Visiting California With A Firearm: What Out-Of-State Visitors Need To Know

For gun owners visiting the Golden State, navigating California’s complex firearms laws can seem daunting. With rules on transporting guns being different than other states, it’s crucial to know the legal protocols for entering California with a firearm.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Non-residents can legally bring firearms into California if guns are unloaded, in a locked container, and you follow all applicable transportation and permitting rules.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about visiting California with a firearm. We’ll outline key laws on transporting and carrying guns, permits and licensing required, exemptions for certain firearm types, rules for transporting ammunition, and legal areas to use firearms in California as a visitor.

California Laws on Transporting Firearms as a Visitor

Traveling to California with a firearm requires a clear understanding of the state’s laws and regulations. As an out-of-state visitor, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the specific requirements for transporting firearms within the state.

This article will provide you with important information to ensure a safe and legal visit to California.

Unloaded and Locked Container Requirements

California law mandates that all firearms transported in a vehicle must be unloaded and kept in a locked container. This means that the firearm cannot be readily accessible to the driver or passengers.

A locked container can be a trunk, glove compartment, or a locked storage box securely attached to the vehicle. It is important to note that simply placing the firearm in a closed container, such as a backpack or duffel bag, does not satisfy the requirement.

Additionally, the ammunition must be stored separately from the firearm. It should be in a separate locked container or in a location inaccessible to the driver and passengers. This ensures that the firearm and ammunition are not easily accessible in case of an unexpected situation.

Restrictions on Ammunition Magazines

California has specific restrictions on the capacity of ammunition magazines that visitors should be aware of. The state prohibits the possession of high-capacity magazines, defined as those capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

As an out-of-state visitor, you are subject to these restrictions while in California.

It is essential to ensure that any magazines you bring into the state comply with California’s regulations. This may involve purchasing magazines specifically designed to hold no more than 10 rounds of ammunition or temporarily modifying your existing magazines to meet the legal requirements.

It is worth noting that these laws and regulations are subject to change, and it is always advisable to double-check the current requirements before your trip.

By understanding and adhering to California’s laws on transporting firearms as an out-of-state visitor, you can ensure a smooth and legal visit to the Golden State while keeping yourself and others safe.

Remember, compliance with these regulations is essential to avoid potential legal consequences and ensure a positive experience during your time in California.

Do I Need a California Permit or License to Visit with My Firearm?

Planning a trip to California and wondering if you can bring your firearm along? It’s important to understand the laws and regulations surrounding firearms in the state. While California has strict gun control laws, there are provisions in place for out-of-state visitors who wish to bring their firearms with them.

Concealed Carry Reciprocity

One of the first things to consider is whether your state has a concealed carry reciprocity agreement with California. Reciprocity allows individuals with a valid concealed carry permit from their home state to carry concealed in another state that has a reciprocity agreement.

Unfortunately, California does not have reciprocity agreements with any other state, meaning that even if you have a valid permit in your home state, it will not be recognized in California. Therefore, it is important to familiarize yourself with California’s laws and obtain the necessary permits before bringing your firearm into the state.

Long Gun Eligibility

While concealed carry reciprocity may not be an option, California does allow out-of-state visitors to possess and transport certain types of firearms, including long guns, as long as they comply with California’s laws.

Long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, do not require a permit or license for possession or transport. However, it is important to note that there are restrictions on what types of long guns are allowed in California.

Certain features, such as detachable magazines or pistol grips, may be prohibited, so it is essential to familiarize yourself with the specific laws and regulations before bringing your long gun into the state.

Purchasing Firearms in California

If you are an out-of-state visitor and wish to purchase a firearm while in California, you will need to be aware of additional requirements and restrictions. California has a waiting period of 10 days for all firearm purchases, regardless of whether you are a resident or a visitor.

In addition, certain types of firearms, such as assault weapons, are prohibited in California. It is important to consult with a licensed firearm dealer in California to understand the specific requirements and restrictions for purchasing a firearm as an out-of-state visitor.

Visiting California with a firearm as an out-of-state visitor can be a complex process, but by understanding the laws and regulations, you can ensure a safe and legal trip. Remember to familiarize yourself with California’s specific firearms laws, including concealed carry reciprocity, long gun eligibility, and purchasing requirements, before bringing your firearm into the state.

Compliance with these laws will help you enjoy your visit to California while staying on the right side of the law.

Exceptions for Certain Firearm Types in California

While California has strict laws regarding firearms, there are exceptions for certain types of firearms. These exceptions are meant to accommodate collectors and enthusiasts who possess antique firearms or curio/relic firearms.

Understanding these exceptions is crucial for out-of-state visitors who plan to bring their firearms to California.

