Ammunition and Black Powder

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Ammunition and Black/Smokeless Powder

This article refers to 'personal use'; commercial storage or manufacturing are outside the scope of this article.

Local regulations on purchase procedures, such as thumbprints and identification requirements, are outside the scope of this article.

For eligible persons, neither California nor Federal law impose any limits on purchase or storage of manufactured or reloaded ammunition.

California does place limits on storage of smokeless propellant - 20 pounds - and black powder - 1 pound.

Prohibited persons may not possess any ammunition, or reloaded ammunition (Penal Code 30305) or any ammunition components (Penal Code 16150).

California law does not address any limit to personal ownership or storage of ammunition

There is nothing in any California Code that regulates quantities for any of purchase, ownership, possession or storage of ammunition or parts - primers, bullets, cases.

California defines smokeless powder and black powder as explosives

Health and Safety Code 12000

12000.  For the purposes of this part, "explosives" means any
substance, or combination of substances, the primary or common
purpose of which is detonation or rapid combustion, and which is
capable of a relatively instantaneous or rapid release of gas and
heat, or any substance, the primary purpose of which, when combined
with others, is to form a substance capable of a relatively
instantaneous or rapid release of gas and heat. "Explosives"
includes, but is not limited to, any explosives as defined in Section
841 of Title 18 of the United States Code and published pursuant to
Section 555.23 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations, and
any of the following:
  (a) Dynamite, nitroglycerine, picric acid, lead azide, fulminate
of mercury, black powder, smokeless powder, propellant explosives,
detonating primers, blasting caps, or commercial boosters.

Ammunition and small arms primers are NOT explosives

Health and Safety Code 12000(f)

  (f) For the purposes of this part, "explosives" does not include
any destructive device, as defined in Section 16460 of the Penal
Code, nor does it include ammunition or small arms primers
manufactured for use in shotguns, rifles, and pistols.

California requires permits to do things with explosives

Health and Safety Code 12101

12101.  (a) No person shall do any one of the following without
first having made application for and received a permit in accordance
with this section:
  (1) Manufacture explosives.
  (2) Sell, furnish, or give away explosives.
  (3) Receive, store, or possess explosives.
  (4) Transport explosives.
  (5) Use explosives.
  (6) Operate a terminal for handling explosives.
  (7) Park or leave standing any vehicle carrying explosives, except
when parked or left standing in or at a safe stopping place
designated as such by the Department of the California Highway Patrol
under Division 14 (commencing with Section 31600) of the Vehicle
  (b) Application for a permit shall be made to the appropriate
issuing authority.

Permits do not apply to small quantities, as specified

Health and Safety Code 12102

12102.  This chapter does not apply to any possession or use of 20
pounds or less of smokeless powder, or one pound or less of black
sporting powder, provided that:
  (a) Smokeless powder is intended only for hand loading of small
arms ammunition of .75 caliber or less.
  (b) Black sporting powder is intended for loading of small arms or
small arms ammunition of .75 caliber or less.
  (c) All such powder is for private use and not for resale, and, in
the case of black sporting powder, there shall be no gift, delivery,
or other disposition to another person.
  (d) The storage, use and handling of such smokeless and black
powder conforms to rules, regulations, or ordinances of authorities
having jurisdiction for fire prevention and suppression in the area
of such storage, use, and handling of such explosives.

The "No person shall..." phrasing of 12101 suggests that the limits may be per-person rather than per-location, but this has not been verified.

Transport of small amounts does not need placards/markings

California Vehicle Code 27903 allows up to 20 pounds of smokeless powder and five pounds of black powder

(a) Subject to Section 114765 of the Health and Safety Code,
any vehicle transporting any explosive, blasting agent, flammable
liquid, flammable solid, oxidizing material, corrosive, compressed
gas, poison, radioactive material, or other hazardous materials, of
the type and in quantities that require the display of placards or
markings on the vehicle exterior by the United States Department of
Transportation regulations (49 C.F.R., Parts 172, 173, and 177),
shall display the placards and markings in the manner and under
conditions prescribed by those regulations of the United States
Department of Transportation.
  (b) This section does not apply to the following:
  (1) Any vehicle transporting not more than 20 pounds of smokeless
powder or not more than five pounds of black sporting powder or any
combination thereof.

Ammunition means lots of things for ineligible persons

Penal Code 16150

16150.  (a) As used in Section 30300, "ammunition" means handgun
ammunition as defined in Section 16650.
  (b) As used in subdivision (a) of Section 30305 and in Section
30306, "ammunition" includes, but is not limited to, any bullet,
cartridge, magazine, clip, speed loader, autoloader, or projectile
capable of being fired from a firearm with a deadly consequence.
"Ammunition" does not include blanks.

Some kinds of ammunition are prohibited

Explosives and tracers

Penal Code 16460

(a) As used in Sections 16510, 16520, and 16780, and in Chapter 1 
(commencing with Section 18710) of Division 5 of Title 2, "destructive
device" includes any of the following weapons:
(1) Any projectile containing any explosive or incendiary material or any
other chemical substance, including, but not limited to, that which is
commonly known as tracer or incendiary ammunition, except tracer
ammunition manufactured for use in shotguns.

Flechettes and explosive rounds

Penal Code 30210

Except as provided in Section 30215 and Chapter 1 (commencing with
Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who
manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps
for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives, lends, or
possesses either of the following is punishable by imprisonment in a
county jail not exceeding one year or in the state prison:
(a) Any ammunition that contains or consists of any flechette dart.
(b) Any bullet containing or carrying an explosive agent.

Armor piercing ammunition for handguns

Penal Code 30315

Any person, firm, or corporation who, within this state knowingly
possesses any handgun ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal
or armor is guilty of a public offense and upon conviction thereof shall
be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170,
or in the county jail for a term not to exceed one year, or by a fine
not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that fine and

A note on ineffective Penal Code sections

Penal Code sections 30352, 30355, 30357, 30360, 30362 and 30365 are still 'on the books' but were challenged in court and a permanent injunction was issued against enforcing them. See AB 962 and Parker v California.

Federal things

Federal things are generally for commercial applications, not private individuals.


Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a page on storing explosives, Standard 1910.109, part of the Code of Federal Regulations


The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturer's Institute (SAAMI) has a paper on Smokeless powder storage and another on Primers but the content is not embodied in California state law.

See also the SAAMI video on "Ammunition and the Fire Fighter",

Calguns Discussion Thread

Please ask questions or add further documentation in this thread at