If you plan on hunting in California at any point in the foreseeable future, you should be aware that a total ban on hunting ammunition containing lead is about to take effect within the state. Things have been trending that direction within the Golden State for many years now, and the state began a gradual phase-in of lead-free ammunition after Assembly Bill 711 (AB 711) was passed by the California State Legislature and subsequently signed into law by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013.

AB 711 requires a complete implementation of the lead ammo ban by July 1, 2019. Starting on that date, all hunters pursuing any game or non-game birds and mammals anywhere in California will be required to use lead-free ammunition.

This applies to hunters on both private and public land as well as those hunting with rifles, handguns, shotguns, and muzzleloaders. However, pellet or air rifles are not included in the lead ammo ban.

Note that the ammo restrictions only apply to hunting. So, using ammo containing lead for personal protection and recreational shooting is still allowed. You just can’t use any bullets containing lead to take or assist in the taking of wildlife.

Among other reasons (read AB 711 at the link above to see the justifications for the law in detail), AB 711 specifically cites protecting the endangered California Condor as the primary justification for the lead ammo ban.

Fortunately, hunters now have a wide variety of quality lead-free ammunition options from companies like Barnes, Hornady, Nosler, Remington, and Winchester. Hunters are not limited to using ammo from just those companies though. California currently maintains a comprehensive list of certified lead-free ammunition hunters are allowed to use.

However, many sportsmen and women are concerned that lead-free ammunition will cost more than traditional hunting ammo and there’s certainly something to that sentiment.

For instance, as I write this article, a box of Barnes VOR-TX .30-06 Springfield ammo will set you back about $52.99 online from Cabela’s. However, they sell Remington Core-Lokt .30-06 ammo for just $23.99 and Winchester Super X .30-06 ammo for a mere $18.99 a box.

Not all lead-free ammo is quite as expensive as the Barnes VOR-TX line (Cabela’s sells .30-06 Hornady GMX ammo for $42.99), but the fact of the matter is that California hunters can very likely expect to spend more on hunting ammo in the near future.

An initial violation of the law is punishable by a $500 fine. Subsequent violations are punishable by fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 per infraction. So, make sure you’re complying with the new law during any future hunts in California because non-compliance can get pretty expensive as well!