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Old October 26, 2017, 18:35   #3
FALaholic #: 45299
Join Date: May 2009
Location: California
Posts: 1,585
The two options are "featureless" or fixed-mag.

Featureless requires removing all features prohibited to semi-auto centrefire rifles with detachable magazines (now including magazines that require a tool for removal and not just pushing a lever or button). No pistol grip, no flash suppressor (and the definition of such makes many muzzle brakes and compensators run afoul of the law or at least be questionable), no thumbhole stock, no grenade or flare launcher, no forward pistol grip (I think the angled foregrip might be an issue as well for those who like those), and no folding/collapsible stock.

To be compliant is to basically used a fixed stock, or used a folding stock that has been modified to keep it from folding; use a grip with a built-in fin or a grip wrap with a fin that keeps your thumb from wrapping around the back of the grip; and either using no muzzle device or using a muzzle device that does not reduce flash or direct flash away from the shooter's field of view, or is advertised or designed/intended to do the same.

The upsides are that with this configuration you can use the standard magazine release and hi-cap mags. It's also something that can readily be accomplished. The downside is that the grip fins kill ergonomics and if you actually want to use the FAL for social use the flash in low-light conditions can be an issue, such as by affecting your night vision. Also looks terrible, aesthetically, but this is at best a secondary consideration for most.

The other option is fixed-magazine. The definition has been changed such that the magazine has to be fixed in a manner that makes it impossible to remove without disassembling the action. This can include opening up two-piece actions like what is found on the FAL, removal of the bolt group, separation of action halves, or other disassembly that basically renders the rifle inoperable while it is in that condition. In this configuration you can keep all features, but you cannot use a magazine with a capacity larger than ten rounds, as it would then become an assault weapon by default. For ease of reloading, a charger guide top cover is strongly recommended, but has no bearing on legalities. On paras, this can only be done by using the DSA or Tapco scope mount that is short and has the charger-guide built in (I'm not sure if any other para-compatible charger-guide scope mount has ever been made by anyone else).

Currently, this sort of thing can only be done using epoxies, pins, rivets, or welds to basically prevent the mag catch from being able to move or be removed without opening the action, or to directly attach the magazine to the receiver. Such methods are generally undesirable. Some methods recommended still by some, such as the set screw method with the magazine catch, don't meet the legal standard. There is work currently being done on a possible compliance solution that is more palatable and some proof-of-concept work has been successfully accomplished. I can't say much more than that right now, but if we can find a way to ensure that it can't be defeated without opening the action, then it will be the best way to fix the magazine in place as it would not permanently affect any major parts and could be restored to a standard configuration within minutes. Another idea someone else had which is different was to drill a hole in the magazine body and use a bent cotter pin to attach the magazine, using the hole, to the upper by wrapping the ends around the ejector. If it could stand up to an effort to remove the magazine and could actually stand up to actual shooting of the rifle, that could work well, potentially, and it would require removal of the bolt group and top cover in order to undo and/or release the magazine. Right now there is no production compliance item to fix the magazine.

The upside to the fixed magazine is that it preserves good ergonomics, preserves the ability to use flash suppression, and preserves other features that someone may find fun (like being able to launch inert grenades) or desirable. It also results in better aesthetics. With a charger-guide, loading may not be quite as easy as changing the magazine, or even as easy as charger-loading most other rifles with this feature, but is still able to be done relatively quickly and easily using NATO 7.62mm chargers. Downside is that you are limited to ten rounds and reloading, again, can't be accomplished without changing the magazine. In many cases, there may also be a need to engage in undesirable modifications to major or expensive parts, although there may be solutions to this problem in the near future.

The other thing to be aware of is overall length. Any semi-auto rifle has to be at least 30 inches long with the stock folded, fully collapsed, etc. (if applicable).; basically, 30 inches or longer in its shortest configuration as configured, or it is an assault weapon regardless of whether or not the magazine is detachable and what features it may have. A FAL para with combo device and 18" barrel just meets this standard. One with a 17.2" barrel (and certainly any shorter types available) fall short. In this case, even with a fixed magazine, you'd have to modify the stock to keep it from folding. The CA DOJ has also illegally altered the OAL requirement so that it does not include any removable muzzle device, which makes even the 18" para an issue. I believe this action is being challenged in court, or soon will be, as they made the change in the wake of the laws passed recently, and those laws made no changes to the legal definitions for OAL. This was completely a DOJ initiative. Under this standard, the muzzle device would need to be integral or permanently attached using similar standards for keeping a weapon from being treated like an SBR.

Also, FALs cannot be on the Roberti-Roos list. If it is listed by both make and model, then it is an assault weapon by name and no changes to the configuration can change its status; even the stripped receiver is an AW. All FNs except for those with the model name "FN .308" are on the list, to the best of my knowledge. I can't remember if the SAR-48 is on the list or not. I don't believe any other FAL is on there by both make and model, but it is best to check and be sure.

Any FAL registered as an AW, regardless of what category or whether or not it actually meets the definition, cannot be transferred.

If you own a FAL that meets the pre-2017 definition of fixed magazine, which you acquired or configured that way before 2017, using a bullet button or similar device, or any other method that can be undone without disassembling the action, then you can keep it without issue until July 2018. You have until then to either sell it to someone with an assault weapon permit (it may have to be an FFL with such a permit, I can't recall for sure), destroy/deactivate it, turn it in, remove it from the State, modify it so that it is in a legal configuration under either the featureless or new fixed mag standard, or register it as an assault weapon. DOJ has made the process more onerous and for anyone technologically challenged, potentially infeasible. They have also stated that you must keep the bullet button or whatnot in place after registration, but this has no basis in the law and is being challenged in court, but it is what is currently being enforced.
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