Before you head out to your next range day, you can’t forget the ammo!
(Assuming you still aren’t living in COVID times where ammo is…a little short right now.)
If you live in California, things become slightly more complicated when it comes to buying…well anything gun-related to include ammunition.
Those of us living in the state must jump through hoops that fellow gun owners in free states don’t really have to deal with.
Specifically, when it comes to buying ammo, the options for a law-abiding pew enthusiast in the Golden State are limited.
Because of Proposition 63 — a.ka. “Gunmaggedon”– Californians are subject to a set of gun laws that most states wouldn’t dream of.
These include registration of self-assembled firearms (“ghost guns”), registration of the newly redefined “assault weapons,” and of course, ammo purchase regulations.
It can all seem a bit confusing, especially if you’re a newish gun owner. But, no worries. We have you covered.
In this article, we’ll walk you through what you can and can’t buy as well as the process behind it all. By the end of this article, you’ll be ready to go forth and scour for ammo.
But before we dive in, we gotta do the legal mumbo jumbo.
Disclaimer: While the information provided here is legal in nature, it is not to be construed as legal advice, and is for educational and entertainment purposes only.
Table of Contents
What Is Proposition 63?
There were essentially no restrictions on the purchase of ammunition before Prop 63, and it was treated like any other item you can purchase, online or in person.
Then voters passed Prop 63 in 2016 and stocking up on ammo became tougher.
Gone were the days of logging on to your favorite online retailer, placing an order, and waiting for the box of ammo to show up at your door.
Once Prop 63 passed, the California Legislature was able to enact new laws to continue chipping away at our firearms-related freedoms.
The biggest change in the law is that all ammunition purchases now have to be completed at an authorized ammunition vendor, or an FFL. More on that in a minute…
Completing the purchase basically means you can only take possession of the ammo through face-to-face interaction. And before you ask, the UPS guy handing you the box of ammo does NOT count.
For those of you who normally stop by your local gun store or Wally World on the way to the range, you’ll notice ammo is no longer available on the shelf. Instead, it will most likely be behind the counter, or locked in a cage.
Access to the actual ammo is no longer permitted until the sales transaction.
I guess the good news is you no longer have to worry about being crushed by 1000-round boxes of ammo…in case that was a worry you had.
In April 2020, an injunction was issued against the CA background check and anti-importation law BUT an emergency stay was issued a couple of days later. For all you non-lawyer types, this means that, until the 9th Circuit hears the case, background checks et. all are still in place.
So that leads us to the obvious question: how do you buy ammunition in California post-2016?
How To Buy Ammo in California
Well, there are a few options when it comes to buying ammo in California. You can:
- Buy in person at your local gun store
- Order online and pick up in-person at your local gun store
- Order online and have it shipped to your house if you have an FFL license
We’re going to take you through each of these, lay out the pros and cons, and help you figure out what’s the best option for you.
Buying Ammo In-Store
The easiest option is to buy ammo from your local gun store — though ordering online isn’t much more difficult…but more on that in a minute.
Grabbing ammo from your local gun store hasn’t changed all that much, but there are a few things you’ll need.
You now need to provide a valid ID and pay a fee for an ammo background check.
Once you pass the background check and your ID is accepted, you can pay for your ammo and be on your way!
It’s important to keep in mind that if you are using your driver’s license, the ID needs to be a REAL ID driver’s license.
Otherwise, you’ll need to use another federally recognized type of ID, including:
- Valid, unexpired US passport or passport card;
- Certified copy of your US birth certificate;
- US Certificate or Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a US Citizen;
- Valid, unexpired foreign passport with valid US immigrant visa and approved record of arrival/departure;
- Certified copy of your birth certificate from a US Territory;
- Certificate of Naturalization or US Citizenship; or
- Valid, unexpired Permanent Resident Card.
Basically, the gun store needs to see proof you are a legal resident — since legal residents are the only people permitted to purchase ammunition and firearms.
Why the REAL ID requirement?
