Short-barreled Rifles

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Short summary for Short Barreled Rifle length requirement:

  • 16 inch barrel (Federal and California)
  • 26 inch overall length (Federal and California)
  • 30 inches or greater for semiautomatic centerfire rifles, to avoid 'assault weapon' status (California only)

It seems some people mistakenly believe SBR (short-barreled rifle) issues - those rifles under 16" bbl/ under 26" overall length - are just matters of CA AW law.... and these people think they can go to NV or AZ, assemble an SBR there, and dismantle it before returning to CA.

Some of this problem is really caused by the 30" length issue specified in CA AW law - making these folks thinking they can "avoid just that situation" and not realizing there's a whole 'nuther body of applicable laws outside the CA AW sphere.

SBRs are generally illegal except if NFA registered (unlikely for newer guns in CA regardless of AW matters). Separate SBR permits are needed to be CA legal. CA SBR laws are COMPLETELY SEPARATE from CA AW laws - even if you're clean on AW matters you can be popped Federally and/or in CA for SBR laws.

'Constructive possession' of SBRs indeed exists for SBRs, especially under CA law. These are not wobblers, either. So:

  • Do NOT get 'cute' and slip a buttstock on your AR pistol buffer tube.
  • Do NOT have shorty upper(s) unless you own legit pistol lower(s).
  • Do NOT own a buttstock if you only have an AR pistol but no AR rifle.
  • Just because you go out of CA, you can't SBR your rifle. Feds don't like this.

Remember due to People v Rooney that minimum overall length of a rifle WITHIN CALIFORNIA is measured with any folding/collapsible stock CLOSED, and not open. [This is more strict than the Federal standard which allows the overall length to be measure with stock open, such that some sub-26" rifles when folded up are still Federally legal.]

__________________

Bill Wiese

Contents

The Law

h/t Quiet on Calguns

The biggest difference is what CA considers to be a SBS and what the Feds considers to be a SBS.

Federal

18 USC 921

(a) As used in this chapter—
(6) The term “short-barreled shotgun” means a shotgun having one or more
barrels less than eighteen inches in length and any weapon made from a
shotgun (whether by alteration, modification or otherwise) if such a
weapon as modified has an overall length of less than twenty-six inches.
...
(8) The term “short-barreled rifle” means a rifle having one or more
barrels less than sixteen inches in length and any weapon made from a
rifle (whether by alteration, modification, or otherwise) if such weapon,
as modified, has an overall length of less than twenty-six inches.

27 CFR 478.11

Short-barreled rifle.
A rifle having one or more barrels less than 16 inches in length, and any
weapon made from a rifle, whether by alteration, modification, or
otherwise, if such weapon, as modified, has an overall length of less than
26 inches.
Short-barreled shotgun.
A shotgun having one or more barrels less than 18 inches in length, and
any weapon made from a shotgun, whether by alteration, modification, or
otherwise, if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than
26 inches.

California definitions

NOTE: California does have constructive possession laws for these - see paragraph (e) in both sections, below.

Penal Code 17170 Rifle

As used in Sections 16530 and 16640, Sections 17720 to 17730, inclusive, 
Section 17740, Article 1 (commencing with Section 27500) of Chapter 4 of
Division 6 of Title 4, and Article 1 (commencing with Section 33210) of
Chapter 8 of Division 10 of Title 4, "short-barreled rifle" means any of
the following:
(a) A rifle having a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length.
(b) A rifle with an overall length of less than 26 inches.
(c) Any weapon made from a rifle (whether by alteration, modification, or
otherwise) if that weapon, as modified, has an overall length of less than
26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length.
(d) Any device that may be readily restored to fire a fixed cartridge
which, when so restored, is a device defined in subdivisions (a) to (c),
inclusive.
(e) Any part, or combination of parts, designed and intended to convert a
device into a device defined in subdivisions (a) to (c), inclusive, or any
combination of parts from which a device defined in subdivisions (a) to
(c), inclusive, may be readily assembled if those parts are in the
possession or under the control of the same person.

Penal Code 17180 Shotgun

As used in Sections 16530 and 16640, Sections 17720 to 17730, inclusive,
Section 17740, Article 1 (commencing with Section 27500) of Chapter 4 of
Division 6 of Title 4, and Article 1 (commencing with Section 33210) of
Chapter 8 of Division 10 of Title 4, "short-barreled shotgun" means any of
the following:
(a) A firearm that is designed or redesigned to fire a fixed shotgun shell
and has a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length.
(b) A firearm that has an overall length of less than 26 inches and that
is designed or redesigned to fire a fixed shotgun shell.
(c) Any weapon made from a shotgun (whether by alteration, modification,
or otherwise) if that weapon, as modified, has an overall length of less
than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length.
(d) Any device that may be readily restored to fire a fixed shotgun shell
which, when so restored, is a device defined in subdivisions (a) to (c),
inclusive.
(e) Any part, or combination of parts, designed and intended to convert a
device into a device defined in subdivisions (a) to (c), inclusive, or any
combination of parts from which a device defined in subdivisions (a) to
(c), inclusive, can be readily assembled if those parts are in the
possession or under the control of the same person. 

See the BATFE FAQ on Short-Barreled Rifles

California law on short-barreled rifles is at PENAL CODE SECTION 33210-33320

Calguns Discussion thread.

California 'Assault Weapons': 30 inches or less

Entirely aside from the SBR issue, one 'feature' which might make a rifle a California 'assault weapon' is an overall length less than 30 inches: Penal Code 30515

(a) Notwithstanding Section 30510, "assault weapon" also
means any of the following:
...
   (3) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has an overall length
of less than 30 inches.
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