Bringing inert AP rounds to the USA?

A friend from Europe is attending an event in the USA soon. He wants to carry with him some inert pistol rounds as samples; these will have no propellant or primer and a drilled case, but will be fitted with armour-piercing bullets.

He has been told that he doesn’t need any special paperwork, but is worried about potential problems in getting the rounds on board the plane, and then through customs in the USA.

Can anyone provide advice as to the best way of minimising the risk of problems?

Thanks for any help.

Technically he can just bring them in with his checked luggage, but you run into all sorts of potential issues with airlines and TSA since they range in knowledge of inert vs live - we hear about this with simple things like replica cartridge dummies on keychains even. The two routes I suggest are either just mailing them over ahead of time in discreet packaging and a simple letter of explanation in the package in case it is opened at customs for whatever reason from a random X-ray, or he could do them up like live ammo to bring in checked luggage on the plane which involves all of the ATF paperwork.

If he does the ATF paperwork route, then it’s all of the same ATF paperwork that any collector would do, who comes to SLICS for instance. He could ask any of the collectors who have done it before and they will know specifically what to do. In terms of the projectile type - it’s not really asked in the paperwork, just the calibers and numbers of cartridges, and they must be packed in some sort of typical factory box, like any 50rd ammo box with tray inside. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the original box, and mixing of types is fine. Just overall number of rds, calibers, and the total weight is the important things - under 5 Kilos.

On the pistol AP projectile - best not to get into inquiring all too much. Technically it is perfectly fine since small sample lots like this are not considered “importing”, but if one gets to asking officials then you can get many answers and ruffle feathers as people get potentially bent out of shape over “cop killer ammo”, which they know nothing about… Most of them just look like ball ammo anyway, and collectors report that their projectile types are never really inquired about at all, particularly if inert.

Because of all that, I would just mail them securely with a note in the package about how they are 100% inert. I and others have had parcels like this go in & out of country with inert rds, empty cases, or projectiles only. Contrary to talk about ITAR import / export laws - small collector samples like this are no problem in my view since it is not a commercial or even retail level of quantity which is what I believe ITAR is referring to in so far as usable quantities of munition components.

Many thanks Matt, I greatly appreciate you taking the time to post this.

To expand on traveling with ammo via airlines - i just received an upsetting report from one of the Argentinians who said that the airline / TSA would not let them board with one of the boxes of ammo they got from me since it was “not original packaging”. It was a 9mm box, half full of random 9mm rds, and then a few odd rifle rds laid sideways within. These were odd calibers that would not have been easy to find “original packaging” for anyway, and the closest thing might have been something like a .308 box, but which would have still left one of them sort of loose, and this was only 3 or 4 rds. I didn’t necessarily intend for this box to be “TSA ready”, it was just what I had to hand on to someone picking it up for another person. I should have checked with the person who picked it up from me I guess to make sure they knew about airline packing rules, etc… I assumed that everybody checked their individual rds religiously due to weight and packing though.

This seems completely ridiculous to me since they were secure in a tightly closed box, and this box would have been packed in another box, but I guess they see things like sideways cartridges which do not fit with an odd box in the X-ray and then make a stink about it. So warning to always have some sort of factory box which is close to the correct size. I guess they would not care if a .308 box had a mix of .308, 7.62x54r, and .300 Blackout, but they at least need to be vertical in some sort of tray or holders within the box so as not to arouse suspicion in the x-ray.

When I made my Form 6NIA application for SLICS, it was approved but with this stamped on it. I did have the opportunity to look at a couple of other approved Form 6NIA’s from some other Canadian collectors but this note had not been applied.

The BATFE issues foreign collectors the Form 6NIA based on the strength of the invitation of the IAA. I do not know what permit application would be appropriate for the event that your associate is attending, but I would contact the BATFE and inquire. They prefer their permit applications and inquiries to be sent via e-mail:


The important thing on that stamp Paul is the word “importation”, which has a painfully detailed definition in the U.S. code which they are pulling that text from. The definition dictates that the pistol ammo / projectiles in question must be coming in as a regular course of trade designed to achieve pecuniary gain for the person bringing it in - i.e. commercial level importation. So odd rds here & there are fine, and this goes for manufacturing as well as importation. I’m sure that atf & customs doesn’t actually know that, but then they dont need to since they never really check. They also wouldnt recognize 90% of the pistol ap rounds even if looking for them, which they never are as far as I have ever heard.

