International Mailing of Inert Cartridges


I have sent numerous packages of INERT cartridges to various countries in Europe in the last 3-4 years with NO problems. I have always put “INERT CARTRIDGES” on the customs form. Yesterday I tried to send a package to Spain. The clerk refused to accept the package, even though I assured him that ALL the cartridges were INERT. I asked him for a copy of the ruling that said it was not mailable. He referred me to the following section of the International Mail Manual, effective 4 Jan. 2010 … 2-E9-25363

Please note that this ruling ONLY applies to EXPORT, not Import through the U.S. mail system, nor does it prevent shipping within the U.S. of Inert Ammo. However, also note that the ruling is based on a Universal Postal Union ruling as follows:

[color=#4000FF]Consistent with Proposals 20.15.2 and 20.15.6adopted by the 24th Congress of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in Geneva Switzerland on July 23August 12, 2008,that amend Article 15 of the UPU Convention, we are revising Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, International Mail Manual (IMM[supreg]) to make replica and inert explosive devices and counterfeit and pirated items nonmailable. [/color]

There are only 4 countries that do not abide by the UPU rules for international mail, and none of those are countries you are going to be shipping from. So, this rule effectually stops ALL International shipments of ALL cartridges, inert or not.

You MIGHT get away with shipping empty cartridges by declaring them as “Brass Tubes”, etc. But if they happen to X-Ray or open the package, you can then be nailed for a false customs statement.

I questioned the clerk on the following section:

[color=#8040FF]Consistent with Proposal 20.15.2, this prohibition is intended to apply to devices that were originally[/color] [color=#FF0040]designed for military or combat use[/color] [color=#8040FF](including training) and is also extended to replicas of such items. Specific items include replica and inert explosive devices and military ordnance, such as grenades, [/color] [color=#FF0040]ammunition[/color] [color=#8040FF], shells and the like.

I pointed out that I thought the ruling applied ONLY to military cartridges, not hunting cartridges. At that point he called the Post Master who said that in his opinion, it applied to ALL ammunition. So, I suppose there is some wiggle room depending on the interpretation of the local post office.

Also note, there is NO wording, as in the older State Dept. ruling that has been discussed here before, about holes in the case and/or bullet etc. making the cartridges unusable.

So, it appears to me that they have finally found a way to put an end to the International shipment of ammunition of any description or condition.


I wouild like to see their definition of “Ammunition” Under IATA and FAA Tarifs and exclusions, “Ammunition” means cannon shells - explosive ordnance, in short. What we call small arms cartridges are not “ammunition” under those terms, but are rather “safety cartridges, small arms.” I know we are not talking about the airlines - I am simply indicating the meanin of “ammunition” by their standards. Further, it talks about ammunition generally as explosive items, but what about empty, unprimed cases? They are not “inert” or “pirated” (whatever that means) explosive objects.

I can readily understand why they would outlaw the mailing of inert hand grenades, artillery shells with projectiles, etc. In this time of X-Raying so much shipped stuff, those items, which when loaded are absolutely deadly if mishandled, cannot be identified as live or inert by X-ray for the most part. That means that personnel of the shipping agency have to open the package to inspect them, but more important, must be trained in the handling of explosive ordnance to even be able to do that. Small arms cartridges are a whole different ball game, and of course, empty cases are nothing more than a piece of metal, and should not X-ray as anything close to even a loaded small arms cartridge.

Well, probably asking such a question about definition would be an exercise in futility. They have ZIP codes because so many employees can even properly read a mailing address. I just had an important estimate returned to the contractor for “no such address” because the zip code was off by inversion of two numbers, even though the house number, street and city and state were perfect. It went to San Francisco instead of Daly City, where I live. I guess the clerks couldn’t differentiate the two names, but can match the zip code number to some sort of slot. Such are the times. When I was growing up, in San Francisco, for local mail (S.F. address to another S.F. address), you simply wrote the name of the recipient, the house number and street name, and the word “city,” and it was delivered. The full-time population of San Francisco has not changed much since then because it was an old city when I was born and it bounded on three sides by water and the fourth side by the County Line. So, they can’t claim that increased volume of mail is the problem. It may even be less, since so much postal mail disappeared with the increasing use of E-Mail.