Well, California began issuing driver licenses to everyone back in 2013 even those without proof of legal residency. So, it became pretty impossible to distinguish residency based on just a California driver’s license.
Fortunately, a REAL ID driver’s license follows a different set of rules and requires proof of residency; therefore, it meets the requirements for ammo purchases.
Starting in July 2019, in addition to the requirement of making ammo purchases in person, each time you buy ammo, you will have to go through an “eligibility check.” Hint: this is why you need an ID.
The “eligibility check” is essentially a mini-DROS (a.k.a. background check) that the ammo vendor or FFL has to do each time you buy ammo.
The check will compare your information with the information on file when you registered to purchase a firearm, run your background, and confirm that you are not prohibited from purchasing ammo.
If you are wondering whether you are prohibited from buying ammo, you probably are. Just to be sure though, you can always check our California Gun Laws article.
If you fall into any of the categories that prohibit you from owning a firearm, you’ll be prohibited from buying ammo too.
Because the check is like a mini-DROS, your information is checked against the California DOJ database.
Usually, the check should only take a minute or two, but you might occasionally hit the jackpot and get the added bonus of waiting up to 10 days for the check to finish.
Since the “eligibility check” confirms your information with that on your firearms registrations, those of you who do not have any firearms registered with the State, or lost all your firearms in a “boating accident,” will have to go through a special one-time eligibility check.
This type of check will cost a little more, and will definitely take up to 10 days to clear.
Look on the bright side though! You only need to go through the “eligibility check” for each transaction, not for each box of ammo.
If you buy in bulk, you can save on the number of checks you have to go through.
For now, the standard “eligibility check” will only cost $1. The price can technically be raised at any time by the State.
Ordering Ammo Online
There are probably some ammo websites that will sell to you anyway, right?
In addition to being super illegal (like, super illegal), some of you may have noticed, you are no longer able to order ammo online at some websites, even if you wanted to.
In the months leading up to 2019, when the ammo laws were about to go into effect, many online retailers stopped selling to California residents, regardless of whether the ammo would be sent to an FFL.
For many of them, it just wasn’t worth the hassle.
Of the retailers that do still sell to California, most of the savings you get from their lower ammo prices will probably be eaten up by the fees the FFL will charge to accept the ammo. Basically, you’re SOL.
If you still want to go the online route, it’s still an option but there still the extra step of going to an FFL for pickup.
Just like with ordering a gun online, shipping your ammo to an FFL will usually result in the dealer charging you a transfer fee.
In addition to a transfer fee, you’ll still need to jump through the same hoops – eligibility check and all.
Buying Ammo Using a 03FFL & COE
If you absolutely love ordering ammo online and refuse to go to the gun store to pick it up…there is one more option.
You can apply for a 03FFL license and Certificate of Eligibility (COE).
This allows ammo to ship directly to you.
But to be clear, it isn’t a loophole. The law is designed this way. So, it’s more of an exemption.
It is technically the type of FFL you need to have if you want to buy and collect “curios and relics” a.k.a. antique guns.
To apply, complete the FFL application, including the filing fee, and send it out to the ATF as well as your local chief law enforcement officer.
From there, wait for the thumbs up from the ATF.
There are some application requirements you need to meet, though.
An FFL applicant must:
- Be 21 or older;
- Not be prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition, nor in the case of a corporation, partnership, or association, is any individual possessing, directly or indirectly, the power to direct or cause the direction of the management and policies of the corporation, partnership, or association prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition;
- Not have willfully violated the Gun Control Act (GCA);
- Not have willfully failed to disclose material information or has not made false statements concerning material facts in connection with his or her application;
- Have established premises for conducting business or collecting (your house is fine, as long as no state or local laws prohibit it); and
- Certify that the business to be conducted is not prohibited by State or local laws.
Since the 03FFL is technically a license for collectors of curios and relics, you could also get into the antique gun-collecting business.
You’ll also actually be an FFL, so you’ll need to keep records of all firearms transactions for any potential audits by the ATF.