So strictly speaking, none of the collectors coming to SLICS are ever “importing” any ammo, and although customs and border patrol use the term loosely for anything being brought into the country - they wouldnt be able to make any charges stick with regard to ap ammo. Not to say that they couldnt make a stink about it and refuse entry though since we have heard about wide ranging differences in interpretation over packaging, calibers, projectile types, and hazmat go vs no-go.

The Argentinians problem was / is apparently not with TSA but with American Airlines.

Enough said.

I had issues too, but with TSA, while coming to SLICS this year as they found 2 “loose” rounds in my suitcase. Its the TSA that does the searching/ xray but got the airline (Delta), Homeland Security, and GA state police involved. All I had to do was to put them in plastic boxes that was meant for ammo storage. They didn’t care about the INERT rounds. Missed my flight though.

If bringing in small collector sized AP amounts than its OK, sort of… (Stay away from New Jersey, Newark Airport) The true laws states it must be pistol ammo (remember 7.62x51 is pistol) AND USED DURING A CRIME. As long as he’s not going to do any crimes (I hope), its perfectly legal to own, collect and shoot. It does come down to a State issue, not Federal, and NJ does not allow any AP at anytime.

At some point size does matter, and with a Federal Firearms License #3, Collector of Curios and Relics you can add them to your Record of receipt and disposition “bound book”. They are easily sold between collectors (and non licensed collectors), but commercial sales is another issue.

Another solution your friend could do is contacting a collector here in the states who is also a AP savant. He could “lend” AP rounds to your friend for a special purpose or event, and return them before he leaves.

Kevin (wolfganggross)

I have had a Form 6 for many years for each overseas meeting I attend. A few points of clarification.

First, the Form 6 listing in Column c requires a description of the cartridge. I use Ball, and Blank and the ATF is satisfied. If you put AP or Tracer or any of the loads in Paul Smiths note above, they will disapprove the permit. I tried some years ago to get them to approve 1 or 2 AP loads and they said NO! This has evolved over the years, but I don’t believe the ATF will issue a Form 6 for these rounds.

The ATF never restricts ammunition or any other hazardous material from an aircraft, they only identify what they think is a problem to the Airline and it is the airline who makes the decision. The airline can fly more than 5kg of ammo in a bag or fly anything else they want to. Alaska Airlines has, or had, an ammo limit per bag way above 5kg.

Tracers, flares, and other pyrotechnic loads are always banned from aircraft baggage.

Ammo must be packed in ammo boxes appropriate to the ammunition. They, the ATF, don’t really like paper wrappers like old 303 and the paper wrapped more modern Soviet ammo unless they are in a cardboard or similar box, but sometimes they will let them go. I unwrap these and put the rounds into plastic ammo boxes. They really don’t like ammo that is loose, and that is exactly what they consider a couple of rifle rounds in a 9mm box. That is why I travel with a series of empty plastic ammo boxes in various sizes from 5.56 rifle and up for rifle and 9mm and up for pistol and a box for 12ga rounds, along with a roll of toilet paper. I have found the ATF and airlines are pretty comfortable with a 25ACP round wrapped in paper that is tight in a 9mm box or a wrapped 40S&W in a 45ACP box or even a wrapped 357Mag in a 5.56mm box, but these rounds better not rattle around. Again, it isn’t the ATF that says “NO” it is the Airline, but if the ATF is happy, the airline isn’t involved. I always put rubber bands around all my boxes so the rounds won’t come loose when the baggage is handled. Loose ammo in a suitcase does attract the ATFs attention. In my experience these same rules apply at most European airports. Typically the airlines scans the bags and calls the police to check them. Anything either of them consider loose will attract attention. In Europe I have had airlines weigh my ammo to make sure it was 5kg. When they do this they insist that the packing is part of the 5kg, and in one case I had to turn over a few rounds of ammo to the police to make my weight limit.

I recommend that when you check in you have a wife or friend there so if there is a problem you can have them take the ammo home. If the airline does seize the ammo (happened to me once with ATF), the Airlines hazardous materials office will typically hold it for a week or so for you or your agent to reclaim it.

Hope this helps!


Many thanks for all of your help, guys!