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Old 09-08-2006, 9:43 AM
bwiese's Avatar
bwiese bwiese is offline
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Default WARNING: "looks like hicap" *magazine* issues...

OK, it looks like some folks may be getting wild & wooly out there and they need to come back from the edge. I've been getting some questions on this and some folks are confusing some things...

It's indeed clear that there is no permanence requirement for the affixation of 10rd mags for OLL builds - esp given prior DOJ writings for the last 6+ years, DOJ's Feb 3rd "Cat 4" memo and the approval letters for Barrett's M82CA, and the reams of material in the recent Aug 16th NRA comment/ rebuttal to DOJ. (The DOJ has, in fact, tried to muddle this issue of the permanence of the mag vs method attachment to gun w/proposed regulation - which is separate and independent issue from permanent mag alteration, which is statutory.)

But some folks have been getting 'cute' with their OLL builds in another area.

The problem is not the method of affixation of the mag, but the permanence of the capacity limit of the mag itself if it has a larger tube. If you are using a true 10rd mag like Bushmaster's (or perhaps a couple of others, maybe DPMS?) you're OK. But lotsa guys want "the look" and are blocking off higher-capacity mags using simple inserts or tabs, etc. that may be readily removable and possibly/likely considered nonpermanent by a 'reasonable person' standard. If you have a long mag tube that has blocking devices welded up so the mag has to be destroyed in order to render greater-than-10rd capacity, you should be OK.)

[In particular, the C-Products long-tube 10rd magazines have the risk of not being considered "permanently altered" and may not be regarded as true 10rd magazines under PC 12020(c)(25). ]

Let's review: we have the following statutory items/definitions to consider (underline/italics are my emphases):

12020(c)(25) As used in this section, "large-capacity magazine" means any ammunition feeding device with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds, but shall not be construed to include any of the following:
(A) A feeding device that has been permanently altered so that it cannot accommodate more than 10 rounds. ......

12276.1(a)(2) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.

12276.1(d) The following definitions shall apply under this section:
(1) "Magazine" shall mean any ammunition feeding device.
(2) "Capacity to accept more than 10 rounds" shall mean capable of accommodating more than 10 rounds, but shall not be construed to include a feeding device that has been permanently altered so that it cannot accommodate more than 10 rounds.

The first item says, in effect, that a nonpermanently-blocked hicap, in itself, ain't kosher. [Unless of course, it started life as a legit hicap and was owned by you in CA before 1/1/2000 - but then why would you modifiy such a valuable item???] Wood blocks or bent tabs or extended followers may well not cut it.

The second two above play against each other. Even if the gun itself can't accept more than 10rds as it stands, if the magazine itself has the ready possibility of being modded/recovered to more-than-10-round status, it could trigger the alternate greater-than-10rd AW defintion. The nonpermanence aspect of larger-cap tubes used for apperance's sake - even though somehow blocked somehow to 10rds - thus may not cut the mustard if there's any chance the mag's capacity can be recovered with some work. However, if the mag has to be destroyed in an attempt to have more than 10rd capacity, then I'd think that has a sufficient reasonable level of permanence.

Remember, this is regardless of how it's screwed down/affixed to the rifle (whether or not it's welded, epoxied, etc. to the rifle - or how many tools or how much time it takes to repair, change, etc.) This new issue is, instead, how the capacity of the magazine itself is limited; it's wholly independent of its means of attachment to the receiver or how permanent that attachment to the receiver is, but instead how permanent the internal restriction of the mag capacity to 10 rounds is. If that mag somehow is legally regarded as > 10rds, then your fixed mag gun becomes an AW (that is, akin to status of an SKS with a 20rd fixed magazine).

And remember that while 'constructive possession' concepts do not apply to AW characteristics themselves, with this hicap vs non-hicap mag issue we're now one level removed and are operating instead in the magazine arena instead. The AW issue becomes a side effect derived by the mag issue. Real lawyers, not internet jabberers like ourselves, would have to think and argue about this. And if your lawyer's arguing this with a judge it's likely too late.

