California gun laws are an absolute mess. They create a maze of legislation and litigation that make firearms ownership difficult, to say the least. These restrictions have a drastic effect of what type of firearms a law-abiding citizen can own. They often have zero effect on criminals, but they greatly affect regular folks like you and us. One of the most contentious gun laws centers on the state’s AR 15 pistol legislation. California has a few zany laws that affect AR 15 pistol ownership substantially. The first is their odd stripped lower rule. In the rest of the United States, an AR lower is neither a rifle or a pistol, it’s just a lower - but in California, that’s not the case:
Stripped Lowers in California Are Considered “Rifles”
In California, a stripped AR 15 lower is a rifle, plain and simple. If you own a stripped lower it is already a rifle, and assembling a stripped lower into an AR 15 pistol means you are actually making a short barreled rifle - a huge no-no in this restrictive state. Okay, so you can’t take a stripped lower and turn it into a pistol. So you just go to the store and buy one right?
Well, no, that creates another problem. California has a ‘Safe Handgun Roster.” This roster does not include any AR 15 pistols. So there isn’t necessarily a means to find a new AR 15 pistol for sale. There used to be a single shot exemption that allowed the end user to purchase one, but that has since been rescinded and is now against the law.
So How Can A Californian Acquire an AR 15 pistol?
There are currently only two real ways to obtain an AR 15 pistol in California at this time. The first is a private sale between individuals. This does have to go through an FFL, but you are buying from a private citizen. This is a good way to purchase an AR pistol, but, they can be both expensive, and hard to find. You also get their AR 15 pistol, and you may spend even more money to customize it to get it where you want it.
Alright, Not All Stripped Lowers Have to be “Rifles”
Alternatively, you can own an AR 15 pistol by starting with an 80 lower. This allows you to build your own gun, in the caliber, and with the parts you want. This is completely legal, as long as you follow California’s laws for home-built firearms, magazine capacities, and the need for a fixed magazine.
Yes, You Can Legally Build an AR Pistol in California
Building your own “pistol” receiver out of an 80% lower is just about the only realistic way to own an AR 15 pistol in California, but the results are worth the effort. Taking the AR 15 pistol route is going to give you a more maneuverable and lighter weight AR 15 option. An AR 15 pistol is an awesome home defense weapon due to its size and how easy it is to maneuver indoors. AR pistols are also the closest Californians are going to get to short-barreled rifles, or SBRs.
If you want to go the 80 lower route you’ll, of course, need an 80 lower, a jig and tools, a pistol lower parts kit, and an AR 15 pistol kit. The very last thing you’ll need is the AR MagLock to make the weapon compliant with California’s laws. Here’s the best news about the situation, we carry the AR 15 Pistol Kits and all the tools and equipment you’ll need right here.