California Microstamping Law: What Goes Around Comes Around

Massad Ayoob firing a Smith & Wesson Model 15 (courtesy

“Notice there were quite a few revolver introductions this year?” Mark Keefe [not shown] asks over at “There’s a reason for that.” That would be the Golden State’s microstamping law, which affects semi-automatic pistols (which spit out shell casings) but not revolvers (which don’t). Non-microstamping firearms are dropping off the approved handgun list like lemmings jumping into the sea (e.g. all new and slightly improved Rugers and Smith & Wessons). Mr. Keefe reckons that . . .

gunmakers are responding to the (anticipated?) demand for revolvers by producing…more revolvers.

“It looks like California will become ‘The Revolver State.’ I predict more revolver models (and perhaps even makers) are coming, and many will no doubt be heading for ‘Revolvifornia.'”

No industry confirmation and there’s a court case against the restriction but I bet Massad Ayoob will be well pleased and David Kenick will have a DVD ready to go.


  1. avatar Don't Tread On Me says:

    Those Taurus 8-round .357’s will be starting to look much better to Californians in the coming weeks/months/years.

    1. avatar Jim March says:

      I’m good to go. I have a 14-shot revolver if I want to stack a 9rd magazine on top of the 5 in the cylinder. Which is legal in Cali because I have two different “ammo feeding devices” with auto-switchover between cylinder feeding and magazine feeding.

      Now, normally I only plug a short 2rd mag on top of five in the cylinder with two 9rd mags as reloads. The short mag is 3″ long and doesn’t add to the holster mass much at all. The 9rd mags are a foot long, so they extend the length of the gun maybe 10″ or so…yeah, they stick out the back and plug rounds into the back of the cylinder once the cylinder starts running dry (empty chamber passes in front of mag and causes an insertion). Empties pop out the other side under gas pressure; the firing chamber auto-ejects the previously fired shell in the cycle out the back where they bounce off a hammer-mounted brass deflector pin.

      Maurice the FrankenRuger lives.


      1. avatar Wassim Absood says:


        I want them…


        1. avatar KingSarc48265 says:

          You’ll find pics over on Jim posts there under the same name. The gas system he has on that thing is ingenious. A creation of a true mad scientist. I mean that in the nicest way possible. Maurice is a work of art!

        2. avatar Jim March says:

          Maurice is the only personal arm that uses the same feed cycle as certain early-jet-age 20mm and 30mm aircraft cannons starting with a Nazi prototype, the Mauser MG 213, which went like this:

          I’m spinning a six-shot 9mmPara cylinder (completely convensional revolver cylinder, a Bowen blank reamed to 9mm) the other way from this animation, I’m using a single-stage-insert spring-loaded feed system instead of a two-stage rammer and I’m using pure gas-powered ejection rather than mechanical extraction…but overall, that animation is my feed cycle more or less. I found out about this gun and the clones made of it (like the US “Pontiac” M39 used in the F86 Sabrejet) about halfway through my build…I wasn’t as unique as I thought I was, damn those Nazis :).

      2. avatar Don't Tread On Me says:

        Watching the empty casings fly out from that Ruger is seriously one of the ‘neatest’ firearms related things I’ve seen in quite a while. So many talk a good game online, but actually creating something, and posting vids, is so legit. Much respect for the people who just do it.

      3. avatar G Boyd says:

        I want to see a picture of this monster. OK, really, seriously, what model is this ? Come on dude.

        1. avatar Jim March says:

          It started life as a Ruger New Vaquero. It is now simply “Maurice the FrankenRuger”…”Maurice” because “some people call it the Space Cowboy” (Steve Miller Band reference).

          It may be the most heavily modified handgun in existence and is almost certainly the weirdest CCW piece in current use. 🙂

          Basically, there’s a new hole in the frame to the right of the hammer. Once an empty cylinder bore passes in front of that hole, a spring-loaded tubular magazine of varying length rams a fresh 9mmPara into the cylinder. On cocking that round moves one right to the position under the hammer, fresh round gets injected into the cylinder. On firing the tapped muzzle gasses auto-eject the previously fired shell out the loading gate side, where the loading gate has been cut in half and a hinged upper section drops down to allow auto-ejection. A gas line is tapped off of a gas trap just past the muzzle, and run through a copper line into the hole and holder where the original ejector rod and housing used to be (now gone).

