California Becomes the First State to Enact Total Lead Bullet Hunting Ban

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is set to start enforcing the ban on July 1. (Photo: CDFW Facebook)

California is set to become the first state to ban the use of lead bullets for all hunting activities. The law, originally passed in 2013, will take full effect in less than one month on July 1, 2019, and will apply to all hunters taking any type of game with a firearm on public or private land.  

“All ammunition in a hunter’s possession may be inspected by wildlife officers,” the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says on its website. “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.”

The agency encourages hunters to keep their ammunition box with them to verify that they are using certified non-lead ammunition.

First-time offenders risk losing hunting privileges and can be fined up to $500. Subsequent violations bring a minimum $1,000 fine.

Proponents of the ban argue that lead bullets present an environmental risk to wildlife, especially the endangered California Condor. Studies conducted before the law’s passage suggested that the bird population was being poisoned after ingesting lead fragments left behind by hunters in the entrails of game animals.

“The problem is really epidemic,” toxicologist Myra Finkelstein told local media in 2013. “These California condors are exposed to chronic harmful levels of lead.”

SEE ALSO: Minnesota Legislators Take Steps to Ban Wolf Hunting

Opponents of the bill counter that birds are exposed to lead from a variety of sources.

California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA) Executive Director Rick Travis pointed out to NRA TV recently that lead can be found in discarded tools like tire irons as well as rocks pulled up during the Gold Rush. He also noted that California turkey buzzards consume entrails from game animals and haven’t experienced declining populations.

“There are a lot of other attributing causes to this, but of course the anti-Second Amendment, anti-firearms, anti-hunting movement attributes everything to what we do in the field with our firearms and lead-based bullets,” he said.

Hunters worry that cartridges using certified non-lead bullets might cost more than cartridges using traditional copper-jacketed bullets. This concern was more acute in 2013. Since then, manufacturers like Barnes have ramped up production of copper hunting bullets, and today the price difference between traditional and non-lead cartridges has shrunk.

SEE ALSO: Trump, Jr., Accuses Google of ‘Kowtowing to Leftwingers’ for Blocking Hunting Ads

Hunters with firearms with unusual chamberings, however, are still out of luck. As Travis notes, few manufacturers make lead-free options for unique cartridges since the customer base is so small. Those hunters will be forced either to switch firearms or hand-load with non-lead bullets.

As with other gun-control measures field tested by the Golden State, bans on lead bullets will likely begin working their way across the country. Travis reports that other states in the so-called “Condor Range,” including Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona, are considering total bans:

“This is not just going to stay here in California. It’s being talked about in the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. It’s going throughout the west.”

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About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over four years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco. Follow him on Instagram @bornforgoodluck and email him at

{ 47 comments… add one }
  • Tony September 7, 2020, 11:26 am

    My guess is…..

    The giant wind farms all over the state have more of a impact on the condors.

  • Drew June 7, 2019, 1:32 am

    California may as well be a socialist country all of its’ own. Too bad they can’t succeed from the union and leave their 55 electors out of the presidential elections. Their congressmen and senators would be out as well.

  • Shanz June 5, 2019, 12:30 am

    Can I still target shoot?

  • Steve Roach June 4, 2019, 5:46 pm

    For a scavenger like the condor to get blood poisoning from ingested lead, the lead would have to react with stomach acid. It is true that lead(II) chloride and lead(II) sulfate are both insoluble in water, but if you actually look at lead metal in either HCl or H2SO4 you won’t see any deposition of an insoluble coating. That’s because lead metal will NOT reduce hydrogen and in turn will NOT be oxidized by H+ ions. Therefore, there will be NO reaction with either acid, and no precipitates of PbCl2 or PbSO4. Unless it actually enters the blood via some form of ionization, it will pass harmlessly through the digestive tract. Spells hoax in search of funding to me.

  • Mount Nebo June 4, 2019, 5:25 pm

    I have an idea, let’s ban Califphonya from the US of A. Or offer the state to Mexico for a few pesos.

    • Stuart B Percell June 4, 2019, 7:40 pm

      Bettter yet, we’ll pay Mexico to take Commiefornia off our hands. Let them deal with the perpetual embarassment.

    • James E Nelson June 4, 2019, 10:07 pm

      Taxifornia is already part of Mexico they just haven’t declared victory…….yet

  • Dwight Hampton June 4, 2019, 4:53 pm

    What you expect, its California.

  • David Welsh June 4, 2019, 4:49 pm

    Ban lead and butcher babies. Maybe of women have birth to condors…

  • Randy Locher June 4, 2019, 4:30 pm

    Kalifornian’s deserve to loose everything. They keep electing the same Filth over and over again. Nothing but a Bunch of Spinless Moron’s.

    • Dan Peterson June 4, 2019, 11:23 am

      They’re Democrats, they lie cheat and steal elections, so what if Nancy Pelosi and all those other California democrats just keep on rigging their elections and people actually aren’t voting for them?

      I don’t trust any politician, Republicans or democrats but Democrats are provably worse.

    • Kole June 4, 2019, 11:53 am

      First of all the dick head Dems vote for this NOT the gun owners, NOT the sportsman. Pussy’s like you talk to much shit. You are not the ones that live behind enemy lines. If we could change it we would. We’re out numbers by illegals and liberal tyrant’s. All the people who talk shit are the people that have abandoned the people who are sportsman in California. Try helping or before you know it, your state will be behind anti gun enemy lines.

      • Captain Bob June 4, 2019, 5:51 pm

        I would have said the same (with less profanity) but you hit the nail on the head. It’s the damn illegals (that are allowed to vote and always vote Democrat) that keep the asshole (OK, I used profanity) Legislators in office,
        Kali needs to split into 3 states.

    • OlCrustyVet June 4, 2019, 1:10 pm

      Idiots elect idiots…However, there is that status-quo element of cheating in Cali elections, as well…called “Ballot Harvesting.”
      Won’t be long til all the rest of us good people, trying to hold the line, finally leave. Then, they can break off into the ocean for all I care.

  • Sanders (not Bernie) June 4, 2019, 2:16 pm

    What a load. The Condor has decided it must go the way of the Dodo bird. Nothing man does is going to stop it. It might be delayed, but it won’t be stopped.

  • Kevin Baxter June 4, 2019, 1:26 pm

    Kalifornia is such a cancerous disease. Can’t they please just secede now? It has grown quite tiresome to constantly have to deal with their metastasizing insanity. Please, just leave the rest of us alone!

  • Dennis K June 4, 2019, 1:25 pm

    So California just effectively banned hunting with .22 rimfire ammunition. I would assume walking around out in the desert plinking would be looked at as illegal as well. That effectively bans all TRADITIONAL round ball muzzle loading ammunition too. Someone commentated about banning lead jigs because a condor might eat a fish containing lead. Be careful what you wish for as greenies in New Hampshire have already gotten laws passed banning lead sinkers small enough for loons to swallow.

  • Michael J June 4, 2019, 12:49 pm

    Which violation carries a stiffer penalty, plastic straws or lead bullets?

    Fish and game should be in charge of border patrol, they are really anal about rules.

    • Jim June 4, 2019, 10:10 pm

      What if they use plastic straws to blow bullets at game. That would work………

  • Jerry Brownlee June 4, 2019, 12:33 pm

    Another case of the “nose of the camel inside the tent” if I ever saw one. This law will very quickly cause the demise of rim fire ammo as we know it. I can’t see a manuf. assembling .22 ammo with a solid projectile. The cost of making ammo like that will drive the price up without a doubt if they decide to try it or not. They are chipping away at basic rights and it is just a matter of time before they have what they want. JB

  • Larry Schwarts June 4, 2019, 12:24 pm

    Getting the lead out, so to speak, is not anti 2nd amendment. The science is clear, any amount of lead in the blood is pure poison. And yes, I am a 2nd amendment guy.

    • Kevin Baxter June 4, 2019, 1:28 pm


    • Methadras June 4, 2019, 2:56 pm

      Larry, how are you ingesting solid lead that you are worried so much about lead poisoning. The real lead poisoning is coming from aerosolized lead. That’s the real problem, not solidified lead. And you already have trace amounts of things like arsenic/lead/tantalum/heavy metals in your blood already just from living in a modern technological society. Get over it.

    • Reticent Rogue June 4, 2019, 5:24 pm

      Yeah, Larry, let’s go with the science. Ionic or atomized lead cannot and does not enter the blood stream from the intestinal tract; ergo, the scientists bent the rules to meet their needs…can’t get that research money if you ain’t political. They did the same thing on lead shot, claiming that diving ducks were picking it up in their gizzards while taking gravel. The first year I heard it for the first time, I cleaned (as a hunter/guide) over four hundred duck gizzards and found only one piece of lead…exactly where you would expect to find it at the end of a wound channel.

  • Johnh June 4, 2019, 11:47 am

    California just sit around and pass new laws just to pass the law. They don\’t care about anyone or anything else. The problem is California\’s laws are making California citizens leave the state in droves. The problem with that is when they go to another state, they still want what they just left. The people moving out of the large cities to places like Colorado what us to do the changing. They are changing our state from red to blue. California\’s and big city people when you move to another place. That was your choice. Not ours. We have (had) a great way of life until you got here. Either you change or go back to where you came from.

    • OlCrustyVet June 4, 2019, 1:12 pm

      Exactly. Well said.

    • William Scott June 4, 2019, 2:22 pm

      JOHN H. It’s called Soviet stylized: “Subversion.” (Aka: How to “take over without firing a shot.” Search: Yuri Bezmenov, the former KGB defector, who “told America” about subversion tactics, in the 1970s and ’80s.) The Democrap are ALL Scottish Rite, and the phony ‘republicans’ are York Rite Freemasons and Knights. Freemasonry is THE ‘common thread’ that binds ALL, WORLDWIDE. Proof: Watch “In the Shadow of Hermes” and then consider WHO control masonry, the RCC, Protestantism,Sunni Islam and their GLOBALIZED monetary, economic, legalesed ‘system’ at large, under the Trojan horse UN and There’s little DIFFERENCE today between the Democrap and the Republicons… two wings of the SAME (Rome 2.0) masonic, BIRD. (Recent e.g. Clinton 33rd mason, CFR, etc. wifey CFR, Barry; 32nd Prince Hall mason and UN chair, Reagan and the Bushes = Knights of Malta. Cheney; A mason and CFR chairman. Ron Paul and Rand Paul = freemasons. You don’t get PAST “city council” if you aren’t OWNED… Wake UP people! )

  • Johnh June 4, 2019, 11:41 am

    California just sit around and pass new laws just to pass the law. They don’t care about anyone or anything else. The problem is California’s laws are making California citizens leave the state in droves. The problem with that is when they go to another state, they still want what they just left. The people moving out of the large cities to places like Colorado what us to do the changing. They are changing our state from red to blue. California’s and big city people when you move to another place. That was your choice. Not ours. We have (had) a great way of life until you got here. Either you change or go back to where you came from.

  • Bill B June 4, 2019, 11:06 am

    Its a wonder that they don’t shut down fishing also. Anyone ever wonder if a Condor has eaten fish that might have swallowed a lead jig or spinner and got off the line. You suppose it’s just about the guns and driving up the cost of the shooting and hunting sport – you bet it is. Not well thought through – and how about all of the lead in the ground before being mined – do they think that that never migrates to food and water sources. What a sad state – pun intended – including California we are in.

  • Forrest Howe June 4, 2019, 10:36 am

    As a California hunter I support the lead free ban. I don’t see how it would be anti 2nd Amendment or anti hunting. Rather it is pro environment. Plenty of scientific studies, many outside of California, have demonstrated the lead concern with ammunition. I haven’t had a major problem with the ban. BTW, I am a registered Republican as well.

    • Kevin Baxter June 4, 2019, 1:31 pm

      Good. Please stay in CA

  • Don June 4, 2019, 10:21 am

    I can’t understand why the other states mentioned (shame on you Arizona) would be so eager to adopt such a controversial policy. When I remember the fun times I had as a kid plinking at targets in the woods with my .22 rifle I feel sad for kids today. It’s hard to believe that the condors are being exposed to “chronic harmful levels of lead” strictly from bullets. I can hear them shouting the liberal mantra now, “but if it saves one condor the ban is worth it” – so easy to call for sacrifice when you know you won’t be having to do any of it.

    • John L June 4, 2019, 4:52 pm

      Shame on you Arizona? Arizona Game and Fish has actively fought the lead ban for years. Instead they encourage hunters who use lead bullets in condor ranges to bag and haul out entrails. They encourage hunters in these areas to use non lead bullets on a voluntary basis. They also have a program to provide a box of non lead ammo free of charge for those that want them. They’ve asked for the hunters to help, and hunters have voluntarily taken it to heart in great numbers. This entire undertaking is based on groups trying to ban lead ammo on the Kaibab National forest in far northern Arizona. Now pay attention, it is a NATIONAL forest which is under federal control, not state control. Apology accepted. Next time try looking into the facts before denigrating my great state.

  • Galen June 4, 2019, 9:57 am

    So if you cannot hunt with lead bullets can you still target shoot with them? Going to be tough to be a cowboy action shooter as well as just paper target shooting inside or out.

  • Clint W. June 4, 2019, 9:46 am

    Just remember all our California 2A supporters in all those counties that are Red, and there are a lot of them when you check voting maps. They are not represented in the State government, they write letters to the reps and are ignored, they are helpless to change anything or get their opinion heard. It is the same way in NY State, and any state that has an overpowering population centered in several large cities, and the only people those folks vote for are the ones who will give them more from the public trough. NYC has more US House Reps, than many states, we are just overpowered, The only state in the last election that did not have at least one red county was Minnesota. Maybe that is the reason the Harbor Freight catalog says a US Flag sold in their stores are not available for sale in Minnesota.

    • OlCrustyVet June 4, 2019, 1:18 pm

      Sad, isn’t it? If people aren’t mad, they aren’t paying attention.

    • Kevin Baxter June 4, 2019, 1:38 pm

      Amen to that from the People’s Republic of Illinois. 90+% conservative state in terms of land area, and run by the dictatorship in Chicago. I have lived here all of my life (I’m 54), and I’m looking to get out.
      And yes, like Howard Jarvis in the 70s, I’m “mad as hell!”

  • DAVID INGRAM June 4, 2019, 9:20 am

    Will anyone report on next years huge increase in the California condors population? Won’t happen.

  • blackpowderbill FFL June 4, 2019, 9:03 am

    Manufactures tout that a jacket bullet retains 90+% of it weight.
    Yet the study done, by anti hunting faction; a few years back showed fragments in ground meat. Gee ya think if you run a bullet through a meat grinder ya might find fragments. Yet we never saw a study if the fragments the Xray showed were really lead, did we

    A study conducted by a dentist and an Xray unit.Non scientific, no ground meats from other animals were used as a test. I know from having worked on meat grinders that the plating on the cheap ones flakes off in the product.

    Like stated in the article , we don’t see a die off of other vultures do we? The condor is'(was until man started feeding them); a sea mammal scavenger.
    Copper “may” be more $. As a FFL they are more $$$$. Now that the ammo industry has ramp’d up test and production of non lead bullets you can expect other states and the feds to phase out lead bullets. Kind of screws us muzzle loader competitors & people who shoot older firearms using lead only.

    California forgets all its mining operations and coastal city pollution cause their voter base isn’t hunters.
    bpb FFL 30+ years Veteran owned

    • OlCrustyVet June 4, 2019, 1:19 pm

      Well stated.

  • Alan Robinson June 4, 2019, 9:02 am

    What a load. The odds of a Condor consuming a lead bullet or pieces is astronomical, this is just plain B.S. run amuck.

  • George Gee June 4, 2019, 7:12 am

    Has anyone been testing the ballistics of the non-lead bullets? I doubt a solid copper bullet will perform the same.

    • OlCrustyVet June 4, 2019, 1:22 pm

      Exactly my first thought. There is always an underlying nefarious purpose with anything the Californitard Libs do.

      • John June 4, 2019, 2:04 pm

        Actually copper bullets perform better than lead bullets. I hunt with copper and prefer copper. Even if the state did not ban lead, I would not use it. There are always traces of lead left In The meat and I give it ti my kids! Also a box of 20 lasts a few years so the whining about $$$ is not justified. With that being said, the whole condor study was BS highly questionable however I would still use copper.

    • John Rogers June 4, 2019, 2:42 pm

      Yes, there are hunting, and self defense rounds made of copper that have been around for a while, and perform just fine. The catch is higher price per round, and possibly limited availability, depending on your caliber of choice.

      If California cared as much for its human population, as its animal population, it might be an ok place to live. Except for all the liberal lunatics, that is.

  • BUURGA June 4, 2019, 3:38 am

    Too bad they can’t ban the homeless sidewalk people. There are plenty of alternatives to lead.

    • OlCrustyVet June 4, 2019, 1:23 pm

      Getting bad here where we’re at… Now finding hypodermic needles in public restrooms. Maybe we can let them use lead needles.

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