California Lead Ammo Ban

California's Full Lead Ammo Ban is in Effect. Here's What You Should Know

The lead ammo ban kicks in this year before the fall hunting season.

As a reminder to anyone hunting in California this year, the state's full lead ammunition ban took effect July 1, 2019.

California's lead ammo ban, which was officially signed as a new law in 2013, required the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to build up to a full prohibition. It will now be ramped up to include all hunting in the entire state.

The ban prohibits the use of lead projectiles and applies to all hunting (including public and private land), all wildlife (game birds, non-game birds and mammals) and all firearms (rifles, shotguns, pistols and muzzleloader) "in any gauge or caliber for the take of any legal species," according to the CDFW.

The use of lead ammunition will still be allowed for target shooting, as long as the ammo is being shot in an area where lead is not restricted otherwise. The ban also won't require nonlead ammunition for pellet guns or personal protection guns.

However, even those who are hunting for depredation purposes to dispatch wildlife destroying property or livestock will need to use lead-free ammo.

While the basis of the ban was born through the scientific evidence of the ammo's lead poisoning effect on the severely-endangered California condor, other research says a full lead-free switch can and will be costly for the average hunter.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) took a look at the possible effects of requiring anyone who hunts in California to make the lead-free switch, and determined it would mean substantially higher prices. Centerfire ammo would jump 284%, rimfire would increase 294%, and lead-free shotgun ammo could see a 387% spike.

Altogether, requiring only lead-free ammunition could be enough to cause 36% of California hunters to quit, the NSSF concluded.

Despite any reluctance by sportsmen to accept the lead ban, it is part of the rules and regulations. At least 30 of the United States restrict lead bullets and lead shot in certain state wildlife areas and ecological reserves, but California will be the first to ban lead statewide.

The first 2019 seasons to be affected will be the general rabbit season, which opened statewide July 1, and the A Zone general deer season, which opened Aug. 10 along much of the California coast.