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California is one of the few states that has passed legislation to generally ban the sale, manufacture, and possession of certain rifles that are especially dangerous because of their extremely high-power and long-range. California lawmakers codified the following legislative declaration regarding the dangers these .50 BMG rifles present to public safety:

The Legislature hereby finds and declares that the proliferation and use of .50 BMG rifles…poses a clear and present terrorist threat to the health, safety, and security of all residents of, and visitors to, this state, based upon findings that those firearms have such a high capacity for long distance and highly destructive firepower that they pose an unacceptable risk to the death and serious injury of human beings, destruction or serious damage of vital public and private buildings, civilian, police and military vehicles, power generation and transmission facilities, petrochemical production and storage facilities, and transportation infrastructure. . .”1

Definition of .50 BMG Rifle

California law generally defines a “.50 BMG rifle” as any centerfire rifle that can fire a .50 BMG cartridge (although the definition does not apply to firearms that are already classified as an assault weapon or machine gun under state law,2 or which are classified as antique, curio, or relic firearms.3

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California generally prohibits the manufacture, distribution, transportation, importation, keeping or offering for sale, giving, or lending of a .50 BMG rifle without a California Department of Justice (“DOJ”)-issued permit.4 Such permits may only be issued upon a finding of good cause to certain law enforcement agencies and officers or to individuals over the age of 18.5

California also generally prohibits possession of a .50 BMG rifle, except by people who lawfully registered their legacy firearm prior to April 30, 2006.6 As the registration period expired over 15 years ago, .50 BMG rifles generally cannot be registered with DOJ today. For more details, see the DOJ’s FAQ page on this topic. Any person owning a lawfully registered .50 BMG rifle may possess the firearm only under limited conditions, unless they obtain a permit for additional uses from DOJ 7 Those conditions include:

  • At the person’s residence, place of business, or other property owned by that person, or on property owned by another with the owner’s express permission;
  • While on certain target ranges and shooting clubs;
  • While on publicly owned land if specifically permitted by the managing agency of the land; or
  • While properly transporting the firearm between any of the places mentioned above, or to any licensed gun dealer for servicing and repair.8

California law also provides that possession of a .50 BMG rifle in violation of state laws is a public nuisance.9

In 2022, California also passed two bills to promote stronger civil oversight and enforcement of California’s ban on uniquely dangerous firearms like .50 BMG rifles. These include:

  • SB 1327, which takes effect on January 1, 2023. This law incorporates the state’s criminal laws governing .50 BMG rifles into the Business and Professions Code as well, creating a process for private civil suits to enforce the law.10 This law generally prohibits a person from manufacturing, distributing, transporting, importing into the state, keeping for sale, offering or exposing for sale, giving, lending, or causing the manufacture, distribution, transportation, or importation into the state of any .50 BMG rifles.11 The law also authorizes private individuals (any person who is not an officer or employee of a state or local government in the state) to file a civil action and receive court-ordered remedies and statutory damages of at least $10,000 per weapon involved in a violation of these restrictions.12
  • The Firearm Industry Responsibility Act, which takes effect on July 1, 2023. This law requires firearm industry members13 to comply with a “firearm industry standard of conduct,” which (among other things) makes it unlawful for firearm industry members to manufacture, market, import, or offer for wholesale or retail sale any firearm or firearm-related product14 that is “abnormally dangerous and likely to cause an unreasonable risk of harm to public health and safety in California.”15 This law provides certain statutory presumptions that a firearm or firearm-related product is abnormally dangerous and likely to create an unreasonable risk of harm to public health and safety if the product’s features render the product most suitable for assaultive purposes instead of lawful self-defense, hunting, or other legitimate sport and recreational activities.16 Victims harmed by violations of this law, as well as the state Attorney General, or any county counsel or city attorney in the state, may bring a civil action in court seeking court-ordered remedies and compensation for damage caused by a violation of this law. See the Gun Industry Immunity and Liability in California page for more detailed information.

Other Related Laws

In addition to the state’s restrictions on .50 BMG Rifles, California also prohibits any person, firm or corporation from possessing any:

  • Weapon greater than .60 caliber which fires fixed ammunition (other than a shotgun (smooth or rifled bore) that conforms to the definition of “destructive device” under 27 C.F.R. § 479.11); or
  • Rocket, rocket-propelled projectile, or similar device of a diameter greater than.60 inch, or any launching device for such rocket or projectile.17


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  1. Cal. Penal Code § 30505(b). See also, Cal. Bus. Prof. Code § 22949.60.[]
  2. Cal. Penal Code § 30530(a); Cal. Bus. Prof. Code § 22949.61(a).[]
  3. Id. A .50 BMG rifle does not include any antique firearm (meaning any firearm manufactured before January 1, 1899, per Cal. Penal Code § 16170), nor any “curio or relic” as defined in federal law (in Section 478.11 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations.[]
  4. Cal. Penal Code § 30600.[]
  5. Cal. Penal Code §§ 31000, 31005. DOJ must conduct a yearly inspection – or every five years if the person has fewer than five permitted devices – of every person to whom a permit is issued for security and safe storage practices, and to reconcile the inventory of assault weapons. Cal. Penal Code § 31110[]
  6. Cal. Penal Code § 30610. Any person in lawful possession of a .50 BMG rifle must have registered it with DOJ within the registration period (January 1, 2005 to April 30, 2006). Cal. Penal Code § 30905. Any person who has previously registered their .50 BMG rifle as an assault weapon is not required to register that firearm again. Cal. Penal Code § 30965.[]
  7. Cal. Penal Code 30945.[]
  8. The person may also possess the.50 BMG while attending an exhibition, display, or educational project about firearms which is sponsored by, conducted under the auspices of, or approved by a law enforcement agency or a nationally or state recognized entity that fosters proficiency in, or promotes education about, firearms. Cal. Penal Code § 30945(e).[]
  9. The Attorney General, any district attorney, or city attorney may, in lieu of criminal prosecution, bring a civil action in any superior court to enjoin the possession of the .50 BMG rifle that is a public nuisance. Cal. Penal Code § 30800(a). The court may impose a fine for any .50 BMG rifle deemed a public nuisance. Cal. Penal Code § 30800(b). Any .50 BMG rifle deemed a public nuisance must be destroyed, except upon finding by a court, or a declaration from DOJ, a district attorney, or a city attorney stating that the preservation of the .50 BMG rifle is in the interest of justice. Cal. Penal Code § 30800(c).[]
  10. See 2022 CA SB 1327(effective January 1, 2023); Chapter 38 of Division 8 of the California Business and Professions Code, commencing with Section 22949.60.[]
  11. Cal. Bus. Prof. Code § 22949.62(a)(effective January 1, 2023).[]
  12. Id.; Cal. Bus. Prof. Code § 22949.65.[]
  13. The term “Firearm industry member” is defined to mean “a person, firm, corporation, company, partnership, society, joint stock company, or any other entity or association engaged in the manufacture, distribution, importation, marketing, wholesale, or retail sale of firearm-related products.” Cal. Civil Code § 3273.50(f).[]
  14. “Firearm-related product” is defined to include a firearm, ammunition, a firearm precursor part [also known as an unfinished frame or receiver], a firearm component, or a firearm accessory, that meets certain jurisdictional requirements. See Cal. Civil Code § 3273.50(d).[]
  15. SeeCal. Civ. Code § 3273.519(c).[]
  16. Cal. Civ. Code § 3273.51(c)(2).[]
  17. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16460(a)(3), (4), 18710.[]