UPDATE: Shooting Sports Retailer received an email from a reader and hunting outfitter in California who told us the ammo shortage is already affecting his business:
It has already happened here. Barnes Vortex Ammo is 3 times the price of lead. Plus, their bullets suck and pencil animals. So far I have failed to find a lead free alternative that works. One cannot find common calibers like .270 Winchester, .243 and .223 on the shelf. I am in the process of selling many of my rifles, simply because “Exotic” calibers like .280 Ackley, 7×57, .25/06, can no longer be found on dealer shelves and even less so in lead free. Sad times, trying to move to Texas soon.
A study commissioned by the nation’s top firearms industry lobby group found that if California bans all traditional lead-based ammunition for use in hunting in the state, nearly 2,000 jobs would be lost and state coffers would give up nearly $20 million in taxes — much of it used for wildlife conservation funding.
The study, which was conducted by the research group Southwick Associates and paid for by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, also found that prices on ammunition for hunter would increase by about 300 percent on rimfire and centerfire rifle ammo, and nearly 400 percent for shotgun shells. The ban would also translate into nearly 40 percent fewer hunters, or hunters that hit the woods less often.
“Prohibiting the use of alternative ammunition will have significant effects on the state economy, wildlife conservation and hunters’ ability to enjoy the outdoors,” the study, titled “Effects of the Ban on Traditional Ammunition for Hunting in California on Hunting Participation and Associated Economic Measures,” says. “These negative impacts need to be carefully considered by those responsible for the wellbeing of California’s residents and wildlife.”
In October 2013, the California legislature passed a bill banning the use of traditional hunting ammunition for all shotgun and rifle hunters. Signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, the ban is due to take effect statewide by July 1, 2019, though the state is supposed to come up with a phase-in plan by July 2015.
Southwick surveyed most of the U.S. ammunition manufacturers to get a sense of how the industry could support demand for lead-free ammunition when the ban takes effect. What they found was that the demand for lead-free rimfire ammo would exceed current U.S. production by 472 percent, 30-30 centerfire by 108 percent and .204 ammo by 563 percent, for example.
“California is one of the top states for hunting, ranking number 8 nationally in terms of total spending by hunters,” the study says. “If all hunters were to switch to alternative ammunition, with no drop in hunting participation caused by higher prices and other factors, the demand in California for [most] calibers will exceed national production or require a large portion of national production of all alternative substitutes, causing shortages and cancelled hunting trips.”
The 15 page study was delivered by the National Shooting Sports foundation to the Wildlife Resource Committee of the California Fish and Game Commission today during a public hearing on the ban’s implementation.