Studies Show Lead Ammo Ban Causes Shortages and Price Spikes

Production of alternative ammunition graph

California, on what may be one of the most misguided or misleading standards of reasoning, has led the nation with its ban on traditional lead ammunition. While feel-good politics may soothe the conscience of many, Southwick Associates undertook a study for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) to determine the economic impact on the California economy and wildlife conservation efforts in the state attributed to the lead ammunition ban and the potential effects it could have on the rest of the nation.

graph of number of hunters in california Surprising to many, California is actually game rich and one of the top states for hunting. Although California is one of the few states in the U.S. without whitetails, California still ranks 8th nationally in terms of total spending by hunters. This is important when you consider the following; if all hunters were to adopt alternative hunting ammunition (without any drop in participation) demand in California alone for the following calibers would exceed national production or require a large portion of national production for alternative substitutes. This increase in demand would cause shortages and cancelled hunting excursions. According to Southwick Associates in a report compiled for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), this is how the numbers would play out.

  • .22 rimfire demand in California would exceed the entire U.S. production of alternative .22 rounds by 472%
  • .17 rimfire demand in California would exceed the entire U.S. production of alternative .17 rounds by 263%
  • 8mm demand in California would exceed the entire U.S. production of alternative 8mm rounds by 1,094%
  • .204 demand in California would exceed the entire U.S. production of alternative .204 rounds by 563%
  • .270 demand in California currently comprises 40% of the entire U.S. production of alternative .270 rounds
  • .30-30 demand in California would exceed the entire U.S. production of alternative .30-30 rounds by 108%
  • .308 demand in California currently comprises 14% of the entire U.S. production of alternative .308 rounds
  • .35 demand in California would exceed the entire U.S. production of alternative .35 rounds by 155%
  • .30-06 demand in California currently comprises 24% of the entire U.S. production of alternative .30-06 rounds

Production of alternative ammunition graph More generally, a survey of ammunition manufacturers reported that a ban on traditional ammunition using lead components for hunting would translate to substantially higher prices to the tune of 284% for centerfire, 294% for rimfire and shotshells would rise by an estimated 387%. The trickle effect of the higher prices would cause 36% of hunters to stop hunting or reduce participation within the state. Of that, 13% (over 50,000) would stop hunting altogether. Currently, rimfire production using non-lead components makes up a mere 0.5% of all production and could all but completely eliminate the .22LR caliber as an introduction to hunters entering the sport, which would lead to both short- and long-term impacts to participation.

Cost of Losing Hunting Dollars

Of concern, even to nonhunters, would be the projected loss of almost 2,000 jobs, $68.7 million in wages and salaries, $13.9 million in state and local tax revenue and $5.8 million less to the federal tax coffers. Even if the economy were not in its current anemic state, these losses would cause a significant impact. Of course, this does not even take into account the portion of license and ammunition sales that go to conservation efforts within the state. Losing hunting dollars directly creates a significant shortfall to conservation efforts that propel the protection and management of game animals as well as the land.

The numbers are easy to calculate. Getting lawmakers to understand the impact is quite another matter. What are you or your state doing to combat anti-hunting efforts and protect conservation dollars? Share it with us in the comment section.


The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (64)

  1. It takes years to die from Lead Poisoning unless you drink it in a Steel mug. Ask the Romans, after drinking wine from lead Goblets; when years later the acid in the wine dissolved the lead in the container and their offspring became Virtual Idiots and the Empire collasped. If your Talking Blood Poisoning, thats a different story.It can be in a short period of time when you die unless you amputate the Limb/Limbs. Ask Civil War Vets–Whoops!, there arn’t any around anymore.

  2. Ditto Ditto on that. Half inch Water Pipe, End Cap, Drill Hole in Cap add nail and spring, screw on moderately tight. In an emergency make several. You get the idea.

  3. Making your own Black Powder, you are more likely to end up with a B________K Ass Singe!. There are other ingredients and chemicals that will accomplish the same as gun powder.

  4. Thanks for clearing that up and sorry about the rant. My bad. Im used to find some leftist here trying to live in fantasy world. If you somehow change your situation in the future and have the chance move to Arkansas. Believe it or not everyone says there is only Walmart there, but there is nice mountains, lakes, plenty of fishing and hunting and the gun laws are more relaxed than California. At least to have a retirement place to go during hunting season would be great.The thing in California is that what many people want there, and what the corrupt politicians that have bought their way to the top wants is not the one and same thing. If it would come to what you said I think our old friend bow and arrow will have to do.

