In 1989, the state of California signed a bill into law that made it illegal for gun shops to sell firearms designated as “assault weapons.” Citizens who already possessed such firearms were forced to register them.
Since then, the laws have become even more restrictive. In 2016, House Democrats pushed a massive package of gun reforms that sought to come down hard on the “bullet button,” an industry innovation that circumvented the statute on detachable, swiftly reloadable ammo magazines.
As a result, gun owners in possession of assault weapons had until the end of the year to register any firearms that featured the bullet button.
Suffice it to say, AR-15s were in danger of becoming extinct. They became increasingly harder to find and harder to buy.
Fortunately for avid gun enthusiasts, innovation didn’t stop with the bullet button and today, people are buying and selling featureless AR-15 rifles.
A “featureless” rifle is a rifle that lacks any of the following: thumbhole stock, pistol grip, folding or telescoping stock, flash hider, grenade, flare launcher, or forward pistol grip.
A featureless rifle permits the gun owner to utilize a detachable magazine and legally owned standard-capacity magazines.
If all of this is a tad perplexing, I’ll help you to understand exactly what I’m talking about.
In the following article, we’ll explore the fundamentals of the featureless rifle and discuss where you can get your hands on a featureless AR-15 in California and New York State.
Before we delve into the particulars of the laws against assault weapons, let’s take a look at what makes a rifle featureless.
Bear in mind that this works just as well for other semi-automatic centerfire weapons, but we’ll use the AR-15 as the example since it’s, by far, the most in-demand.
According to California State law, a rifle with a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds is considered an assault weapon. Likewise, if your rifle has a forward pistol grip or flash suppressor, it is categorized as an assault weapon under Penal Code 5469.
Magazine locks (bullet buttons, MAG-Lock, Raddlock, Prince50, Range-Maglok, etc.) are not legally considered detachable which is why many gun owners utilize this feature to get around the existing laws.
BUT, and that’s a big but (no pun intended), legislation is cracking down on the “bullet button” with bureaucrats recognizing it as a way of skirting the laws.
This works because a tool is required in order to remove the magazine. By adding a small protrusion to the bottom of your magazine, you are able to activate the bullet button.
But if you want to keep your rifle featureless in the long term, perhaps the most attractive option of all is the MA loader, a clever variation on the stripper clip which is fed into the ejection port to load your fixed magazine.
The MA lock takes the place of your magazine release button and spring, replacing it with a shear bolt that breaks off after being tightened, making it a semi-permanent mod. It can be drilled out later should you decide to further modify your rifle or restore it to its original state.
If this all sounds at all confusing, keep in mind that it’s actually much simpler than it seems. It’s not so much what the featureless rifle has that makes it featureless so much as what it doesn’t have.
|Product Name||Where to Buy|
|Strike Industries Simple Featureless Grip|
|Leapers UTG AR15 A2 Fixed Stock|
|Wheeler Engineering Delta AR-15 Upper Vise Block|
|Midwest Industries AR Professional Armorer’s Wrench|
In order for your AR-15 to qualify as a featureless rifle, it can’t have any of the following:
All standard-built AR-15s have pistol grips which enable the gun owner to hold their rifle the way they would hold a pistol (with the web between their thumb and forefinger resting below the rifle’s trigger).
By replacing the pistol grip with a “shark fin” grip (semi-permanent Kydex wrap modification), you’ll outfit your AR-15 to be California-legal.
Using a forward pistol grip is another faux-pas some people make so avoid forward grips at all costs.
The thumbhole stock is an ugly and arbitrary feature that serves very little purpose, to begin with. It is primarily used so that the thumb of the shooter’s trigger hand can loop through the stock while firing the rifle.
You can easily replace an existing thumbhole stock with a regular fixed stock to avoid the need for registering your AR-15 as an AW (Assault Weapon). Personally, I use an A2 stock. Leapers UTG offers an affordable AR-15 fixed buttstock A2 for around $70 bucks.