We really have no standard for 'permanence' for mag modifications but some measure of reversibility in restoring such a mag to orig capacity may well make such blocked mags smell bad both alone (if not derived from a legit pre-2000 hicap mag), and of course when used in a fixed-mag rifle (regardless of legitimacy of the hicap mag itself). While the former situation is less worrisome (misdemeanor), the latter situation could trigger an AW definition as the laws and regulations currently stand.

We don't even know what the DOJ considers 'permanent'. DOJ's definition of permanence is all over the board and may depend on the phase of the moon, PMS, various personalities and their agendas, etc. The Vulcan fixed mag AR lower (with a true 10rd mag) was approved due to its 'permanence' (some glue and a tiny pin, gone in a few seconds for repair/update). The Evans Gunsmithing/GB Sales welded-up on-list Bushmaster and Colt rifles - were approved by DOJ due to the purported permanence of their magwell block but EGSW itself touts reversibility of this 'permanent' mod if the owner moves to a free state. (I really thing the Iggmeister overstepped his bounds on this one.)

However, any unsaid DOJ definition of permanence would leave this matter up in the air in courts - where a judge would try to figure out (or assert) some measure of permanence. If that threshold were not achieved by the mag in question, the fixed-mag rifle in question would be an (illegal, unreg'd) AW.

Some of these 10rd mags apparently derived from hicaps are just using bent tabs and appear readily recoverable into hicaps. (I reiterate that from what I've heard reported about the C Products mags, they do not appear to really meet a rational standard of permanence in that there likely is some 'reversibility'.)

Some Colt 10rd mags sold from 1989 or so up thru early 90s are standard 20rd mags with a U-shaped piece of metal riveted to the baseplate; these rivets come off with a pair of dikes/wiresnippers, and the mag block can be removed in 1sec from the disassembled magazine, which reassembles like any other standard AR mag.

If you have an OLL build, etc. my gut feeling is you should have a true 10rd mag or use something welded up/epoxied so that such a mag is guaranteed to be 10rds capacity and it'd have to be destroyed in any attempt to increase capacity or disassemble.

I dunno about the DPMS mags, but it appears the Bushmaster 10rd mag is indeed 'permanently' restricted to 10rds, and that people who have played with them ruin the magazine in attempts to disassemble them. Perhaps someone will eventually build 'large-looking' mags that are the same as the Bushmaster mag in terms of lack of modifiability into hicap status, but for now that doesn't appear to be the case - esp the C Products mags, which seem to use a bent tab system to restrict follower travel.

Ultimately, nothing is permanent, and anything can be made into something else with enough time and money. (Hell, you can turn atomic lead into gold with a few zillion dollars and the Stanford linear accelerator.) It's all about how far one has to go: the 'ready ability' - with household tools and a limited time - may determine this boundary here, and unpleasant side effects could result from your OLL build if you don't heed this.

Hell, I could end up being all wet. But there's more than sufficient room for argument that it does not make sense to tempt The Beast, esp for something so cosmetic. To play 100% safe use a 10rd mag like Bushmaster's (and we know those are reliable, too) - or do fully welded-up mags like JPGlee1 and rssslvr have done - AK mags with welded-in rod blocks, floor plates welded to shell, etc.

Don't worry about logic, this is political. Remember, if you have a legal 20rd mag that you can legally use in your M1A, and then if you screw it down to your M1A (i.e, make it a fixed magazine), you've just committed a felony. When laws like that exist, you know they're out for you - and they're not just good-hearted liberal 'do-gooders', but are evil incarnate. Walk carefully.


I think this issue might conceivably start arising. I know DOJ is already aware of it.

I'd be a tad less worried about caliber misapplication issues unless they're so close (50Beo vs 223). Most every locap mag on the market is a flawed/misapplied hicap mag in another caliber. For example, many many many 10rd 40cal mags can hold 11-13 rounds of 9mm, and some even operate (HK USP40 mags in USP9, etc etc etc.)


Bill Wiese
San Jose, CA

CGF Board Member / NRA Benefactor Life Member / CRPA life member

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Last edited by bwiese; 09-08-2006 at 12:26 PM..
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