See our Ammunition Regulation policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
California regulates the following aspects of ammunition, as described below:
- Sales and transfers of ammunition;
- Persons prohibited from possessing ammunition;
- Minimum age to possess ammunition;
- Ammunition at gun shows; and
- Certain kinds of unreasonably dangerous ammunition.
California also prohibits carrying ammunition onto school grounds, subject to certain limited exceptions.
California prohibits carrying or possessing ammunition in the State Capitol, any legislative office, any office of the Governor or other constitutional officer, or any hearing room in which any committee of the Senate or Assembly is conducting a hearing, or upon the grounds of the State Capitol, which is bounded by 10th, L, 15th, and N Streets in the City of Sacramento, if the area is posted with a statement providing reasonable notice.
California does not:
- Require a license for the sale of ammunition (although a number of local jurisdictions within California impose this requirement);
- Require a license for the purchase of ammunition;
- Require that records be kept of the sale of long gun ammunition (although, as described below, a law enacted in 2009 requires sales of handgun ammunition to be recorded); or
- Require the safe storage of ammunition in the home.
(1) Sales and Transfers of Ammunition
California adopted a groundbreaking law in 2009 (AB 962) that prohibits anyone engaged in the retail sale of handgun ammunition, or holding themselves out as being in the business of selling handgun ammunition, from:
- Permitting any employee who the vendor knows or reasonably should know is prohibited from possessing firearms from handling, selling, or delivering handgun ammunition;
- Selling, transferring, offering or displaying for sale or transfer any handgun ammunition in a manner that allows it to be accessible to the purchaser or transferee without the assistance of an employee;
- Commencing February 1, 2011, selling or transferring any handgun ammunition without recording certain information about the purchaser at the time of delivery, including his or her right thumbprint and the name of the salesperson that processed the transfer, as well as the brand, type and amount of ammunition purchased. The vendor must maintain this record on the premises for at least five years, and make it available to law enforcement for inspection upon request. Sales and transfers to licensed firearms dealers, manufacturers, importers, gunsmiths, wholesalers, other handgun ammunition vendors, target facilities, and law enforcement are exempt from this recordkeeping requirement.
The law also requires that, beginning February 1, 2011, the delivery or transfer of handgun ammunition may occur only in a face-to-face transaction, and the purchaser or other transferee must provide some form of photo identification. These two requirements do not apply to transfers to law enforcement, handgun ammunition vendors, or licensed firearms dealers, importer, manufacturers or collectors.
The requirements and prohibitions created under AB 962 are not yet in effect due to ongoing litigation. In 2011, the Fresno Superior Court found that the definition of “handgun ammunition” used in the legislation was impermissibly vague because the statute did not provide sufficient notice about what types of ammunition would be covered by the law. At present, the handgun ammunition recordkeeping law is not in effect while the appeal is pending.
California also restricts sales and transfers of ammunition to persons who are underage. See Minimum Age to Possess Ammunition, below, for further information.
California prohibits any person from supplying ammunition to any person he or she knows or reasonably should know is prohibited from possessing ammunition. See Persons Prohibited from Possessing Ammunition below.
(2) Persons Prohibited from Possessing Ammunition
California prohibits any person from owning, possessing, or having under his or her custody or control any ammunition or reloaded ammunition if the person falls into any of the categories of persons who are ineligible to purchase or possess firearms under state law. In addition, a person subject to an injunction as a member of a criminal street gang may not own, possess or have any ammunition under his or her custody or control.
(3) Minimum Age to Possess Ammunition
California prohibits the possession of live ammunition by persons under age 18, with certain enumerated exceptions.
Sellers of ammunition are prohibited from selling any ammunition to a person under 18 years of age and may not sell handgun ammunition to a person under 21 years of age. However, a seller, agent or employee of a seller may avoid prosecution for a violation of this law by demonstrating that the minor presented identification indicating that he or she was actually old enough to make the purchase, and that the seller, agent or employee acted in reasonable reliance on this identification.
(4) Ammunition at Gun Shows
California prohibits ammunition from being displayed at gun shows except in closed containers, unless the seller is showing the ammunition to a prospective buyer. In addition, no person at a gun show in California, other than security personnel or sworn peace officers, can possess at the same time both a firearm and ammunition that is designed to be fired in the firearm. Vendors selling such items at the show are exempt.
(5) Unreasonably Dangerous Ammunition
California bans the manufacture, importation, sale, offer for sale, or knowing possession or transportation of handgun ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor. This ban applies to any ammunition (except a shotgun shell or ammunition primarily designed for use in rifles) that is designed primarily to penetrate a body vest or body shield, either by virtue of its shape, cross-sectional density, or coating, or because it has a projectile or projectile core constructed entirely of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium, or any equivalent material of similar density or hardness. KTW ammunition, among others, is subject to this ban.
California also prohibits the possession, sale, offer for sale, or knowing transportation of a “destructive device,” defined to include “[a]ny projectile containing any explosive or incendiary material” or any other chemical substance including, but not limited to, that commonly known as tracer or incendiary ammunition (except tracer ammunition manufactured for use in shotguns), and any “explosive missile.” The state provides for the limited issuance of permits to possess or transport any destructive device, issued at the discretion of the California Department of Justice.
California prohibits the manufacture, importation, keeping or offering for sale, transfer or possession of any “flechette dart” (dart capable of being fired from a firearm, that measures approximately one inch in length, with tail fins that take up approximately five-sixteenths of an inch of the body) or bullet that contains an explosive agent.
In addition, California generally prohibits any person, firm or corporation from selling, offering for sale, possessing or knowingly transporting any fixed ammunition greater than .60 caliber.