How to Ship a Handgun
May 15, 2020
Question: Can you ship a handgun?
Answer: Yes, but there are EXTREMELY narrow and strict rules to follow in order to ship a handgun safely and legally. Don’t just toss it in any old box with some packing peanuts and then stick it in the mail. For the safety and peace of mind of all parties involved — and so you don’t go to jail — you must take great care and legal consideration when shipping a firearm. A little bit of forethought and planning will go a long way.
There are a number of reasons why you might want to ship your handgun, including:
- You’re selling a gun to someone who lives beyond easy driving distance.
- You’re away from home, have bought a gun and want to ship it home.
- You’re sending your gun to a gunsmith for repair or restoration.
Regardless of why you need to send your gun through the post, your preparations and specific precautions must follow legal restrictions. Here’s how to ship a handgun the safe, smart and — most importantly — legal way.
Shipping a Firearm with USPS
The first thing you should know about sending guns is that, unless your situation falls under a set of very specific circumstances, you may not be able to ship it via the United States Postal Service (USPS) or any private shipping company due to the restrictions set forth by the Gun Control Act of 1968. FedEx, UPS and all other private shipping companies must also follow these restrictions, but their policies may be slightly different than USPS.
According to federal law, handguns, short-barreled rifles, shotguns and other firearms capable of being concealed on the person are nonmailable, unless they are:
- Antique firearms being mailed between curio and relic collectors (according to the USPS’ definition of an antique firearm).
- Handguns (according to the USPS’ definition of a handgun) that are certified by the curator of a public museum to be curios or relics of museum interest.
- Pistols and firearms sent between Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL), dealers and importers licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).
If you happen to meet one or more of the above criteria, you still have to follow a number of rules and regulations when shipping your guns. All mailed firearms must be sent with tracking information and require a signature confirmation when received. Properly packing your gun in a foam-padded gun case is vital (more on this below) to keeping it safe.
Shipping a Firearm with a Common Carrier or FFL
The rules and regulations for shipping guns via private shipping companies vary from one company to another, so make sure to check with each provider before settling on one. Private companies must also follow the laws established via the Gun Control Act of 1968 and therefore will only be able to ship firearms between licensed parties and collectors. With both UPS and FedEx, handguns must be shipped overnight.
It’s important that you check with your desired shipping provider to understand that company’s specific policies and nuances, as they do vary widely. For example, know that UPS won’t ship any automatic weapons, including machine guns, or any firearms internationally. DHL also has stringent restrictions on sending weapons and will only ship non-fireable firearms to and from licensed dealers within the United States.
Since most carriers, including USPS, allow handguns to be shipped between Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) — including dealers and manufacturers — it’s not a bad idea to visit your local firearm dealer and inquire about their services. Since they are licensed and presumably understand the laws in detail, they can provide secure, legal shipping services and may even do the packing for you.
Packing a Firearm for Shipping
If you’re shipping a handgun, it probably has some value to you, so it’s important that you take extra care and precaution when packing it up.
- Always use the right case. Select a hard-sided, foam-padded pistol case to protect it from impact and damage from getting rattled around during shipping.
- Choose a plain, unmarked case and a plain, unmarked box. Federal law prohibits any markings that might indicate that there’s a firearm inside the package.
- Stick to shipping the firearm only. If you need to ship gun parts or ammo, be aware that there are separate laws for these items that you should know.
- Always opt for tracking information and signature at delivery and be sure to pony up for the extra cost for shipping insurance, especially if your firearm is valuable.
As with anything dealing with weapons, following rules, regulations and laws is extremely important here. The best thing to do is stop by your local post office, gun dealer or private shipping store to inquire about the legality before sending anything. Improperly mailing your handguns can result in severe penalties and even jail time, so always exercise extra caution!
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