          I have to start hammer-on-empty because I don’t want to auto-eject a live round on the first shot. I can start out with either no shell under the hammer or an empty shell, doesn’t matter. That’s why, on reload, I can slap a fresh mag in and even though there’s a dead round under the hammer, cocking it will put the dead shell in the auto-eject slot and a live round under the hammer just like “normal” for this gun and feed cycle, which exists nowhere else in personal arms, handgun, rifle or shotgun.

          I have two magazines so far: a short 3″ long “carry mag” for holster duty that holds two rounds (topping off five in the cylinder) and a pair of 9rd foot-long reload mags. I can also stack a long mag on the full cylinder for 14 rounds with no reload.

          Both kinds of mags send the mag follower forward into the cylinder bore once the mag is empty, tying up the gun’s rotation and letting me know it’s time to reload.

          There’s a weird tacticool aspect in that once the cylinder runs dry and it switches to mag feeding, there’s a distinct “clunk” as the first of the mag-fed rounds slams forward into the cylinder, letting me know I’m down to my last two rounds of the first seven in normal carry. The mag followers are empty shells turned around backwards, JB-welded to the end of the Wolff 32-20 levergun mag springs I’m using. Reload speed is about on par with a DA wheelgun with good speedloaders, but of course the reloads are 9rd instead of 6, 7 or 8. I’ve improved the magazine latch system a bit since the video was taken (link with pics and video below).

          Feed reliability is insanely great – the feed path is dead straight, it will feed wadcutters, empty shells, it doesn’t care about bullet shape and in that it’s still a true revolver versus semi.

          I can also do a “top-off reload” where I cram a live round into the mag well and then stack a 9rd mag on top of that, for a 10rd reload. This trick lets me start with 14, add 10 and end up with 24 rounds with just one reload, enough to run an entire SASS stage at respectable speed with just one gun if they’d let me. Unlikely – I once tried to add up how many SASS rules Maurice violates and the best answer I can come up with is “all of them”.

          The sight is also very post-modern, a one-off build based on an unreleased prototype variant of a Goshen Enterprises Hexsite, set up to “look retro”. It looks like a scope but it is actually still an “iron sight” of sorts, kind of an “extreme peep”. Elevation is adjustable by shims, windage by rotation of the gas trap device.

          Completely weird.

    2. avatar Shawn F. says:

      That 8 rounder looks sweet: I have a 7 rounder model 617 snub-nose. I love that thing 😉

  2. avatar maiko says:

    How retro. Maybe the cops will start carrying revolvers again too.

    1. avatar Marcus Aurelius says:

      We’re so progressive we’ve gone retro.

      1. avatar the ruester says:

        After skinny jeans, this was inevitable.

        1. avatar Marcus Aurelius says:

          A revolver, skinny jeans and a trigger-finger mustache…

        2. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

          Sounds like an STD.

      2. avatar Roscoe says:

        Fashion DOES seem to come and go in cycles, and California (at least ‘urban’ CA) is nothing if not ‘fashionable’.

        Jumping back into revolvers fits right in. Now let’s see how imaginative the manufacturers can be.

      3. avatar gtfoxy says:

        Hey in Cali what is Vogue is Hip… or not.

        They never knew the law would help a failing market segment… WAY TO GO CALIFORNICATION!

  3. avatar Jim Jones says:

    And by proxy, their new law “intended” to help law enforcement with the super-duper-uber crime fighting tool of micro-stamping is actually hindering things since every criminal now switches to revolvers. Presto! No more shell casings at the crime scene! Haven’t these people seen The Wire? A true professional always uses a revolver.

    1. avatar Craig says:

      A real professional uses a M1895 Nagant: the revolver that can be suppressed.

  4. avatar dwb says:

    The loophole that excludes revolvers is only temporary, trust me. I bought a revolver in Marylandstan and they require a spent shell casing for their 55gal drum at MSP HQ ballistic fingerprinting.

