Driving to California - Gun Storage in Vehicle

There is a good chance my wife and I may drive to California to visit her family in the near future. I’m trying to nail down some specifics on what I need to do when we cross the state lines to remain legal as my carry permit doesn’t apply in California (but does in every other state we’d cross to get there).

What I know so far:
I know the guns have to be unloaded - meaning no ammunition in the gun itself (in the chamber nor loaded magazine) and that we can’t ‘leave’ them in the vehicle. We’re supposed to remove them from the vehicle once we arrive at our destination and aren’t supposed to have them in the vehicle unless going to the range or returning home. We will have 10 round or lower capacity magazines for all of the guns we’ll have with us (possible exception noted below).

Here are a few questions I’m curious on…

  1. Can leave the magazines loaded but outside of the weapon? And do they have to be locked up separately?

  2. Do you have a recommendation for a means to lock multiple guns and magazines in a vehicle? Specifically, a really small vehicle.

  3. If a rifle has a tubular magazine and holds more than 10 rounds is that gun legal in California? Specifically, I have multiple rifles that shoot 22LR that have a tubular magazine that holds more than 10 rounds. I greatly enjoy plinking and was hoping to bring a rifle to hit the range while in California with my relatives.

  4. Are there any requirements with regards to the ammunition we bring with us in terms of storage or being locked up in the vehicle?

Any other recommendations for handling the guns in California?

Not sure about the sources used for this site, but it says the magazine can be loaded and locked in the same container. So, I recommend finding other sources to be 100% sure.

While the handgun must be unloaded, it is legal to have ammunition and loaded magazines inside the locked container (as long as they are not inside the gun).


Here’s a link from Gifford’s Law Center referencing an exception to the 10-round limit for .22 rifles.

A “large capacity magazine” is defined as any ammunition feeding device with the capacity to accept more than ten rounds, with exceptions for any .22 caliber tube ammunition feeding device, any feeding device that has been permanently altered so that it cannot accommodate more than ten rounds, or any tubular magazine that is contained in a lever-action firearm.


From CA DOJ, rifles and shotguns, not classified as “assault weapons” do not have to be locked in a container.

Nonconcealable firearms (shotguns and rifles) are not generally covered within the provisions of California Penal Code section 25400 and therefore are not required to be transported in a locked container. However, as with any firearm, nonconcealable firearms must be unloaded while they are being transported.


Not a whole lot here:

Another site:

So, if you are traveling to California, what do you need to be aware of? California generally forbids non-residents from carrying a firearm outside their domicile. California does, however, allow you to transport a firearm between domiciles and to the range for target practice. Simply explained, a domicile is the place that you are staying, whether it’s at a family member or friend’s house, a hotel, a bed and breakfast, or a motel. When not traveling or driving on the roads of California, an RV can also be your domicile.

My experience on Q&A with my trainers (former police officers and a California Dept. of Justice Firearms Instructor and a Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) Instructor for California):
The weapon should be in a separate locked container where the passengers can not easily access it. This usually means the trunk. The officer(s) highly recommend the ammo is as far away from the weapon as possible. They prefer to see the ammo in a separate locked container.
This means, I lock my weapon in a container in the trunk, and I lock my ammo in another container in the passenger compartment.

I think YOU WILL BE ARRESTED if there is even ONE ROUND in the same locked box as the weapon. Even if it is not in the weapon.

I think you would want a copy of your lawful ownership documentation on the weapon(s) with you.

  1. The magazines can be loaded outside the weapon. The officer prefer it is locked separately.
  2. A locked container can include a bag that you can lock the opening with a container. I think the officer will probably not be very happy about it though. I usually have my weapon in a steel cased small lockable container.
  3. This is a difficult to answer, so I am not sure. It seems if you are not here longer than 60 days, you’ll be OK. I wouldn’t want to give the officers any reason to confiscate your weapons tho.
  4. Officers prefer the ammo as far away from the weapon(s) as possible.

When you do get pulled over almost every officer asks something along the lines of,
Do you have any weapons, knives, guns, grenades or dead bodies in the car?

This is a double test. I am not sure if you are legally bound to answer truthfully, but I think it is in your best interest that you do. (hence the paperwork reference above). The second part of this tends to determine your cognitive response (if your drunk, on drugs, extremely nervous). I think they expect a slight laugh (grenades? dead bodies?).
It’s probably more about your reaction, truthfulness and compliance. Most officers, if you give respect and truthfulness, you get respect.

I hear Los Angeles area is WAY more strict, but I don’t have personal experience with officers there in LONG time.
I think if an officer isn’t happy with your answers or compliance, they may confiscate the gun until they can determine if it is not stolen, and/or if you are a legally carry firearms owner. The confiscation could be minutes, or days.

I am not a lawyer, or an officer, this is not legal advise. This is what I would do, if I were you.

Lastly, instead of carrying, perhaps rent the weapons at the range.

Good luck.

In California, it has been illegal since 2000 to manufacture, import, keep or offer for sale, give, lend, or receive large-capacity magazines—defined as those that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

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More info and yet the same as above in PDF.

Hello Ed,

you really need to understand there is no easy answer to any of your questions because based on where specifically you’re going, you might run into an officer who couldn’t care less whether you have a loaded firearm in your car or an officer who would arrest you if your folding knife was 2mm over the legal size.

When travelling in California, understand that it really comes down to which cities/counties you’re travelling through.

As far as the rifle question…Trunk. Keep all your rifles in the trunk and unloaded. The magazine capacity is up in the air since there was a week where we could purchase large capacity mags and many did. Some officers know that and aren’t worried…others are douchebags and figure they’d rather arrest you and let the court work it out.

