Featureless AR-15 Rifles [2018]: California Build Guide

Confused by all these new laws and what makes an AR-15 “featureless” so you might not have to register it as an assault weapon (AW)?

A featureless rifle (in California) is one that does not have any of the following:

  • pistol grip
  • thumbhole stock
  • telescoping/folding stock
  • flash hider
  • grenade or flare launcher
  • forward pistol grip

A featureless rifle allows the use of detachable magazines and lawfully owned standard-capacity magazines.

Stag Arms 9mm AR-15
Stag Arms 9mm AR-15, Featureless

A little confused?  We’ve got you covered.

Learn exactly what makes an AR-15 “featureless,” how it allows the use of the magazine release and larger magazines, and how to build one with recommendations for appropriate grips, stocks, and muzzle devices.

Plus where to buy fully-assembled featureless rifles so you can still get AR-15’s in CA and NY.

Competition Rifle with BSF Barrel
My Current Competition Rifle, Featureless

Disclaimer that this is not legal advice and you should double-check everything, especially since the laws surrounding this always seem to be in flux.  I’m also writing this mostly towards residents in California, but New York residents can also benefit.

Table of Contents

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What Makes an AR-15 “Featureless”

First, let’s go over what makes an AR “featureless” before diving into the laws.

This flowchart from Calguns.net is perfect for making sure your semi-auto centerfire rifle is legal.

This works for other semi-auto centerfire rifles but I’m using the example of the AR-15 since it’s the most popular.

Please download the flowchart as well as following along with my emphasis edits (in poop brown) below:

Calguns Flowchart Brown
Calguns Flowchart Brown
  • Start: Begin here and if you bought your rifle at a legit FFL, it should pass everything with flying colors as you move down with the brown line.
  • Section A: Here is where it gets interesting for rifles…whether or not it can have a detachable magazine.  Most FFL bought new rifles take the “No” detachable magazine path to Section B.
  • Section B: You might have heard of the term “bullet button” which is just a branded name for magazine locks that require a tool (and a bullet is considered a “tool”) to remove the magazine.  When you just use your finger…you cannot release the magazine like normal.  The .gif shows some ingenuity in adding a little protrusion to the bottom of a magazine to active the bullet button.  In 2018 you’ll need more than a simple tool…read on!
Ultimate Bullet Button Tool, Ben Sharmak
Ultimate Bullet Button Tool, Ben Sharmak
  • Section C+D: This is where “featureless” comes into play since we will not have the features dictated in CCR 11 § 5469 and Penal Code § 30515.  
    • Pistol Grip
    • Thumbhole Stock
    • Folding/Telescoping Stock
    • Grenade Launcher or Flare Launcher
    • Flash Suppressor
    • Forward Pistol Grip

Still with me?

Things You Can’t Have on a Featureless Rifle

Pistol Grip

What you see on all normal AR-15’s.  It allows you to hold it in a pistol fashion where the web between the thumb and the finger rests below the exposed trigger when firing.  Yea…I had to think about that for a minute too.

A2 Grip
A2 Pistol Grip

Thumbhole Stock

This monstrosity below is an example of a thumbhole stock where the thumb of the trigger hand can go through the stock when firing.

Thumbhole Stock, ar15.com
Thumbhole Stock, ar15.com

Folding/Telescoping Stock

The folding stock allows you to fold the stock over to the side so the overall gun is much smaller when not in use.  While the telescoping stock is very standard and more often known as a collapsible stock.

Folding Stock, gunsandtactics
Folding Stock, gunsandtactics
AR-15 Lower
AR-15 Lower with Collapsible Stock

Grenade Launcher or Flare Launcher

The big tubes underneath the standard barrel.  Not seeing a whole lot out there, so yea…

Predator Grenade Launcher
Predator Grenade Launcher

Flash Hider/Suppressor

Device attached to the front muzzle that reduces the flash from shooting.  They are mostly for preventing the user being blinded by the flash at night, rather than hiding the flash from spectators, although that happens too.

There’s a lot of muzzle devices, and the big difference is that flash suppressors have a bigger cavity at the exit end than the bullet caliber when compared to muzzle breaks or compensators.

Flash suppressors usually come in two flavors…birdcage and multi-prong.

A2 Birdcage Flash Hider
A2 Birdcage Flash Hider
Smith Vortex Flash Hider
Smith Vortex Flash Hider

 

Muzzle Brake Compensator
Muzzle Brake Compensator

Forward Pistol Grip

Commonly known as the vertical foregrip since they can be grasped in a pistol-like fashion.