    I’m sure CA will getting around to closing the loophole that exempts revolvers. Right about now, some words about logic and reason are about to escape your lips. Hush, baby, Mommas against guns say its For The Children ™

    I wish I were kidding.

    1. avatar Larry says:

      why would a spent casing be useful? no ballistic marks, I guess if your fire pin micro-stamps the primer but once the micro-stamp wears off from use, again it’s worthless. They should have you shoot into ballistic gel to get the rifled slug if they want to compare it against future crimes…………crazy what they think of.

      1. avatar Sixpack70 says:

        The problem is they think, but they don’t critically think. If they did they would stop being gun grabbers.

      2. avatar dwb says:

        There you go again Larry applying logic and reason. I warned you, it has nothing to to with that. It’s for the Children ™.

      3. avatar JR says:

        It is possible to match machine marks on a spent case to a particular firearm, even revolvers. I remember doing it in the late 70’s, and we used to practice with .38 Spl loads fired from training guns.

        You have to have both, though, the firearm and the case to make the comparison (firearm is used to fire a “known” case and the machine marks are compared). Microstamping, as the theory goes, is supposed to provide a method to have just the case and id the firearm from the marks if there is a library of microstamp marks on file somewhere.

        I still cannot figure out how in the world this kind of thing (fired case library, microstamping, etc) could even remotely, in the wildest imagination, be thought to be useful for revolvers that don’t typically leave brass at the scene.

        (Wear is a good argument against the efficacy of the spent case libraries).

    2. avatar Mark N. says:

      Except for the fact that NYC kept spent millions of dollars keeping spent shell casings–and finally cancelled the program as an abject failure when it failed to solve a single crime. So I wouldn’t worry about that too much. Even if they find a match, they still have to prove that you still have (had ) the gun and that you fired it–which the shell casing alone can never do.

      1. avatar dwb says:

        “Even if they find a match, they still have to prove that you still have (had ) the gun and that you fired it–which the shell casing alone can never do.”

        ?Not biatching because I plan to commit a crime. Not sure why you are assuming that. In fact, if ever this gun gets fired at a human, its one who busted into my house and threatened my family, so not only will I, on the advice of counsel, likely own up to it, but probably get a pat on the back because around here burglars typically have a violent rap sheet longer than the King James Bible.

        No, I am against it because its a huge waste of time and money (taxpayer $s) for something that amounts to masturbation (feels good, produces nothing). I am not opposed to masturbation per say, just when I have to pay for someone else’s pleasure.

        1. avatar Mark N. says:

          So when your gun is stolen, do you want them to be able to presume that you are the culprit based on a shell casing? I don’t think so, sports fans. Otr that it was you who shot your wife, not some intruder–or another family member? There are a lot of hypothetical situations where just because you are the registered owner of a firearm does not mean that you are the one who committed a crime with it. Which is why they system is funky–it does not establish that the gun was in any particular persons hand when it was fired, only that at one pint in time as specific individual owned it. This is why the California APPS officers have to inquire nicely of people if they still own firearms that are registered to them–because the mere fact that they once were the registered owner is not even reasonable cause to believe that they still are. No warrant can issue until the prohibited person admits possession of firearms and refuses to turn them over.

        2. avatar JR says:

          “do you want them to be able to presume that you are the culprit based on a shell casing? ”

          Mark, I’m asking this question honestly – not sarcastic. Have you ever tried a murder case?

          The reason I ask is because I have testified in quite a few, and provided evidence in many others that never went to court. We did not match guns to cases and bullets to presume anyone’s guilt but to introduce them into evidence at trial.

          There are other reasons, too, of course. Matching ballistics is very important during the investigation phase; it can help identify subjects. No one is getting a conviction based on this, but it can be a useful tool toward pointing the investigation to the bad guy.

        3. avatar dwb says:

          I still don’t understand your point, Mark N. Revolvers don’t leave shell casings. Why would I be worried about something that isn’t going to happen? Let’s just agree this law is stupid, has not solved or prevented any crimes, and should be repealed.