It’s a complete kit that comes with a 4.8 oz buffer, an action spring, receiver extension, butt plate, stock spacer, and stock screw. It takes all the headache out of the process so all you gotta do is install it on your rifle’s receiver.
A folding stock enables you to fold the stock over so that your gun is smaller when it’s not in use. A telescoping stock is another name for a collapsible stock. Both are considered restricted under California law.
Again, if you replace one of these with a fixed stock, you should be clear of any legalities.
This is where things get to be a bit of a no-brainer. It should come as no surprise to the responsible gun owner that the powers that be do not want the average citizen to be casually hurling grenades.
These launchers consist of large tubes beneath the standard rifle barrel. If you look around, you won’t really find too many of these on the mainstream market, so it’s really not a concern. But steer clear of purchasing one if you want to remain within the bounds of the law.
Any device that attaches to the front muzzle of your rifle to reduce flash when shooting falls into this category. Primarily used to prevent the shooter from being blinded by the flash of a projectile at night, it’s also utilized to conceal the flash from interlopers.
Both birdcage and multi-prong flash suppressors are a big no-no if you’re looking to make your rifle featureless. Better if you stick with muzzle brakes or compensators.
The best thing you can do to make your rifle featureless is to swap out your flash hider with a brake or thread protector. Alternatively, a target crown is a viable alternative to a muzzle device.
Most gun enthusiasts want to maintain the ability to use their rifles for rapid fire. High-capacity magazines were previously allowed in featureless rifles, but the so-called Gunmageddon Laws went into effect in Cali as of July 1st, 2017.
For this reason and others, now is the time to get yourself a featureless AR-15 so that you aren’t forced to register your firearm as an AW.
I should be clear that this is not legal advice and I am by no means an expert on the legislation, but here’s the crux of the matter for those who are interested in learning more about the laws and loopholes.
80% of builds remain legal at the moment (be sure to check the laws in your area). 80% doesn’t refer to a rifle but to the lower receiver of your rifle.
Because it’s a lower receiver and not an actual overall rifle, it does not require a serial number.
Important Note: Effective January 1st, 2019, registration will be mandatory on all completed builds. So be sure to engrave your featureless rifle prior to July 1st, 2018 as you will not have to notify any government agencies.
Let’s do a quick recap here since I know how confusing this can all get. If you want to modify your AR-15 to keep it within the bounds of the law, here are the simple steps.
To remove your flash hider, you’ll need a barrel block/clamp, a multi-tool or a wrench, and a new crush washer. You may also want to purchase a vice block so you don’t damage any part of your AR.
Some people try to save money by wrapping the upper in leather to prevent the vice jaws from doing damage, but accidents can happen. For the sake of contingency and practicality, it’s best to invest in a polymer vice block that is durable and long-lasting.
There are several helpful and informative YouTube tutorials that help break down the process of flash hider removal such as this one:
The next thing you want to do is replace the flash hider with a muzzle brake. Muzzle brakes, otherwise known as compensators or recoil reducers, can be removed by implementing a barrel wrench and barrel vice jaws.
If your AR is not pinned and you have at least five to six inches of the barrel between your gas block and the end of your muzzle, you’ll need some basic tools to get the job done. As previously mentioned, you’ll need a sturdy bench vise, a barrel wrench, barrel vise jaws, a half-inch socket wrench, a half-inch socket extension (2” length minimum), two pieces of 6” wide by 2” tall pieces of cardboard, a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a brass bristled brush.
All of these tools are of high quality and low price. Most of them can be picked up at your local hardware store. The barrel wrench and vise jaws are available online.
Be sure to clear your rifle before starting the removal or replacement process.
Separate the upper from the lower and set the lower receiver aside.
Apply the vise jaws to your bench vise and make sure your vise is open enough to enable you to insert the barrel into the inside of the jaws.
Place the barrel in between the two pieces of cardboard (or, if you go the professional route, apply the vice block).
