How to Ship Firearms

You can ship guns and ammo in the United States, but you need to comply with federal and state laws
how to ship firearms
Grab these resources for this guide
USPS' Definition of Firearms
How USPS categorizes and defines firearms
Shipping Guns with USPS
USPS' regulations and restrictions

More and more people are buying guns on the internet these days, and as a result, more people are wondering how to ship firearms in the United States. Believe it or not, federal and state governments allow for the shipment of certain firearms. However, there is a long list of rules and regulations one needs to follow in order to ship them. It’s a touchy and complicated subject, but let’s give it a shot! See what we did there?

Do You Need a Federal Firearms License?

First thing’s first: if you want to ship firearms in the United States, you may need to obtain a Federal Firearms License from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). This license designates the individual holding it as operating a legitimate and lawful business that complies with the ATF. An FFL license allows licensees to run their firearms-related businesses, and to ship and receive firearms in compliance with local, state, and federal laws. Firearms dealers, manufacturers, importers, and repair technicians are all required to hold an FFL license.

Shipping Firearms with an FFL

You can ship guns to any state in the United States if you have a current, valid FFL license. However, if you are shipping a firearm outside of your state, your recipient must also hold a current, valid FFL. Make sure your recipient either faxes, emails, or mails you a copy of their FFL license certificate. Once you confirm their license, you can only ship to the person and address listed on the certificate.

You can ship to recipients without an FFL license only if they are within your state. When you do so, be sure to run an extensive background check. Your recipient CANNOT be any of the following:

  • A felon
  • Convicted of domestic violence
  • A subject of a domestic restraining order
  • A fugitive
  • An unlawful user of a controlled substance
  • An undocumented worker
  • A dishonorably discharged veteran
  • A former U.S. citizen who has renounced their citizenship
  • Declared mentally deficient or involuntarily committed to a mental institution

Shipping Firearms Without an FFL License

You can also ship guns without an FFL license, but it comes with restrictions…and a whole lot more of them, at that. The ATF refers to people without a valid FFL licenses as nonlicensees. The three major carriers have different policies for shipping firearms without an FFL license. USPS has the most regulations and restrictions for this scenario. However, shipping a firearm with USPS can be done if you don’t have an FFL license. We’ve outlined how to do so in the sections below:

You Can Ship a Firearm to Yourself in Another State

You can ship a firearm to yourself in another state, but only for the purpose of “hunting or engaging in lawful activity.” In this case, you’ll need to address it to yourself, and only you can take possession of the package. Therefore, you need to make sure you’re at the destination when it comes.

You Can Ship Firearms to Another Nonlicensee Only In Your State

The Postal Service allows nonlicensees to ship firearms to another nonlicensee in the same state. However, USPS prohibits the shipment of handguns and pistols without an FFL license. If you’re a nonlicensee and you wish to ship a handgun in the same state, you can’t use USPS…and all other carriers will require you to ship the gun through an FFL holder or directly to an FFL holder.

You Can Ship a Firearm to Another State Only if the Recipient Has an FFL License

This one is pretty self explanatory. Note that the FFL holder you sent the package to will only release the firearm to the recipient once they complete ATF Form 4473 and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

Properly Packaging Firearms

There are laws and regulations that govern how you need to pack a firearm for shipment. For example, there can be absolutely NO labels on the package indicating that a gun is inside! For this reason, most firearms are shipped in a box that’s inside another box. It’s also crucial that you use the right packing material to securely pack the firearm. Bubble wrap is a must in this case, but we also suggest using custom-molded foam inserts, if you can get them. Of course, you should always pack the firearm inside a large, strong corrugated box that has never been used before. Most importantly, the firearm must NOT BE LOADED. Don’t forget to add in a photocopy of your state-issued photo ID.

Before you include any ammunition in the package, STOP! Shipping ammunition has its own set of rules and regulations, and any ammo needs to be in its own separate parcel.

Learn more about properly packaging firearms.

Which Carrier Should I Use to Ship Firearms?

Which shipping carrier you choose depends on the kind of firearm you wish to ship, and if you have an FFL license. While USPS allows nonlicensees to ship long guns (such as a shotgun) to other nonlicensees, USPS restricts the shipment of handguns and pistols to FFL license holders. USPS also doesn’t allow for the shipment of short barrel rifles or shotguns that can be concealed on a person. That being said, USPS is a good option if you have a valid FFL license. If you need to ship a handgun or pistol without a FFL license, your best bet is to use UPS or FedEx.

We recommend UPS over FedEx in this case. FedEx has similar policies, but UPS has more experience in the area, and actually handles all shipments for firearms ordered off the National Rifle Association’s website.

As always, check with your carrier to make sure you’re in compliance with their rules and regulations before shipping! No matter which carrier you ship with, you will need to provide proper government identification and documentation.

Shipping Firearms Internationally

You need a valid FFL license if you wish to ship firearms internationally. If you have a license, the first step is to register with the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls. You’ll need to pay the registration fee and complete the DS-2032 Statement of Registration Form. Forms typically take between 45-60 to process, after which you will receive a confirmation email. Next, you are required to fill out the ATF’s Application and Permit for Permanent Exportation of Firearms (ATF Form 9).

We also recommend you do your research on the laws of the nation you plan on exporting firearms to. Some nations such as Canada prohibit the importation of firearms, even if the individual has a license to own the firearm. Lastly, always check with your carrier regarding their international policies for shipping firearms.

Too Much Information to Process?

If all of this information is making your head spin, we won’t judge! Shipping firearms is a complicated subject. If you feel like you need some help, you can always employ a FFL holder to help you ship your firearm. You’ll need to pay for their services, but it’s worth it if you want to ensure the entire process is legal and above board. It’s true what they say: you get what you pay for.

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