        4. avatar JR says:

          Let me clarify: “help id suspects” as in who to interview. If it’s your gun, but you did not use it, can you suggest who might have? Was it stolen? Who had access to it? Etc.

          Not id as in…presuming he who owns the gun committed the crime.

          Presume is a pretty powerful word anyway. There were very, very few things we could “presume.”

  5. avatar Wassim Absood says:

    I am optimistic that the tragicomically misnamed ‘not unsafe handgun’ roster will be history before too long. After all, if the 9th can make us a ‘shall issue’ state, surely they can see that we are being disbarred from owning weapons in common usage.

    1. avatar Roscoe says:

      Agreed, but it may be a while.
      Time will tell.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        Oral argument has been had in the Ninth–but that tells us nothing as to when a decision may issue. (Obviously the trial court ruled in favor of the roster.) I am not optimistic.

  6. avatar Sixpack70 says:

    I want a TRR 8, but damn they are expensive. I just bought a GP100 last week and I love this thing! Although finding .357 ammo has been challenging. .38spl has been easy and for some reason +p was cheaper than regular ammo. Maybe this will spur some interesting revolver development until we can free California.

    1. avatar Skiballa says:

      I recently purchased the M&P R8, just like the TRR8 but with the fixed picatinny rail under the barrel. I love this thing, but man, that price. Granted, I had to order it through the licensed S&W dealer, and if I had the money back to do it over again, I’d buy it again every time. 8 rounds of .357 is no joke, it’ll turn some heads at the range.

    2. avatar DD says:

      Just bought a S&W Model 60 3″ Talo .38 Spl. Revolvers live forever and this one shoots holes inside of holes.

  7. avatar Jan says:

    I’m getting as many semi-automatics as I can in anticipation of the Revolver Revolution!

    1. avatar Russ Bixby says:

      I know a guy who bought 30 Timex® watches in the early ’70s because he feared that analog watches would disappear within a couple years, digital timepieces being all the rage at that time.

      He still has twenty-five of ’em left.

      1. avatar Bill says:

        guns unlike cheap watches, generally only increase in value, regardless of outside factors. All of my guns, from my mosin, to my revolvers have only gone up in price, and I’ve made a tidy profit thinning the herd from time to time.

        1. avatar Russ Bixby says:

          I dunno – he’s a mechanic, and five watches in forty years aint bad, considering that he takes no precautions.

          I’ll bet they’re wrth more’n he paid, too – original, unopened packaging, y’know. His kids’ll likely inherit and make a mint off eBay…

  8. avatar Taylor Tx says:

    Reminds me of a gun control video I saw on here where a guy had 6 webley revolvers in his satchel.

    1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      Indian Jones wore a satchel.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Jones used an N frame S&W .44 special. At least in the first movie.

    2. avatar Bill says:

      I want a webley…

  9. avatar Illumfiati says:

    For those of us stuck in semi-auto land, would it be worth a ‘dust-off’ or comparison of the latest lineup of .38 ammo offerings, maybe a gun comparison S&W vs Ruger and a Taurus vs. Charter Arms article? I know there has been reviews in the past.

  10. avatar Braenen says:

    At least you will be able to carry them now.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Not without a CCW, and in the counties that were a problem before, there is no reason to suspect that there will not be problems in the future.

  11. avatar Daniel Silverman says:

    While this maybe true, I have not seen any new revolvers this month. A few 22 pistols and a couple of updated, i.e. cosmetic changes only Colt 1911, but more falling off the list.
    Waiting on Pena v CID. They had oral arguments, now waiting on a ruling.

  12. avatar Mark N. says:

    I find it wonderfully ironic that the safe handgun roster exempts brand new Colt (or colt clone) SAA revolvers–revolvers that are not drop safe unless loaded with only five rounds–that we will continue to be allowed to purchase, probably forever.

    1. avatar Dennis says:

      All new manufacture revolvers, SA and DA, that I am aware of have been made with a transfer bar or similar arrangement that allows carrying 5 or more for the last 10-20 years. Even the imports are so equipped to get the necessary points.

