Five Letters Re: Battle Rifle Recommendations for a Californian

Mr. Rawles:
One way that U.S. citizens can still get M1 Garand rifles at reasonable prices is via the DoD‘s Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP).

M1 Garands are available starting at $445 + shipping. (I believe the Field Grades to be best choice for practical use rifles–$495)

M1 Carbines are available for $419 + shipping and up. [JWR Adds: I do not recommend M1 Carbines, because they are chambered for an anemic cartridge. The .30 US Carbine is not a reliable man stopper!]

.30-06 military surplus ammunition in clips, bandoleers and sealed cans, for $200 per case of 768 rounds.

Requirements: Proof of citizenship, proof of age, proof of membership in a CMP affiliated club, proof of participation in marksmanship training activity and NICS check. Rifles can be shipped right to your doorstep by the CMP.

Additionally, the Appleseed Program that you advertise on your site normally provides certificates for proof of marksmanship activity to Appleseed participants if requested. Membership in the RWVA (the Appleseed Program’s parent organization) satisfies the “affiliated club” requirement, and participation at an event exposes one to the techniques and tools needed for becoming a better rifle shooter. Appleseed has been to Corona, California, and will be in other locations.

For other options, the Lee-Enfield is probably the best bolt action battle rifle–the mag capacity, speed of loading with stripper clips, and rapid bolt manipulation minimize the usual bolt gun limitations. The No. 4 with the aperture sight is easiest to shoot well, especially with older eyes. Just get plenty of stripper clips, a decent sling that can be used as a shooting aid (USGI web sling–the one with the buckle and adjustment slide, not the “silent sling”), some spare parts (pins and springs mainly, Lee Enfields are pretty easy to repair), and maybe a Lee Loader in .303. The rimmed cartridge is easy to reload and can even be reloaded with black powder and cast lead bullets for really long term use.

Thanks for your web site, and God Bless. – SoM


Hi Jim,
I’m in California, and I absolutely feel the pressure your writer feels. I abide by the law, for fear of it. My choice for an MBR is the PTR-91.
I can get it in a “California Legal” configuration. It has what is called a “bullet button” installed. This is a replacement mechanism for the mag release, that requires an included tool to operate. Since California defines an assault weapon and a rifle with a detachable box magazine. [Under the California law], a fixed magazine is defined as one that requires a tool to remove. This arrangement works just fine. My rifle is a fixed magazine weapon, and therefore may have all the evil features I wish to install, without limit. No one can remove the magazine without the proper tool. And, it is not on the list of banned weapons. It’s not even close to that problematic AR-series and AK-series ban language (which no longer applies to off-list lowers. But that’s still something [that California] law enforcement has yet to learn.)

[To keep legal] you must never have the magazine detached from the rifle and still have the trigger assembly installed. Fortunately, the butt stock and trigger assembly fall into my hands. Make sure the mag stays in the rifle until the rest has been removed. It’s a pain, I know, but less so than an arrest. To make it easy for myself: I leave the mag in place, and load it through the ejection port. My mag has been pinned by the reseller so as to accept only 10 cartridges.

The PTR-91 can be found for $1,100 – $1,240, depending on options.[They comes with a] brand new H&K carrier, bolt head, and flash hider. – Randy in Central California


Hello Mr. Rawles.
I too, am a California resident. For the longest time I wanted to own an AR-15 only to be let down by the [California 1999] “Assault Weapons” ban.

Recently I found out I can indeed own a legal AR-15. In the text of the ban, there is a list of names that are forbidden. However, there are now several manufacturers making AR15s and their lower receivers are not on that list. These receivers are legal to own as they are not “listed”. Some people are calling said receivers “off list lowers” .

The California definition of an assault weapon lists the criteria as:
(a) Notwithstanding Section 12276, “assault weapon” shall also mean any of the following:
(1) a semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:
(a) pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
(b) thumbhole stock.
(c) folding or telescoping stock
(d) grenade launcher or flare launcher.
(e) flash suppressor.
(f) forward pistol grip.

Since your typical MBR is going to be a centerfire, there’s no way to change that. However, you CAN change the “detachable magazine” or “pistol grip” feature.

There are two options if you want to remove the pistol grip. The U-15 stock, or the Monster Man Grip. This eliminates any question of the pistol grip and it’s “pistol style grasp”. This will allow you to have a detachable magazine. However, please understand that your rifle must be “featureless”. Adding D, E, or F will make it an assault weapon (seeing that it’s already 1) centerfire and 2) possessing the ability to have detachable magazines).

