As we’ve mentioned before, the California “microstamping” law is nothing more than a way to stop the sales of new handgun designs in this State. This was never about safety or solving crimes. It’s an incremental gun ban.

The California Rifle and Pistol Associate has posted this update on the law and the lawsuits that have been filed to stop it. As predicted, the law is drying up the supply of “not unsafe” handguns available in California; including newer and safer models.

Conscientious gun manufacturers often make minor changes to their products as new technology or manufacturing processes become available so consumers get the best, most reliable products on the market. Even though these minor changes are made, manufacturers typically do not change the product model numbers. Under California rules, however, handgun models with any such minor changes, even if for the purpose of increasing safety, must be equipped with microstamping capability or the handgun must be recertified before it can be re-listed on the Roster.

Gun manufacturers now face an impossible dilemma. To comply with California’s current interpretation of the UHA, once a minor change is made to a pistol the only way a gun manufacturer can get it back on the Roster is to incorporate microstamping technology into the firearm. But gun manufacturers can’t, don’t, and won’t do so.

As a result, roughly 10% of the models that were legal to sell here 15 days ago have been pulled from store shelves because they lack a technologically impossible feature and are thus “unsafe”. If you lived in “Free America” you could still buy these, but not here in the land of fruits and nuts.

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That warning to Ferguson, MO, residents, as they wait to hear the grand jury’s decision in the Michael Brown case, allegedly came from a law enforcement officer in Missouri. The comment was made on an Internet forum for St. Louis area police…

“If you do not have a gun, get one and get one soon. We will not be able to protect you or your family. It will be your responsibility to protect them. Our gutless commanders and politicians have neutered us. I’m serious, get a gun, get more than one, and keep one with you at all times.”

The Boy Scout motto is “Be prepared”. That means prepare before a crisis arises. When smoke is rising from buildings 100 meters from your location and you can smell tear gas on the wind, that’s not the time to start thinking about buying a gun to protect you and yours. And to be honest, today is probably too late to start thinking about it if you live in or near Ferguson. You might have a little time. As far as I can tell, your State has no waiting period to buy a gun. You could get something today and spend tomorrow at the range learning to use the thing. (Yes, you need to practice; otherwise, it’s just a very expensive paperweight.)

However, were this happening in California, things would be completely different. Today would be too late by ten days. Unless you have a time machine parked in your garage, waiting until the last minute to buy a gun isn’t an option in the Fool’s Golden State. Furthermore, you wouldn’t be allowed to purchase standard capacity magazines for a new firearm. Nor would you be permitted to have a magazine release that can be quickly and safely operated on a semiautomatic rifle. You’re also not permitted to buy the latest, and safest, handgun designs. In many ways, today is far more than ten days too late in this State.

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From NRA News…

Regular readers will recall that we’ve written that the point of the law was to do just this; to stop sales of semi-automatic handguns in the State of California. We’ve noted the technical challenges that the law presents. However, you should note from this video that the engineers at Ruger are doing more than just hand waving with regard to these difficulties. It’s one thing for someone like me to say that this technology is unworkable. It’s quite another when someone who does this sort of thing for a living says that. In this video you will see that the Ruger engineers tried to make microstamping work. They didn’t just throw up their hands as say “it can’t be done”; they tried to make the parts. And when these working engineers with real-world manufacturing experience tried to make CA-compliant firing pins, they couldn’t do it. In fact, they found even more failure mechanisms than people like me predicted.


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Tony Canales reported from the SHOT show last week that Ruger will be allowing its handguns to fall off of the California “not unsafe” firearms roster. Ruger CEO Mike Fifer issued this statement clarifying the company’s situation here in the Tarnished Golden State…

Now we learn that Ruger isn’t alone. Smith & Wesson will be allowing its M&P handguns to fall off of the roster as well.

Of course, this was the intended effect of the law. It’s not about allowing police “another tool to solve crimes”, but rather to dry up the supply of handguns available to law abiding Californians. Many many people floated ideas about how to defeat microstamping when the law was being debated. Their thinking at the time was to show legislators that the law is pointless as a law enforcement tool. The engineers in the crowd, however, pointed out that the law requires manufacturing techniques that are nonexistent. Furthermore, instead of making handguns “safe”, or make that “not unsafe” (Yes, that’s really how the law refers to the list!), irregularities in a gun’s chamber will eventually lead to a failure of the metal. But none of that registered with our betters in Sacramento. Why? Because safety and law enforcement weren’t the point of the law. The point was to stop legal handgun sales in California. Need proof? Compare these two lists…

Let’s be glad that the 2nd list wasn’t actually printed on dead trees.

The Calguns Foundation produced this graph showing what handgun availability will be like in the coming years in California…


The effect of the law is going to be more immediate than most people expected. You would have been dismissed as an unhinged gun-nut had you suggested a few years ago that the supply of new handgun models would dry up by 2020. But that’s what’s happening. By mandating manufacturing processes that require unicorn spit to work, the State is making the clever workarounds some people proposed way back when a moot point. You can’t use a Scotchbrite pad to remove the pesky microstamp from your new gun if there are no new guns.

There is hope, however. The NSSF has filed suit in Fresno County to stop the State’s mystical microstamping mandate.

Stay tuned.

