Featureless AR-15 Rifles [2019]: 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.

Best Featureless Grips
A Few of Our Featureless Rifles

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.

Competition Rifle with BSF Barrel
My Current Competition Rifle, Featureless

Plus if it all sounds too difficult…the best new “Bullet Buttons” that let you have all the features.  Hint…it’s the AR MagLock + Patriot Pin combo.

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.  Past 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.

Some Muzzle Brakes Chilling
Some Muzzle Brakes Chilling

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.

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

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 (2019+)

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 ARMagLock and Patriot Pin.  No more a simple pin into the bullet button.
AR Maglock and Patriot Pin Combo
AR Maglock and Patriot Pin Combo

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

Best Featureless Muzzle Devices

On the easier side to fix…just don’t have one and pick up a thread protector.

Or opt for a muzzle brake/compensator instead.

Tested Muzzle Brakes
Tested Muzzle Brakes

If it talks about flash hiding or suppressing in the description, just err on the safe side and don’t get it.

Here’s some of our tested favorites…

Precision Armament M4-72 Severe Duty

If you want something with the best recoil reduction and least reticle movement…look at the Precision Armament M4-72 Severe Duty.

See it in action for side blast, decibel reading, and reticle movement.

Miculek Brake

If you want something a little more budget but still effective, check out the Miculek Brake.

40 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

VG6 Gamma

Lastly, the best hybrid brake/compensator goes to the VG6 Gamma.

Check out the rest (and even more videos) in our Best AR-15 Muzzle Brakes & Compensators article.

Best Featureless Grips

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

CA Featureless Rifle Grips
CA Featureless Rifle Grips

It might look odd/ugly, but I’ve found that I quickly adapted to the different grip.

Exile Machine Hammerhead Stock

The Hammerhead is what I used in most of my beginning featureless builds since it lets you have a hunting rifle grip.

Hammerhead Grip, Hand Position, Right
Hammerhead Grip, Hand Position, Right

Great for regular or precision shooting…but once you start running and gunning, the lack of having your thumb on the opposite side slows you down.

Unless you’re strictly against fin-type grips or are on a tight budget…there’s better options out there now.

11 at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Strike Industries MegaFin

The MegaFin adds a very nice thumbshelf for right-handed shooters that gives you a lot more control.

Strike Industries Megafin Featureless Grip
Strike Industries Megafin Featureless Grip

However, if you want easy access to the safety lever, you’ll likely need an ambidextrous safety like the Seekins used that is turned the opposite way.

Strike MegaFin, Close
Strike MegaFin, Close

Here it is in action…easy to engage and safety.

And great for running and gunning.  One of my top recommendations.

Resurgent Arms Grip

My current favorite featureless grip is the Resurgent Arms.

Resurgent Arms Grip
Resurgent Arms Grip

The awesome thing is that you can get your thumb around the grip which gives almost the same control as a regular pistol grip.

Resurgent Arms, Hand Position, Left
Resurgent Arms, Hand Position, Left

You can also flick the safety lever from this position but unless you have a very extended version (Resurgent is coming out with one), it’s hard to re-engage.

Another thing is that the regular end plate is sharp against your thumb web.  I tried using some duct tape and it felt fine.  But Resurgent also has a beveled plate which is super comfy (but $35).

It’s the gold thing below.

Resurgent Arms Grip, Right
Resurgent Arms Grip, Right

Lastly, the length of pull is increased slightly because of the grip.  Unless you have super short fingers you should still be fine.

All in all…my shooting speed is almost the same as with a regular pistol grip.

I reached out to Resurgent and they are offering Pew Pew Tactical readers a 10% off coupon with code “PEWPEW10“.

Editor's Pick Featureless Grip
40 at Resurgent Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

What’s your take on the Resurgent Arms grip?

Readers' Ratings

4.92/5 (218)

Your Rating?

See even more Featureless Grips for the AR & AK in our full roundup.

