Shipping live ammunition via USPS

I just recently received a box of live blank cartridges for my collection that was shipped to me via the U.S. Postal Service. Now, being a long time cartridge buyer and seller and an employee of said service, I have always been under the impression that shipping live ammunition through the mail was, forbidden, against the law, a big no-no, etc… I kindly pointed this out the the seller so he could avoid possible problems later on. His reply was that since he is an FFL (Federal Firearms License) holder, he operated under different guidelines. I know of no exceptions for FFL holders that allow them to ship live ammunition through the mail. Did I miss something or is this guy full of it? I asked him for clarification, or a copy of the “guidelines” he is following, but I have a sneaky suspicion that he won’t produce any. What say you folks?


Short answer is…NO, he is very wrong. However, I recall being told once that you could send blanks via USPS. I didn’t really believe it so never tested the idea.

So far he has been lucky that no federal agent has knocked on his door.
From my battered memory I seem to remember that the PO lists explosives, grenades and live ammunition (in the same line) as prohibited items. I wouldn’t want to have to argue with a Fed as to whether a live blank is considered ammo or not (I’d probably lose).

It’s incredible how many times this question comes up on the different shooting/guns/ammo Forums. And yet it seems that no matter how many times it does, there is still that 10% who never get the word. Or maybe they really do get the word but think they can get away with it again and again. In this situation I find it hard to believe that an FFL holder would be ignorant of the law. If he does this with live ammo he probably does the same thing with shipping firearms. I personally would avoid doing any business with him because it could be me who serves a stretch with him in Leavenworth Kansas.


I agree he’s been lucky. I’m just surprised he is risking his FFL to make a buck or two on the shipping. Did he charge you the typical $10 or so for UPS shipping? If so, you might request a refund of some portion of it. I wonder what other federal laws he is breaking, while operating under those different guidelines that he has established for himself as an FFL holder?

This isn’t exactly on key, but a FFL Dealer may ship firearms via the US Postal Service. I don’t know about ammo. I was sending a Colt back to the factory for refinnishing, UPS wanted about $30.00 and my FFL Dealer let me use him and send it Priorty Mail for about $10.00. I checked the the Post Office and they accepted it and stated it was legal.


Any individual can ship firearms intrastate via the USPS. Except handguns which require an FFL at each end. Rifles shipped across State lines have to go to an FFL. An individual can mail his rifle to a gunsmith for repairs or modifications and the gunsmith can ship it back to the individual directly. Interstate shipments between two inividuals is illegal by ANY shipping method.


It is absolutely illegal to ship live ammunition by USPS, period. Ball, blanks, anything with powder or a priming composition. Dealers cannot do it anymore than a private person can. The dealer who said he is operating under different guidelines didn’t mention that these guidelines are in violation of the law, did he?

As most on this forum know, I retired from 36 years full-time in the firearms industry, and am pretty familiar with the law. I know that in the seven years since my retirement, the Postal regs have not changed to allow shipping any live ammo. In fact, I recall some time ago on the forum we had a question from someone whose postmaster had seized dummy cartridges that were sent through the mail, which to my knowledge, was in my “working days” and still is legal.

What has been said here about shipping guns is spot on.

John Moss

Common carriers can write their own rules and regulation on shipping both ammunition and firearms as long as they do not violate any Federal, State, or Local laws. Some of them are more confusing and nonsensical than government regulations but it’s their business and that’s the way it should be.


Both UPS and FedEx, will take ammunition for land shipment only, if it is properly ID’ed. No ammo goes by air. Also some of the franchised UPS Stores, will not take ammo, no matter what the regs say. You may get away with mailing ammo for a while, but sooner or later…Knock Knock… its just not worth it.

And how about the folks who routinely ship tear gas items and flares/flare cartridges (internet auction sales)…and therein lies a whole another “can of worms”…thus entering the world of HAZMAT regulations…(but I think most folks do the “ostrich thing”)

Fortunately, and I think I’m correct on this, it is not illegal to receive ammo, etc. via USPS, the sending is the problem. I have been shocked and amazed at what my mailman has deliverered in the past.
Back in the late 1980s, I got a 9"x12" padded envelope from South Africa with a live 25mm HEIT round dancing around loose. I quickly informed the sender to refrain from doing that again.

Jon - if its illegal to send it, it is illegal to knowingly receive it. It is the act of having ammunition in the mail that is illegal, and if you asked an attorney, I would bet the answer is that there is potential liability at both ends. Its like receiving stolen goods - if one can convince or prove to the authorities of their innocent lack of knowledge that the item was stolen (or that someone was shipping live ammo, in this case), I assume the liability would go away for the recipient, since he is not in control of what others do.

It is a shame it is against the law. Within the same rules as UPS (no hand grenades, bombs, explosive devices, etc. - common sense) it is not dangerous of itself to mail safety cartridges small arms. If it was, since a package being handled by a UPS shipping system is not difference than a package being handled by a USPS system, you couldn’t send ammo by UPS either. But, with UPS and Fed Express available for legal shipment, there is no reason to mail it anyway.

Good point, John, but I ALWAYS tell people to send via UPS or other contract carrier. Any time I heve gotten ammo via USPS it has been a total surprise. I really like it when I pay for UPS and it come any other way.