DDM4 V1/V5 16 Inch FSB
DDM4 V1/V5 16 Inch FSB

Why Would I Want a Featureless Rifle?

Seems like you miss out on a lot of cool stuff, so why would you want a featureless AR-15?

The big reason was hidden above in Section A…the ability to not have a bullet button and use your magazine release as it was intended.

And for those who have standard/high-capacity magazines, you are only allowed to use them in “featureless” builds.  Bullet-button rifles have a maximum of 10 round magazines.

However, this is set to change in California with the new Gunmageddon Laws.  Now the primary bonus of making a featureless rifle is so you do not have to register it as an assault weapon.

Those standard/high-cap magazines I talked about above…they were scheduled to become illegal in CA on July 1, 2017 but the law was blocked by a judge.

California Assault Weapon Laws (2017+)

Oprah, You're a Felon
Oprah, You’re a Felon

Again, I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.  Also, this doesn’t cover all the “Gunmageddon Laws,” just the main ones that deal with AR-15’s and featureless rifles.

General

  • As of January 1, 2017, you can no longer buy/make/import the standard bullet-buttoned AR-15 as we know it since it is now an assault rifle.  The definition of a “fixed magazine” was changed from having to use a tool to something that requires disassembly of the firearm action.
  • For those of you who got one before…you have until January 1, 2018 to either register it as an assault weapon or make it featureless.  Or you can also surrender it, sell it outside of CA, etc…basically stuff you probably don’t want to do.
  • Registration is here and costs around $20.
  • If you register, there’s all sorts of fun things that come along with it…travel restrictions, inability to sell in CA, inability to lend, inability to transfer to a family member even if you die, etc.  Essentially it will die with you.
  • However, if you make a registered assault weapon (RAW) into a featureless one, you should be able to “de-register” it later.
  • More info here and here.

Featureless & Best New Bullet Buttons

  • You can avoid registering as an assault weapon if it no longer meets the requirements…aka a “featureless” build.  Find out how to do that after this law section.
  • You should also be able to keep the evil features and not register if you adhere to the new definition of “fixed magazine”…aka use one of the new bullet buttons that require disassembly of the action such as the Patriot Mag Release and the ARMagLock.  No more a simple pin into the bullet button.
  • If I had to choose one right now I’m leaning towards the Patriot Mag.  Since you have until Jan 1, 2018 to register or put on the new kind of bullet button.
Patriot Mag Release
Patriot Mag Release

AR Pistols & 80%-ers

  • AR pistols must follow the new laws PLUS not have a threaded barrel nor handguards.  So you’ll have to pin/weld an approved muzzle device and somehow not have handguards.  Basically…you’ll have to register or use the new type of bullet button.
  • 80% builds are still legal.  But you have to stay afloat the new laws.  Any new builds cannot be made into an AW.  AB 857 requires that by Jan 1, 2019 all completed firearms have a serial number.  If you engrave prior to July 1, 2018, you do not need to notify any government entity.  But if you do it after, you’ll have to apply to the state (pay fees, get a serial number, etc).  More info here.

Ready to build or upgrade (or rather…downgrade) to one?

Let’s go through each of the features again with our suggestions of how to make them compliant.

Featureless AR-15 Rifle
Featureless AR-15 Rifle

Futureless Muzzle Devices

On the easier side to fix…just don’t have one.

Opt for a muzzle brake/compensator instead.

If it talks about flash hiding or suppressing in the description, just err on the safe side and don’t get it.  Here are three of our favorites that did really well in this muzzle device shootout.

Precision Armament M4-72 Severe Duty: #1 in reducing recoil.  ($90)

Precision Armament M4-72 Severe Duty
Precision Armament M4-72 Severe Duty

Miculek Brake: Probably the best bang for the buck.  And boy, is it going to bang the eardrums of anyone caught to the side of you.  ($49)

Hybrid Compensator and Muzzle Brake
Hybrid Compensator and Muzzle Brake

I also really like Strike Industries’ J-Comp since it was super effective in the test and also one of the cheapest.  However, there were rumors that it was a flash hider.  I spoke with the company and they said there was a packaging error that stated it did have flash hiding capabilities…which is why came out with their J-Comp V2 ($35).

J-Comp vs J-Comp V2
J-Comp vs J-Comp V2 (Installed)

Featureless Grips

The biggest aesthetic and functional change you’ll do in your quest to go featureless.

