So, you want to build an AR-15 in California. You still can! Even though California’s politicians have tried to ban the AR-15 repeatedly (and they still are), the 80% lower continues to thrive in the Golden State. Recent legislation does require you to have your 80 percent lower serialized before you actually build it. California Bill AB 857 spells it all out. We found out that the California Department of Justice’s own website makes it very difficult to navigate these new requirements. Well guess what, California? We’re here to make it a helluva lot easier for AR-15 lovers! Here’s how to serialize your CA-compliant 80 percent lower:
DISCLAIMER: We try to provide accurate information, but we’re not lawyers. The information contained herein is not legal counsel and cannot be misconstrued as such. Please consult with an attorney regarding your state and local laws before building a firearm in the state of California.
(Grab an 80 lower and jig!)
Even though you can’t build until you get a serial number, you can still pick up your 80 lower and jig. We have plenty of options available, and each lower can be serialized to be made CA-compliant. We have affordable forged lowers (our most popular), as well as a top-tier, Premium Billet lower that incorporates some cool features for a couple bucks more. Want to go big? We also have .308-chambered 80 percent lowers for Lr-308/DPMS Gen 1 builds!
If you want to make things really easy, pick up an 80 Lower Jig Kit. Each includes a jig, the tools you need, and a lower of your choice! Even if you live in California, you can order your lower and/or jig with no FFL or paperwork required. An 80 percent lower is not considered a firearm by the ATF. At the time of this publication, neither is subject to any local or state laws in California.
#1: Fill out a Personal Firearms Eligibility Check (PFEC) Application
The California Department of Justice has instituted two applications for those who wish to build an AR-15 using an 80 percent lower. The first application you’ll need to fill out is the Personal Firearms Elibility Check (PFEC) Application. You can download the PFEC Form here to fill it out. The PFEC Form has specific requirements for submission:
- Type or print clearly in blue or black ink. The application must be completed in full.
- Your right thumbprint must be provided on the application and must be of fingerprint identification quality.
- You must include a photocopy of your California driver license or California identification card. If you are a non-U.S. citizen, you must also provide a copy of your Alien Registration or I-94 card.
- The PFEC fee is $20. Please submit a check or money order payable to the Department of Justice. DO NOT SEND CASH.
- The application must be notarized by a licensed California Notary Public.
- Please be advised that federal law does not authorize a check of the National Instant Criminal History Background Check System (NICS) as part of a Personal Firearms Eligibility Check (PFEC). Therefore, the results of a PFEC might indicate that you are eligible to possess and purchase firearms but you could still be prohibited based on information in a federal
database that the California Department of Justice was not authorized to check.
#2: Submit your PFEC Application
Now you need to submit your PFEC Application! Mail your completed application package and fee to the following address:
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
BUREAU OF FIREARMS – PFEC
P.O. BOX 820200
SACRAMENTO, CA 94203-0200
The Department of Justice will process your PFEC Application within 30 days. They do warn that it could take up to 90 to 120 days for the processing of your application. You will be notified by U.S. mail about the status of your application.
#3: Register for the California Firearms Application Reporting System (CFARS)
Next, you’ll need to submit a Unique Serial Number Application, which you’ll need to fill out before you complete your 80 percent lower. In order to submit your USNA Application, you must first register and create an account on the California Firearms Application Reporting System (CFARS). Click here to go to the account registration page. Navigate to the bottom of the page and click on “Create a CFARS Account“.
Once you’ve created your CFARS Account, you can then submit the Unique Serial Number Application – Form BOF 1008. To download the USNA with instructions, click here.
#4: Complete and submit your Unique Serial Number Application
California has clearly made this process confusing. They’ve included a bunch of legalese pertaining to “Assault Weapon Registrations” on the application, even though the deadline for registering an assault weapon in California came and went at midnight, June 30, 2018.
However, you can ignore all that jargon and confusion. Filling out the form itself is simple. Instructions are provided for filling out both sections on the form:
- Complete the Application Information section
- Complete the Firearm Information section
- Pay a $35 fee and submit the application (electronically via CFARS or by mail)
Once you’ve completed the form, you’ll need to submit it to the California Department of Justice. You can do so electronically via CFARS (you can also pay the $35 fee on CFARS). The CA DOJ says you can submit your application by email, but they provide no instructions for paying the fee with this method.
We recommend submitting via CFARS or paying with a Money Order and submitting your application by mail to:
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
BUREAU OF FIREARMS – AWR
P.O. BOX 160367
SACRAMENTO, CA 95816-0367
#5: Wait for your unique serial number to arrive by email or mail
You’ll receive a response with your newly assigned unique serial number by email (if submitted via CFARS) or regular mail (if submitted by mail). The California DOJ currently says it takes approximately 15 calendar days to process your application and let you know whether it was denied or approved.
Once you receive your serial number, you’ll be provided with further instructions. Those instructions will include specific deadlines for getting your 80 percent lower serialized.
#6: Get your 80 percent lower serialized
Once your application has been approved and you’ve received you serial number, you can get your 80 percent lower engraved and built! There are specific requirements for engraving your serial number and other information on your 80 percent lower. You’ll need the following engraved to make your lower CA-compliant:
- Your unique serial number
- Caliber (most builders choose “Caliber: Multi”)
- Manufacturer’s name (that’s you!)
- Manufacturer’s city and state (that’s where you live!)
Your lower’s engraving must reach a depth of 0.003″ and the text size must be at least 0.125″ high.
#7: Finish your 80 percent lower and build your AR-15!
Congratulations! You’ve defeated the draconian legal minefield of the California’s Department of Justice. Now you can breathe easy – and now you can finally complete your 80 percent lower and build your AR-15! Remember, no FFL is required for this part. Once you’ve jumped through the hoops for your unique serial number, you’re free and clear to finish your black rifle.
We’d also like to take this time to address the California Department of Justice: Your application process is needlessly and purposefully complex. You seem to have made this legally confusing for law-abiding American citizens in an attempt to restrict their 2nd Amendment Rights. We will continue supporting black rifle lovers and the 2nd Amendment with clarity and information. Your move.