Bottom line, I’d recommend googling “driving to XXX from XXX” and see what the CA gov sites say as well as considering whether you’re driving through a heavily liberal area like San Fran, LA, San Diego, etc or if you’re driving through rural areas that couldn’t care less what you have in your vehicle.

The good news, it’s only a misdemeanor if you do get pulled over and they figure it out.

One last thing, most officers ask if you have any weapons in the vehicle (both for their protection and to inquire as to whether there might be other things they can cite you for). I’d recommend NOT lying since you may suck at it and cops are all really good at identifying a lie. Instead, respond with something like, “my wife is deadly with her shoe and I never had a problem winning the stuffed animals at the county fair when throwing the softballs. So what can I do for you this afternoon/evening officer?” This answer lightens the mood, avoids answering his question and gets to the point of why he pulled you over. Technically, I’d always recommend you minimize answering any questions if you can avoid it because at the end of the day, a police officer’s job is to collect information and evidence so prosecutors can prosecute. If you open your mouth and say you have a small arsenal in your vehicle, and he asks to see it, chances are, you’re going to see what the local jail is like and find yourself light a few weapons with some interesting charges against you.

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Not all long gun restrictions apply to rimfire caliber rifles.
You’ll feel sorry for us when you see our “featureless” rifles.

When pulled over, be ready to provide your driver license and disclose that you have locked and unloaded firearm(s) with you. Start your interaction with LE on the right foot.

Here’s a good discussion on the matter.

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You may find this resource useful which provides direct citations of CA law:

Also something else to consider:

Don’t bring any magazines over 10 rounds. This could be considered as “importing” into our horribly restrictive anti-gun state.

All guns we might take have 10 round magazines or less except for a 22 rifle with an attached tube magazine.

The guns and magazines themselves would be California compliant (under 10 round magazines) with my only real question around capacity was around the 22 rifle with a tube magazine which based on the information above and additional research, should be ok.

We wouldn’t be ‘carrying’ or ‘transporting’ while we are staying in California. Only going to, and returning from California - and the range.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a consistent requirement across the state regarding the ‘Duty to notify law enforcement’ - which is if you are required to notify law enforcement when stopped, asked, or at all. This varies from state to state and in California, from county to county. If stopped, I’d defer to immediate notification to avoid potentially violating the law.

We would be staying in and around the LA County area, but not within the LA city limits for this trip.

And we’d be crossing multiple states to get there and returning which is why we’d prefer to carry when traveling. Normally we’d fly, but if we did that we’d be quarantined for the entire period of the trip and then some. We’ve made the round trip drive from Florida to California a couple times in the past - but largely before the most recent limitations on guns went into place.

I work in a field where I’m paid to be paranoid. Unfortunately, it transfers over to other aspects of my life in terms of preparation. While I have never been pulled over in California this is about researching what’s needed to ensure I don’t have an issue if I am.

Thank you for the information. :slight_smile:I’m reading up on the resources above and looking for an appropriate lockbox that will fit in the car.

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That’s part of the problem IN California…no consistency. More liberal cities have stricter policies regarding firearms while more rural areas have more relaxed policies.

I do Like Oak Tree Gun Club/Range up in North LA.

California changes their gun laws WAY too often. Trying to keep up on the gun laws has even made police frustrated. I know it’s crazy, but so is the state. It spends more to fight and keep gun laws in place than they spend on homeless or people in need.

I thought of this late last night too.

Another thing that a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer said that struck me as odd… I couldn’t find the specific statue about is:
If you leave your weapon in the vehicle in a locked container in the trunk and you leave the vehicle, you must securely attach the locked container to the vehicle. I forget what this is considered something to the effect of a negligence of a weapon in “your possession”. I think the thought is that someone could steal your locked box from the car and then have a weapon.
The adverse here is you can not use a locked container connected (cable or bolted down) to the vehicle (such as a glove box or locking center console) while you’re in the vehicle.

This means, I carry a cable that can go through my locked container to connect and lock the locked container to my trunk if I ever have to leave the vehicle.
Fun times - huh?
I ride my motorcycle often (at least I used to). When I ride, I have locked containers that bolt onto the motorcycle. These would be considered similar to the glove box in a car. By themselves, they can not be used as a lockable container when ON the motorcycle. Hence, I need to use a lockable container locked in a locked container on the motorcycle.

Many great reasons for avoiding the DPRK😏. I think I’d just rent range weapons and avoid the hassle altogether. Y’all can brace yourselves cause no doubt these wonderful “safety” programs will be being shared amongst the rest of us over the next 4 yrs.

I drove to Calif. about ten years ago and called to see what was legal for me, at the time I was a Texas State Peace Officer. Arizona told me to carry it where ever I need to, New Mexico said that it would be better to have it in a zipper bag but available tome. California told me that the did not recognize any other state las enforcement agency other than thier’s and Ihad to dismantle my weapon and store apart from the ammo. Needless to say I did not. But that was their agencies reply tome then, now I do not know.

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Welcome to the Community @James_C2. That is surprising, considering LEOSA would have been in place at that time. But, regardless of LEOSA, their magazine limit still applies.
Before LEOSA, I used to travel to NJ on a regular basis with family. I spoke with the NJ State police and was told go ahead and carry, just no hollow point ammo. They said as long as it stays concealed, there would not be a problem and if something bad happened, local police would generally not make an issue of out of state law enforcement carrying weapons.
To this day, even though LEOSA says any federally legal ammo can be carried, the NJ AG still says NO!