Last October, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a controversial bill that prohibited hunters from using lead ammunition in the state. The law may not take effect until July 2019 while it is pending additional review from state wildlife officials, but California hunters voiced concerns that the law could raise ammo prices. Earlier this week, the National Shooting Sports Foundation released a report from survey firm Southwick Associates stating that the lead ammo ban will not only increase ammunition costs, but also cause a dip in hunter participation as well.

“Based on a survey of California hunters, higher ammunition prices will drive 36 percent of California hunters to stop hunting or reduce their participation,” stated the report.

In fact, 13 percent of the surveyed hunters said they would stop hunting entirely, while 10 percent said that they were unsure if they would continue to hunt and 23 percent said they would likely hunt less. What would cause so many hunters—over a third of those surveyed—to say they are having doubts for future seasons? A three-fold increase in cost between traditional ammo and non-lead alternatives may do the trick.

“Via survey, major US ammunition manufacturers report that a ban on traditional ammuniotion with lead components in California for hunting would translate to substantially higher prices.”

The report found that the ban would lead to the prices of non-lead centerfire rounds increasing by 284 percent, rimfire rounds by 294 percent, and shotshells by an astounding 387 percent. It is notable that at the time that the law was passed, California and the rest of the country was going through an ammunition shortage that has only recently begun to ease. Non-lead alternative ammunition is in even shorter supply and accounts for only 5.3 percent of all centerfire ammunition production, 24 percent of all shotshells, and 0.5 percent of rimfire rounds. To meet current demands in California, the report estimated that the production of alternative ammunition must be increased by 432 percent, a monumental proposition when most ammo manufacturers are still focused on fulfilling back-orders for traditional ammo.

The shortage of available ammunition would likely decrease the number of hunters in the state. The report estimates that if 13 percent (51,676) of California hunters stay home, the impact will affect at least 1,868 jobs. That in turn will lead to a $68.7 million loss in salaries and wages, a $13.9 million loss in state and local tax revenues, and a $5.8 million loss in federal tax revenues.

“In summary, prohibiting use of alternative [lead] ammunition will have significant effects on the state economy, wildlife conservation and hunters’ ability to enjoy the outdoors,” stated the report. “These negative impacts need to be carefully considered by those responsible for the well-being of California’s residents and wildlife.”

Support for the lead ammo ban widely came from animal rights organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States, Audubon California, and Defenders of Wildlife. These groups say that lead ammunition is toxic to a number of wildlife species, most notably the endangered California condor. Non-lead ammunition often contains copper, bismuth, and tungsten, which are seen as a more environmentally friendly. The actual extent of the damage posed by lead ammo, however, has been debated within the California Fish and Game Commission for years.

New regulations for the ban will be put in place by July 2015 and phased in no later than July 2019.

Image copyright Getty Images/mettus

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23 thoughts on “Report: California Lead Ammo Ban Could Spike Prices by 300 Percent

  1. For those in Kalifornia that wish to continue to hunt, regardless of the moronic laws passed by the tree huggers, visit a neighboring state. Texas, for example, would love to accommodate you.

  2. Is this ban only going to be for hunting or target shooting as well? If it’s only for hunting than you can sight in and target shoot with lead and just have to buy expensive rounds to hunt with. So if that would be the case then no one should priced out since there is no need to have a case of hunting ammo other than shotgun. If it’s for everything then all I can say is I’m glad I don’t live in California.

    1. This would make good sense, I wonder if the ban will be on both target and hunting or just hunting. As an environmental issue it depends on whether or not they are concerned with an increase in lead in the environment, or simply in wounded but unharvested game.

      1. No it makes terrible sense. Lead-free ammo is lighter that it’s counterpart for the same caliber. For instance, I “used to use” a traditional lead/copper 100gr PSP in .243. They don’t make a “lead-free” copper hollow point bullet in a “100gr” weight. So, when sighting in a rifle with the cheaper “100gr” bullet, the sight and point-of-aim and point-of-impact will be off target. This goes for all calipers. It’s a waste of money and time and puts an undue financial burden on the hunter.

      2. I understand what you’re saying as a hunter concerned with time spent sighting in rifles and being used to the performance of what he knows. But couldn’t we sight in the new ammunition types and become just as used to how it performs? I don’t think we hunters are lazy by nature, but the argument you have offered doesn’t speak to the issue for which the ban is being discussed, impact on wildlife.

        I did a search and read a few articles, most are concerned with waterfowl and that is why many regions including my own put in a regulation taking lead out of the waterfowl hunts. Apparently the lead was effecting condor, eagle and other birds, especially scavenger species. Then I did find an article discussing it in larger game. Deer.

        In this study (they admit further study is necessary) they found high quantities of lead in ground venison. Nearly twice as high in donated venison from hunters, 34% vs. 59%.

        So I’d like to hear more about further study and whether the environmental impact of lead in our wildlife and on our plates is a great enough threat to ban the use of lead. If it is, then as a hunter and conservationist myself I would be okay with sighting my rifle in, spending a little more on ammo in the short term, and watching the price drop again as production and demand level out in a handful of years.

