California’s New Assault Rifle Laws Explained

The State of California is known to have the toughest gun control laws in the nation, partly due to its history of gun violence. With over 6 million gun owners, we’re set to see new gun restrictions in the new year as the state government and voters approve new California assault rifle laws that are expected to usher in sweeping changes on how the state regulates firearms. If you’re an AR-15 owner, there are a few changes that you should know.

From new ammunition laws to firearm registration and serialization and new regulations on large-capacity magazines, ammunition vendors and assault weapons, there’s a lot of new information to sort through with these new laws, specifically Proposition 63, which came into effect in California on New Year’s Day. To help you navigate the most complex gun control laws in the United States, we’re going to discuss what California’s new gun laws mean for AR-15 owners.

Assault Rifle Ownership and New Purchases

Can you still own an assault rifle? Yes, you can own a California compliant AR-15, but the new gun laws prohibit any new assault rifle purchases. If you already own one or a few AR-15 rifles, or any other semi-automatic rifle, semi-automatic pistol that lacks a fixed magazine and that features either a protruding pistol grip or a telescoping or folding stock, or a centerfire rifle, you’re expected to register them with the California Department of Justice by June 30, 2018.

Ammunition Purchases Online

There is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to buying ammunition online or from catalogs. The new California assault rifle laws allow you to make ammunition purchases online or from catalogs, but you can’t ship them to your home anymore starting from January 1, 2018. The new law requires that you ship the munition first to a licensed vendor who will then charge you a processing fee. Some cities in California already had some laws prohibiting the direct mailing of assault rifle ammunition.

Ammunition purchase

What about purchasing reloading supplies such as empty cartridges and bare bullets? The new California gun laws on mail order sales don’t touch on unassembled ammunition parts that are bought by rifle owners who make their own. Are you required to undergo a background check when buying ammunition? Not in 2018. While the new law requires that you go through a licensed dealer when buying or transferring ammunition in California starting January 1, 2018, background checks will be a requirement from July 2019.

Can You Drive in Ammunition You Purchased Out of State?

No, you can’t. Starting January 1, 2018, it is now illegal to import any ammunition purchased in another state into California. The new California assault rifle laws overrode a legislation bill that was passed in 2016 that could have allowed hunters to purchase and bring in up to 50 rounds of ammunition from another state without going through an ammunition dealer.

Will You Need a Special Ammunition Permit Under the New Background Check Rules?

Most likely not. Proposition 63, which was approved in 2016 by voters, included a provision that required ammo buyers to pay a fee of up to $50 to the state for a 4 year permit to buy ammunition. However, the new laws signed the same year by Gov. Jerry Brown appear to have overridden that same provision, at least for the time being. Instead of requiring ammunition buyers to have a permit, the legislation signed says that ammunition buyers will instead have to pay a $1 state fee for a background check at the point of sale.

Can You Own a Detachable Rifle Magazine Holding More than 10 Rounds?

AR-15 magazine

Yes, you can. At least for now. If you previously owned detachable rifle magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, California assault rifle laws required that you get rid of the magazines by July 2016 or end up facing criminal charges. However, gun rights activists in the State challenged the detachable magazine ban that resulted in a judge issuing an injunction this past summer, preventing it from taking effect as more legal challenges come up.

There are two pending cases challenging the new law regarding detachable magazines that are likely to be heard sometime early this year.

Is There a Limit on How Much Ammunition You Can Buy?

No. The new California gun laws don’t impose any limits on ammunition quantity that you can buy in the state for your California compliant AR-15. The new law also requires that you surrender your gun if you’re convicted of a serious crime.

What About the Ban on Open-Carry of Long Guns?

The ban may still be in effect, but California’s Governor signed a bill that makes open-carry of long guns in an incorporated area of a county a misdemeanor starting from Jan 1, 2018. However, the law only applies in specific areas where the shooting of firearms is prohibited by county supervisors. The majority of the counties in California don’t have open-carry shooting bans for long guns and gun ranges, wildlife refuges, national forest lands and other designated areas where the shooting of long guns is allowed would not fall under the ban.

Are there Exceptions to These New California Assault Rifle Laws?

There are a few unique exceptions to these rules but in very limited cases. For instance, federal firearm license holders, as well as officials working for law enforcement agencies, are exempt from a number of these rules and regulations pertaining assault weapons, ammunition, and magazines.


AR 15 lower receiver

Whether or not these new California gun laws will bring some sanity in the controversial gun ownership topic remains to be seen. With pending court challenges, contradictions in the gun laws and even shifting deadlines, California gun owners and store owners have to stay up to date with the new changes. At 5D Tactical, we work closely with our clients to ensure that they understand what the new California assault rifle laws mean when purchasing AR-15 parts.

5D Tactical is a leading supplier of AR-15 and AR-308 parts including 80% lower receivers, upper receivers and other parts. We provide firearm enthusiasts with the capability to easily and quickly build their custom AR model rifles. Contact us today to learn more.