It might look really odd/ugly, but I’ve found that I quickly adapted to the different grip (almost like a hunting rifle grip) and I don’t find myself at a disadvantage during a match.

Exile Machine Hammerhead Stock: What I use in most of my featureless builds since it lets you have a hunting rifle grip.  Looks funky, but less funky than the other examples.  ($30)

Hammerhead Grip
Hammerhead Grip

Thordsen FRS-15 Stock: Complete kit to solve the issues of the pistol grip and a telescopic buttstock.  Generally in stock these days, but that can change often. ($140)

Thordsen FRS-15 Stock
Thordsen FRS-15 Stock

Shark Fin Grip: A less permanent modification where you simply wrap the Kydex around your existing grip (lots of models available).  ($29)

Shark Fin Grips
Shark Fin Grips

Ambidextrous Safety: Highly recommended since all your fingers will be on the right side of the gun so it will be more difficult to engage and disengage the safety.  More models and upgrades in our Best AR-15 Upgrades section.  I like the Seekins.

Seekins Ambi Safety
Seekins Ambi Safety

Strike Industries Megafin: A recent addition to featureless grips and my current favorite.

Best Featureless Grip
Strike Industries Megafin

Strike Industries Megafin

Has a place to put your thumb so you get a lot more stability especially when moving around.

Strike Industries Megafin Featureless Grip
Strike Industries Megafin Featureless Grip

One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll probably lose the ability to have a regular ambidextrous safety since your thumb is in the way.

Gripping the Strike Industries Megafin
Gripping the Strike Industries Megafin

Update…I’ve built another rifle with the Megafin and combo-ed it with the Seekins’ Ambi Safety.  I turned it around and ground off the sharp arrow.  Now I flip up with my right hand to disengage and press down to engage the safety.

Competition Rifle with BSF Barrel
Competition Rifle Megafin & Seekins Ambi Safety

What do you think of the Megafin for going featureless?

Readers' Ratings

5/5 (2)

Your Rating?

Featureless Stocks

Many internet people say you can blind pin and epoxy your current collapsible stock so that it can no longer move, but again, I like to err on the safe side with a fixed stock.

Magpul MOE Fixed Stock: What I used to run in my featureless rifle.  Affordable, sturdy, and there’s no questioning that it is fixed.  Another source.  ($28)

Magpul Fixed Stock
Magpul Fixed Stock

A2 Buttstock: Very standard A2 buttstock for a more retro look and with storage compartments.  ($60)

A2 Stock
A2 Stock

Ace Skeleton Stock: One of the lightest stocks out there but still with tons of strength.  What I plan on using in my next competition build.  ($90)

Ace Skeleton Buttstock
Ace Skeleton Buttstock

Blind Pinning and Epoxying: If you really love your current buttstock or really want to save money, you can go ahead with blind pinning and epoxying your buttstock.  All it takes is drilling through the buttstock and some of the buffer tube, putting in a roll pin, and epoxying it over.  Some people even do it on both sides as an extra measure.

Drill Through Stock and Buffer Tube
Drill Through Stock and Buffer Tube

I detail what I did for a new build here: How to Blind Pin an Adjustable Stock.

Stock Lok: Something new has come out that swaps out the spring-loaded adjustment pin for something fixed.  More expensive at $35 but you don’t need to drill and pin.

Stock Lok
Stock Lok

Strike Industries Stock Stop: The newest thing out…

Strike Industries Stock Stop

Strike Industries Stock Stop

Prices accurate at time of writing

You cut the rubber piece so that it fits your buffer tube and only shows one hole.

Strike Stock Stop, Bottom
Strike Stock Stop, Bottom

And slip on your regular stock until it clicks in that hole.  Voila…fixed stock!  Only thing is you can’t select a custom length since there’s that stopper in the front.  Make sure the 2nd to last hole works for you.

Strike Industries Stock Stop
Strike Industries Stock Stop

Thumbhole Stock, Grenade/Flare Launcher, Forward Pistol Grip

These last three are easy to take care of…just don’t have them!  There’s some debate on whether or not the Magpul AFG is considered a forward pistol grip, but again…I’d just be safe and not have it.

Magpul AFG: Probably not a forward pistol grip since it’s more angeled…but why risk it.  ($33)

Magpul AFG
Magpul AFG

I Give Up…Where Can I Just Buy One

There’s a bunch of manufacturers jumping on the featureless train to get CA and NY purchases.  I’m waiting for them to come into stock so I can play with them hands on.