However, if you only plan to use the FFL for purchasing ammo, you don’t need to worry about any of that.
With the FFL out of the way, California also requires a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the California DOJ.
The COE application process is straightforward with an additional fingerprint requirement.
Right now, if you possess an 03FFL and California Certificate of Eligibility you are allowed you to buy ammo online and have it shipped to your door as long as the vendor you’re buying from will do it.
Since they (the seller) have to go through some extra steps versus a normal order, many vendors are just refusing to do so.
Once you get your 03FFL and CA COE, you normally just have to email or fax a copy to the ammo vendor and they’ll link the documents with your account. After that, you can order ammo and check-out as normal!
Just be sure to send in your documents before a major sale since the approval process normally takes a day or two depending on how busy the vendor is since a real human has to look over the paperwork and approve it.
Before you go online and buy out all the ammo left, keep in mind that the COE needs to be renewed every year, and the 03FFL every three years.
Nothing earth-shattering, but just slightly annoying if you want to keep having ammo shipped directly to you.
Also, the 03FFL does not apply to any firearms that fall outside of the “Curio & Relic” category.
So, buying a non-antique firearm still requires the standard dog and pony show at the local gun store.
Want to know how to buy guns in California? Check out our guide on the process and everything you need.
There are some great companies out there that are willing to go through the extra trouble to help out Californians with their ammo orders. And even better, our three favorites are on the list!
There are other vendors that will ship to CA, but these are the ones that we use the most.
Does California Have an Ammo Registration List?
While there is technically no “ammunition registration” list being kept by the State, every time you purchase ammo starting in July 2019, you will have to go through the “eligibility check.”
The check itself is a list of people buying ammo, so everyone who purchases ammo as of July 2019 will be on that list.
If it makes you feel any better, all firearms purchased in California (and even those transported from out of state) are already registered with the State, so this is just an additional list that firearms owners will be put on.
In for a penny, in for a pound.
Buying ammo in California might seem intimidating, but it’s really not all that bad. Whether you buy in store, grab ammo online and pick up in your local gun shop, or spring for the 03FFL and COE to have ammo shipped directly to your home, the process only requires a few extra steps.
What’s your preferred buying method? Let us know in the comments below. Need more California content? Check out our guide on How-To Buy a Gun in California and our California Gun Laws page to stay up to date on all the gun laws you need to know.
52 Leave a Reply
Most of the firearms I own I reload the cartridges myself. So far components are rising in cost but I can reload my Ruger Superblack Hawk rounds for $0.13 each.
Very good info, but leave comedy to the comedians. Stay on “Target”. Your core information was fantastic.
the democrat politicians are disarming the west coast and setting us up for an easy invasion from China imagine China coming with automatics and here we are disarmed to the point that we are all Mayberry's Barney Fife having to break down and assemble our guns to reload. Wake up Californians
LOL. Invasion from China? We would see them coming for weeks, not to mention they don't even have enough sealift capability to invade Taiwan.
I’ve been saying this all along. I know it’s coming I’m so prepared and ready. I am a Californian go 2A.
With Assembly Bill 173 if I buy ammo in CA my personal information will be sent to the California Department of Justice and kept for a minimum of 25 years and also sent to the University of California to study if I am a violent person!!! I only duck hunt.
I've had my FFL03 and COE for several years. You should have seen the face of the UPS driver who had to deliver 5,000 rounds of 9mm to my door after Prop 63 passed. He thought those days were over. LOL
do you need to report your online ammo purchased to ca DOJ/cfars?
Gotta love Kalifornistan. If you come here illegally, the red carpet is rolled out. If you want to rob stores especially in San Francisco you will be fine. However, if you want to protect yourself, forget it
I worked the Gunmageddon petition table to prevent those laws from going into effect. Out of the millions of gun owners in California, we only were able to get 73,000 signatures. So please no whining about how screwed up the laws are. Ye reap what ye shall sow. Oh and by the way, the excuses for not signing were legendary.........