  5. Really? Is your last name Biden? You are going to hunt deer with a shootgun and 00 buckshot?? and then you advice to make your own black powder? You are a funny guy for a liberal.

    1. Joe — not a lib. This is for when the left has taken away all other options. This should probably have been posted under a prepper topic. The one gun refers to if you can only get one. You need several. Long, short, fun, work. I hunt with a 30-06 even in this BS state. DID NOT say to make BP. Have never done it. This was for when the lead is gone and everything turns to crap there are options. I will try to be more clear next time -Sorry.—MOLON LABE!!!!

    2. Joe -read what i posted on page one of this topic. Agree with you about my state. Have too many grand kids to move.

  6. This is all just another reason your ONE gun should be a 12ga. Don’t need lead. Don’t need factory wads. Don’t even need factory powder.Don’t need a press, dies or other tools. If you have hulls some type of wadding and a payload that will pass the choke then if you find primers all you need to reload is a nail to drive out the primer and a fat stick to seat the new one.POWDER ?- A good garden supply has everything you need to make Black powder. NOT LEGAL!!! Try any of this AT YOUR OWN RISK!!! I even saw a video of someone reloading primers. Don’t be stupid with this. YouTube is full of crazy people with missing fingers. This is end of the world stuff– SHTF day.

  7. Really kkphoto.

    All we care about is price and not the environment. Why don’t you check and see what sportsman organizations donate to maintaining the environment.
    Does shooting / hunting contribute to lead in the environment ….Yes.
    is it a major contributor ….No.

    No kkphoto the problem most of us have with this is that we need ammo that will produce a humane kill and that it is obviously just another government angle towards an agenda with a twist of legitimacy. See we are not paranoid but we do need to be involved with every attempt at a foot in the door.

  8. You would have to be pretty dumb not to realize you were cannon fodder. Thats why Silo crews had Psyche. Evals. In any case, it would be declaired war. Failure to obey a direct order would be a you know what conclusion.

    1. @ Martin Pierce.

      The problem was the guns range was jest over 9-miles, and the Fall-Out range, was five-times that range. Have to call it short tonight, Wound Therapy again. New hospital, with Front Door Service. Ohhhh Roger is going to be contacting you about reloading an M1 .30-caliber Carbine, thought I give you the heads up. SEC.

  9. Thankyou. Was not following battery tech that close. Good, I just Picked your Brain without asking. Thanks for the Enlightenment. When I’m not so tired later I’ll start reading everything about new battery tech.

  10. Yes. But we know from History and MOVIES that “They Were Expendable”. The Choice is always the less of the 2 Evils. In war, somebody has to die. The cannon Crews are few and the Soviet tanks and their crews are many. A fair trade-off. Im not callous, just realistic. When Soviet Union & Berlin Wall fell was the reason to scrap and dismantle the mobile launching sites that both Us and the Soviets learned a long time ago from the Nazis.

    1. @ Martin Pierce.

      The problem with “Atomic Anne” was, after the crew manning the gun learned of their possible demise. They refused too fire the gun. So the Army scrapped it in the 1970’s. Nice for the Army to tell the crews, After-the-Fact.

  11. I heard/read about 20 yrs. ago exploring nuclear cell batteries with a nuclear pellet as energy source. A Science fiction recycling nightmare. The Army used to deploy nuclear cannons on the battlefield in Germany in case of a Mass Soviet tank invasion of West Germany. They were and/or still @ the Ready until the 1980’s and fall of Berlin Wall.

    1. @ Martin Pierce.

      All true. The problem with the Nuclear Cannon was, it’s a “Suicide Weapon”. Meaning the crew that fired it. It was Short-Ranged, and the crew firing the weapon, couldn’t get away from the Nuclear-Fallout fast enough. Before dying of Radiation-Poisoning.

  12. True. But we’ll all be dead before that happens. Im here & now and we can’t even make a better battery yet after almost 100 yrs. Its like electric cars. Too expensive to buy and to replace the batter/ies cost almost half the price of the car.