In the meantime, one I had a chance to use at SHOT 2017 was the Stag.

Stag 2TF Featureless AR-15
Stag 2TF Featureless AR-15

The Model 2TF ($1095) takes care of the pistol grip and buttstock all at once and a removable plate allows the use of the pistol grip if you are in a free state.  More models (even lefty ones) available at their site.

*Note* Unfortunately Stag no longer sells featureless models at this time.  I will update when they do again.

How about New “Bullet Buttons”

Even though this article is about featureless…I know you want to know about the best new “bullet buttons.”

The best “new” bullet button I like is the Patriot Mag.

But the best overall solution (that requires sending in your lower) is the Battle Arms Development MRB (magazine release block) combined with their special rear takedown pin that opens up the upper/lower halves just enough:

Conclusion

So there you have it, how to make a “featureless” AR-15 or other rifles in California/New York.  Want more of our best guns and gear?  Check out our Editor’s Picks section.

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147 Comments on "Featureless AR-15 Rifles [2018]: California Build Guide"

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Steve
Guest

So what I’m hearing here, is in CA if you use the patriot button which forces you to open the action to remove the magazine, the rest of the AR doesn’t have to be featureless? Meaning you can keep the collapsible stock / pistol grip, etc. And the other way around. If you make the rifle featureless, you don’t have to have a bullet button and can drop the magazine normally? If this is the case then going with the new button would be the cheapest way to go.

David
Admin

Correct!

If you already have a BB rifle then mag locked would be cheapest, if you’re building a new rifle then cost can go either way depending on what you’re looking at.

If you do go maglock there are some decent options to help with reloading such as Bear Flag Defense BF-10.

Steve
Guest

Great, reason I asked was I have ARMaglocks on mine, and didn’t want to change all the features. Thanks. Now if I can find something similar for an AK that would be great, but so far it looks like you need a special insert placed in the action with a compatible magazine. But I also heard that just adding a grip wrap to a standard AK will make it compliant. Any info on that?

Steve
Guest

Another question LOL. In this article it says that (to make the AR compliant) the new laws require that to reinsert a magazine, you have to use something that makes you open the action, which the maglock does, but further down it says the rifle has to be featureless to not be registered as an AW. Does that mean having a maglock and the other features you still have to register it? That doesn’t make sense since the maglock make you open the action, but featureless would allow you to stick a drum mag right in there.

David
Admin

To avoid registration you need to be EITHER fixed mag (thus forcing you to open the upper from the lower to release the mag) OR featureless. As long as the rifle is in one of those two configs, they do not need to be registered.

As for the drum mag, keep in mind that you’re still under a 10 round limit regardless of features, registration, or anything else – UNLESS your mags are from before the ban.

David
Admin

There are a couple of people making a maglock type system for the AK but like you saw, they require some weird workarounds.

The evil features you need to remove to be featureless are: Pistol Grip, Flash Hider, Foregrip, and Adjustable Stock.

Most AKs have a fixed stock and no foregrips, the flash hider can (depending on the AK) just be screwed off and a thread protector screwed on. And for the grip, throw a wrap on it and you’re good to go.

enough
Guest

Have you seen the new featureless grip by resurgentarms.com. it meets all the requirements for featureless requirements but more ergonomically comfortable.

David
Admin

I’ve tracked its development over the past 8 or 9 months, it seems they have their production issues worked out and have been shipping product. Sadly, they are out of stock at this moment.

I’m building a new featureless AR soon and was planning on picking one of these grips up to test – I’ll reply back here with more info once I do!

Sease357
Guest

If you built a featureless rifle prior to the july 2018 deadline, does it have to be engraved and serialized?

David
Admin

I assume you mean a rifle built on an 80% lower? Yes, it does. All home-built guns in CA must have a serial number by 2019. Doing it before July 2018 means you can put any number you want, after July 2018 requires you send in a form to CA DoJ to get permission and a number assigned to you.

BLarry
Guest

are 22lr rifles exempt from the featureless rule?

Jel
Guest

.22lr rifles are rim fire and therefore exempt.

Ricardo Cruz Jr
Guest

Is there an ar 15 that don’t require a magazine, or a 5 round magazine aviable?

Jel
Guest

There is a bolt action conversion.

http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2018/01/19/lantac-bolt-action-ar-15-bcg/

I also seem to remember a lower receiver made by Olympus that had a fixed magazine. You were required to top load after opening up the action by removing the rear take down pin.

Can’t seem to find any info on it as my google-fu is weak right now.