California has lead the country in gun control since as far back as 1967 when Republican Assemblyman Don Mulford proposed legislation to ban open carry in response to the Black Panthers occupying the state capitol. Since then, California has become the leading trumpeter of gun control, adding more than 100 restrictive gun laws on their books -- all in the name of curbing gun violence. Whether it's a handgun roster or the sprawling definition of "assault rifle," California gun laws exist to make it difficult to access firearms popular in other parts of the country.

Today, we'll take a look at what makes a long gun California Compliant and how that relates to the states definition of an "Assault Weapon."

A Brief History of the term "Assault Weapon" in California

Before we get into what makes a rifle California compliant, we should first take a quick look at how California defines an assault weapon. The Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Act of 1989 effectively banned AR-15 and AK style rifles. Under Penal Code 30505:

The Legislature hereby finds and declares that the proliferation and use of assault weapons poses a threat to the health, safety, and security of all citizens of this state. The Legislature has restricted the assault weapons specified in Section 30510 based upon finding that each firearm has such a high rate of fire and capacity for firepower that its function as a legitimate sports or recreational firearm is substantially outweighed by the danger that it can be used to kill and injure human beings.

The bill was simple, define what an "assault weapon" is and make sure no one gets their hands on them. No statistical evidence is given, however, on how "assault weapons" threaten the health, safety, and security. That legislation would be followed in 2004 with the .50 Caliber BMG Regulation Act of 2004, which, as you may have guessed, stripped California residents of their big boomsticks.

Categories of "Assault Weapons"

The law deemed there were three categories of "assault weapons" in California. Category I firearms are specified from a list that was part of the Roberti-Roos Act. The initial list featured an assortment of firearm makes and models, including rifles, pistols, and shotguns. Everything, from the HK-91 to Styer AUGs, was stripped from California residents. 

Category II firearms are defined as AK and AR-15 style rifles. The law states it doesn't matter the calibers. If rifles fall into this style and operation, they are illegal in California.

Category III aims to take on specific characteristics that rifles, shotguns, or pistols may not have for it to be legal. For example, any semi-automatic rifle with a fixed magazine and any one of the following features is considered an "assault weapon."

  • Pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon
  • Thumbhole stock
  • Folding or telescoping stock
  • Grenade or flare launcher
  • Flash suppressor
  • Forward pistol grip

In addition, a semi-automatic, centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine capable of holding more than 10-rounds or is less than 30-inches in total length will also be considered an "assault weapon."

Shotguns have their own list of characteristics that make them "assault weapons," according to the state of California. If a semi-automatic shotgun has both a folding or telescoping stock and a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, thumbhole stock, or vertical handgrip, it's an "assault weapon." Semi-auto shotguns also can't be capable of accepting detachable magazines or have a revolving cylinder. If they do, they are considered non-compliant and, thus, are illegal to own.

Pistols also have some characteristics that make them "assault weapons," according to the state of California. For starters, pistols cannot possess magazines over 10-rounds in California, and if any semi-auto pistol features any of the following, it's considered an "assault weapon."

  • A threaded barrel, capable of accepting a flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer
  • A second handgrip
  • A shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel that allows the bearer to fire the weapon without burning his or her hand, except a slide that encloses the barrel
  • The capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip 

Related: What Makes a Handgun CA Compliant? 


How all these laws keep California residents safer is debatable, but one thing is for sure, these laws are confusing. Lucky for the residents in the Golden State, has made shopping for a California compliant gun easier. Simply click the button below to see all of our available California compliant guns.


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