    1. Vanadium Redox batteries have been in use in bus service, as their primary energy source for 30 years. The batteries use no lead (Graphite based) and since they are a reflow battery, they can be recharged by pumping in freshly charged fluids. Since the fluid never breaks down, changing it at the equivalent of a gas station (a recharge fascility) is as simple as trading your flat fluid for charged fluid, and recharging yours for the next customer. They can not sulfide (wrong reaction) and can be dischartged to full dead without damaging the battery. They are currently also used for backup power for commercial power stations, and can be purchased in the Megawatt ranges.

  13. Expensive? Limited to shapes & weights that suppliers have.To light for handguns unless lot longer. Llimits guns to be used in. I’ve made aluminum bullets on a metal lathe be fired in .357 mag. loads with gas checks and dry film metal forming lubricant. 2000 ftps. but velocity drops off fast because its too light. Poor accuracy @ any useful range other than close in defense load.

  14. Why not use either Aluminium or Bronze, as a core substitute metal for Lead, Both Aluminium and Bronze will deform upon impact, but only Bronze has the weight similar to Lead?

    1. I was checking into this long time ago and it is very difficult to create a bullet that have the charasteristics of lead(dense, heavy, cheap) out of other metals. It have to do with a long list of factors. Velocity , rate of expasion. You see, it have to be heavy and at the same time it have to deform on impact. A solid bullet of bronze or copper will not deform and will go thru the animal and continue after the target,becoming a danger to whatever is in the other side. An aluminum bullet is too light. It will not mantain speed and it wont deform like lead. i read about zinc (maybe), but believe me is there was a better and (cheaper ) way, manufacturers would have been doing it long ago , and selling at the same price thus making better profits margin. It is not as easy as just making a bullet of any material.

  15. It’s funny how we ignore the reasoning behind the ban, which is the considerable lead poisoning to the eco system. Is money all that matters to us? I love shooting, and would certainly prefer ammo prices to stay the same (or drop) but I’m not going to ignore the long term impact of lead on the environment for my own selfish reasons. If we stop using lead ammo, substitutes will have to be made and eventually the demand will raise production and costs will stabilize. It just takes some patience, forward thinking, and selfless-ness.

    1. Is that were the real reason then the would have attacked the biggest offeder long ago. Batteries.. like the one that runs our cars. It have nothing to do with lead poisoning on a death animal. Just count and tell me how many things this happens in an amount big enought to damaga the ecosystem? Do they have hard data? No. These are jacketed bullets. If you have ever hunter then you would know that most of the times, even with hollow points is very easy to get the expanded bullet back even if broken. A wounded animal that end up dying would be eaten , but this is not a liquida that will go thru all the animal blood. It is a hard part that most any other animal that eats the wounded animal will expel completely. Bring me some real data about lead poisoning study due to hunter malfunction and then we have a starting point for any intelligent discussion.

  16. Yes, that is true. Im not being callous about it. A person should always weigh the outcome of there actions. In the heat of the moment that sometimes escapes the consious thought.

  17. Just pulled out my Big five flyer from yesterdays Sunday paper. There selling 20 rnd. boxes of .WIN 30.-06 Silvertip ammo on sale @ $25.99. The same 20 rnd box of the Lead Free ammo is $33.00 a box. A diff of $7.00 . .A Rose by any other name is still a Rose. Its clear its all about Greed. Same as Gasoline Prices, no diff. Bleed everybody dry to the Max until they squeel Foul. Then increase it some more. Its not all the makers to blame either. I wont say other, but Read Between the Lines.

  18. My understanding of the reasoning behind the law is that hunters that shoot any animal that then escapes a hunter with lead in them becomes food for other animals. Such as endangered rapter birds (Eagles, Falcons, Wolves, ect.) that then eat the lead and die.

  19. One more way to squeeze the last ounce of profit from a still heavily used product. Lets ban the use of Stained Glass Windows in Churches and mortuaries. Then we can put all of the stained glass workers and window makers out of business and on the rolls of Welfare, homeless, and unemployed people. Costco makes millions on battery sales in there warehouse stores. I dont see any lets ban battery sales @ store on signs. What about the little lead tip on flashlight batteries–because its cheap and gets throwed in land fills.

  20. Yeah, true. But, for me, not worth the effort. Time is Money + $5.00 gasoline + time wasted ? + sorting out, + storing away, etc., etc., etc. I make .22 varmit bullets and such from spent .22 lr and magnum. cases in a bullet swager die. .22-.250, .223, 5.56, .270 Win. .243 Win. etc.

