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by EC in CA

Greetings from everyone’s favorite state in the Union! Just kidding. But seriously, half as a political statement and half as an expression of state pride, I decided to build an AR-15 that’s 100% “Made in California” (a.k.a. People’s Republic of Kalifornia, Commiefornia, Kaliforniastan, et al.). Why in the name of organic granola would anyone want to build a rifle from parts made in, of all places, California? Many Americans care about where their firearm was manufactured. Some people simply want it to be “Made in the USA,” but others make more specific choices as a matter of regional, state, or civic pride. We California gun owners (all 9 million of us) are no different.

Eureka! As it turns out, there are way more AR component manufacturers based in California than one would expect—many of them produce high-quality, distinctive, and (in some cases) class-leading products. It’s important to support these gun companies fighting the good fight in hostile territory. While this may not win me any popularity contests, here’s your guide to the great AR parts manufactured on the Left Coast:


courtesy of JD Machine Tech and Houlding Precision firearms

Lower Receiver Highlights: JD Machine Tech and Houlding Precision Firearms. Both of these shops are well known for their high quality in-house manufacturing and distinctive designs. As a reflection of its San Diego “military town” heritage, JD has lowers with roll marks for each military branch. Houlding’s billet lowers even feature a flared magwell (with checkered front) and the Stars and Stripes on the bottom of the integral trigger guards.

Other Lower Receivers: Addax Tactical, Ares Armor, CIV Tactical, Cobra Tactical, EP Armory, Franklin Armory, Ledesma Arms Mfg., Phase 5 Tactical, Riflegear, Valkyrie Arms

Lower Parts Kits & Lower Parts Upgrades: BattleComp, JD Machine Tech, Ledesma Arms Mfg., Phase 5 Tactical, Strike Industries

High-Capacity Assault Clips: Surefire

courtesy of Houlding Precision firearms

Upper Receiver Highlight: Houlding Precision Firearms. Apparently oats aren’t the only hearty product that comes out of the City of Madera. Houlding’s billet upper receivers are octagonally shaped for extra strength and finished with hard-as-nails Cerakote. They are sold as matched sets with lower receivers.

Other Upper Receivers: Centurion Arms, Franklin Armory, JD Machine Tech, Ledesma Arms Mfg., Phase 5 Tactical, Riflegear

Bolt Carrier Groups: Cobra Tactical, Phase 5 Tactical, Riflegear

Charging Handles: JD Machine Tech, Ledesma Arms Mfg., Phase 5 Tactical, Strike Industries

Iron Sights: Centurion Arms, Dueck Defense, Franklin Armory, Surefire

Weapon lights: Surefire

courtesy of Defense Marketing Group

Muzzle Device Highlight: BattleComp. Word on the street is that the best compensators in the USA are made in South San Francisco. BattleComp users swear by its ability to almost completely negate muzzle rise. The concussion/blast experienced by the shooter is better than most other compensators at the expense of the people standing off to the sides. No wonder we feel like Bay Area politicians just aren’t listening: they’re just deafened by the awesomeness of the BattleComp!

Other Muzzle Devices: Ares Armor, CIV Tactical, Houlding Precision Firearms, JD Machine Tech, Phase 5 Tactical, Strike Industries, Surefire

Barrels:, Centurion Arms

Gas Tubes & Blocks: Centurion Arms, JD Machine Tech, Strike Industries

courtesy of Ironwood Designs

Buttstock Highlight: Ironwood Designs. While San Jose is the “capital” of Silicon Valley, local company Ironwood Designs kicks it old school. They meld the tradition of wood rifle furniture with the high-tech AR-15 platform. You definitely won’t find another AR looking like this on the range.

Other Buttstocks: Hogue

Buffer Assemblies: JD Machine Tech, Phase 5 Tactical

Courtesy of Strike Industries

Handguard Highlight: Strike Industries. Since Strike Industries operates in sunny Orange County, they know how to deal with heat. Their Keymod Mega Fins free-floated handguard has eight interior fins along its length to act as a heatsink for the barrel and add rigidity, too.

Other Handguards: Centurion Arms, Hogue, Ironwood Designs, JD Machine Tech, Parallax Tactical, Surefire.

Pistol grips & Vertical grips: Hogue, Ironwood Designs, Strike Industries

Now that you’ve built your own California Modern Sporting Rifle, you can look the part with some tacticool gear from Golden State-based 5.11 Tactical, Hazard4, or Safariland. After all, image is important out here.

While this whole endeavor turned out to be fairly impractical, I couldn’t think of a better way to stick it to California’s “esteemed legislators” than to build an Evil Black Rifle conceived completely under their governance. The irony wouldn’t be lost on them, and I know it isn’t lost on the POTG (no matter what state you hail from). Just remember your Bullet Button — you know, for everyone’s safety.