Place the barrel and covering into your vise jaws and tighten the vise so that your barrel is secure. Once you’ve ensured that everything is aligned evenly and that your coverage is protecting your barrel from the vise marring your finish, crank down tightly.
Insert the socket extension into your socket wrench, set the wrench to loosen insert the extension into the half-inch hole in your barrel wrench.
Locate the proper cut out on your barrel wrench (there are two to choose from) for your flash hider and insert the wrench onto the flash hider.
Remove the flash hider with your wrench/socket assembly, taking care to make sure that you are loosening. You will inevitably experience some resistance so apply torque.
Remove the flash hider and crush washer and set both aside. Save them for eventual reassembly.
Use the rubbing alcohol and bristle brush to gently clean the threads until they look good as new.
Make sure you don’t get any Loctite in your barrel. As a preventative measure, you can run a bore brush through your barrel from chamber to muzzle end.
At this point, you’re ready to install your new muzzle brake. You want to insert a new crush washer on the threads of your barrel. Be sure that the concave end is facing outward in the direction of the muzzle brake. The convex should be pointing back in the direction of the upper.
Delicately thread on the new muzzle brake by hand. Be sure that you are not cross-threading.
When the muzzle brake has stopped turning easily, you’ll know that it has reached the cross washer.
To make sure that nothing comes loose during shooting, you want to crush the washer through a ninety-degree turn of the muzzle brake until it’s indexed correctly.
Remove the upper from the vise and inspect the chamber end of the upper with a light. If everything looks ship-shape, you’re good to go.
At this point, you want to reassemble and function-check your AR. Test fire with the muzzle brake.
Next comes the removal of your pistol grip. This should be easy enough. With most AR models, you’ll need a 3/16” allen screw.
When it comes to installing a shark fin grip, you’ll want to follow the first steps of the muzzle brake installation—unload and safety check your AR-15. From there, you want to remove the magazine, clear the chamber and put your safety on.
Place your AR upside down so that your safety detent doesn’t fall out when removing the grip.
Shine a light inside the grip to locate the screw. Remove the screw and slowly lift the pistol grip up. This will expose the safety detent spring so make sure it doesn’t fall on the floor.
Carefully take out the spring and place it in a safe and secure place that you’ll remember. You’re going to need to put it in your new shark fin grip.
Wiggle your shark fin grip into place on the lower receiver of your AR and gently return the spring into the hole of your new grip, lining it up with the hole on your lower where the detent resides.
From here, you want to insert the screw and lock washer from the original grip into the bottom of your shark fin grip. Tighten the screw, but make sure you don’t overtighten it.
Function check your AR before reloading. If everything seems to be operational, you’re ready to reload and see how the AR shoots with the new grip.
Modifying your AR to have a fixed stock is fairly affordable with most fixed stocks selling for around $55.
In case you don’t want to mess with all these modifications there are some other options to consider if you are looking for an AR 15 that is compliant with your state laws.
|Product Name||Where to Buy|
|STAG 15 RETRO 20″ RIFLE|
|PSA AR 15 16inch Midlength 5.56|
|STAG 15 M4 16″ RIFLE|
|Product Name||Where to Buy|
|Stag Arms 2TF Featureless AR-15|
|Calegalkit's CA Featureless AR15 Kit|
|Thordsen Customs' FRS-15 Enhanced Stock Kit|
|Moriarti California Legal Conversion Kits|
There are a variety of Featureless AR 15 Kits out there. At the time of this article, many have been taken off sites.
Stag Arms’ 2TF AR-15 eliminates the buttstock and the pistol grip right up front. Its removable plate also enables you to use your pistol grip when you’re in a state that permits pistol grip use on an AR-15.
Note: Featureless AR-15 rifles are no longer available from Stag Arms at this time, so you’ll have to seek out third-party sellers to obtain one. Or search their site for state compliant parts and complete rifles.
The next best thing is a kit or one of the new and approved bullet buttons such as the Partiot Mag which sells for just $45 or the ARMaglock which replaces the typical bullet button and complies with the laws of California, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey and so on.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can get the Lockdown 222818 AR-15 Mag Well Lock for just $19.99 from Midway USA.
