The Manufacture and Possession of Self-Made Firearms

With exceptions, discussed below, it is legal to assemble or manufacture your own firearm in the state of California. However, you must abide by certain requirements. Before any gun can be self- assembled or self-manufactured, a serial number for the gun must be issued by the California Department of Justice (DOJ). This requires submitting an application to the DOJ, which is granted only if the applicant demonstrates that he or she is eligible to possess a firearm and has a valid firearm certificate or handgun safety certificate, as applicable. Furthermore, a description of the firearm the applicant intends to manufacture or assemble must be provided. If the DOJ approves the application, a serial number will be issued for the specific firearm described and must be permanently affixed to the firearm. Unless you are a federally licensed firearms manufacturer, you cannot legally sell or transfer your self-manufactured firearm.

Additionally, a self-made firearm must:

  • Be a firearm that is legal to possess in the state.
  • Have a manually-operated safety device.
  • Meet drop safety standards.
  • Imprint identifying information.

Guns that are self-made or self-assembled via a kit that do not have a serial number are referred to as “Ghost Guns.” With the strict California gun laws, ghost guns have become popular among gangs and other criminals. The California legislature has enacted laws to address this growing problem. Ghost guns manufactured prior to recent legislation have until January 1, 2024 to apply for a serial number for the gun. Furthermore, unless you are a licensed firearm manufacturer, it is now illegal to self-manufacture or assemble more than three firearms per year. (Penal Code section 29010.)

The same legislation has also made it unlawful for anyone who is not a licensed firearm manufacturer to manufacture any firearm, including a frame or receiver, or any precursor part using a 3D printer. (Penal Code section 29010.)

Weapons that are prohibited in California cannot be self-manufactured. This includes firearms that are not immediately recognizable as a firearm, unconventional pistols, wallet guns, zip guns, and assault weapons.

The manufacture of an unsafe handgun as defined in Penal Code section 31910 is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail and a $1, 000 fine or both. If the firearm falls within the prohibited types, the offense is a wobbler and can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor charge carries up to one year in county jail, with a felony charge can result in 16 months, two, or three years’ imprisonment.

If you have been charged with such a crime, it is important to consult a qualified firearm defense attorney immediately. Depending on the facts of the case, an attorney experienced in defending gun crimes may be able to get the charge dismissed or reduced to a lesser crime. In almost all cases, if the charges involve nothing more than manufacturing or possessing an illegal firearm, a skilled attorney can keep the defendant out of jail with a sentence of probation.

Examples of prohibited types of firearms are:

“Not immediately recognizable as a firearm.” (Penal Code section 24510) It is illegal to self-make a firearm that would not be immediately recognizable as a firearm.

Unconventional Pistol. (Penal Code 31500.) An unconventional pistol is one that does not have a rifled bore and is less than 26 inches in length or has a barrel of less than 18 inches. (Penal Code section 17270.)

Wallet Guns (Penal Code Section 24710): A wallet gun is a firearm that is in a case that resembles a wallet and is designed to be carried in a purse or pocket and may be fired while still in the case. (Penal Code Section 176330)

Zip Guns. (Penal Code Section 33600.) A zip gun is a makeshift gun that can be constructed using common items found at the hardware store.

Assault Weapon. (Penal Code Section 30605, 30515.) Assault weapons are defined by specific features as enumerated in Penal Code section 30515. Some of the more common assault weapons include semiautomatic centerfire rifles, semiautomatic pistols, and semiautomatic shotguns.


Contact Mr. Weinberg today for a free consultation. He will carefully review the facts of your case and offer his expert advise on your options. He may be reached at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or by email at

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