Ship and import ammunition into the USA


I have been researching a little bit on legal ways to ship and import ammunition into the US.

I emailed the ATF asking their recommendation and they replied with basic info on forms, but did not address my question to them on shipping.

[quote]Download Form 5330.3A at under embargo. Shotgun ammo can be imported from any country.

You cannot import for resale. Importation of firearms require the permit be submitted by a federal firearms dealer in your state of residence. Further information 304-616-4558 Marie Pollard.[/quote]

So then I did some research on UPS website and from what I can read, as long as you have proper ATF forms they WILL accept airmail of firearms/ammunition:

[quote]The following items may be shipped into the United States by UPS but are restricted to specific quantities, size and/or value:
Airline Tickets
Dangerous Goods
Loose Gemstones
Loose Pearls
Precious Metals[/quote]

Special Procedures for Shipping Firearms

So I am thinking we can ship ammo here legally? What do you guys think?

I will try to research FedEx and DHL too.

I will also call the following number and try to get more info:

UPS U.S. Customer Service
International Export/Import Services:


Great work. The last time I checked (6 or 7) years ago, there were no air transport companies (UPS, Fed Ex, DHL, etc) that would carry live ammunition internationally nor would the major airlines carry ammo internationally, except in checked baggage. I am glad that this has changed.

Please let us know how the shipment works out.




I still contend - or am confused about the whole “importation” thing. I know that in general everyone thinks that bringing any quantity of ammunition into the country from another country is “importation”, and to most people this makes perfect sense because what else would you call it? However, through the course of researching AP pistol ammo laws I found that the official US Code, which supersedes all other departmental regulatory stuff defines ammunition “importation” as:

a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to importing ammunition as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the sale or distribution of the ammunition imported.
This is from 18 U.S.C. chapter 44 §921 definitions, part 21 - section F. Also, in part 22 of the same subsection and definition area it specifically describes the terms livelihood & profit:

The term “with the principal objective of livelihood and profit” means that the intent underlying the sale or disposition of firearms is predominantly one of obtaining livelihood and pecuniary gain, as opposed to other intents, such as improving or liquidating a personal firearms collection: Provided, that proof of profit shall not be required as to a person who engages in the regular and repetitive purchase and disposition of firearms for criminal purposes or terrorism.

The US Code laws are supposed to be the template for which all departmental policy is derived, but as anyone who has researched these laws knows, there are many things that are out of whack. So if you call the ATF and ask them about it, I’m sure they will all say “oh yeah to import ammo you need this, this, and this… in triplicate” But I think they are all missing the point of the term, or else aren’t familiar with the specifics of the term importation. They play it safe when advising on legal stuff.

Of course if you are not a U.S. citizen, then all bets are off and you may well need all the forms and permits and other things to bring these possessions of yours in. But I wonder if non-commercial quantities can be shipped in to US citizens without any paperwork then if it isn’t “importation”? And I would argue that collector endeavors are anything but “for-profit” enterprises since the quantities are so small and the cost is so high. We’ve talked about this before and I think Lew had contended that the BATF suggestions were to be the given way, but I just wonder if those guys are not getting the whole “importation” definition or if they’ve ever thought about it being an issue?

There are, of course still some hurdles for many individuals in other countries to be able to handle and ship ammo out of their own countries, but assuming they have all the permits required, I wonder if shipping something like 3 cartridges direct to a U.S. citizen though UPS or FedEX international is a problem? I would think that if the ATF found out (seems like they never would) they might come after you, but then a federal or state D.A. would actually research the matter and find the definition of “import” as it relates to ammo for the first time, and drop the case.


Unfortunately, it does not matter much what the fine print in an obscure law says. It all comes down to what the individual customs agent, UPS counter clerk or Post Office person THINKS the law says.

Unless you are willing to spend a lot of time and money to get your shipment accepted or delivered, probably involving lawyers and thousands of dollars if you win, or a possible criminal conviction if you lose, you are their mercy.

This will not be solved until SOMEONE gets something in writing, in plain language, stating the ammunition shipment can be done by (x) (y) and (z) with the name and contact information of someone in authority who can be contacted if the local idiot does not understand it.

Of course the downside of that is that while there is ambiguity, you may be successful some of the time, or able to defend your actions if someone objects. If you ask a simple question and the simple answer comes back “NO YOU CANNOT SHIP AMMUNITION THIS WAY” then you may be worse off than you are now.

If it were a single bureaucracy it might be easier to fix than when dealing with multiple U.S. government agencies: Customs, Homeland Security, Post Office, BATFE, FAA plus non-governmental operations like the airlines, UPS/FEDEX, etc. Each of them has veto power over what the others might come up with as a workable solution. That does not begin to explore the counterparts in other countries who also might want to play in the bureaucratic games.

I am not optimistic. I salute those who are willing to dig into this mess looking for answers.



Well said. We all have to choose which battles to fight and I don’t think this is one of them. Whether you end up in jail or victorious, it may not be worth it. Things like this are like getting run over in a crosswalk. You are 100% in the right, but you’re still dead.




In the mean time, loads of people break the laws anyway. It’s sort of silly, because I still get a couple ammo shipments a month that sellers send to me via USPS. I don’t ask them to, but they do. I must’ve had about 50 - 70 shipments received in this way over the past years. Oh well…

I don’t like the whole “you can’t fight city hall” attitude. My father-in-law is a criminal trial lawyer with 30 years experience, and he is a former JAG. So I don’t mind taking the battle should the time come if it is something to do with international shipping or armor piercing pistol ammo. In some bizarre or obscure manner, I think most serious ammo collectors have broken a law or two at a big gun or ammo show without even knowing it. Interestingly, the feds & law enforcement wouldn’t even know either, even if it happened right in front of them…