Rules are bad enough, but stupid interpretations of them are worse. What an age we live in.
Yes, Virginia, there WERE “good old days” and they are NOT the 21st Century!!!


Ron, I’m not suprised. It had to come.
You have to take into consideration the regulations applying in the country of the recipient as well. In the UK for example you cannot send or be sent expanding (HP or SP) projectiles in any shape or form, loaded in inert cases or loose as unloaded projectiles. Even if the recipient is licensed to own them when they arrive because they are covered by the “face to face” legislation. That cuts out most non military inert cartridges straight away. The penalties are severe and you don’t want to get extradited to face charges. Don’t believe it couldn’t happed either. They are just crazy enough to do it. You would certainly get the person you are sending them to in all sorts of hot water as well.
Still, if they put you both in the same cell you would have plenty to talk about for the next few years. I would come and visit you though, if thats any consolation.


Don’t tell them what you are shipping. :-) and if they ask, car parts…
Have a nice day…

Regards Alex


Alex–On the Customs Declaration Form 2976 you must say what the contents of the package is. If you say “Car Parts”, etc. and for what ever reason the package is X-Rayed or opened and it is NOT “Car Parts”, then you have committed a Felony with a False Customs Declaration. That will get you, at the very least, a BIG fine, a criminal record or jail time. If you DO say “Inert Cartridges” and they are caught, all that will happen is that the package will be destroyed or returned to you saying it is a non-mailable commodity. Personally, I would rather lose the cartridges than to end up in jail. Lieing on a government form is NEVER a good idea.


John, today much of the mail is processed on machinery with optical scanners and computer programs to sort the mail pieces. If the address does not match exactly it often gets rejected. Currently the USPS is chronically understaffed, so the clerk who got your mail piece with a bad zip code chose the easiest option and sent it back to the sender for a correct address. The clerk could have also been new, a temp, from another office and unfamiliar with the area and zip codes (I’m sure there are a LOT of them in your area). There is an effort for us to make mailers use correct addresses for efficiency’s sake, so sending a piece back is not “bad” in the USPS’s eyes. The days of your local letter carrier being on the same route for decades and knowing everyone in town is becoming a thing of the past. We have 20 routes in our town with an average of 600+ deliveries each. I can be called on to sort and carry any of them on any day of the week (except for Sunday of course), sometimes more than one route in a day. I do my best to keep all 12,000+ possible names and addresses in my head, but some days even I make a mistake or two… If the address is incomplete or inaccurate, It might not get to it’s destination. I’m not making excuses for the USPS. It’s the most messed-up company I have ever seen and it is cutting it’s own throat slowly and surely every day… To keep this ammunition related, I can completely beleive this new ruling and how each Post Master can interpret the rules as they see fit. I see it happen a lot. They preach “customer service” out of one side of their mouth and gripe at us for providing it (wasting time) out of the other! This restriction on shipping inert ammunition is just another cut to a “service” that we are already losing…



All I can say is - meh… I still receive and see lots of LIVE ammo shipped via USPS, and nobody seems to care. The postal carriers in my area certainly don’t, and sometimes it’s pretty easy to tell what is being shipped due to the rattle noise of ammo in a plastic tray in the box. Ultimately inert ammo is just that - inert. It might as well be nuts & bolts. It would be fairly easy to declare that the policy is null since you would not have shipped “ammunition”, since ammunition must have a propellant, be it chemical, mechanical, pneumatic or otherwise. Inert cartridges have none of this.


Side note: Would the hacks at USPS management think that snap caps are “ammunition” along the same lines as inert cartridges? They might as well, based on this supposed new definition. Would this mean that receiving snap caps from overseas, or sending them overseas is no longer allowed? honestly…


I had only one package stopped by italian customs because of a mistraslated declaration. The content was correctly described by the sender but for some reason the italian clerks translated it as " metal parts2 or something else.

