

Another feature that is prohibited on California Compliant AR-15s is the pistol grip. A pistol grip allows for a more ergonomic grip and control of the firearm, but it is considered a “prohibited feature” under state law.

The reasoning behind this ban is to prevent the easy concealment of the firearm and reduce its potential for use in criminal activities.

Adjustable Stock

AR-15s with adjustable stocks are also not allowed in California. The adjustable stock allows for easy customization and comfort for the shooter, but it is considered a banned feature due to its potential to increase the lethality of the firearm.

A fixed stock is required to comply with state regulations.

Flash Hider

One of the features that is banned on California Compliant AR-15s is the flash hider. A flash hider is designed to reduce the visible muzzle flash when firing the weapon. However, it can also be used to hide the shooter’s location in low light conditions.

As a result, flash hiders are not allowed on AR-15s in California.

Forward Grip

Another banned feature on California Compliant AR-15s is the forward grip. A forward grip allows for greater control and stability while shooting, but it is considered a prohibited feature in the state.

The rationale behind this ban is to prevent the easy conversion of the firearm into an assault weapon.

Grenade Launcher

While it may seem obvious, it is worth mentioning that AR-15s with grenade launchers are strictly prohibited in California. Grenade launchers are classified as destructive devices under federal law, and their possession is heavily regulated.

It is important to note that the vast majority of AR-15 owners do not have grenade launchers attached to their firearms.

Understanding and adhering to the banned features on California Compliant AR-15s is crucial for gun owners in the state. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in legal consequences and the loss of firearm ownership rights.

For more detailed information, you can check the official California Department of Justice website on firearms regulations:

Recommended California Compliant AR-15s

Colt AR-15A4

The Colt AR-15A4 is a highly recommended California compliant AR-15 option. With its reliable performance and exceptional build quality, this rifle is a favorite among firearm enthusiasts. It features a fixed stock and a bullet button, ensuring compliance with California’s strict laws.

The Colt AR-15A4 is known for its accuracy and durability, making it a top choice for both recreational shooting and self-defense purposes.

Smith & Wesson M&P15

The Smith & Wesson M&P15 is another excellent option for those looking for a California compliant AR-15. This rifle combines reliability, versatility, and affordability, making it a popular choice among gun owners.

It is equipped with a fixed stock and a bullet button, allowing it to meet California’s regulations. The Smith & Wesson M&P15 offers smooth handling and impressive accuracy, making it suitable for a wide range of shooting activities.

Ruger AR-556

The Ruger AR-556 is a reliable and well-built California compliant AR-15. Ruger is known for producing high-quality firearms, and the AR-556 is no exception. This rifle features a fixed stock and a bullet button, ensuring compliance with state laws.

The Ruger AR-556 offers excellent performance and accuracy, making it a great option for both experienced shooters and beginners.

Daniel Defense DDM4

The Daniel Defense DDM4 is a top-tier California compliant AR-15 that is highly regarded for its exceptional craftsmanship and performance. This rifle is known for its precision and reliability, making it a favorite among professional shooters and enthusiasts alike.

It comes with a fixed stock and a bullet button, allowing it to meet California’s regulations. The Daniel Defense DDM4 is a premium option for those seeking a high-quality AR-15.

Building Your Own Compliant Rifle

Choosing a Lower Receiver

When it comes to building a compliant AR-15 in California, the first step is choosing a lower receiver that meets the state’s regulations. The lower receiver is the firearm’s serialized component and is subject to specific requirements.

It’s important to select a lower receiver that is designated as “California compliant” or “featureless” to ensure compliance with the law.

One popular option for a compliant lower receiver is the fixed magazine configuration. This design eliminates the need for a bullet button or other devices to release the magazine. Instead, the magazine is permanently fixed in place, limiting its capacity to 10 rounds.

This configuration allows for the use of features that would otherwise be prohibited under California law.

Another option is the featureless configuration, which means removing certain features that are considered “assault weapon” characteristics. This includes features such as a collapsible stock, pistol grip, and flash suppressor.