Moriarti offers an array of options for those looking to trick out their rifle to make them featureless. They range from cheap as dirt to obscenely expensive, but all products/packages are top-notch.
They include the AR-15 Rifle .22/5.56 Thread Protectors ($14.99). And the mid-range California Compliant AR Rifle Conversion Kit ($170.00). Which comes with an A2 butt stock assembly, buffer tube, buffer, and spring muzzle brake or thread protector (your choice).
Moriarti also sells Kydex wraps for your grip and a Magpul PRS GEN3 stock.
For those who don’t consider themselves to be all that handy, there are countless YouTube tutorials that show you how to install the new bullet buttons step by step.
Complete List Of Essential AR-15
Best AR-15 Calibers And Cartridges
11 thoughts on “Featureless AR 15 – How to Build Using Legal Parts”
Great article, well written. Forgive my ignorance, but I am looking at converting my Colt LE6920 to be California compliant. If I make the magazine fixed, meaning unable to release without opening or separating the upper from the lower, do I still need to make all those modifications (pistol grip, collapsible stock, etc.)? I have a collapsible stock, A2 suppressor, and pistol grip and want to know basically if I put in the AR Maglock, will I have to make all those other changes as well? I also have a Century Arms AK47 that may need to be fixed here VERY soon – thank you!
No you don’t have to
Daniel, after reading the California Penal Code, i believe it you install a mag lock, such that no tool can remove the magazine, you must open the action to remove AND REINSERT the mag while the action is open. If the AR 15, has the action closed AND the mag is not fixed in the lower, your AR15 can readily accept a magazine, now you have an assault weapon.
If your mag. Is fixed and no tool can remove it, I believe you can keep the adjustable stock, forward grip, maybe, pistol grip and flash hider.
Hello. Ok, I refuse to register. I am caving and going to make my Colt LE6920 featureless. I am changing out grip with strike Industries mega fin, making the butt stock non collapsing, and taking off the bird cage for a muzzle break. My question is, if I remove the bullet button with standard button is it now legal???? Seems the standard magazine release button can just pop out the magazine. Bullet button needed a tool. How crazy is this? Ruining a beautiful rifle. I will send all the taken off parts to my son in Arizona and one day he will have this beauty so he can fix it up pretty again after I am dead. Haha. So if all the evil features are removed, I can still have the standard magazine button release???
As I understand it, it’s basically pretty simple: You can go featureless or RAW (registered assault weapon). Featureless means remove what we’ve been discussing: Flash suppressor, pistol grip, collapsible stock (if you have it), and replace them with non-evil parts. While I hate the shark fin grips, the two upsides to this path are: 1) You can replace the bullet button with a standard mag release as Stoner intended, and 2) you don’t need to register. These rifles should also be transferable.
If you love your flash suppressor, pistol grip, and collapsible stock so much you can’t give them up, then you must replace the bullet button with an approved maglock and MUST REGISTER BEFORE JULY 1ST.
I’ve already bought the parts to make eight of my rifles featureless. This keeps me off the government’s radar, and I’m storing the removed parts. If civilization collapses or the zombies come, it’ll be a matter of minutes to change them back (mainly the pistol grips).
One addendum: A registered assault weapon can be de-registered with the DOJ if the evil features are removed. This is a permanent act under the laws as they stand now; you can’t change your mind and restore a de-registered RAW to its RAW state. But even after being made featureless, once registered, it MUST keep its magazine locking device. Forever, or as long as the weapon is in California. No regular mag release for a RAW, ever.
What happens on January 1, 2019? Which builds will need to be registered with the state, even featureless builds?
Where do I get the ‘grip’ shown in the picture on top of your article???
Do the rules apply now in 2019 as well; A fixed magazine=can have features vs. a non-fixed mag=needs to be featureless?
Imagine if the British required muskets to be “featureless” for colonist ownership and the colonists complied?