Antique Firearms Exempt from Laws

Antique firearms, as defined by California law, are exempt from many of the state’s firearm regulations. To be considered an antique, a firearm must meet the following criteria:

  • The firearm must be manufactured before January 1, 1899.
  • It should not be designed to use modern ammunition.
  • It must not have been altered to use modern ammunition.

If your firearm meets these criteria, it is considered an antique firearm and is exempt from California’s firearm laws. However, it is always a good idea to check with local authorities or consult an attorney to ensure compliance with all applicable laws.

Rules for Transporting Curio/Relic Firearms

Curio/relic firearms are another category of firearms that have certain exceptions in California. These firearms are defined as those that are of historical significance and are listed on the curio/relic list maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

If you possess a curio/relic firearm and wish to bring it to California, you must adhere to the following rules:

  • The firearm must be unloaded during transport.
  • It should be securely stored in a locked container.
  • Ammunition must be stored separately from the firearm.
  • When transporting the firearm, it should be kept in the trunk of a vehicle or a locked container that is not easily accessible.

By following these rules, you can legally transport your curio/relic firearm in California. It is important to note that these exceptions apply only to curio/relic firearms and not to other types of firearms.

Ammunition Laws in California for Out-of-State Visitors

When visiting California with a firearm, it is essential for out-of-state visitors to familiarize themselves with the state’s ammunition laws. California has strict regulations in place to ensure the safety and well-being of its residents and visitors.

Violating these laws can lead to serious consequences, including fines and even criminal charges. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the limits on ammunition purchases and the types of ammunition that are restricted in the state.

Restricted Ammunition Types

California restricts certain types of ammunition. These restrictions are in place to promote public safety and prevent the use of high-capacity magazines and armor-piercing ammunition.

The possession, sale, or transfer of these types of ammunition is illegal in the state.

High-capacity magazines, defined as those capable of holding more than 10 rounds, are prohibited in California. This restriction aims to reduce the potential for mass shootings and increase the safety of both law enforcement officers and the general public.

Armor-piercing ammunition, which is designed to penetrate armor such as bulletproof vests, is also illegal in California. This restriction is in place to protect law enforcement officers and ensure their safety during potentially dangerous encounters.

It is important to note that these restrictions apply to all individuals, regardless of their state of residence. Therefore, out-of-state visitors must comply with these regulations while in California.

Where Can I Legally Use Firearms as a Visitor in California?

California has strict laws and regulations regarding firearms, and it’s important for out-of-state visitors to understand where they can legally use firearms while visiting the state. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

1. Shooting Ranges

One of the safest and most popular options for visitors who wish to use firearms in California is to visit one of the many shooting ranges throughout the state. These ranges are specifically designed and regulated for firearms use, ensuring a controlled and safe environment for shooting enthusiasts.

Some notable shooting ranges in California include Angeles Shooting Range in Los Angeles County and Sacramento Valley Shooting Center in Sacramento.

2. National Forests

California is home to several breathtaking national forests that offer recreational shooting opportunities. However, it’s crucial for visitors to check the specific regulations and restrictions of each national forest before bringing firearms.

Some national forests may have designated shooting areas, while others may have restrictions due to fire hazards or other safety concerns.

3. Private Property

If you have friends or family in California who own private property, you may be able to use firearms on their land with their permission. However, it’s essential to ensure that the property is in compliance with local laws and regulations.

Always consult with the property owner and local authorities to avoid any legal issues.

4. Hunting Areas

For those interested in hunting, California offers various hunting areas that allow firearms use. However, it’s crucial to obtain the necessary licenses and permits before engaging in any hunting activities.

Additionally, familiarize yourself with the specific hunting seasons, regulations, and restrictions imposed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

5. Concealed Carry Permits

If you have a valid concealed carry permit issued by your home state, it’s important to note that it may not be recognized in California. California has strict laws regarding concealed carry, and visitors are generally not permitted to carry concealed firearms unless they have a valid California Concealed Carry License.

It’s advisable to research and understand California’s laws regarding concealed carry before visiting the state.

Remember, it’s crucial to always abide by California’s firearms laws and regulations, even if you are just visiting. Failure to do so can result in serious legal consequences. If you have any questions or concerns, it’s recommended to consult with local law enforcement or legal professionals to ensure that you are in compliance with the law.


While California has strict gun laws compared to other states, non-residents can successfully visit with firearms by following key rules. With guns and ammunition properly stored for transportation, applicable licenses or exemptions secured, and usage limited to approved areas, visitors can legally enjoy California with their firearms.

By becoming familiar with the nuances of California’s firearms policies ahead of your visit and adhering to the letter of the law, you can avoid legal troubles and safely partake in shooting sports or hunting excursions during your Golden State travels.

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