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        • Yeah because there’s only 7 states with more than 10 million people.

          Yes. The liberal state of Kalifornia has MORE gun owners than the overwhelming majority of states have total people!

          That’s from the 2010 Census too.

        • I knew someone wouldn’t read my comment correctly.

          That’s a lot of gun owners but I never said ca has few gun owners. I said few say rock on ca. I’m a ca guy and I can think of quite a few who people who don’t say rock on ca.

  1. I work I San Diego and only a few milea from my workplace its practically AR central – Parallax Tactical, JD, and several shops apecializing in ARs and AR parts.

  2. But can our Sacramento overlords trace this via serial number? Is this that most feared of Scary Black Rifles – a Weapon of Mass Shootings that has no registration number, and therefore nothing that our “beloved” State government can track?

    If so, I need to look into this possibility.

      • Well, not necessarily. If you do an “80% lower” and do not intend to sell the rifle (i.e., not built for the purposes of resale), you do not have to serialize the lower unless and until you sell it. 80% lowers can be purchased without an FFL, because they are not “firearms” until machined out to become a stripped lower. Uppers are not firearms either, and are not registered.

        Not sure what effect the new long gun registration law (going into effect the first of the year) has on this “loop hole.” Further, there was and may still be a crackdown on shops offering pre-programmed time on cnc milling machines, apparently under the theory that since the machine is doing all the work, the owner of the machine is “manufacturing” the lower.

      • Not true. You need a background check and a 10 day cool off here. Only handguns are registered to the owner. Rifles are not registered here in CA.

        • Source please? Near as I can tell from NRA-ILA none of those laws passed. Gonna be stationed in Cali for a while so I picked up a poly 80% lower to slap my uppers on to build a legal AR. No dang way I’m bringing any guns I have to register while I’m stuck there.

        • The law for long gun registration to start 1-1-2014 has been on the books (2011 I believe) and waiting to take effect. It was not one of the new laws (many of which were signed, many of which were not).

          Beginning January 1, 2014, requires DROS information regarding the sale or transfer of long guns (rifles and shotguns) to be collected, reported, and retained in the same manner as handgun DROS information (Pen Code, §§ 11106, 26905 )

  3. Sorry but that stock looks like it’s made out of endangered and protected wood. Use of such requires prior state permission and registration of said trees. Please turn yourself in to the California Tree Protection Department or be prepared to have their SWAT team meet you at your door. Your attorney will explain the mandatory life sentence you have now brought upon yourself.

  4. Thanks for providing a list of the tainted manufacturers that financially support the apparatus of a gun grabbing state tyranny.

  5. Nice work Eric. You got me thinking now about a build just to support made in CA, USA.

    We 2A right to self-defense folks all need all the help we can get here,

    and reminding business people and common-sense voters that theres jobs here in CA at risk due to the “progressives” running all three branches of State Govt is a good thing.

    Hey, the Chief Warden at Camp Pendleton actually had a rule once that you could not hunt on base with “military looking weapons”. I dont think it was ever enforced, but if it ever was:

    Wood stocks for the AR it is!

  6. CA is a little less depressing after that. I wish the millions of gun owners in CA had a stronger voice, but there are definitely some good manufacturers here fighting behind enemy lines.

  7. You had me until you used the word “clips”. To me, it always sounds like the person doesn’t know much about guns when they say that.

  8. FMK Firearms in Placentia is another to add to the list for lowers, as well as pistols. I purchased a couple of their polymer lowers and have been not only very pleased with quality, but equally proud of having their product. Can you really go wrong with their heritage, which concludes with…

    “Our charter is two-fold:

    Provide a high-quality firearm to all Americans at the most competitive price.

    Encourage Americans on a journey to embrace and understand American history and our Founder’s intent in setting down into law the philosophies and principles which make the United States of America the greatest nation on earth.”

    I’ll plug them without apologies

  9. So not to be the voice of negativity, but the forged uppers and/or lowers are most likely only finished in California since there are only a small handfull of forges in the country. So, technically, not entirely made in Cali, same goes for LPKs, most of the bits are forged out of state and rebranded. I know, nit picking.

    Still, almost everything can be had as true made in Cali. Living here in California myself, the draconian gun laws really do put a damper on gun owners.

    • Have you ever been to a forge? The capital expenditure needed for even one good press is ridiculous, not to mention the tool shop and technical expertise needed to support production. I’d never criticize a company for outsourcing forgings…

  10. I really liked this post, though I dislike that it was “necessary.” That Ironwood Designs stock is really pretty handsome, especially the stained photo. I might have to do that for my third or fourth AR.

  11. Serious case of gun envy here. I just love the classic lines of your completed AR-15, wish I could afford the wood hardware (in a darker finish of course)…..perhaps someday! As a fellow Californian, I salute you.

