Carrying Ammunition Back From Europe


I have been attending European meetings and bringing back ammo for a long time with no major problems. This time returning from the ECRA meeting in Switzerland, I had my ammunition seized. The good news is that it was release by the Zurich Airport Police an I should have it back in the US by this time next month.

I am writing this because I learned a lot since the ammo was seized almost exactly a month ago.

Beginning a few years ago, I noticed the rules on bringing ammo back to the US began changing. A few years ago, some, now essentially all, European countries began putting tags or later special markings on bags that contained only ammo that indicate a weapon was inside the bag. When bags with these markings got to the US they were put in a special locked area and some collectors had a hard time finding their bags. Then about a year an a half ago, I noticed that when I made my reservations and, as I had for years, told the lady in reservations that I wanted her to add a note to the ticket record that I would be carrying ammunition, it created some confusion. Apparently there was a special block to be checked or code to be added that indicated that the bag contained a gun and ammunition. but no block or code for just ammunition. I usually asked that the box not be checked and a note added that only ammunition was in the bag. Returning home on two occasions, I was questioned by the agents in Europe because I had not declared I was carrying ammunition, an when I insisted that I had they dug deeper and found the note, but apparently they were looking for the weapon code or block.

This time I did the same thing and, at the Zurich airport, explained at the airline counter that I had ammo but no weapon, they discussed it an then insisted that the the police did not need to see the bag. I was very surprised and argued with them because in Europe, the police or customs always checked the bag and my permits. The supervisor said it was no longer required so I relented. Just before takeoff, the agent for the airline came on the plane and told me the ammo had been seize by the police because the ammo had not been properly declared and processed through customs.

That was the beginning of a long and complicate discussion, both the police and airline were very helpful. As it turns out, the published regulations now only mention that in Switzerland all weapons must be processed through customs before being put on the plane. The airline supervisor read that to mean that ammunition no longer needed to be checked through customs and my bags were seized as a result.

As it turned out, had the weapon block been checked on my ticket record then all would have been fine since this really means weapon and/or ammunition, though it doesn’t specifically say that. Many of the reservation people have seldom handled a gun and most have not handled only ammunition.

From now on I will make sure my ticket is marked or coded to indicate my bag contains a weapon. Then inside I will put a large note that it contains only ammunition. Had I done this I would have my ammo in Atlanta and would not be looking forward to a quick trip back to Zurich to pick it up.



And now, in Atlanta, you may walk into any gun shop and buy as many handguns and ammo as you wish without any permit. That must be one heck of a contrast to buy ammo in Europe and in the States.


Excellent information Lew.
Thank you for the extended debriefing.



Bet when all is added up, that sure turns out to be expensive ammo. Crazy!



The airline is covering the trip back so that helps! The other thing is that I pick up things, ammo and information, that I’d never see in the US. And finally, and most important, is seeing old friends at the meetings, some of whom I first met in the mid-1970s when I was stationed in Europe.

In the end, the trip is worth every cent.



Great news! I thought you had to spring for the travel and shipping cost.