Elemental Arms AR-15

An ingenious solution to California’s “assault weapons” laws.

There are two things about gun-control laws that I am regularly amazed by. The first is the capacity of anti-gun politicians to avoid all reason, wisdom, intelligence and common sense in their quest to pass gun-control laws that accomplish absolutely nothing other than the disarming and criminalizing of honest citizens. The second is the limitless ingenuity and resilience of the American firearms community. Both can be seen on display in my home state of California. While California liberal politicians keep passing nonsensical gun restrictions, California citizens, unrelenting in their quest to exercise their rights, keep finding ways around each and every idiotic law. For a great example of this, you need look no further than a little firearms manufacturing company in El Cajon, California called Elemental Arms.


In spite of the fact that some part of your AR-15 might well have been designed and built by Elemental Arms, it is quite likely that you have never heard of them. That’s because Elemental Arms spent it’s formative years building AR-15 parts that were marketed under the names of other companies. They have essentially worked in the background of the firearms manufacturing business as an OEM, an Original Equipment Manufacturer. While it is common for manufacturing companies to start as OEMs, it is just as common for them to one day announce their presence to the world. That time has come for Elemental Arms and the timing couldn’t be better for California AR-15 aficionados.

California’s assault upon semi-automatic firearms in general and the much loved AR-15 in particular, has continued unabated for years. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that California passed even greater restrictions upon semi-automatic rifles as recently as last year. Those restrictions have made legally owning a fully functional AR-15 with collapsible stock, flash-hider and pistol grip nigh impossible. If you want your rifle to retain those features in California, it must have a fixed magazine that cannot be removed without separating the rifle’s upper receiver from it’s lower receiver. This essentially renders the AR-15 a ten-shot rifle that must be disassembled every time it is to be loaded. To say that this neuters the rifle to the point of near uselessness is a bit of an understatement. Still, Californians have learned long ago that liberal politicians, while relentless in their efforts to destroy constitutional freedoms, are almost universally ignorant and, in some cases, downright stupid.  They institute laws restricting firearms while having zero knowledge of that which they are attempting to restrict.  The result is a set of convoluted and poorly written laws full of unintelligible language and gaping loopholes.  The lesson?  For every attempt made to destroy freedom in California, there is an inventive way around it. Enter the ingenious folks at Elemental Arms.

In response to these new restrictions, Elemental Arms has developed the most innovative approach to making an AR-15 California compliant that I have seen so far. It is an ingenious design that is well thought out, well-made and functions flawlessly. In order to accomplish this, Julio Zamarripa at Elemental Arms created an entirely new AR-15 lower receiver design. The new design replaces the rear take-down pin with a quick release button and redesigns the magazine release so that it will only function once the upper and lower receivers are separated. The result is a California compliant AR-15 rifle with a reloading procedure that is only slightly more complicated and a tad slower than that of the original design. What was most impressive to me, is that the entire reloading process can be accomplished in seconds while the rifle is still mounted on the shooter’s shoulder. There are six steps in the process upon firing your last round.

  1. Release the bolt so that it closes.
  2. Press the quick release rear take-down button and tilt the rear of the upper receiver slightly upward.
  3. Press the magazine release to drop the magazine.
  4. Snap the upper receiver back down to reconnect the upper and lower receivers.
  5. Insert a fresh magazine.
  6. Pull the charging handle to rack the bolt and feed a round into the chamber.

You can see the reloading process explained and demonstrated in the video that accompanies this article.

When Julio first contacted me, I was intrigued by the design idea and was eager to test it on the range. We set a date for testing and traveled to the Rainbow Shooting Range in Rainbow, California. Fortunately, Julio brought plenty of ammunition, because we shot the gun a lot. The conclusion was obvious.  While changing magazines is not as quick and easy as it would be when using a standard AR-15, it is easier and quicker than any other California compliant AR-15 solution I’ve tried, aside from featureless* rifles.

At day’s end, I had only one design suggestion and one fairly obvious concern. First the suggestion: since you cannot easily disengage the rear take-down button and tilt the upper forward without first releasing the bolt catch so that the bolt closes, removing the last round hold-open feature would eliminate that step and reduce the amount of time needed for the reload.  A reload normally takes three steps.

  1. Press the magazine release to drop the magazine.
  2. Insert a fresh magazine.
  3. Release the bolt so that it closes and feeds a round into the chamber.

If you eliminate the last round hold-open feature from the Elemental Arms AR-15, only two steps are added as illustrated below.

  1. Press the quick release rear take-down button and tilt the rear of the upper receiver slightly upward.
  2. Press the magazine release to drop the magazine.
  3. Snap the upper receiver back down to reconnect the upper and lower receivers.
  4. Insert a fresh magazine.
  5. Pull the charging handle to rack the bolt and feed a round into the chamber.

This will reduce the time needed to reload for two reason.  First, it eliminates a step.  Second, it allows the shooter to keep the support hand on the forward grip rather than having to move the support hand in order to release the bolt catch and then move the support hand back to the forward grip.  This is a lot of unnecessary movement that both complicates the process and burns up time.  If the support hand is not required to release the bolt and can remain on the forward grip, pressing the quick release rear take-down button and tilting the upper receiver slightly upward can be accomplished as one fluid motion. This follows Bruce Lee’s idea of “economy of motion.”  Do more while moving less.  A smooth and fast operation will be the result.

The concern I expressed is an obvious one.  As with other “fixed” magazine AR-15 designs, clearing a double feed requires pulling both take-down pins and separating the upper and lower receivers. This must be done while the shooter is wide awake and able to focus complete attention on the job, because it can be dangerous.  In a double feed, it is common for the tip of the second round to rest upon the primer of the first.  As a result, it is possible to set off a round while the bolt is open if the shooter is not careful during the process of clearing the jam.  It cannot be done both quickly and safely at the same time.  This means that the gun is a boat anchor if a double feed occurs during a fight.  You wont be able to fix it until the smoke has cleared.  Have a second gun!

While I acknowledge that the Elemental Arms California compliant AR-15 is not a perfect solution to the problem of California’s restrictive gun laws, it is easily one of the best solutions I’ve seen.

*A featureless rifle in California is a semi-automatic rifle equipped with a detachable magazine that does not also have: a pistol grip; a thumb-hole stock, a collapsible or folding stock; a flash-hider or a forward pistol grip. 

One comment

  1. Sounds like a great quick fix to me – if you actually look at statistical data crimes committed with AR-15s there is barely any. California is so stupid and these new 2017 laws won’t accomplish anything.

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