If you’d like to keep your pistol grip, there’s the option of “fixing” the magazine (meaning not detachable without the use of tools). One well known option is to weld your magazine to the receiver and feeding it via stripper clips. This can be an expensive, irreversible solution.

Instead, you can buy a magazine lock kit (known as a “bullet button”) that will convert from “detachable” to an “attachable” magazine rifle. This type of mag lock uses a tool (an allen wrench, a cartridge, a screwdriver, etc) to detach the magazine, but will accept the magazine without any complications. A list of various “bullet buttons” (and its cousins) can be found at

Bullet Buttons are made for a variety of firearms, including AKs, AR-15s, HKs and from other sources, FALs. Should you choose this route, your magazine must be limited to 10 rounds as anything more will be illegal.

The best part about these options is that you are legally allowed to own what would otherwise be an “assault weapon”, and if you move to a gun-friendly state, they are 100% reversible.

Should you plan to build an California-legal AR-15 (or AK, HK, FAL, etc) then please refer to this PDF chart to ensure it is legal.

For more information about the above options, check out the CalGun Forums.

I hope this information is useful to law-abiding Californians. – Jason


Hi James:
I enjoyed reading SurvivalBlog this morning as usual. In reading your response to the question of a MBR for California, I thought I would chime in as we still have a number of fairly good options here in the PRK.

The M1A is the obvious choice, and while expensive, they can sometimes be had used for a very good price. Detachable mags, in California are sadly limited to 10 round mags, unless you actually owned those higher capacity mags prior to the 2000 PRK ban.

DSA makes several California compliant fixed 10 round mag FAL rifles which use stripper clips, and after market kits are available to convert a normally configured FALs to fixed mag/stripper clips configuration. There are probably thousands of FAL variants in California sitting in safes, which have had the pistol grip (and flash suppressor) removed to make them California compliant but shooting an FAL without the pistol grip is a bit awkward. MonsterMan Grips make a grip which makes off list lower AR-15 and AK types California compliant, and they have promised to make a similar grip for the FAL. I am planning on using an old thumb hole butt stock and filling in the thumb hole to make a close-to-normally configured FAL which will be California compliant, and will allow me to continue to use my 20 round FAL mags.

I went to a California gun show a few weeks ago – my first in many years, and was surprised at the plethora of California compliant ARs, AKs, FALs, and other weapons thought to be non-existent in the California market. I also saw a number of M1 Garands for less than your $900 market price. I thought I paid a lot for my 7.62 NATO Garand all those many years ago, never realizing what a deal it would really turn out to be. Keep up the great work, and sage advice.- Eric P.

You mentioned the FN49 rifle as a possible MBR.
I just purchased a Yugo SKS ($199) plus four 20-round magazines (at $10 each) and 1,000 rounds (at $177) via the Internet. Even if I have the trigger re-worked, the springless firing pin replaced, custom stock installed, I’ll still be way under the least expensive FN49. In fact I could buy 2 SKS for the FN49 price. It’s a good rifle out to 300 yards and perhaps more if the rifleman has the skill set. In my suburban environment, it would be untypical for me to be shooting even out to 300 yards. So, does my SKS pass muster? – Bob

JWR Replies: Since they are chambered in an intermediate power cartridge with a rainbow trajectory, I consider the SKS a poor second choice to a full power rifle such as an M1A, M1 Garand, or FN49.. And though an SKS might suffice, but why risk your life depending on something that is second best? An FN49 combines great penetrating power with a flat trajectory, allowing effective defensive shooting out to 400 yards. With the exception of the Argentine Navy variant (with detachable magazines), the rate of fire for an FN49 is not as fast as an M1A, HK, or FAL, but it is close.

For those that don’t mind the paper trail associated with getting an M1 Garand through the CMP, read the eligibility requirements.

And for those that want to jump through the flame-filled hoops of a “complaint” semi-auto rifle in California, I agree with Eric P.’s advice on getting an FN-FAL or L1A1 and equipping it with a stripper clip top cover. These are quite fast to reload. Further, if anyone in California has owned a 20 round magazine since before Dec. 31, 1999 and they have resided continuously in California since before that date, then that magazine can be legally possesed, but not inserted in a semi-auto rifle that has any of the “evil” features.

With all that said, keep in mind that the legalistic contortions of California’s so-called “Assault weapons” ban skirt the real issue, which is freedom. If you love liberty, vote with your feet and get out of that Mickey Mouse state, post haste!