  21. Fishing Weights, Fabric Curtain Weights, Lead Glass, Pewter, Go to a constructions site, lot of waste scrap metal laying around,Aluminium (Slick rounds), Copper, Brass, Bronze. There 700-years worth gun technology out here, if you just know where to look.

  22. NO! Really, never would have guessed. buy wheel weights from amazon, ship to relatives in Nev. pick up when we go there; 2 or 3 times a year we do. come home, cast bullets, Don’t Worry, Be Happy!.

  23. More stupidity from the land of fruits and nuts where the likes of Haight/Ashbury, Pelosi and Manson originated from. You d the math. Need I say more?

  24. The lead ammo ban in California is typical of the nonsense that comes from the minds of many of my state’s politicians. (Its never too good to give one party majority control, especially the Democrats!) It is designed as an environmental “feel good” measure to keep lead out of the environment and cut down on toxic levels of the substance that could harm wildlife. The fact that the law was designed to placate the environmental groups is evident that while it was passed in 2013, it won’t go into effect until 2019. The law was also based on scientific studies done 60 years ago, when there was a higher content of lead in the environment from industrial pollution. The ban also is hypocritical: reading the law, one can see it only prohibits lead ammo in hunting animals – not in any other use. Its still perfectly legal to use lead ammo for target shooting at a range, for plinking, for blowing up watermelons, etc. In fact, I can go up into the same mountain areas with the deer hunters cannot hunt with lead ammo and shoot cans and pinecones off a log with lead ammo, and get away with it. The lead is still going into the ground and doing what it does, but because I’m not shooting an animal with it, its still OK that I shoot it. Such is the nature of life in California!

    1. You are SO right! Obviously it is a useless law, pure pandering! Also they miss the fact that the single largest lead pollution source is car batteries. As they fail, they fail by sulfiding, which is the worst form of lead. They are discarded, in mass, and some are actually recycled. Address these large causes FIRST, ammunition, as a source, is negligible, since it is pure to begin with.

    2. @ Toby.

      Why don’t you take a WILD GUESS at what that Secondary Lead Smelter, is smelting at the Doe Run Company in Herculaneum, MO.!!!

    3. The big idea about no lead ammo hunting is to end all hunting in CA. This is just the first step to say people here do not hunt anymore so they do not need firearms anymore. Not really hard to figure out. The anti gun groups here are spending time & big money to end all civilian gun ownership. These groups do not care about animals suffering just gun grabbing. They do not care about people losing their jobs either. It is totally a control issue.

  25. An inmportant item that is usually missed, is wounded animals. If you hunt responsibly, you practice, and use the most lethal weapon and ammunition combination, that you can field. I put them in the freezer, and waste nothing, BUT I refuse to allow them to suffer! This non-lead ammo usually is harder, and faster (because it is lighter) than traditional ammo. This causes poor energy transfer, and, as a direct result, more wounded animals dying in the field. So these people support torture by not allowing the hunters to use equipment to ensure a fast, humaine kill.

    1. And what about police ammunition and Military on all of the bases in California. Hunting is not the only use of bullets, no matter they are made of. This is in addition to the problems mentioned above.

  26. Ok so you are against the NRA, have more than 1 gun and more than 1 box of ammo. I wonder if you are also against more than 1 car or collecting coins or having a weeks worth of food in case of winter storm. Do you even own a gun? Sounds like you just lean way left to me.

  27. We should just disassociate California from the rest of the states and give it to Mexico. It is a bankrupted burden state that really dont contribute much to the country. Im sure without Hollywood this country will again start using their brains instead of living zombified every day.

  28. I don’t know where the figures came from.. Supply and demand have always driven the market. To single out California seems strange to me.. Maybe I got it wrong, but if only CA bans lead, would it make more lead available to the other 49 states.

    The industry is making ammo as fast as the nervous nellies are hording it.
    Why on God Green Earth does someone need 40k rounds of ammo.. I am told that when the SHTF it will be needed..

