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Nonlead Ammunition in California

Effective July 1, 2019, nonlead ammunition is required when taking any wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California.

In October 2013, Assembly Bill 711 was signed into law requiring the use of nonlead ammunition when taking any wildlife with a firearm in California. This law required the California Fish and Game Commission to adopt regulations that phased-in the statute’s requirements by July 1, 2019.

CDFW conducted extensive public outreach during 2014 and proposed regulations that phased-in the nonlead requirement. This outreach effort included question and answer sessions at sportsmen’s shows, meetings with hunting organizations, and a series of eight public workshops throughout the state.

CDFW then presented draft regulations, as modified by public input from these workshops, to the Fish and Game Commission. In April 2015, the Fish and Game Commission adopted CDFW’s proposed regulations.


Frequently Asked Questions

When does the nonlead ammunition regulation take effect?

Effective July 1, 2019, nonlead ammunition is required when taking any wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California.

Where can I find a list of nonlead ammunition legal for hunting?

Where can I purchase nonlead ammunition?

Hunters can purchase nonlead ammunition in most local gun stores and sporting goods retailers. If your bullet size, caliber or guage is unavailable, most retail stores will special order ammunition. Just be sure to order ahead of time.

I've heard nonlead costs twice as much. Where can I find a good deal on ammo?

Nonlead ammunition can cost more than certain types of lead ammunition. However, the price of nonlead ammunition is the same as premium lead ammunition. In fact, sometimes it costs less. For some calibers and gauges even the difference between cheaper lead ammunition and nonlead ammunition can be less than $10 per box, especially if you look for deals at your local store. Either way, ammunition is often the least expensive part of a hunt, and the only thing that touches the bird or animal you want to harvest. Make sure to buy ammunition that will make your hunt a success.

Does nonlead fly differently than lead?

All bullets, slugs and pellets fly differently and have different points of impact and patterns. Try nonlead at the range, re-zero your rifle and pattern your shotgun. The process is the same as when switching from one lead bullet or brand of ammunition to another.

I have thousands of bullets made of lead. What do I do with them now?

Most public shooting ranges recycle the lead that gets shot into their berms, and lead bullets are great for target practice.

How will wildlife officers check for compliance?

All ammunition in a hunter’s possession may be inspected by wildlife officers. In some cases, if a wildlife officer suspects a hunter is in possession of lead ammunition and cannot prove otherwise in the field, he or she may seize a cartridge or bullet for further analysis. Hunters are encouraged to assist in confirming compliance by retaining and carrying in the field ammunition boxes or other packaging.

What about target shooting or firearms for personal protection?

The regulations do not require use of nonlead ammunition when target shooting. Use of lead projectiles for target shooting is legal unless CDFW or another government entity has determined otherwise for lands they administer. The regulations do not prohibit the possession of concealable firearms containing lead ammunition, provided the firearm is possessed for personal protection and is not used to take or assist in the take of wildlife. With the exception of ammunition for concealable firearms possessed for personal protection, hunters may not possess lead ammunition along with a firearm capable of firing that ammunition.

Are pellet rifles included in the lead ammunition ban?

Since pellet rifles are not firearms, the use of lead projectiles in pellet rifles is not prohibited.

How does this affect private lands and landowners?

These regulations apply both to public and private lands. Private landowners or anyone authorized to hunt on private land must also comply with these regulations.

How does this affect depredation permits?

CDFW issues depredation permits for a variety of species to reduce damage to property. The use of certified nonlead ammunition is required for depredation purposes on a statewide basis.



Wildlife Branch - Game Management
1812 9th Street, Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 445-0411