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The highlights:

  • The patent in question was the Lizotte patent
  • The AG’s office kept everyone in the dark about this
    • They didn’t inform opposing groups like the NRA or CRPA
    • They didn’t inform gun makers
  • It’s highly unlikely that gun makers will retool their lines to add microstamping capability
  • A bill is pending that that could make private party sales of non-microstamped used guns illegal
  • No new handgun models would be offered for sale in CA if they do not include microstamping
  • There are no known manufacturers of the equipment necessary to add microstamping to a firearm

That last point deserves some elaboration. The what of the patent is fairly simple. The how of it isn’t. The what involves Fourier transform optics to pull information out of the markings. The how requires a process that changes the applied marks for each individual firing pin and barrel. This increases the production time for the parts from seconds to minutes; a ten fold or more, increase in a manufacturer’s labor costs. That cost will be passed along to law-abiding gun owners. Or put another way, you will be fined for the misdeeds of others when you try to purchase one of these guns. The how of the technique is so expensive that no one has bothered to invest in it. If the inventor and the patent holder had dreams of riches to be made as patent trolls, then they hid out under the wrong bridge! No one is interested in being a maker of microstamping tooling.


The SF Chronicle’s Bob Egelko posted this, which has a few more details. I’m still trying to figure out exactly which patent this is. It sounds from the article like it’s the Lizotte patent. As far as I know, that patent is still in force and thus the technology cannot be called “unencumbered” as the law requires.

Chuck Michel told the Chronicle:

“This is not going to help solve crimes,” he said. “It’s easily defeated, easily wears out and can be used to lead police down false alleys” if the serial numbers are altered.

Worse yet, Michel said, manufacturers will be unwilling to add this expensive feature to guns sold in a single state, and will instead keep manufacturing weapons for the other states, where demand already far exceeds supply. The effect, he said, would be a ban on new semiautomatic handguns in California, which the NRA will challenge in court.

There is also the possibility that gun makers will stop manufacturing guns for California out of liability concerns. The marking technology mars the cartridge case during the firearm’s discharge cycle. Specifically, the technology imparts two marks on the case; one on the primer and one on the case wall. These are both structures that contain pressure as the cartridge is fired. These are normally smooth, continuous surfaces which even distribute forces throughout the case. Any marks impressed into the primer or the case wall must be irregular in nature or they won’t carry any information. And since they are irregular, they must cause an irregular distribution of forces. This can lead to a failure of the case wall or the primer. At the very least, the marking surfaces along the side of the case wall will become fouled with brass shavings, torn loose as each marked case is extracted.

Yet another requirement of the “not unsafe” gun law in California is that new designs must be submitted for testing to an approved lab. Among the required tests is a 600 round series of test firings…

31905.  (a) As used in this part, "firing requirement for handguns"
means a test in which the manufacturer provides three handguns of the
make and model for which certification is sought to an independent
testing laboratory certified by the Attorney General pursuant to
Section 32010. These handguns may not be refined or modified in any
way from those that would be made available for retail sale if
certification is granted. The magazines of a tested pistol shall be
identical to those that would be provided with the pistol to a retail
   (b) The test shall be conducted as follows:
   (1) The laboratory shall fire 600 rounds from each gun, stopping
after each series of 50 rounds has been fired for 5 to 10 minutes to
allow the weapon to cool, stopping after each series of 100 rounds
has been fired to tighten any loose screws and clean the gun in
accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, and stopping as
needed to refill the empty magazine or cylinder to capacity before
   (2) The ammunition used shall be of the type recommended by the
handgun manufacturer in the user manual, or if none is recommended,
any standard ammunition of the correct caliber in new condition that
is commercially available.
   (c) A handgun shall pass this test if each of the three test guns
meets both of the following:
   (1) Fires the first 20 rounds without a malfunction that is not
due to ammunition that fails to detonate.
   (2) Fires the full 600 rounds with no more than six malfunctions
that are not due to ammunition that fails to detonate and without any
crack or breakage of an operating part of the handgun that increases
the risk of injury to the user.
   (d) If a pistol or revolver fails the requirements of either
paragraph (1) or (2) of subdivision (c) due to ammunition that fails
to detonate, the pistol or revolver shall be retested from the
beginning of the "firing requirement for handguns" test. A new model
of the pistol or revolver that failed due to ammunition that fails to
detonate may be submitted for the test to replace the pistol or
revolver that failed.
   (e) As used in this section, "malfunction" means a failure to
properly feed, fire, or eject a round, or failure of a pistol to
accept or eject the magazine, or failure of a pistol's slide to
remain open after the magazine has been expended.

I cannot help but wonder if a microstamping-compliant gun will be able to fire 600 times without “a failure to properly feed, fire, or eject a round“. As mentioned above, the case wall marking surfaces will become fouled with brass as each successive round is fired. This fouling could cause the gun to fail to cycle. This would cause the gun to be labeled as “unsafe” per 31905(e). Furthermore, the gun may be called “unsafe” if the markings fail to take due to the fouling. This would fail the gun under 31910(b)(7)(A).

At least two possible failure mechanisms during test, potential product liability lawsuits… Yeah, I can just see manufacturers lining up for that.

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California’s virulently anti-gun Attorney General Kamala Harris has certified microstamping as “available to more than one manufacturer unencumbered by any patent restrictions”. Per Penal Code section 31910, subdivision (b)(7)(A), aka AB1471, this triggers the State’s microstamping law into effect. Effective immediately, new handgun designs are “unsafe” if they do not feature this unsafe technology. (Anything that mars the case weakens it and thus make the cartridge case more prone to failure.) Firearms that are already on the State’s “not unsafe” roster will continue to be available for sale.

I’m still trying to figure out what patent this is. The Lizotte patent was extended by the CalGuns Foundation. For $555, they made sure that the patent wouldn’t expire and thus become “unencumbered”. So unless Harris is planning on encouraging patent infringement, I’m not sure how she arrived at this determination.

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