        In conclusion, I’m not certain the idea of a ban is great, but I am reasonable enough to consider it thoughtfully and consider first the ecosystem, and secondly my time and money.

      3. That doesn’t address any of the reasons for their idea on banning lead though. I don’t disagree with you on the fact that firearms would have to be sighted in for the new bullets, and ballistic data will be entirely different.

        But that’s not what the article, nor my comments are about.

        See here for reasons why this might be a good idea, and note how they have nothing to do with ballistics or costs, note also that costs change as production increases and if such a lead ban were to be put in place it would surely raise the price on lead ammo as demand went up and supply dropped while manufacturers switched to other metals and increased production.

      4. Outdoorhub seems to not want this conversation to take place. I replied over a week ago.

        I’ve just written basically the same thing again which is waiting on approval from their monitors. But will give the gist here:

        Search for “Lead bullet risks for wildlife & humans” and then click on the National Park Service link which will surely come up.

        That article covers the reasons I understand the ban idea. It has nothing to do with ballistics and how people would have to sight in their rifles for different load types. That doesn’t really matter in the face of the real issue which is at debate here.

      5. Hello Tarnsy,

        Apologies for not approving your comment sooner. Our filter automatically knocks any comment with a link in it to pending review, and your comment slipped through the cracks.

        Thanks for reading and commenting.


  3. Californians who’ve not yet fled for other free states: Please don’t come to our states to export your stupidity!! If you plan on voting in the same nutters you did in California whose ruinous policies will also ruin the states to which you flee,what’s the point of leaving?

  4. What those ignorant morons in California do should not effect the rest of the country. Ammo is already at a ridiculous price because of greedy people taking advantage of a bad situation. You can make up all the stories you want for the reason why ammo cost a arm and leg. I for one am not buying it I’ve been in this business to long. If you think I’m going to pay a higher price because of idiots in California well then your as crazy as they are. Keep your high price ammo it’s not my money tied up in it. This whole thing is perpetrated buy anti-gun liberals and their agenda to disarm America one way or another. If you voters are going to let them get away with it then you deserves what you get. Don’t say lead is the problem lead will still be used long after we are all gone. This world cannot function without lead.

    1. BINGO!!! And what happens in Kalivornia, always follow in the rest of the states years later. Look how Nevada and Arizona now require “smog checks” on vehicles. Magazine capacity and assault weapons bans??? All started in Cali and spread like a disease to other states.

  5. Is there any way to just vote California out of the union, put a fence up along mexico to Washington and let all the tree huggers have there comi state. And force the state to pay those that want to move to a more friendly area for all loses..

  6. Again, where is the justification to ban lead? I can see it having an impact on waterfowl hunting where pellets are eaten by ducks and other marine species but large game? Get real, how many shots are fired? It us easy to go through a couple of boxes of shotgun shells when hunting waterfowl but If you have to use that many when hunting big game or small game, you should not be allowed to hunt.

    1. I found a National Park Services article which actually raised a few points worth considering.

      Google “Lead bullet risks for wildlife & humans” and then click on the National Park Service link. It was worth a read and some consideration.

  7. I wish a lawsuit could be filed. This unnecessarily puts an undue burden on hunters to finding the already hard-to-get lead free ammo. Also, many calibers are not offered in “lead free” designs. I have a 28 gauge I wanted my son to learn on and hunt with for dove and quail. Now he can’t use that because nobody makes lead free factory ammo for my beloved 28 boomer! I can’t find factory loaded lead free in .38super, which I love to varmint hunt with. 10mm lead free when I hunt deer is cost prohibitive! At around $60.00 per box for lead free 10mm, no thank you. I just can’t afford it. I pray that Cal DFW takes a huge hit in Tax revenue with this jacked up lead ban!

  8. What is the justification of banning lead shot altogether? I can understand for hunting waterfowl where numerous pellets accumulate on bottom of the pond and are eaten by bottom foraging species but big and small game? How many rounds does it take that may accumulate in a forest? If you have to shoot more than once or twice maybe you shouldn’t be hunting. As for target practice, trajectories are different for lead vs non-lead ammo so sighting in with non lead and hinting with lead would defeat the purpose of accurate sighting in. California, get the lead out of your head!

  9. I am a lifelong Californian who stopped hunting already due to the lead ban. My. $100/year won’t make much difference but the tree huggers can finance the CA dept of Fish and Game, now Fish and Wildlife (no more game in this state). License holders pay for Wardens, conservation, biologists, and programs. I still fish but even that is hardly worth what they charge for a license. Hunters are an endangered species in this state. Let them raise everybody else’s taxes to pay for wildlife protection.

  10. I get it with waterfowl and even upland birds…but not big game! There is no sound science behind saying a bullet used to kill deer is being swallowed by birds!

  11. Actually, Kaliornians stay home. You messed in your nest so don’t come mess in mine. DON’T COME TO TEXAS.

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