See our Fifty Caliber Rifles policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

California generally prohibits the manufacture, distribution, transportation, importation, keeping or offering for sale, giving, or lending of any .50 BMG rifle without a California Department of Justice (“DOJ”)-issued permit.1 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 18.2 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.3 A .50 BMG rifle is any centerfire rifle that can fire a .50 BMG cartridge and that is not already an assault weapon or machine gun.4

The state also prohibits the possession of a .50 BMG rifle unless it is registered in the name of the possessor.5 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).6 As the registration period has expired, .50 BMG rifles cannot generally be registered with DOJ. For more details, see the DOJ’s information page on this topic.

Any person owning a lawfully registered .50 BMG rifle may possess the firearm only under limited conditions, unless he or she obtains 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 includes a statement of the dangers posed by the .50 BMG rifle:

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.…9

California law provides that the possession of a .50 BMG rifle in violation of state laws is a public nuisance.10 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.11

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.12

See DOJ’s Frequently Asked Questions page for more information on the regulation of .50 BMG rifles.

 

Notes
  1. Cal. Penal Code § 30600. ⤴︎
  2. Cal. Penal Code §§ 31000, 31005. ⤴︎
  3. Cal. Penal Code § 31110 ⤴︎
  4. Cal. Penal Code § 30530(a). 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 Section 478.11 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations. ⤴︎
  5. Cal. Penal Code § 30610. ⤴︎
  6. Cal. Penal Code § 30905. Any person who has previously registered his or her .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. Cal. Penal Code § 30505. ⤴︎
  10. 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). ⤴︎
  11. Cal. Penal Code § 30800(c). ⤴︎
  12. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16460(a)(3), (4), 18710. ⤴︎