Sending inert collectors' rounds from the USA to the UK


Sending even obviously inert rounds is fraught with problems, as we all know. It helps a lot if the case has a hole drilled in the side, and of course the rounds should be wrapped in paper labelled “INERT - CANNOT BE USED - FOR DISPLAY PURPOSES ONLY” and so on.

There is another hazard which I have just discovered the hard way, however. A gentleman very kindly sent me an inert rifle round. He didn’t charge me for it, but he did put a value of $100 on the postal slip. The round got to me safely, but so did a bill for import tax - for £30, or about $45!

You have been warned…


Tony–I looked into the duty problem for England a couple of years ago and as I recall, duty starts at anything over US$70. So, if the package is declared as a gift and valued at less than US$70, there should be no duty.


The rules for shipping stuff into the UK are many and varied and I’m by no means an expert but, touch wood, I’ve not had a problem with the dummy or drill round that form my collecting interest. The thing to remember, from a UK point of view, is that all individual component parts of a cartridge are legal to own without restriction. The only controlled items are ‘expanding’ bullets.

It is the assembling together into a viable cartridge, of the individual components, that makes the item restricted to those licensed to own or possess it. The usual point at which this happens is with a primed case. This only applies to a viable primer though, not one that has been oiled or rendered inert in some other way. As far as the law is concerned any inert cartridge is just a piece of metal.

There is the slight problem of ‘intent’ though. That is the purpose or reason why one has an object in one’s possession. I think an interest in cartridge collecting, having a collecting variation on your FAC, membership of a cartridge collecting association and contributing to a forum such as this ought to take care of that quite well. The problem with ‘intent’ is it is a judgement and one that individual police forces are likely to take disparate opinions on. Some can have a tendency to act ‘ultra vires’ on matters of judgement or individual interpretation.

This is the page from the UK Government website relating to banned or controlled items;

As for paying duty in imports, it’s a bit of a lottery. The REALLY annoying thing is the addition of UK sales tax on the original purchase price AND the cost of posting it to the UK. Talk about sneaky. Then there’s the rip-off of the ‘handling’ charge levied by the Post Office or carrier to take and pass on the Customs duty imposed. It must be a licence to print money … or almost. Here’s the current position vis-a vis duty on stuff sent to the UK from outside the EU;

All other goods
If you order or send purchased goods other than alcohol, tobacco, perfume and toilet water from a country outside the EU then you:
don’t have to pay Excise Duty
may have to pay Customs Duty on goods with a value that exceeds £120
will have to pay Import VAT on goods with a value that exceeds £18
Note that on all goods from outside the EU, Customs Duty is waived if the amount of duty calculated is £7 or under.

Happy collecting, Peter


Thats a good reply from Enfield56. I would just like though to repeat his comment for emphasis regarding HP or SP projectiles. Its a criminal offence to ship them by post to Britain even though the recipient may be licenced to own them. The penalties are stiff, jail is mandatory.



Who is guilty of the offence? The person sending them, or the person receiving them? It would seem more than a bit odd if the person receiving them was guilty of a criminal offence for accepting something which he was legally entitled to possess.

Especially if, say, he had no idea that anyone was going to send him such items…


The devil is in the detail, HP and SP (in any form) cannot be ordered by post even if you have the appropriate paperwork to possess them. Coming in from abroad it likely to trigger an anti terrrorist alert if discovered and provoke a massive over reaction.

I would imagine if there was evidence that the recepient had ordered the item(s) or otherwise caused them to be sent he would be guilty.

If the person could prove (how do you prove a negative?) that he had no prior knowledge and that the items were unsolicited he would probably get away with it but not before he had been arrested and his house searched + his collection carted off for examination.

Of course somebody would have leaked the story to the newspapers by then and they would twist it around and blow it out of all proportion.

Police removed hundreds of rounds of ammunition from a house in xxxx today. A spokesman said “Its a major find”

Plus his lawyers bill would be larger than the National debt of some third world countries.

Not really worth the risk


So how do the retailers get their HP & SP bullets and ammunition from the USA ?

Where does it say that it’s an offence to ship HP & SP bullets to Britain ?


Much of the European cartridge collector’s problems today stem from legislation passed by the European Commission in Brussels back in 1993. This rag-bag assortment of restrictions was apparently cobbled together by a committee of people with no knowledge of the subject, who selected at random items from a list of suggestions put forward by the member countries. The result was therefore an attempt to satisfy national honour rather than to produce a sensible law.

The late Peter Labbett made valiant attempts to put the case of the collector to the British Home Office, with some success. For example, he got them to recognise that membership of the ECRA was evidence of a bona fide collector. But he was unable to prevent expanding, incendiary and armour-piercing bullets, even unloaded ones, needing inclusion on a firearms certificate to make them legal.

There were, and I believe still are, strange anomalies. For example, the law stated that a license was required for “any ammunition for military use which consists in or incorporates a missile designed, on account of its having a jacket and a hard core, to penetrate armour plating, armour screening or body armour”. The home office seemed to agree that while a loose AP bullet for a Boys AT cartridge would require a license, artillery shells with just a driving band, and even the AP projectiles for a MG131 cannon do not, as they don’t have a “jacket”!

