Background Checks for Ammunition Purchases? Californian’s, Stock Up Now!

By Dave Dolbee published on in Ammunition, Legal

California’s Proposition 63 requires individuals who wish to purchase ammunition to first obtain a permit. The measure then mandates dealers to check this permit before selling ammunition, and will halt the mail-order sale of ammunition to California residents. What does this mean for California gun owners? Do you have a plan to stock up before Prop 63 goes into effect?

Multiple loaded magazines of .223 ammunition

California already has a magazine restriction in place. Don’t be caught short due to future ammunition regulations.

Proposition 63 — The Legal Stuff

In July 2016, California enacted legislation to regulate the sale of ammunition. The legislation requires individuals and businesses to obtain a one-year license from the California Department of Justice to sell ammunition. The legislation also requires sellers to conduct background checks of purchasers with the Department of Justice. Some provisions of the legislation repealed and replaced parts of Proposition 63.

Changes to State Law

Proposition 63 will require individuals who wish to purchase ammunition to first obtain a permit. The measure then mandates dealers to check this permit before selling ammunition. The measure also eliminated several exemptions to the large-capacity magazines ban and increased the penalty for possessing them. Proposition 63 enacted a court process that attempts to ensure prohibited individuals do not continue to have firearms.

Striking Down Proposition 63

On May 17, 2017, five residents of San Diego County and the California Rifle & Pistol Association filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Xavier Becerra in the U.S. District Court for Southern California. Plaintiffs said that California Penal Code Section 32310, as amended by Proposition 63, violated the Second Amendment, Takings Clause, and Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Proposition 63’s added Section 32310(c), which was designed to make the possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines an infraction or misdemeanor. The initiative also added 32310(d), which required owners of large-capacity ammunition magazines to dispose of the magazines by removing them from the state, selling them to a licensed firearms dealer, or surrendering them to a law enforcement agency. These sections of Proposition 63 were set to go into effect on July 1, 2017.

Illinois Supreme Court Justices

If only the common sense logic of Judge Benitez could grace more courts across our nation.

On June 29, 2017, Judge Roger Benitez ordered Attorney General Becerra to not enforce or implement Proposition 63’s Section 32310(c) and Section 32310(d). Judge Benitez’s order is a preliminary injunction, meaning the order is temporary pending conclusion of the legal case. Judge Benitez said Proposition 63’s section on large-capacity magazines is likely unconstitutional because it “burdens the core of the Second Amendment by criminalizing the mere possession of these magazines that are commonly held by law-abiding citizens for defense of self, home, and state.” He also stated, “The State of California’s desire to criminalize simple possession of a firearm magazine able to hold more than 10 rounds is precisely the type of policy choice that the Constitution takes off the table.”

Out-of-State Purchases

Starting in July 2019, the July 2016 legislation would have prohibited most California residents from purchasing ammunition outside the state and bringing it into the state without first having it delivered to a licensed dealer. Proposition 63 moved up the start date of this law to January 2018. It also made bringing out-of-state ammunition into the state, without first delivering it to a dealer, an infraction.

Plan of Action

Lower competition will likely lead to higher prices, not to mention California’s high sales tax rate. California could also follow other states by adding a sin tax to ammunition in the future, which would further lead to ammunition prices reaching near unattainable levels. Your best defense is to stock up now. If you have the means to buy everything you will need for the foreseeable future, act now. If, like most of us, that would more than strain the budget, you can buy some ammunition each month over the next six months—before the new law goes into effect January 1, 2018.

First, you need a plan. You may only own one gun or guns all of a single caliber, which makes your decision fairly easy. All you have to do is stock up on ammunition of that caliber—split for the intended uses. For example, if you have a home defense pistol, you would need a moderate supply of defensive rounds and the bulk of your stockpile would be training rounds. On the other hand, you may have a home defense pistol and rifle. In which you would want to split your stockpile and weigh how many rounds you had for each by the amount of practice you plan with each weapon. If you also had a shotgun, the formula would be about the same for each.

S&W M&P Shield Handgun

The Shield likes some ammunition better than others for accuracy, but function was good with everything we fed the piece.

Hunting considerations should be similar to your previous plans for home defense. You are going to need to prioritize by the caliber(s) you shoot most for practice and then the specific bullet types and weights you are most likely to hunt with in the field, plus an extra box for zeroing your scope or confirming zero before the hunt.

How Many Rounds Do You Need?

I am of the school that you can never have too many rounds of ammunition. I own multiple guns safes that each carries their share and then some. But let’s talk minimums that will keeps you covered. Let’s start with a Modern Sporting Rifle such as an AR-15 as you primary long gun and a Glock as your side arm. Two basic load outs for the AR would be 420 rounds. Even in a SHTF scenario, you should be able to get by on 365 rounds. Add those together with a little rounding and you have 800 rounds of .223. Ball ammunition is cheaper of course, but hunting ammunition and self-defense ammo may be interchangeable and ball is a poor rounding for hunting.

For your sidearm, 17×3=51, plus one round in the chamber equals 52. Double that for a basic loadout, and you are just over 100 rounds. Few of us are ever going to worry about using a Glock for hunting, so this will suffice as a strong minimum for storage and preparation. For me, that would also be per (adult or shooting age) person when looking at the long term. For example, in a defensive situation, my wife and I have worked out plans where we can cover different areas of the house, setup fatal funnels in a cross fire etc. If I were in a Californian’s shoes right now, I would have to take that into account as well—not to mention doubling the practice ammo allotment to cover both of us.

Look at your needs, means, and potential future requirements. Then make a plan that fits your needs. You’ll save some money, avoid some onerous regulations, and most importantly, be prepared.

Hopefully, organizations such as California Rifle and Pistol Association, NRA-ILA, Second Amendment Foundation, and others will find a way to kill this silly regulation using the Interstate Commerce Clause or something. However, if it were that simple, I am sure the legal minds of these organizations would have already so. All you can do in the meantime is stock up while you still have time.

Do you think the remainder of Proposition 63 will stricken down by the courts? How many rounds would you buy to prepare for the licensing, registration, and potentially higher prices in the future after Prop 63 takes effect in 2018? Share your answers, questions, or concerns in the comment section.


Growing up in Pennsylvania’s game-rich Allegany region, Dave Dolbee was introduced to whitetail hunting at a young age. At age 19 he bought his first bow while serving in the U.S. Navy, and began bowhunting after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dave was a sponsored Pro Staff Shooter for several top archery companies during the 1990s and an Olympic hopeful holding up to 16 archery records at one point. During Dave’s writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersen’s Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersen’s Bowhunting, Bowhunter, Game & Fish magazines, Handguns, F.O.P Fraternal Order of Police, Archery Business, SHOT Business,, and others. Dave is currently a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!

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Comments (64)

  • Zionien


    I really do appreciate your descriptive directions and that you went the extra mile in detailing ammo requirements. I wholeheartedly agree – you can’t have too much ammo, and WHEN SHTF – you can barter it like gold! Lets PRAY+ & HOPE+ that this oppressive and un-realistic feel good proposition designed by self glorifying worms is struck down in its entirety, like the EVIL Lautenberg MCDV lifetime gun ban for mere touching!


  • Ian S Jones


    I live in the beautiful state of Tennessee myself, for many of the same reasons. After all, it was the home of Alvin York and David Crockett. The patron state of shooting stuff!!! Been my home for almost 25 years.


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