If you have followed along with us thus far, reading about the various articles we offer on 80% firearms legality across the country, then you already know California is a tricky one. California is one of the few states in the nation to require serialization and registration on an 80% lower.

If you are building an 80% rifle in California, you need to ask yourself, do I know how to serialize an 80% lower? If the answer is a resounding ‘no,’ then it is time to discover the ins and outs of serialization and crafting a legal firearm before the ATF knocks on your door.

Do you Need to Serialize an 80% Lower?

Typically, no. An 80% lower is, by the ATF’s definition, not considered a firearm. Therefore, you are not required to serialize or register a rifle built using an 80% lower or blank receiver in most states.

However, in California things work differently. While still not technically a firearm, California requires all owners to serialize their lower receiver before drilling and milling. According to Penal Code 29180 under California Assembly Bill 857, if you do not serialize your lower, the firearm is subject to confiscation and destruction by the police. 

At best, you risk a hefty fine if caught in possession of an unserialized or unregistered firearm and at worst you could face felony charges with prison time. Is serializing worth having another gun the government knows you have? We’ll leave that up to you. 

80% Lower Serialization Requirements

States like California and Connecticut have adopted standards set by the federal government for serializing a firearm. To be in compliance, your 80% lower, frame, or blank receiver must include:

  • Serialization engraved 0.0003″ into the lower receiver.
  • A text size no smaller than 1/16″ in height.

The engraved serialization must also include:

  • Firearm model
  • City and state of manufacture
  • Firearm caliber
  • Manufacturer’s first and last name

For the first and last name segment, you will use your own name, as you’re the manufacturer in the case of an 80% rifle.

How to Serialize an 80% Lower in California

  1. Download, Fill Out and Submit a PFEC Application

PFEC stands for Personal Firearm Eligibility Check (PFEC, Form BOF 116). After filling in the appropriate information using blue or black ink, notarize the form, then submit the completed paperwork to the California Department of Justice.

*Please note that the PFEC is a state-level background check which determines eligibility to construct and own a firearm in California.

To complete the PFEC, you will need to include the right thumbprint on a fingerprint-identification card, a copy of your California driver’s license, a check for $20, and notarization from a California public notary.

Once done, mail your completed PFEC to:

Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms – PFEC

P.O Box 820200

Sacramento, CA, 94203-0200.

Should you have any questions on the matter, call the California DOJ at 916-227-7527.

  1. Register on CFARS to acquire personalized serial number.

You will need to register on the California Firearms Application Reporting System (CFARS) to submit your Unique Serial Number Application

  1. Submit a USNA Application

Once you have registered on the CFARS system, it is time to complete a USNA Application. You may download a copy and either email or regular mail it back to the California DOJ.

Tip: Read the entire application thoroughly. It is filled with legal jargon that serves mostly to confuse and muddy the process.

The easiest way to submit your application is through email via CFARS. You will pay a $15 application and processing fee, but it is less hassle than visiting the post office and waiting in line.

  1. Receive Your Serial Number

Once all your applications are received and approved by the California DOJ, which typically takes around two weeks, you will receive a unique serial number. You have ten days to engrave your serial number on an 80% lower and submit proof by uploading a picture to CFARS.

If you have followed along step-by-step, you will soon have a serialized and compliant 80% build. If you have your serial number, congratulations because it is time to complete your 80% rifle build and take a trip to the range to test out your new firearm.

If you are still in the early stages of construction, consider an 80% lower build kit!