The package was simply re-sent to the sender altough in Italy there WOULDN’t be any sort of problem about inert cartridges.

Anyway, use a generic declaration such as “metal parts” or “brass cases” … so what the content REALLY is.

International mail ( priority or registered mail) sent from Italy to any other country using a padded envelope doesn’t require the declaration of the content. I think that a few guys on this forum received some stuff from me in the past and they surely noted that the content wasn’t described on the envelope

An express courier will be the best option!!!


Perhaps I’m being naive in suggesting this but would it not be possible for the IAA - which must be the worldwide voice of the cartridge collector - to hire the services of a lawyer who should then challenge the Postal Services to define exactly what is and is not mailable ammunition?


I don’t think the IAA has the kind of money to challenge the United States government over postal regulations via hiring a lawyer. The IAA usually only does just slightly better than breaking even each year.


IAA is a “Not for Profit” organization that puts most of the money it receives from various sources back into services for the membership, usually in the form of a better Journal, the major expense of the organization. When I first joined IAA (Then the “ICCA”) the “Journal” was a mimeographed (or similar reproduction process) of from two to four pages (one to two pieces of paper). Today, it is 60 pages with more and more color, and is professionally printed. Other services are awards at shows, the Forum, etc.

Officers and Board members are not paid, and over the years, many have not even asked for repayment of their expenses on behalf of IAA (postage, envelopes, paper, computer ink cartridges, etc.).

To take on a quasi-Government Agency in court would probably cost some amount in six figures for legal services, probably more money than the IAA takes in, before expenses, of a twenty-year period.

John Moss


John et-al
It wouldn’t take a law suit or really a lot of expense (assuming that none of our members is a lawyer) but a simple letter to the US postmaster asking for clarification, and stating the definition of “ammunition” used in the above treaties and asking how/if that has any bearing on international shipping of inert SAA (50BMG and smaller)


The question of getting a definitive statement of the overall meaning would still not negate the problem of having to deal with the local man on the ground when you actually come to ship your package.
As you are no doubt aware from this country Jim. Regulations are interpreted differently in different parts of this country (very differently in some places).

Officialdom tends to always err on the side of safety and then go the extra mile just to be sure. Its easier for them to just say no, there is no penalty for them to be over cautious. Saying yes incurs a risk to them so why take a risk ?

Just another question for a moment, specific to the UK but it probably holds good in other places. Does inert ammunition have a status in law? Is there a legal definition anywhere which defines inert ammunition and what constitutes inert ammunition. There are all sorts of laws covering ammunition in the UK including quite a few which cover shipping. Nowhere as far as I know does it say "but this doesn’t apply if the ammuntion is “inert” " A hard line view would be that all ammunition is ammunition whether de-acted or not.

Deactivated firearms have a legal status but as far as I know the same doesn’t apply to ammunition. Its all very much a grey area but if you were to ask for definition over here I would be willing to bet that some faceless bureaucrat would come up with something so far off the middle ground that you would end up wishing you had never asked. Its better to just let things lie as they are.


No doubt that the Postmaster General of the United States, if you even got a reply (through USPS lawyers or one of his 23 vice presidents), would err on the side that anything even remotely cartridge related would be prohibited. Also, it should be noted that in the USPS/NALC & APWU labor contracts, management “reserves the right to mismanage” in it’s daily operations… you cannot deal rationally with organizations like this…

I have not worked in a mail processing plant, but when I toured one I never saw an x-ray machine or anything used to address prohibited items. They once shut down a whole plant for a box of rotten potatoes from Ireland that was stinking up the place… They seem to be more concerned with packages that are leaking powders or liquids or smell funny… An innocent looking small parcel with a few inert cartridges in it would not likely get a second look. Your mileage may vary of course and you do not want to be the first test case…



Deactivated firearms have a legal status but as far as I know the same doesn’t apply to ammunition. Its all very much a grey area but if you were to ask for definition over here I would be willing to bet that some faceless bureaucrat would come up with something so far off the middle ground that you would end up wishing you had never asked. Its better to just let things lie as they are.[/quote]

My bold

Lets hope it stays a grey area, nothing good comes from asking bureaucrats.


