Well, that depends, and as is always the case with guns, the devil is in the detail.
Basically, your rifle needs to be fully CA compliant as the penalty for owning an M1A that falls foul of the laws can land you with a fine of up to $1,000 and even result in a year of jail time. It is, therefore, important that you get yourself properly acquainted with all of the latest legislation.
So, are M1A legal in California when properly modified?
Yes, they are, so let’s find out what a fully Californian-compliant M1A looks like.
California has been aggressive in legislating against assault-style rifles and has had corresponding laws in place banning their possession or purchase of such from June 1st, 1989. This also applies to .50 BMG rifles. The full list is readily available, but essentially unmodified guns like an AR-15, or AK-47, are a no-no.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there since additional legislation was passed on January 1st, 2000, known as the Senate Bill 23. The bill bans a series of assault rifle-style features, and any one of these could potentially cause you problems if you buy, or mod an existing gun, that would otherwise be perfectly legal in another state.
That makes owning an assault rifle in its original form almost impossible for most living in California. The laws are such that if you want to keep most of the desirable features of an assault weapon, you are forced to do so with a fixed magazine. The alternative is to have a removable magazine but lose many of the features.
One way around these regulations is to buy a complete fully CA Compliant M1A Rifle. However, if you are considering modding an existing M1A, or you are bringing one into California, then let’s go through everything you need to know to ensure you stay on the right side of the law.
If you have a removable magazine that does not require the use of special tools, then you will be subject to the raft of restrictions laid out in Senate Bill 23. A quick solution is to use a fixed magazine kit which basically means inserting a piece of metal that prevents the release of the magazine. It can be easily fitted, and the good news is that if you move to another state, it is also a simple job to remove.
Going this route could be a potentially good solution, as the beauty of the M1A is that it has a stripper clip guide built in, which makes the insertion of ammo relatively easy. This obviously will only work when not using a scope.
Previously a way around this issue was the result of an invention by Darin Price. He devised a recessed button that released the magazine with the use of a special tool which was, in fact, a bullet! The bullet button consequently became a workaround to the new law.
Unfortunately, this was subsequently banned in 2017, but ever inventive Darin Prince came up with Patriot Mag Release, which is altogether more complicated and time-consuming to use but is nevertheless Californian compliant.
For all of you wanting a removable magazine, and who wouldn’t, you are going to have to get rid of those perceived ‘evil’ gun features that legislators associate with assault rifles.
So, let’s take a look at three of the most common ones.
A Californian-compliant muzzle brake can only suppress recoil and, therefore, cannot have any properties for the purpose of flash suppression. It cannot in any way either suppress or redirect the angle of the flash.
The muzzle brake cannot have any hybrid capabilities…
It will consequently just about blind you when visibility is poor, but that is another story and something that Californians clearly have neither considered nor care about. Additionally, given that things are only likely to get more stringent, it is, unfortunately, something you will just have to learn to live with.
You can obviously also kiss goodbye to any form of stealth.
One final point is that do not take for granted that an advertised muzzle brake will not have additional flash-hiding properties. Do your research and ensure you look carefully at the specs before your purchase.
The Californian fun police have also put a stop to any rife with a removable magazine having a pistol grip either under the action of the weapon or in the form of a forward pistol grip. If you have either of these on your current firearm, you should switch to a standard stock without grips.
Frankly, this law seems to have little purpose, as the only advantage of having a pistol grip is to make it more stable and, therefore, more accurate. If the politicians and lawmakers are against having accurate guns, can someone please explain to me how this legislation makes gun ownership consequently safer rather than more dangerous?
Frankly, this is total madness, but alas, you are lumbered with this crazy piece of decision-making if you live in or visit The Golden State.
Folding and Telescopic Stocks
Folding stocks are a great way to allow you to easily carry and transport your gun. They are practical and a real benefit to gun owners in several applications. However, surprise, surprise, California doesn’t like them and has interpreted, wrongly, their use as being intrinsically tied to gun users trying to conceal their weapons.
All of you will need to fix your stocks if you intend to keep your removable magazines.
So, otherwise, are M1A legal in California?
Well, not quite, because finally, there are also restrictions on thumbhole stocks. Plus, for the few of you out there that might use them, grenades and flare launchers are also prohibited.
This is the complete list of current restrictions. However, before the ink dries, don’t be surprised if new laws have waiting to be proposed. And don’t be surprised, regardless of how ridiculous, when they get pushed through and quickly ratified.
Looking for Quality upgrades or Some Accessories for Your M1A?
Then check out our thoughts on the Best M1A Cleaning Kit, the Best M1A Magazines, the Best M1A Stocks, the Best M1A Flash Hider, the Best Scout Scope for M1A, the Best Ammunition for M1A Rifle, the Best M1A Bipods, or our informative Archangel Springfield Armory M1A Precision Stock Review.
Or, if you’re not quite sure what version of the M1A to buy, take a look at our comparison of the Best Springfield Armory M1A Models, as well as our in-depth reviews of the Springfield M1A Socom 16 CQB Rifle, the Springfield Armory M1A Tanker, or the excellent Springfield Armory M1A Scout Squad Rifle.
Or, for more info on the rifle, find out What’s the Difference Between M1A and M14, or our guide to Hog Hunting with your M1A Rifle, or if you can’t quite decide on a new scope mount for your M1A, our Bassett vs Sadlak M1A Scope Mount comparison is well worth a look. Plus, for some fun with your shooting buddies, check out some interesting Facts About M1A Rifles to really impress them with in 2023.
There is no doubt that California has some of the toughest gun laws in the US. When we consider the legality of the M1A in California, it is, in reality, an ever-changing state of affairs. You, therefore, need to arm yourself with the most up-to-date information to keep on the right side of the law and avoid any resulting fines and punishment.
I would suggest that a good place to start with your search is by contacting one of the many online gun dealers. Most have instant chat features with highly trained and experienced staff who should almost certainly be able to answer any of your queries. They are a great resource and will be only too happy to help. For more info, check out our informative guide on Where to Buy the M1A Rifle Online.
As always, stay safe and happy shooting.