Never saw a petition.
excellent article. Question: can you buy curio handguns with FFL 03 and Ca. COE and ship to your FFL 03 address. Can you ship to your home and then take it to an FFL gun store to reg. to avoid the Gun Store Receiver Fee $50-75. If you send it to a FFL gun store and register it do you have to wait the ten days if is a Relic or Curio over 50 years old?
I’m a FFL03 holder. Yes, you can buy any C&R and have it delivered straight to your doorstep. No waiting period and no extra “dealer fees.” You can also get ammunition delivered to your home also. CA is one of the only states where you can’t have ammunition delivered to your house, but if you have an FFL03 and COE you can. Hope that helps.
This is incorrect. All C&R handguns need to be transferred through a dealer; only C&R long guns that are transferred from within Ca can be sold directly without using a dealer. Which means any C&R firearm being purchased from out-of-state needs to be transferred through a dealer first, although exempt from 10 day wait, 1-in-30 law, and FSC requirement. [PC 27585(a)]
Nice write up Paul. great article!
Thank you man
Does anyone know how to find out if we can ship ammo to an ffl3 in Los Angeles county?
I believe you only need an Ammunition Vendors License and a COE....why the FFL?
So I ordered ammo from a popular outdoors site, and sent it to my sister as a "gift" in another state, and had her send me the box as a "gift" to me, but someone stole the ammo out of the box, and I cannot file a claim to get it replaced. So FYI. You can do it, but you may get an empty box. I am currently crying to the outdoors website and hoping that they replace it. Yeah, good luck with that.
Make sure to check out Dave at Druid Hill Armory. I just got off the phone with him and he'll ship to Californicate! Nice guy! (druidhillarmory.com). 210-253-0465
I just talked with Dave, very helpful!
So it seems that as a resident of Kalifornia, I can't order ammo online and have it shipped to Tennessee?
Why haven't anyone started an AMMO BUYING CLUB?
Basically, it is a non-profit organization, which is an Authorized Ammo Vendor or 03 FFL.
You join the CLUB just like you join a gun club, the boy scouts or your neighborhood knitting group.
The CLUB operate out of a home or community center and accepts ammo deliveries from online stores and non-CA vendors, then provide Face-to-Face transactions to members picking ammo up just like your gun store or ammo dealer would. The difference being that employees of the CLUB are volunteer officer(s) of the club and the service is FREE (minus the $1 eligibility check fee paid to the DOJ). The CLUB also organizes periodic group buys in the tens of thousands of rounds to be shared by its members so they have access to cheap ammo.
Doing so with an 03FFL would be illegal. Otherwise, that's basically just an ammo vendor but run not-for-profit. You wouldn't be able to get a 501(C)3 for it though, but you could run it like a co-op. Think of it as socialized ammunition.
I just tried to buy reloading bullets from DRT.....JUST BULLETS, not loaded ammo. They won't sell to me without fulfilling the loaded ammo requirements. I cancelled the order...100 bullets... that I can buy, and walk away with, here on The PRK.
What if I live out of state and want to ship some ammo to my brother in California, what process is necessary?
Legally it needs to go to an FFL in CA. Call a local FFL to him and work out details, he should expect a fee of some kind on his end.
Is that true if an out of state parent is shipping to a adult child in California?
Yes, it still needs to go to an FFL.
So with an 03 FFl, is it legal to purchase ammo in person, out of state, and personally transport it in your vehicle into California, or would you still need a C. O. E. ?
A COE is still required.
Bro im just tryn to buy some.22 ammo to plink and its such a hassle like no one is accepting out of state sales and obviously since the pandemic every shops sold out in 30min
Do these legislators have any concept of the U.S. Constitution? Article 1, section 9, clause 3 states that no ex-post-facto law may be passed by either the Federal Government or any state Government. This means that they cannot criminalize something after the fact which at the time of purchase was legal. This is why people in California who owned an AR-15 or high cap magazines prior to 1994 were allowed to keep them since they were "grandfathered" in. The purpose behind this was so Americans would not be put in the position of self incrimination which would violate their 5th amendment rights.
