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What is a California legal gun?

As with other pages on this site, this page is meant to be a resource to aid Californians in their firearms purchases and modifications to be sure they are maintaining legal guns. It is not intended to be a comprehensive outline of California firearms laws. It's meant to be a quick outline for SOME of the more common questions when buying, building, and owning a gun in California.  

*DISCLAIMER* We at Oakland / Bay area BGOA are not lawyers. We do not offer legal advice. We are gun enthusiasts who have experience in legally purchasing and building guns in the state of California. Always check with your local and state laws before acting.  

California enacted Senate Bill 23 on January 1, 2000. It makes illegal firearms with certain characteristics. You can read all the described characteristics in the original bill here, although it has undergone some revisions throughout the last 20 years. 

California has many restrictions on guns that most other states do not. To keep a legal gun in California can be frustrating and confusing. The following information is meant to be an answer page for some of the most commonly asked questions. Keep in mind not all nuances of the laws will be addressed here. It is always best to consult local and state laws before making purchases or modifications. 

The easiest way to be sure you are following the law when purchasing a gun is to buy a complete gun from a licensed FFL (Federal Firearms Licensee). In order for these shops to sell guns, they have to be sure the firearms are 100% California compliant before they are sold. For this reason, they are also a good resource if you intend to build your own gun or make modifications to an existing one.




No handgun can be purchased in California unless it is listed on the Handgun Roster. There are a couple exceptions to this rule (inter-familial transfer, purchase from law enforcement) but in general, it must be listed on the roster.  

Other rules for handguns include:

1) No option for full automatic mode.  This includes devices that allow for more than one round fired for each trigger press (auto-reset triggers, etc.).

2) No magazines with a capacity larger than 10 rounds. 

3)  No threaded barrels that would allow for the addition of suppressors (silencers) or compensators.


pistol compensator.jpg
pistol suppressor.jpg
pistol threaded barrel.jpg

Semi-Automatic Rifles


Making a semi-automatic centerfire rifles California compliant so they are not considered "assault weapons" can be complicated.  There are two basic paths one can take to compliance: featureless or fixed magazine.

Daniel Defense Featureless.jpg

 Daniel Defense Featureless AR15.  

ar maglock.jpg

Close up of AR Maglock fixed magazine device.  

Just as with handguns, all centerfire rifles that aren't antiques must not have the following features: 

1) No option for full automatic mode. This includes devices that allow for more than one round fired for each trigger press (auto-reset triggers, etc.).

2) No magazines with a capacity larger than 10 rounds. 

3) No suppressors (silencers).

If you're going to go the featureless route, in non-lawyer terms, this is the way it should be built:  

It can't have a collapsible (moveable) stock, a compensator or flash hider, or vertical foregrip on it. It also must have a grip that either doesn't allow the thumb to wrap around, or, "protrude conspicuously below the receiver" Many featureless rifles have a grip like the "mega fin". The benefit of going with a featureless rifle is the magazine release does not need to be altered. Many believe having the capability of quicker magazine changes is worth the tradeoff.  


If you want to have the features and look of a more traditional rifle, going with a magazine locking device such as the AR Maglock or the Juggernaut Tactical Mod Kit will allow you to keep those features.  Magazine lock kits don't allow the magazine to be released unless the gun is disassembled. Usually this just means doing a partial separation of the upper and lower receivers. You can watch a video on how these kits work below

Shotgun regulations follow the same basic rules as handguns and rifles.  Magazines holding more than 10 rounds are not legal. Nor are folding stocks, vertical foregrips, etc.  

If you are building or buying and you're not sure about something, get sound advice before you act.  It is your responsibility to be sure your firearms are California compliant.  "I didn't know" is not a legal defense if you are caught with something noncompliant.  

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