FAQ on California Compliant Guns

California Handgun Roster

Q: What does the term “California Compliant Guns” mean?

A: “California Compliant Guns” refers to the set of firearms that adhere to the specific regulations set by the state of California. Given the state’s distinctively rigorous firearm regulations, these compliant guns ensure that firearm enthusiasts remain within the bounds of the law.

Q: I’m confused that there is a California “assault weapons” ban, yet an AR-15 can be classified as a California Compliant Gun?

A: Yes. While California has strict regulations on AR-15s, enthusiasts can possess semiautomatic AR-15s that are designated as California compliant guns. This requires the rifle to fit within the fixed-magazine or featureless categories as set by the state. See the next FAQ question for more details on which is right for you.

Q: What sort of AR should I buy, a featureless one, or one with a mag-lock? Which is better?

A: Deciding between a featureless AR or one with a mag-lock is a personal choice and largely depends on your intended use, comfort preferences, and willingness to adapt to either system. Both configurations allow an AR-style rifle to be compliant with California’s strict firearms regulations. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of each to help you make an informed decision:

Featureless AR Advantages:

Standard Magazine Release: Since the rifle does not have any of the prohibited features, you can use a standard magazine release mechanism. This means faster and more familiar magazine changes.
Larger Magazine Capacity: With a featureless setup, you’re allowed to use pre-existing legally owned standard capacity magazines (if you possessed them before California’s magazine capacity restrictions went into effect).

Featureless AR Disadvantages:

  • Lack of Tactical Features: The term “featureless” refers to the removal or modification of specific tactical features like pistol grips, adjustable stocks, flash suppressors, etc. This can make the rifle less ergonomic or comfortable for some shooters.
  • Appearance: Some users don’t like the aesthetics of featureless rifles.
  • Mag-Lock AR (or Fixed Magazine):

Mag-Lock AR Advantages:

  • Retains Tactical Features: You can have tactical features like pistol grips, adjustable stocks, and flash suppressors as long as the rifle has a fixed magazine.
  • Appearance: It retains the traditional look of an AR-15, which many users prefer.

Mag-Lock AR Disadvantages:

Slower Magazine Changes: Changing magazines with a mag-lock system is slower and can be cumbersome. Typically, the action must be opened to release the magazine.
Limited Magazine Capacity: You’re limited to a 10-round magazine due to the fixed magazine requirement in California.


If you choose a mag-lock, training is essential to become proficient in changing magazines, as the process is different from a standard AR. If you’re using your AR mainly for range shooting, the slower mag changes of a mag-lock might not be a major concern. However, for home defense or other applications where rapid mag changes could be crucial, a featureless AR might be more appropriate. Some shooters find the featureless grip options uncomfortable or non-intuitive. Handle both types to see which feels better in your hands.

Q: I live in California and I want to buy a pistol. People are telling me what I buy has to be on a “roster.” How does “the roster” impact the availability of California compliant guns?

A: “The roster” is an integral component of the state’s regulation, listing handguns that meet California’s safety and functionality criteria. For a handgun to be sold and considered a California compliant gun, it needs to be on this roster, thereby influencing the types of handguns available in the market.

Q: Are there any special provisions or exemptions to “the roster” for California Compliant Handguns?

A: Yes. While “the roster” provides a guideline for general civilians, there are exemptions that allow specific professionals like Law Enforcement Officers and active military personnel to obtain handguns not listed, expanding their options for California Compliant Guns.

Q: How dynamic is “the roster” in terms of updates and revisions?

A: The roster undergoes regular updates. This means manufacturers of California Compliant Guns must be proactive, ensuring their models meet the evolving criteria, from adhering to tech advancements to paying associated annual fees.

Q: Why is the pistol I want to buy not on “the roster”?

A: There could be several reasons why the pistol you’re interested in isn’t on California’s “roster” of compliant handguns:

  • New Models: Newly released pistol models may not yet have undergone the required safety and functionality testing to be added to “the roster.”
  • Safety and Functionality Testing: To be included on “the roster,” handguns must meet California’s stringent safety and functionality criteria. If a pistol doesn’t pass these tests, it won’t be added.
  • Manufacturer Decisions: Some manufacturers may choose not to submit their firearms for testing, either because of the associated costs or because they believe their product might not meet the state’s requirements.
  • Annual Renewal: Manufacturers must pay annual fees to keep their handguns on “the roster.” If a manufacturer doesn’t pay the fee, their firearms can be removed.
  • Technical Requirements: California has certain technical requirements for handguns, such as microstamping capabilities. If a handgun does not meet these evolving requirements, it cannot be added to “the roster.”
  • Market Factors: Sometimes, manufacturers might not perceive enough market demand in California for a specific handgun model, leading them not to seek its inclusion on “the roster.”
  • If there’s a specific pistol you’re interested in, it’s advisable to contact the manufacturer directly or check with reputable firearm retailers like Dirty Bird Industries to understand more about its compliance status.

Q: This is all too confusing. Can I just buy a regular pistol I purchased elsewhere and use a 10-round magazine in it and be legal in California?