Guys–For what it is worth, I have a nephew who works as an Electronics Maintenance person in a USPS Sectional Center. He repairs all the mail handling equipment and does the computer programing for all the sorting equipment. He says that once you get an international package past the clerk at the front of the post office it is never handled, as far reading the label or customs form, by a human until it hits the Customs of the country of destination. ALL sorting after the front desk is done by machine with OCR readers. So, in his opinion, as long as the address is clear so the OCR Reader can read it and the package doesn’t break open in transient, there is NO ONE to stop a shipment of inert cartridges (or live ones for that matter) until it is handled by the Customs Office of the next country. To his knowledge, and he has done this job for over 20 years, there are NO X-RAY machines in the USPS system. So, if the clerk does not refuse the package, there is nothing to prevent it arriving in the next country. Beyond the original clerk, the only thing the automated system is looking at is the address, not the contents.

So, I guess, if you write legibly and pack securely, it is relatively safe to ship those inert cartridges, as long as the next country doesn’t refuse them.



Your post seems to say that it’s OK to mail inert cartridges as long as you don’t get caught. I think that is bad advice. If it’s against the law, then it’s illegal. I, for one, have stopped mailing inert cartridges to anywhere outside the U.S.A. It’s simply not worth the price of a cartridge to spend my few remaining days in Leavenworth Kansas. And besides, I’m, too pretty.:)

As far as getting anyone in the govt to give you the definitions that you need, good luck! That is precisely the problem with shipping to and from Canada. No one will define “munitions”, which is the key word. I have shooting friends in Canada and they have tried unsuccesfully to get a definition of munitions. And for a very good reason. The govt purposely left the definition open to keep the really bad guys from finding a loop-hole. While it may be perfectly safe for an honest citizen to to use the lack of definition to his advantage and continue to ship and receive to and from Canada, it only takes one anal overzealous customs official on either side of the line to ruin your whole day. What is worse, IMHO, is that guys are avoiding the rules by simply carrying the cartridges across as part of their “shooting” ammunition and then mailing it. Breaking one law to avoid another is not a good idea IMHO.

I know that I sound paranoid. It’s because I am. I have seen otherwise law abiding, tax paying, honest citizens have their property confiscated and their bodies thrown in the klink for violating some obscure law or regulation.

There is a time to test, challenge, and defy authority, but the otherwise innocent act of simply mailing an inert cartridge to someone is not that time.



Ray–No, I did NOT say it is OK to break the law (and I do think it is illegal to ship inert cartridges outside the U.S.). That is up to each individual to decide if he/she wants to take the chance. I was just passing on what my nephew said about the chance of getting caught, based on his knowledge of the USPS system.



I did not say that you said that specifically, only that it seemed to me that it could be read that way. Which leads me to what I really wanted to rant about.

Is it just me or are the Forum rules being applied inconsistently? Mentioning things such as how to section a cartridge or, heaven forbid, suggesting a powder charge for a particular cartridge is not only frowned upon but usually results in words of warning or, worse, redaction. But, this particular thread in general is borderline saying that it’s OK to do something that is most likely illegal so long as you don’t get caught or, even worse, simply lie and you’ll be all right.

Now, I visit several “shooting” sites and am active on several “shooting” Forums. Things such as hand-loading, sectioning cartridges, and mailing and shipping rules are actively and openly discussed on all of them. I have yet to see or hear of an example of someone being censored for any of the discussions or for the Forum owners or administrators being held liable for information freely shared.

I am not suggesting that loading information be a regular topic for this Forum (I think sectioning should be), but for a different reason. It’s that I prefer the Forum be oriented toward cartridges and cartridge collecting. Likewise, I have no intention of complaining about things that are far beyond what I consider “cartridges”. I am free to read and participate in only the threads that interest me and if someone feels that a text book on how to skirt the law, or an ICBM and it’s delivery system is appropriate for discussion, go for it. I may even read it, and probably comment too.

End of rant.