      So the challenge is to show us one newly made revolver that disproves the above statement.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        SAAs come both ways. Pietta has had a transfer bar for a number of years, but Ubertis have just become available in the last few months. Uberti continues to sell models that do not have the transfer bar, and as far as I know, Colt makes theirs the old fashioned way, and I would be shocked if they ever changed the design. But the point is that the original design is available despite the roster, and will likely continue to be so.

        1. avatar Dennis says:

          Just need one example from a current catalog or web page for a currently manufactured revolver that is not drop-safe.

        2. avatar Dennis says:

          Colt’s SAA owners manual (C)1998 shows a transfer bar in fig. 3, p.15, and fig. 9, p. 36/37 as part description #18.

      2. avatar Shane says:

        The Cimarron P does not have a transfer bar:
        There is a manual safety notch, so that might be what you were referring to as a “similar arrangement”.

        1. avatar Dennis says:

          According to the instruction manual: “Draw the hammer backward only
          about 1/4” and you will feel the hammer “click” into its safety notch. (If you listen
          carefully, you can hear it). In doing this you are engaging its normal internal
          safety notch and, at the same time, activating the built-in hammer block mechanism. This device puts a solid bar of steel between the hammer and frame of your gun and is designed to prevent accidental firing.”

          So yes, same principal.

        2. avatar Shane says:

          Dennis – Italian manuals are like historical fiction novels, they may or may not reflect reality. I own two of these imported by Cimarron and they don’t have the “hammer safety bar” parts, just the safety notch. The points are handled by a base pin safety.

          You are also wrong about the Colt SAA. That 1998 manual is for the Cowboy, a version of the SAA adapted for CAS that includes a transfer bar. Take a look at the 1993 SAA manual for the real SAA.

  13. avatar AlphaGeek says:

    A 10-shot 9mm revolver which takes full-moon clips sounds fun. +P+ loads here we come!

    Or, y’know, death to the Roster. That would be better.

  14. avatar Russ Bixby says:

    Hmmm… Think I’ll go make me a web site advertising polishing and micro-stamp imperfection removal services…

  15. avatar TRP says:

    Good reason to carry a 7 shot Rem 870, just like VP Joe says

  16. avatar MiketheHopsFarmer says:

    Title made me think of Office Space. Adjusted to the situation.
    Drew: Hey, isn’t that the girl that works over at California?
    Peter Gibbons: Yeah.
    Drew: Hmmm. Who’s she here with?
    Peter Gibbons: She’s with me.
    Drew: Really?
    Peter Gibbons: Yeah.
    Drew: All right, Peter! Ooh! Ooh! Right on. Make sure you wear a rubber, dude.
    Peter Gibbons: Why is that, Drew?
    Drew: Are you kidding me? She gets around. All right?
    Peter Gibbons: She does, does she?
    Drew: Oh, yeah. Like a revolver cylinder.

  17. avatar TRP says:

    If you can shoot a S&W 629 like this dude, what does it matter?

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Well Mr. Miculek makes an interesting case to carry .44 Magnum. If the caliber alone isn’t enough to instantly stop your attacker, the shear momentum of 6 bullets hitting the attacker in one second will.

      By the way that is the only time that I have seen bullets knock over a metal silhouette target.

  18. avatar Bernard says:

    So microstamping causes Californians to buy revolvers. Johnny Hallyday lives in California. Johnny Hallyday is French. The French special forces use revolvers for marine operations. Revolvers are inherently more reliable and semi-autos. California borders the ocean. Therefore, revolvers.

    1. avatar NJDevil says:

      That was some wonderful circular logic! I applaud you.

  19. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    Next up on the docket, HB345, the California Colon Carry Bill.

  20. avatar Tom says:

    Why in the hell the gun industry, notably Glock, Smith and Wesson, Ruger, Colt and other major manufacturers cut off sales to California government agencies. This is about the only way I see that would put pressure on state leaders. The gun industry needs for once to set aside temporary profit for long term results.