A: While magazine capacity is one aspect of California’s gun laws, there are other factors you need to consider:

  • The Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale: California has a list of handguns that are approved for sale to the general public, often referred to as “the roster.” Even if a pistol is restricted to 10-round magazines, if the pistol itself isn’t on this roster, it’s not legal for a licensed firearms dealer to sell it to a typical civilian in California.
  • Off-Roster Purchases: There are specific exceptions to the roster rule. For example, private party transfers, intra-familial transfers, and certain other situations might allow someone in California to legally acquire a pistol that’s not on the roster. Law enforcement officers are also exempt from the roster requirements. However, there are nuances and specifics to each of these exceptions.
  • Features of the Pistol: California has restrictions on certain features of handguns, separate from magazine capacity, such as threaded barrels that can accept a suppressor.
  • Magazine Capacity Restrictions: While this law is in flux, California generally prohibits the sale, offering for sale, manufacture, importation, or transfer (with certain exceptions) of detachable ammunition magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds.
  • Local Ordinances: Besides state laws, there might be local county or city ordinances that place additional restrictions on handguns or other firearms.

Q: What’s the latest on California’s ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds?

A: U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez recently declared the ban unconstitutional in the Duncan v. Bonta case. However, he has suspended the enforcement of this ruling pending further appeals, so the ban remains in place for now. California officials strongly oppose the decision and plan to appeal.

Q: Can I legally build an AR-15 in California?

A: Yes, you can build an AR-15 in California, but it must comply with California’s strict firearm regulations to be considered a California Compliant Gun. If you’re building a semi-automatic AR-15, it must either be featureless (lacking certain features like a pistol grip, flash suppressor, and collapsible stock) or have a fixed magazine. Additionally, you must ensure the firearm has a serial number and is registered with the California Department of Justice. As laws and regulations can change, it’s always a good idea to consult with legal counsel or check the latest state regulations before proceeding.

Q: Why am I allowed to have a muzzle brake on my firearm in California, but not a flash hider?

A: In California, the distinction between muzzle brakes and flash hiders is based on the state’s definition of “assault weapons” and their associated features. The goal of these regulations is to limit features that the state perceives as contributing to the potential misuse of firearms, particularly in a tactical or offensive context.

Muzzle Brake: Its primary function is to redirect propellant gases to counteract muzzle rise and recoil. This helps improve the shooter’s control and accuracy, especially during rapid firing. Muzzle brakes do not significantly reduce the visible flash.

Flash Hider (or Flash Suppressor): Its primary purpose is to reduce or eliminate the visible muzzle flash that occurs when a round is fired. A reduced flash can make it harder for an observer to pinpoint the shooter’s position, especially in low-light conditions.

California law perceives the flash-hiding capability as a military-style feature. Since the ability to conceal a shooter’s position might offer a tactical advantage, flash hiders are listed as one of the prohibited features on semi-automatic, centerfire rifles with detachable magazines.

Therefore, while muzzle brakes, which are seen primarily as tools for enhancing shooting accuracy, are allowed, flash hiders, which can obscure a shooter’s position, are not permitted on rifles that otherwise meet the state’s definition of an “assault weapon.”

Q: What characteristics define California-compliant rifles, especially the AR-15s?

A: California Compliant Rifles, particularly AR-15s, adhere to specific stipulations. They usually possess a fixed magazine or a mag lock device, eliminating features like flash suppressors, collapsible stocks, or pistol grips. This ensures that they align with the state’s guidelines for California compliant guns.

Q: Can I sell or transfer my AR-15 to a family member in California?

A: No, in California, you cannot sell or transfer what the State of California considers to be an “assault weapon” to family members.

Q: Are suppressors (or silencers) legal in California?

A: No, suppressors (commonly referred to as silencers) are illegal for civilian ownership in California. Under California Penal Code Section 33410, it is a felony to possess, sell, offer for sale, or use a suppressor in the state. There are exceptions for certain entities such as law enforcement agencies and their members, but civilians are generally prohibited from possessing or using suppressors.

Q: How does California ascertain the “safety” aspect for California Compliant Handguns?

A: California compliant handguns must undergo rigorous safety checks. These checks include firing 600 rounds without more than six malfunctions, ensuring no cracks or breakages, and undergoing six drop tests without accidental discharges. The state of California believes that by doing this, they ensure that only the safest handguns are included as California compliant guns. To many, if feels like a sly backdoor method of keeping modern firearms away from law-abiding citizens who just want the best to protect themselves and their families.

Q: What should potential buyers know about California Compliant Shotguns?

A: When considering California Compliant Guns in the shotgun category, most inherently align with state regulations. However, for shotguns with detachable magazines and pistol grips, additional modifications like mag-locking are essential for compliance.

Q: Does Dirty Bird Industries offer modification services for non-CA-compliant firearms?

A: Absolutely. Recognizing the intricate nature of California Compliant Guns regulations, Dirty Bird Industries offers a Middleman Service. This service modifies firearms to meet the state’s stringent standards. For those in possession of non-California compliant firearms, Dirty Bird offers a Middleman Service. You can send your non-CA-compliant firearm to Dirty Bird’s South Carolina location, and our team of gunsmiths will adeptly modify your firearm to adhere to California’s compliance standards and then send it back to our California location for you to pick up. In that way, we act as a middleman.

Q: How can individuals stay updated and navigate the intricate landscape of California Compliant Guns?

A: To stay current and navigate the regulations surrounding California Compliant Guns, individuals should seek knowledge from reputable sources and consult retailers like Dirty Bird Industries. They are dedicated to offering both compliant firearms and educating consumers on the ever-evolving laws of the state.

Q: How should I transport my AR-15?

The state of California says that When transporting a firearm they term an “assault weapon,” it should be unloaded and stored in a locked container. Firearms that the state of California deems “assault weapons” can only be transported to specific locations, including A licensed firearms dealer for servicing or repair, your private property, or another person’s property, but only if you have received explicit permission from the property owner to bring the gun, or a firing range.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *