By Paulie Henry

What impact will a state wide lead ammo ban have on California hunters, the true conservationists? More than most imagined.

As of now, informed California sportsmen and women know that Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 711 on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013. Once fully implemented, AB 711 will ban the use of lead ammunition for hunting in California statewide!

The AB711 ban is nothing new to Southern California hunters who live in the “condor zones.” Using lead ammunition to hunt California’s Tejon Ranch, located in the heart of the condor zone, has been banned for over seven years. The “Condor Zone” bans have failed to reduce condor blood levels, despite near universal compliance. There is no good reason to believe AB711 will be any more successful.

But it will have a significant impact on hunting in California. As a firearm and ammo salesman, I know firsthand the big cost difference between lead and lead free ammo. Lead free California compliant hunting ammo can cost two and a half times more than standard lead ammunition, if you can find it. The increased cost of compliant lead-free ammunition is an outrageous burden on hunters who struggle to make ends meet. Many save for months, even years, to save up for a hunting trip to get a break from city life and to reflect on the unique American heritage of life, liberty, freedom, and conservation that’s been passed on to us by our forefathers.

But is the high price of non-lead ammo the biggest burden? No! The lack of availability and the ballistic integrity or this ammo presents additional burdens. Availability of lead free ammo is a major concern. As a trip to your local pawn shop or sporting goods store will confirm that most ammo is still scarce, especially the lead alternative ammunitions. And as of this writing, there is no significant testing data as to the ballistic performance or effectiveness of this ammo. There are many who find it to be balistically inferior to lead ammo performance. This will result in inaccuracy and so, more wounded, and lost game.

So, for the men and women to whom the above speaks to your heart, God bless you that are passing on these teachings. Let’s answer a few frequently asked questions:

Q-1: What does ammo cost?

A-1: A typical box of Remington 30-06 lead ammo is $18.00… A basic box of lead free Remington starts at $49.95.

Q-2: How effective is the ammo on the taking of game?

A-2: The ammo has good ballistics, but rather than expanding on the target for a quick kill like traditional ammunition, it only pokes holes. The expansion rate of lead free bullets is minimal! This means that an animal wounded with lead-free ammo will run a considerable distance before dying. You will get exercise tracking any wounded animal. This is inhumane and inconvenient for both the hunter and the game.

Q-3: Is this ammo readily available, either locally or via online retailers?

A-3: No! If you can find ammo, consider yourself very lucky! If you are looking to carry a sidearm as backup, in many cases it’s like playing the lottery. I think you may win the big one sooner than find affordable lead free ammunition in every caliber you need.

Q-4: How do I know what ammo is legal? Is there a list of certified ammo that can only be used?

A-4: Yes, the California Department of Fish and Game has a list that shows the ammo certified as compliant.

Q-5: When will this law take effect?

A-5: This one is still pending. Not even people enforcing this law know how it will play out. On January 15, 2014, during a meeting located at the Van Nuys State Office Building Auditorium for the Department of Fish & Game, CALIFORNIA WILDLIFE RESOURCES COMMITTEE Committee Chairs Commissioner Kellogg and Commissioner Baylis said, “We have no firm agenda of how to implement AB 711 or the timeline to endorse such a law. It was signed into law and thrown on us by Governor Jerry Brown. We tentatively thought we would apply it to Big Horn Sheep in 2015, Upland game birds the next year. By 2019 have it apply to all big game hunting in California. We need time to figure this out.”

If you found this blog useful, please let us know.

The NRA Members’ Council of the Antelope Valley would be happy to field your questions with educated answers in this forum. What we don’t know with 100% certainty, we will get the facts and answer.

Paulie Henry is
NRA Members’ Council of the Antelope Valley
Hunting and Land Use Committee Chair

Your source for information about hunting in the great state of California.