In the past few years they've not only done all this, but they passed such laws which banned the bullet button, pre-ban high cap magazines, and mandatory registration on all previously legally manufactured 80% rifles.
Where the hell is the NRA? Apparently if you are in California and paid for a life membership, all they give you is a damn hat, sticker, and a magazine?
(1) Actually, no, that is NOT TRUE. The constitution does not prohibit the banning and confiscation of legally purchased property of any kind. What it does prohibit is doing so WITHOUT DUE COMPENSATION. The enemies of freedom running California's argument is that owners of "Large Capacity" Magazines had a year to sell them out of state or to eligible owners (like cops and other government cronies) and that is compensation enough.
(2) And, no, ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law and the constitution. If you bought that assault. If the government decides that you now must have seat belts and wear them to drive, having legally bought a car without seat belts and not knowing that the law has changed does not excuse you from compliance or whatever fine imposed.
(3) I am not on the side of the enemy regime running the State of California, but it is important to know what is true and what is not as far as the law and the constitution goes.
NRA is not on our side. Sad to say, do not support them. They supported bump stock ban. Not sure I can trust them anymore
Thanks for the informative update(s). I had to purchase a firearm (since I hadn't in 20+ years) just to be able to purchase ammo without hassle. The gun I got (to be legal to sell in the Republic of Ca.) has grip and trigger locks that have to be simultaneously operated, this gun is MORE dangerous than anything I own, but at least I can take my CCW class with it :-).
How can you even get a CCW in Kalifornia without bribing a Sheriff or Police Chief?
I've had mine for YEARS without brides or any kind of crap like that.
Sacramento County, Californicate!
Is it really that big a deal to pass a background check and pay $1 to keep a lot of ammo out of the wrong hands? We need to stop worrying about regulations that keep guns and ammo out of bad guys hands and focus on restrictions that keep law abiding people from getting what they want. I want the ability to buy whatever I want, and I don't have a problem showing I'm not a felon or mentally incompetent to get it.
Do you think having to pass a background check is going to keep ammo out of the hands of criminals? Or will they just find another way to get it? Meanwhile here in Cali we're expected to patiently wait like good little law abiding citizens... that doesn't bother you?
Criminals obtain their firearms illegally, and will do the same with their Ammo too
Only law abiding citizens will go through this process.
The prohibited will buy it out of the trunk of Lefty's Escalade
You mean criminals don't obey the Law???!!
Hello, I’m Dave with Druid Hill Armory and I load for the modern sporting rifles and some Pistol ammunition. I cater to the customers and am happy to assist in jumping through loop holes to assist in getting Gun Lovers their ammo. I am constantly expanding my offerings and will custom load for most non antique calibers. If you could add me to the list that work to get ammunition into California, I’d be Grateful
does anyone know of the outcome from the APPEALS COURT in California. Do the people of California still have the right to buy AMMO online.
The administrative stay is still in place for at least another few days, so there should be some kind of change soon -- but CA state did ask for a continuance, but it hasn't been granted yet. You can still order ammo online, but it needs to be sent to an FFL still.
As of a week ago (between July 4th and now July 15th, I got an apology email from Target Sports USA saying they misinterpreted Prop 63 and will now be selling to all the exempted groups in California. I haven't placed an order yet to test this out however.
I have, they are good to go again!
Lucky Gunner no longer ships to the socialist republic of CA
I Know I just found this out as well.......
Updated the article, sad times we live in.
So if I read this correctly, if one has a 03-FFL - COE... after July 1, 2019... they will be exempt from having to go through the “eligibility check” and processing fee each time they buy ammo, and can still order ammo online from out-of-state vendors and have that ammo shipped to their home?
If you buy ammo in a store, like the LGS or Walmart, the 03FFL + COE will not exempt you from the eligibility check - but if you order online then you can have it shipped directly to you without doing the check (assuming your city allows this, right now SF, LA, and Sunnyvale? doesn't allow it).