How to Ship a Firearm: Is It Legal?


How to Ship a Firearm

If you haven’t shipped a firearm yet, odds are good you’ll do so in the future. Not only are guns shipped for sales, but they’re also shipped for repairs, custom Cerakote® finishes, and more. However, you can’t just throw your gun into a box and mail it using whatever means are most convenient at the time. There are federal and state laws in place regarding shipping firearms that you must know and follow. Remember, claiming ignorance of the law isn’t a valid legal defense.

How Do I Ship a Firearm?

When trying to figure out how to mail a firearm, you might find conflicting information regarding packing methods and what paperwork to include. First and foremost, follow the rules and regulations set by the shipping carrier you’re going to use. Second, if you’re shipping a gun for repair back to the manufacturer or to a gunsmith, they’ll most likely give you specific instructions for packing the gun.

Paperwork that generally needs to be included when you ship guns, is a copy of your valid driver’s license and a copy of your local store’s Federal Firearms License (FFL). It can be a good preventative measure to include a copy of the destination FFL as well (take a moment to mark which FFL is the recipient FFL). You’ll find most, if not all, shipping destinations require a copy of your driver’s license be in the box with the firearms for their own records and also to complete a transfer, if one is being done.

Please note that modern firearms should generally be shipped to an FFL. However, when shipping from one nonlicensee to another nonlicensee within the same state there may be exceptions. According to the ATF website, “A nonlicensee may not transfer a firearm to a non-licensed resident of another state. A nonlicensee may mail a shotgun or rifle to a resident of their own state or to a licensee in any state.” Be aware, some states have laws in place requiring all transfers to go through an FFL. It’s also important to note that a person may only transfer a firearm to an individual who they don’t have knowledge, or have reasonable cause to believe, that the person is prohibited from possessing firearms. There’s an exception regarding transferring firearms between unlicensed residents of a different state if the transfer is to a non-resident who inherits a firearm under a will or by State law upon death of the firearm owner.

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The ATF continues:

The U.S. Postal Service recommends that long guns be sent by registered mail and that no marking of any kind which would indicate the nature of the contents be placed on the outside of any parcel containing firearms. Handguns are not mailable. A common or contract carrier must be used to ship a handgun.

As discussed above, it’s important to know the specific rules of the shipping carrier you plan to use. Just because it’s legal to ship a firearm, doesn’t mean the carrier allows it. For example, FedEx specifically prohibits the shipping of firearms by nonlicensees regardless of any exception that the law may provide regarding the transfer of firearms.

How Do I Ship Ammunition?

Ammunition can be shipped through UPS. From the UPS website:

UPS accepts for transportation such ammunition that constitutes as “cartridges, small arms,” as defined in 49 C.F.R. § 173.59. All other allowable ammunition shipments are accepted only on a contractual basis, and must be prepared under the rules for a fully regulated hazardous material. Ammunition will be transported only when packaged and labeled in compliance with 49 C.F.R. § 172 (Hazardous Materials), and must be shipped in accordance with the UPS Guide for Shipping Ground and Air Hazardous Materials. To meet the exception for Limited Quantity, ammunition can be shipped via UPS Ground only within the 48 contiguous United States, UPS Ground Intra-Oahu and Intra-Alaska.

To qualify as Cartridges, small arms “Limited Quantity”, ammunition must be: Ammunition that does not exceed 12.7 mm (50 caliber or 0.5 inch) for rifle or pistol cartridges or 8 gauge for shotgun shells; or Ammunition with inert projectiles or blank ammunition.

USPS doesn’t allow the shipping of ammunition.

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FedEx won’t ship dangerous goods such as ammunition that are Division 1.3 explosives.

How to Ship a Firearm USPS (United States Postal Service)

It’s possible to ship firearms through USPS. From the USPS website:

432.1 General

Mailers must comply with the Gun Control Act of 1968, all of the provisions of postal law in 18 U.S.C. 1715, and all other federal and state regulations and local ordinances affecting the movement of firearms. The following also applies:

a. The Postal Service may require the mailer to open parcels containing firearms or air guns or give written certification that the weapon is unloaded and not concealable.

b. Short-barreled rifles or shotguns that can be concealed on the person are nonmailable.

c. No markings of any kind that indicate the nature of the contents may be placed on the outside wrapper or container of any mail piece containing firearms.

d. Mailable matter must be properly and securely packaged within the general packaging requirements in DMM 601.1-7.

e. Except for shipments between licensed dealers, manufacturers, or importers, all regulated firearms must be mailed using a USPS product or Extra Service that provides tracking and signature capture at delivery.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>