  12. Ironwood designs is out of California?? There are 9 million of you?? Go figure! In fact there are quite a few recognizable names there that I would not have guessed were in California.

    You need to get busy! Stop making AR’s and immediately grab an Asian american or some other immigrant, or liberal based California occupant and befriend them. Disagree with some of their views while keeping your mouth shut and take them to a range! Better yet… bring a group like 5 or 6 – make a contest out of it and the best shooter (best grouping) gets a free lunch, etc. Do it every other weekend or as often as possible. Have fun – as much as possible. Pull them into firearms, the outdoors, and the free life.

    We can change each and every one of them… one person at a time. The easiest are those undecided. Start with them.

    • Anony, I don’t know what part of CA you live in(I’m in the bay area) but our ranges here are full of Asians. And if my observations are any indicator they all own ARs and high end pistols. Asians aren’t the problem in CA. It’s the well to do Berkely educated lilly white progressives that are the problem.

      • Haha. Fair enough. I’m in the Oklahoma area. It’s hard to find people around where I live that aren’t pro-gun. When I lived in Houston I would commonly take coworkers and friends who were not familiar with firearms to the range. Now that I am In Oklahoma – less so.

  13. AB 809, introduced by Assemblymember Feuer, changes California law to require reporting and retention of long gun information just as it previously required hand gun information.

    Beginning Jan 1, 2014, long gun information must be
    collected in the DROS process and sent to CA-DOJ,
    reported to CA-DOJ by people who move into California from out of state,
    reported to CA-DOJ as part of intrafamilial transfers

    • I don’t need another long gun. I have more than enough to see out my lifetime. But, I was just telling my wife I need to buy 1 more just so I don’t have to register it. Time to decide which.

  14. To each his own I suppose. IMO (which may not be popular), the M4/M16/AR15 beauty comes from the purpose built features…black paint, handguards, barrel length, caliber, even the thingy that goes up -all utilitarian in design to make an effective and durable rifle. Form is the product of function. Quality craftsmanship aside, the rifle pictured above is missing some of what makes it an AR15 -at least to me. Its only my opinion, don’t get your drawers in a wad. I get that the primary function of this rifle is to be an AR15 built in California which it does well.

    Changing the “form” of a firearm to accommodate the State laws pertaining to a Federally recognized right that “shall not be infringed.”…well, just seems like there should be a better way to do it.

    Changing the “form” of a firearm to accommodate a personal preference -that’s how things get improved and more power to you.

    • Show us something cooler, if your going to try put a damper on things. At least try be a one-upper, rather than not really contributing a thing other than criticism no one asked for. Saying “I don’t mean to be a party pooper, but…” doesn’t lessen your attempt at being a Debbie Downer. Give the author of the article the prize- anyone who proudly stands their ground gets two thumbs up in my book. Excellent write-up, and great looking rifles!

  15. guywithagun: Jan 1, 2014 is mandatory registration for new purchases. Currently owned firearms will not need to be registered. Same thing happened back in like 91 with new purchases, and then in 98 with stuff brought in from out of state on the handgun side. It seems that 80% lowers are all the rage nowdays as it’s something you can make in your garage with a drill press, and the bureaucrats are none the wiser.

    I do like the fact that there are more gun owners in CA than most states have citizens. It sucks and we fight the state like crazy on damn near every infringement. What really sucks is that stuff that gets passed here makes it to other states. So for all of those who “hate” California, remember, it’s controlled by SF and LA. There are normal people that live here too.

    As for ‘conforming’. If it’s a fixed magazine (bullet button) and has 10 rounds or less in it’s fixed magazine, it’s legal.

  16. Keep up the good fight against the bad legislaters ,California.I am a native Californian who left there 30 years ago cause I saw the handwriting on the wall.Now I live in Nevada and I love it .I gave up the beaches of California for the Mountains,Fresh Air and Beaches of Lake Tahoe.And,because I live in Nevada ,I can own a a Full Auto Gun with a suppressor ,I carry a 13 round 45 and a 14 round 380,I can open carry or conceal carry.We don’t have much gang activity and because most Nevadans carry crooks don’t try it.I can own as many as many as I want and NOTHING ( except full auto ) is registered as that is Illegal according to FEDERAL LAW ,(firearm owners protection act of 1968,Article18, chapter 926a)which California conviently ignores.
    I very much hope and pray those who sued Illinois and Won,Sue California and win.Keep the Recall efforts going and get some of these Treasonist Aholes ,passing these “personal agenda”laws kicked out.
    AND PLEASE,don’t let those bastards move over here,GOD FORBID!

    • Unless you’re a progressive the 9 million legal gun owners can’t and shouldn’t be blamed for the 5 million illegal bangers.


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