  21. avatar DisThunder says:

    How long would a micro-stamped firing pin actually hold up? I mean, the stamp can’t be all that deep, just by the nature of what we’re talking about here. Wouldn’t normal wear pretty much remove any type of legible number after a few good years shooting? Doesn’t that make it really no better than standard ballistics “printing?”
    I realize there’s not any logic behind this kind of stupidity, I’m just trying to find the corn in this shit that made it seem like the magic solution.

    1. avatar JR says:

      Well, of course it’s not better than current machine marks based identification tech. But they are doing this to actually solve any problem as we think of solving crime problems.

      If they implement microstamping laws, and crime does not go down, they can move on to the next solution, whatever it is, that further limits the private ownership of firearms.

      Such limits come in the form of:

      making guns more expensive to produce
      making gun more expensive to import or sell
      making guns harder to sell for other bureaucratic reasons
      making them plain old not work (the watch gun as an example)
      making it illegal, expensive or a hassle to carry
      making it socially unacceptable to own, carry or use guns for any purpose
      making children fear guns irrationally, to the point that even pictures of guns are feared (which is bs anyway)

  22. avatar great unknown says:

    One of the advantages of a revolver is that is makes possible the game of Russian Roulette. Which is appropriate, since the entire State of California seems to be attempting suicide in stages.

  23. avatar BDub says:

    Is the Kalifornia legislature not aware that casings come out of a revolver too, when you reload? I’m being serious.

  24. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    Not just California, if I lived in NY I’d carry a revolver. Probably in any state where the BEAR part of the second amendment isn’t respected as well. No sense spitting shell casings all over the place if you’re carrying on the down low. I guess you could always wipe them down and load them in your mags with gloves or a rag, but even then if you loose some casings you’d best dispose of your firing pin and extractor.

  25. avatar jwm says:

    While I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I prefer revolvers I think that a free person should have a choice.

  26. avatar Ralph says:

    Once the good citizens of Cali start tooling up with Smith & Wesson 629s in .44 Mag, I’m sure that the state legislators will suffer from an extreme case of what is commonly referred to as “douchebags’ remorse.”

  27. avatar Gunr says:

    We can all go back to black powder with a patched ball!
    Micro stamp that Dianne F.

  28. avatar Mort says:

    Don’t forget your speedy loaders!

  29. avatar Ing says:

    I can’t believe nobody has caught (or at least mentioned) the pun in the article title. The microstamping law comes around and revolvers keep on going around… It’s brilliant!

  30. avatar G Boyd says:

    Go here:
    They do sell “auto” revolvers !!
    take that Diane.

  31. avatar Gunr says:

    This of course, “auto revolver”, should lead us into the miniature belt fed “Chain Gun” with the belt running up your arm under a long sleeve shirt!

  32. avatar Porterhaus says:

    Please, Lord, let .45 double actions come into popularity.

  33. avatar Kyle says:

    The manufacturers are shooting themselves in the foot if they start producing new types of revolvers for the state, because then the courts may just say that due to the fact that people can buy revolvers, the microstamping law leading to the discontinued production or greatly reduced production of semiautomatic handguns is not an infringement on people’s right to keep and bear arms.

  34. avatar Jason says:

    Although revolvers are not my prefered weapons of choice, I will do what is necessary. I do sometimes carry my smith 686, complete with the 3 shot burst.

  35. avatar JWhite says:

    WHERE IS CRPA? 2AF? NRA-ILA? on this micro-stamping bull?

    *turns blue*

  36. avatar samadams1776 says:

    Californians: do you want your freedom back. You know what must be done.
    Think “The Battle of Athens Tennessee,” but on a MUCH larger scale. It’s your only real hope.

    Or, considering the true National Debt is $222 Trillion, you can wait for the collapse–no guarantee when that will happen, though. You need to be ready for when–not if–the collapse occurs.

    How many gun owners are there in California?

    Need to communicate privately?

    SamAdams1776 III – Oathkeeper
    Molon Labe
    Qui tacet consentit
    Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges
    Idque apud imperitos humanitas vocabatur, cum pars servitutis esset

    1. avatar Rich Grise says:

      They really don’t care what you’re saying – it’s more like who’s connecting to whom:

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