    Last time I checked my prepper guides say 300 rounds was the max you could carry and still be able to have survival goods (food, Water etc)
    On the same vein, Why does someone need 6 or 8 AR15’s.. I know you can’t be too prepared.. Actually I love the over gun buyers, they get buried in guns and then sell cheap..
    The fact that when you manufacture larger quantities of almost anything the cost goes down.. OK so this does not seem to apply to the greedy gun industry.
    Fear seems to be driving the price of guns and ammo.. The mouth of the industry .. the NRA.. Yes the NRA who get tons of financial support from the industry is part of the problem.

    My father was a member of the NRA for over 60 years I was a member for almost 50.. I left the NRA as they changed their agenda from promoting gun ownership and safety to be a political animal..

    1. I think we need the political animal Robert because if you have seen the leftist agenda in the past 30 years, they been creeping silently in the ranks of our government and now are the one’s trying to change even the Constitution. They already changed marriage and implemented certain gun bans. If someone dont rais a political animal to fight back who is going to do it then? The run of the mill republican that just vote sometimes,gives an opinion online and do nothing else?? That’s why we are losing ground to the left because we got vocal here on line but no one put money where the real law changes are won and that is on the political arena , not the online chat. If that political animal have not raised the money and voice it did last year , we could not have right now our ARs and much more. Remember Feinstein saying ” I want them all” referring to our guns.

  29. FOR GOD’S SAKES, apparently nobody on this website can, either Research or Read. The Primary Lead Smelter. Own by Doe Run Metals Company, in Herculaneum, MO. Has been continuously since it went operational in 1892. It was finally shut down in December 14, 2013 by the EPA for violations of the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Acts, before the last Bush Presidential Administration. It was Making People Sick, and in Some Cases Killing Them. Who lived and worked in the area. Until, the company replaces the Primary Smelter, the Secondary Smelter is picking up the slack. And deals are in place with Canada, and soon probably with Mexico. To get Processed LEAD shipments, from them. Until the Ammunition Vendors get their lead shipments, there’s going to be a delay.

    1. The ammo shortage has nothing to do with the last lead smelter in America closing. Almost all of the lead used to make ammo comes from recycled car batteries. The shortage has been cause by justifiable worries
      about the current political climate in this country.

  30. Hank alvarez

    You said I Hank. Gun prices go up every time I walk into a store. I have really started shopping the used / private seller market. I certainly have nothing against free enterprise and making a profit but I don’t like to be gouged because business is good.

  31. When The S hits the fan the unarmed libs won’t care about lead in the environment. They will just be praying to the God they don’t believe in that they will be able to find a “friend” with a lead spitting gun to protect there sorry PC ass!!!! MOLON LABE !!!

    1. P fing S. I am 5th gen California. Jerry is running for governor again .Remember the campaign slogan from his run in the 70s. ” if its Brown flush it down!!”

  32. No shit! If you’ve had Econ 101 you know what happens to the price when the supply goes down and demand goes up. What really burns my butt is that a lot of formerly honest vendors are trying to scalp us. I’m making a list and it’s getting longer everyday of places who will never see my credit card again. I hope you’re doing the same.

  33. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You can talk all the truths, facts and hard figures you want.. The left is simply unable to process truthful, factual information. Agenda and running everyone else life is what matters.

    1. Mac, you got that right! I gave up trying to reason with these dimbulbs long ago in order to save my sanity. They live on a different planet and have especially done so since the 1960s. Not a lost cause yet, but it is so difficult to reason with people who religiously believe that big government is the solution to all problems, when in fact, it is in many respects it is the cause of those very same problems. California is a prime example (and I am a native Californian).

      Too many of our politicians—both state and federal— sincerely believe that they will garner votes if they support legislation that punishes law-abiding gun owners. They completely forget that those same gun owners are NOT the cause of crime and that anti-gun laws are scoffed at by criminals, whether they belong to gangs or not. The fight goes on…..

    2. Correct you are. First, the majority of anti-gunners are grossly ignorant of the five Ws of firearms. Second, even if they were knowledgable, like BHO and fighting terrorism, they are ideologically incapable of seeing things for the way they are and making sound judgements. Third, they don’t care about the outcomes, this is the party of – The Ends Justify the Means. They practice that principle more than any other.

    3. You have more chances of convincing a extreme religious muslim of becoming a Christian than you have of having a leftard use reasoning and facts. They seem really mentally ill. All that homosexuality and turd pushing have gone all the wrong chemicals flowing back to their brains.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.