Taking ownership of a firearm in California generally requires a Firearm Safety Certificate (there are a few exceptions, mostly for CCW holders, active or honorably discharged military, and active or retired CA or federal law enforcement officers—check here to see if you qualify).
If you already know what you’re doing, you can take the test at most gun stores when you do your other paperwork, and for most people, this is honestly probably the easiest way to go—we mainly offer this as a convenience for students after a class.
Please note that the FSC materials cover the basics of not shooting yourself and of safe gun storage. That’s obviously an important start, but it’s not training and it doesn’t teach you to actually shoot. If you’re new to firearms, we do recommend taking a shooting class.
If you lost your current Firearm Safety Certificate, you can get a replacement from (and only from) the instructor who issued it for $15 without re-taking the test. Otherwise you have to re-test at full price and you can do that from any certified FSC instructor.
Cost: $25 testing fee, includes certificate if you pass
You must be over 18 and present a valid California driver’s license or California Department of Motor Vehicles ID card. The test consists of 30 multiple-choice questions and you need to get at least 23 right to pass. The certificate is good for 5 years and you’ll need to bring it with you whenever you do paperwork to acquire a firearm[*].
Handgun Safety Certificate Study Guide (PDF) from the California Department of Justice
DoJ HSC video guide:
HSC Frequently Asked Questions
See the FAQ at the CA Department of Justice.
* Please note that as of January 1, 2015, receiving ANY firearm in California, including long guns (rifles and shotguns), requires a Firearm Safety Certificate and a “safe handling demonstration”. If you have an existing Handgun Safety Certificate, you may continue to use that for handguns only. If you want to take ownership of a long gun, you’ll need to get the new Firearm Safety Certificate, which is valid for both handguns and long guns.