By opting for a featureless lower receiver, you can still enjoy the customization and performance of an AR-15 while remaining compliant with California regulations.

Picking Compliant Parts

Once you have chosen a compliant lower receiver, it’s important to select compliant parts for the rest of your AR-15 build. California law has specific requirements regarding the types of features that can be included on a semi-automatic rifle.

It’s crucial to understand these regulations and ensure that the parts you choose adhere to them.

For example, in California, AR-15 rifles must have a fixed or non-adjustable stock. This means that collapsible or telescoping stocks are not allowed. Additionally, certain types of pistol grips, forward grips, and flash suppressors are prohibited.

It’s essential to carefully research and select parts that are compliant with these regulations to avoid any legal issues.

There are many manufacturers and retailers that specialize in California-compliant AR-15 parts. They offer a wide range of options that allow you to customize your rifle while staying within the boundaries of the law.

It’s worth taking the time to explore these options and find the parts that best suit your needs.

Assembling Your AR-15

Once you have chosen a compliant lower receiver and picked out the necessary parts, it’s time to assemble your AR-15. If you are new to building rifles, it’s recommended to seek guidance from a knowledgeable source or consult with a professional gunsmith to ensure everything is done correctly.

When assembling your AR-15, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines. Make sure to properly install each part and ensure that the firearm functions safely and reliably. It’s also a good idea to test the rifle at a shooting range to ensure it is functioning as expected.

Remember, building a compliant AR-15 requires attention to detail and adherence to California’s regulations. By choosing a compliant lower receiver, picking compliant parts, and assembling your rifle correctly, you can enjoy the benefits of owning an AR-15 while staying on the right side of the law.

Registering Your AR-15 in California

California has strict laws and regulations when it comes to owning and registering firearms, including AR-15 rifles. It is important for gun owners in the state to understand and comply with these rules to avoid legal issues. Here are three ways to register your AR-15 in California:

New Resident Registration

If you are a new resident of California and already own an AR-15, you must register it within 60 days of establishing residency. Failure to do so can result in penalties and potential criminal charges.

To register your AR-15, you will need to complete the appropriate paperwork, including the New Resident Handgun Ownership Report, and submit it to the California Department of Justice along with the required fees.

It is recommended to consult the DOJ’s official website for the most up-to-date information and forms.

Intra-familial Transfers

If you are looking to transfer your AR-15 to a family member who is also a California resident, you can do so through an intra-familial transfer. This process allows for the transfer of firearms between immediate family members, including spouses, parents, and children.

To complete an intra-familial transfer, both parties must meet certain eligibility requirements and submit the necessary paperwork to the California Department of Justice. It is important to note that this type of transfer does not require registration, but it is still crucial to follow the proper procedures.

Importing from Out of State

If you are moving to California from another state and wish to bring your AR-15 with you, there are specific steps you must take to comply with California law. Generally, AR-15 rifles are classified as assault weapons in California, and the state has strict regulations surrounding their importation.

To legally bring your AR-15 into California, you must first ensure that it is modified to meet the state’s requirements, such as having a fixed magazine or a featureless configuration. Additionally, you will need to complete the appropriate paperwork and obtain a permit from the California Department of Justice.

It is crucial to familiarize yourself with California’s assault weapon laws and consult with legal experts to ensure compliance.

Remember, it is always best to consult official sources such as the California Department of Justice’s website or seek legal advice to stay updated on the latest regulations regarding AR-15 registration in California.

Failing to register your AR-15 or properly follow the rules can have serious consequences, so it is important to stay informed and comply with the law.


Navigating California’s complex gun laws is challenging but possible for AR-15 owners. With the right compliant parts and configurations, you can legally enjoy this versatile semi-auto rifle in the Golden State. Just be sure to thoroughly understand the regulations and properly register your firearm.

The bottom line is that with careful selection of parts and following the rules, building or buying a California-compliant AR-15 is achievable. But you must educate yourself on the laws and ensure your rifle doesn’t have any banned features.

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