Best Featureless Stocks & Pinning Options

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.

Best AR-15 Buttstocks
Best AR-15 Buttstocks

Magpul MOE Fixed Stock

What I used to run in my featureless rifle.  Affordable, sturdy, and there’s no questioning that it is fixed.

A2 Buttstock

Very standard A2 buttstock for a more retro look and with storage compartments.

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

The Stock Lok is 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 is the Stock Stop from Strike.

You cut a 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

Need more stocks…especially now that you can use the Stock Stop?

Check out the rest of our favorite AR-15 Buttstocks where we rate them based on weight, price, and of course…cheekweld.

Adjustable AR-15 Buttstocks
Adjustable AR-15 Buttstocks

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

Best New “Bullet Buttons”

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

Current law makes it ok if your magazine is fixed and the upper/lower receiver halves are opened up in order to release the magazine.

The best “new” bullet button I like is the AR MagLock + Patriot Pin.

AR Maglock and Patriot Pin Combo
AR Maglock and Patriot Pin Combo

Pretty easy to install (especially if you’re building) and really quick mechanism to release the rear due to the Patriot Pin.

Full review here.

And here it is in action for a tactical reload.

Regular empty mag reloads take a little longer you’ll see in the review.

55 at Patriot Pin

Prices accurate at time of writing

Another slick solution (but 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.

Best Featureless Grips
A Few of Our CA Featureless Rifles

Want more of our best guns and gear?  Check out our Best AR-15 Upgrades and Best AR-15 Scopes & Optics.

A Couple AR-15 Optics
A Couple AR-15 Optics

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Bee
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Bee

I heard that the Stock Stop was not CA legal.

David, PPT Editor
Admin

There is no official determination either way – however, as Strike understands the law it should be in compliance.

MichaelH
Guest
MichaelH

Interesting article. Kinda dumb laws. I get the point of reducing concealability or mag size / increasing reload time COULD arguably impact public safety, but I’m not sure how eliminating features like pistol grips and flash suppressors make people safer.

Separately, if you use Oprah as a punching bag people are going to think you, like lots of gun enthusiasts, are racist, even if you’re not. While I’m not an Oprah fan it’s probably a poor choice of graphic

Bob
Guest
Bob

Oprah IS racist, using her mug isn’t racist. It simply mocks her ignorance. A billionaire black female in a racist country. Who would have thought?

Martin G Glander
Guest
Martin G Glander

Does anyone know of a California compliant magazine release for the Spike Glock 9mm lower? I am moving to Ca and need to get myself legal or change my weapon to featureless.

Thanks in advance for any help!

David, PPT Editor
Admin

I don’t think I’ve seen anyone offer any kind of fixed magazine option for 9mm lowers, personally, my AR-9 is featureless. Sorry!

Blazeaglory
Guest
Blazeaglory

I’m 99% sure Its considered a pistol, so is beholden to an entire different set of laws

Jaime Gonzalez
Guest
Jaime Gonzalez

I was told that if I build a featureless rifle, the muzzle brake needs to be pin and welded on. Even though the barrel length is already 16inches and the over all length of the rifle is over the 30inch mark. Is that true is, or it just fear spreading.

David, PPT Editor
Admin

For California that is incorrect, a muzzle brake or compensator does not have to be permanently attached. I believe for either NJ or NY it does – that is where the confusion stems from. But I might be wrong on the second part.

Jaime Gonzalez
Guest
Jaime Gonzalez

Ya, I’m in California so that’s some good news to hear! Thanks David!!

Spinach
Guest
Spinach

I’ve always heard that if my rifle is not put together, they are just parts. I do not want to be illegal, but at the same time I want my parts. I just usually throw my sights on my friends rifle when we go out plinking and just keep mine torn apart. I don’t want to get used to a rifle that is completely opposite of how I run an AR. Anyways. This was a few years ago that I started doing this, but will I get into trouble for having a 10.5 barrel laying around if it’s not attached… Read more »

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