Guns And Ammo: The ODDBALL Issue – AR-15

Guns and Ammo AR-15 Oddball issue
(2024 ISSUE No. 2). Unsung 2A Hero. Guns and Ammo, Issue #2, 133-135.


CALIFORNIA HAS A WELL-EARNED REPUTATION FOR having the most restrictive firearms laws in the country. Thanks to innovation and people willing to challenge the laws, we have some wiggle room. One of the companies that helped usher in an AR boom was LAN World.

LAN World is an eclectic company that converts free-state ARs into California-compliant ARs and restores and imports rare World War II military vehicles. The Salt Lake City, Utah, company was founded in 2003 by Chris Bieling. He started the business with the intent of building an internet cafe where adults could stream online games. To fund his business, he turned to his childhood passion for World War II and restored jeeps to their period correct appearance. Since WWII aficionados also tend to be firearms enthusiasts, it wasn’t long before he was asked if he offered period correct firearms like the M1 Garand. Not wanting to turn down a financial opportunity, he soon obtained a FFL.

A year later, Bieling was asked if he could California off-list AR lower receivers. His research showed that they were legal to purchase, but gun dealers and AR manufacturers were leery of navigating California’s ever-changing firearm laws. To understand the wall he faced, we must look at California’s Robert-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 (ACWA). The ACWA contained three categories that would deem a semiautomatic rifle an “assault weapon.”

Category I was a list of over50 specific firearms by type, make, and model. Category II cast a wider net and included AR-15and AK series of firearms. Category III provided characteristics such as a telescoping stock or flash hider that would make it an “assault weapon.”

Category II caused confusion among gun owners and law enforcement. It was too general and could be used to encompass any AR or AK, not only those listed in Category I. This subdivision of the law was challenged in the 1996 Harrott v. County of Kings case. The plaintiff, J.W. Harrot, insisted the AK he received as payment was not an AK series and hence not an assault weapon. County of Kings Sheriff’s Department, who withheld teak from Harrott, said it met the series statute and refused to release it to him. The justices had any concerns with Category II, including that it would be difficult for a person of reasonable intelligence to determine what is prohibited and what is not. In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that in order for Category II to be met, it must be named by make and model in the Category I list. The ruling opened the door for ARs, including lower receivers, to be sold in California if the make and model were not on the Category I list (called off-list) and did not meet Category III. Soon after, gun shops were swamped with orders of off-list lowers and firearms.

CQR rifle parts
LAN World works to create parts that make free-state ARs compliant in states where they’d be otherwise restricted.
AR 15 Rifle part
LAN World works to create parts that make free-state ARs compliant in states where they’d be otherwise restricted.
Hera Arms Rifle thumbhole california legal with a plate replacement
Working with HERA Industries, Bieling recommended they modify their thumbhole stock with a plate in order to make it California legal.

Like any door that opens for law-abiding gun owners, someone is working to close it. The California Department of Justice warned that the list would grow, and AR manufacturers might face legal action if they sold to California dealers. This made it highly risky for gun dealers and manufacturers. Dealers didn’t want to have inventory with expiring legality. Most manufacturers didn’t want to risk legal action and avoided California altogether. The fear was so great that few gun shops offered off-list ARs or lowers. Those that did were flooded with orders. One out-of-state manufacturer, Fulton Armory, demanded that a California gun shop return 100 lower receivers ordered after the California Department of Justice contacted them about possible legal action. This was the climate Bieling walked into, but he was not dismayed.

“If it’s not illegal, then it’s legal,” Bieling thought. “I was young and small enough to not worry about the mechanisms of huge lawsuits.”

In fact, his timing and planning were perfect. Working out of his garage, he started relationships with off-list companies like Stag Arms and DPMS and became a distributor. Shipments of 10 quickly grew to hundreds. His success led him to SHOT Show, the firearm industry’s largest trade show, where he asked manufacturers if he could handle their California business. Smith & Wesson, FN, Ruger, and others jumped on board. LAN World


grew to 15 employees and moved into a big warehouse where they shipped lowers and full rifles and worked with Davidsons, RSR, Sports South, and others to handle California dealers and end customers.

The lower receivers were mostly stripped, but as fixed magazines became popular, they installed the Prince 50 kit, which later matured into the infamous Bullet Button. Bieling worked closely with Bullet Button creator Darin Prince to offer fixed-mag solutions for non-ARs like the FN F2000 and AK-47. The Bullet Button ban of 2017 created another hurdle for LAN World. They worked at a feverish pace to convert pallets of rifles to meet the buying-frenzy demand. Once the law went into effect in January 2018, the waters calmed but not for long. Other fixed magazine solutions like the AR Maglock and Juggernaught Tactical’s Hellfire popped up on the market. Fixed stocks and winged pistol grips helped spur a featureless market, too. Business was moving again.

During this period, Bieling had been working with HERA Industries, a German company that manufactured AR parts. Conveniently, their CQR thumbhole buttstock was almost perfect for the California market. It was a fixed stock with a thumbhole and integrated pistol grip. Bieling recommended that HERA insert a plate into the thumbhole so they could offer California compliant ARs. They did, and then he reached out to companies about this option. LAN World became the California-compliant arm for Ruger, FN, and other companies.

Today, LAN World continues offering California-compliant conversions for dealers and distributors. They recently provided military tanks for Oakley and Dead Air Silencers’ media events. And Bieling is now CEO and part owner of HERA Arms USA who will soon introduce their H6 rifle, a side-loading, bolt-action rifle. After 20 years, Bieling has still not built the internet café, but he’s made a lot of Californians happy.

Hera H3L magazine
LAN World sells magazines from HERA Industries in Germany. The H3L at right feels like a 30-rounder yet only holds 10 rounds.

(2024 ISSUE No. 2). Unsung 2A Hero. Guns and Ammo, Issue #2, 133-135.