The Deadly Bullet Button

Assault weapons are banned in California. However, gun manufacturers have found a loophole that allows gun owners to easily convert a rifle into an assault weapon. It is a feature known as a “bullet button,” that enables the firearm owner to use a bullet or other pointed object to quickly detach and replace the weapon’s ammunition magazine. The button is recessed, preventing finger manipulation. However, by the use of something such as a bullet, or something that can depress the recessed button, the rifle can be converted into a semi-automatic assault weapon.

One rifle being manufactured by Smith & Wesson is the MP150RC which lists: a fixed magazine and bullet button, compliant for sale in California. This weapon has a 16” barrel with a 10-round magazine clip that conforms to California law. With the “bullet button” allowing the magazine to be easily detached and replaced enabling a quick reload that California’s assault weapon law sought to ban.

The regulations banning assault weapons define a detachable magazine as “any ammunition feeding device that can be removed readily from the firearm with neither disassembly of the firearm action nor use of a tool being required.” A bullet or ammunition cartridge is considered a tool. Magazines, or the storage areas that allow for repeat firing, that can be removed by a normal push button in combination with features such as a pistol grip and telescoping stock, are banned in California. The law essentially requires magazines to be removed and replaced with a tool, in order to slow down the process of reloading.

The sales of bullet button conversion kits in California are only part of the problem since assault rifle manufacturers are now marketing so-called “California compliant” firearms with factory-installed bullet buttons. California now has the potential to become flooded with bullet button-equipped weapons that undermine California’s assault weapons law.

SB 249 prohibits the manufacture, transfer, or possession of conversion kits but does not address the growing problem of factory-installed bullet buttons. Providing the necessary language to prevent challenges is time consuming, therefore it has been suggested that since regulations are allowing bullet button-equipped weapons, the issue would be best addressed through the regulatory process.

Clearly, the bullet button/detachable magazine problem should be fixed. For a detailed explanation of the bullet button, see the YouTube video below.

Toni Wellen is the chair of the Santa Barbara Coalition Against Gun Violence. She lives in Carpinteria.

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