Peter also got the Home Office to admit that standard ball 7.62x39 with a mild steel core was standard ball and not AP, though I don’t know that this was ever put into writing. He thought such bullets as the .5" Vickers F Mk1Z semi-AP would probably be regarded as AP, but didn’t ask them, preferring to let “sleeping dogs lie”.

John E


So how do the retailers get their HP & SP bullets and ammunition from the USA ?

Where does it say that it’s an offence to ship HP & SP bullets to Britain ?[/quote]

In the legislation known generally as the handgun ban expanding ammunition was also banned. The term banned is not strictly accurate because both were in fact elevated to section 5.
They then had to backtrack on expanding ammunition because of the implications for hunting. So people who used their firearms for hunting could apply for a dispensation, which is not an exeption.

Part of the dispensation is that they cannot be traded except on a face to face basis and even components come into that catagory of section 5. By default that includes unloaded bullets and by default inert rounds containing expanding bullets. There is no legal way that expanding projectiles can be traded except face to face even if you have a dispensation. Some cartridge collectors have a collectors licence but again the same restrictions apply.

Dealers who are not section 5 licenced are covered by the same dispensation but like all the ammunition regulations they can order by courier from another licenced dealer but not by post because postal regulations forbid it.

However, there are a few dealers who are licenced to trade in section 5 firearms (mostly for re -export) but there are a suprisingly high number of people in Britain who are still licenced to keep/own and even carry section 5 pistols and do so on a daily basis. Many of them are foreign nationals who’s governments have prevailed upon the British Government and have got their way. mostly US and Israeli although I’m told the French and Germans have a few as well.


Expanding ammo was banned in the UK a long time ago, you are right.
I remember a personal story about that.

A long time ago (perhaps in 1995) I was coming back from the United States via England.
I was in transit in the international part of the airport and was stopped because I had some hollow point bullets in my luggages.
It is fordidden in England they said. I am not going to England but to France !
They didn’t care about the fact I had all the French import license papers for them.
Despite the fact I was on transit they asked me either to drop my bullets or no to take the plane !

Again the same story next year when they discovered I had about 30 magasines springs (only the springs)
Same blackmail !
Personal comment :
You are complaining about the Bristish laws and their application in Great Britain.

I used to ship a lot of military electronics, radars, sonars , missiles all around the world and very often it was not direrctly from France to the end user country.
When you are “sous douane”,(bonded goods) , the merchandises are not subject to the laws of the country on which you are in transit.
This is 100% sure.

The fact they gave me the deal : drop the goods or miss the plane is a big blackmail and unworthy of a civilized country.
They don’t even respect international laws!



Its not only ammunition and firearms related items that strange restrictions apply. When i worked for Kodak we were prevented from buying a lot of computer boards from the US because they contained chips that were used in the defence industry. it wasn’t only defense items either , some General Electric boards were restricted because they were used in the Space Shuttle.


[quote=“VinceGreen”]The devil is in the detail, HP and SP (in any form) cannot be ordered by post even if you have the appropriate paperwork to possess them. Coming in from abroad it likely to trigger an anti terrrorist alert if discovered and provoke a massive over reaction.
What about AP - are these treated in the same way?


Some late news. On studying the information Fedex sent me I discovered that duty does not have to be paid on “samples” which are “rendered unusable except as samples”. I rang them up and pointed out that on the postal declaration the sender had described the contents as “dummy cartridge - sample” and they accepted that I didn’t need to pay.


[quote=“TonyWilliams”][quote=“VinceGreen”]The devil is in the detail, HP and SP (in any form) cannot be ordered by post even if you have the appropriate paperwork to possess them. Coming in from abroad it likely to trigger an anti terrrorist alert if discovered and provoke a massive over reaction.
What about AP - are these treated in the same way?[/quote]

I don’t think so, the legislation only applied to expanding ammunition. This is actually a contradiction because with Police now wearing bulletproof vests in reality a source of supply of AP projectiles would probably be of more interest to a terrorist than HP or SP.

It only serves to illustrate the lack of understanding on the part of the people formulating the legislation.

There is another point, to anyone except the very knowledgable an AP projectile would appear the same as a FMJ so would not be detected anyway.


Does anyone know if you need an import license for bring small quantities of inert/dummy cartridges into UK (from USA or Europe)for private collection? You see cases all the time on e-bay! Also if I was to send some inert/dummy cartridges to another collector, projectiles removed and primers oiled is an export license needed?



No to the best of my understanding you don’t as long an none of the projectiles are expanding. I would have to take a rain check on incendary/ tracer. Not for legality reasons but because I am unsure of their status under postal regulations (inflammable substances) and the fact that mail travels by air so you have airline regulations as well, but ordinary ammunition is not forbidden.
As stated previously declare them as samples for academic study to avoid confusion where inport duty is concerned


Thanks, must remember about the academic study for the duty, next time