Federal Law requires that all modern firearms be shipped only to a holder of a valid Federal Firearms License (FFL). The recipient must be have an FFL; however the sender is not required to have one. Any person who is legally allowed to own a firearm is legally allowed to ship it to an FFL holder for any legal purpose (including sale or resale).
Here is exactly what the ATF 'Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide' (ATF P 5300.4) says:
(B9) May a nonlicensee ship a firearm by carrier? A nonlicensee may ship a firearm by carrier to a resident of his or her own state or to a licensee in any state. A common or contract carrier must be used to ship a handgun. In addition, Federal law requires that the carrier be notified that the shipment contains a firearm and prohibits common or contract carriers from requiring or causing any label to be placed on any package indicating that it contains a firearm. [18 U. S. C. 922( a)( 2)( A) and 922( e), 27 CFR 178.31]
B8) May a nonlicensee ship a firearm through the U. S. Postal Service?
A nonlicensee may mail a shotgun or rifle to a resident of his or her own state or to a licensee in any state. Handguns are not mailable. A common or contract carrier must be used to ship a handgun. A nonlicensee may not transfer any firearm to a nonlicensed resident of another state. The 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.
'Antique' firearms need not be shipped to a licensed dealer. These can be shipped directly to the buyer. An antique firearm is a firearm built in or before 1898, or a replica thereof. The exact ATF definition of an antique firearm is: Antique firearm. (a) Any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or before 1898; and (b) any replica of any firearm described in paragraph (a) of this definition if such replica (1) is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional center fire fixed ammunition, or (2) uses rimfire or conventional center fire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade.
Knives, air guns, accessories, and most gun parts need not be shipped to an FFL holder. We say most gun parts because each firearm contains at least one part that the ATF considers a firearm. This part is typically the part that contains the serial number. This part must be treated as a complete firearm when shipping the item.
Ammunition must be clearly identified as 'Small Arms Ammunition' on the outside of the box. Some shippers treat ammunition as dangerous or hazardous materials.
The section of the US Code that governs modern firearms is called Commerce in Firearms and Ammunition (CFA). This code is available on line at:
Any shipper who does not have a Federal Firearms License (FFL) is considered to be an 'unlicensed person'. This section contains information on how unlicensed persons can ship firearms. If you have an FFL, please skip to the next section for shipping suggestions.
The most important thing to know is that you must only ship guns to a licensed dealer. If the buyer is not a licensed dealer, he will have to make arrangements with a dealer in his state to ship the item to.
Before you ship a gun, the buyer must mail you a copy of the dealer's FFL license, signed in blue or red ink. You can only ship the gun to the address on the license. You must inform the carrier that the package contains a firearm. Of course, the firearm cannot be shipped loaded; ammunition may not be shipped in the same box. You should take the copy of the signed FFL with you when you take the item to be shipped in case the shipper wishes to see it.
Notes on specific shippers:
US Mail: An unlicensed person can ship a rifle or shotgun by US Mail. Unlicensed persons cannot ship a handgun by US Mail. Postal regulations allow the Post Office to open your package for inspection. Ammunition cannot be shipped by US Mail. You can search the
I've shipped several rifles at the post office. Be prepared to wait a long time while they go get their regulations book to look for reasons that they can't ship for you. I've gotten to the point that I only go to one lady that has helped me before and knows the deal. If she's not there, I go back when she is. I've also started the process of getting my FFL so that I won't have the hassle when I want to buy or sell something.
You can go to www.atf.treas.gov and wade through all the stuff there or just do a search on "federal firearms license" and there are a bunch of websites that sell a kit to help you through the process. I don't think any of them cost much money. The kit at www.federalfirearmslicense.com is about $20 and very helpful.
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