How to ship ammo legally and safely (the ultimate guide)

Americans ship ammunition across the United States every day. However, ammo shipments are not like ordinary shipments. Learn about the important details of shipping ammo, and follow our checklist to ensure you ship your ammo without any mistakes.

How to ship ammo legally and safely (the ultimate guide)

After buying or selling ammunition online, you need to think about shipping. Unfortunately, shipping ammo is more complicated than your ordinary shipment.  For example, ammunition is considered "dangerous goods" and is specially handled by carriers.  There are several factors you must consider:

  • Federal and state law
  • Carrier policy
  • Receiving licensee policy (if applicable)

This is the ultimate guide to everything you need to know for how to ship ammunition legally and safely.  At the end there's a checklist, with step-by-step instructions you can follow for your next ammo shipment.

Can you ship ammo?

Yes, both FFLs and private individuals can ship ammunition in the United States. As long as you follow the relevant laws and policies, you're clear to ship ammunition without any unreasonable hassles.

Is an FFL required to receive an ammo shipment?

An FFL is a "Federal Firearms License" holder.  An FFL might be a gun store, pawn shop, gunsmith, or even just a hobbyist who got federally licensed.  It is generally required that an FFL receive a gun shipment, but ammo is different.

In most states, ammo can be shipped directly to the buyer.  The most notable exception is California, which requires ammunition to be shipped to a licensed Ammunition Vendor (which are usually also FFLs).  GunTab has state-by-state guidance on ammunition restrictions you should check before you ship ammunition to another state.

Is an FFL required to send an ammo shipment?

No, generally you don't need an FFL to ship ammo on your behalf.  The only possible exception might be when you are shipping to a state that requires shipment to an FFL.  In that case, there is a small chance the receiving FFL might only accept shipments from FFLs.  However, GunTab has not heard of such a requirement, so this seems unlikely.

If you are shipping to an FFL in a state where ammo is specially regulated, and aren't sure whether they'll accept your shipment, you can simply call them first to ask.

Are there special paperwork requirements when shipping ammo?

No, there are generally no special paperwork requirements for shipping ammo, aside from outside labeling

How to package an ammunition shipment?

First, never ship ammunition in the same package as a firearm. That can get you in big trouble. Always ship ammunition in a separate package.

Package the ammunition in an undamaged cardboard box, preferably one with reinforced/double-thick cardboard, or a plastic or metal case. Inside that outer packaging, pack the ammunition snugly. If possible, leave it inside whatever packaging it came in (usually cardstock packaging of 25-250 rounds).

If possible, pad any extra space so the ammunition does not rattle around. While carriers don't have specific rules about this, they don't like transporting hazardous materials packages that sound like something is broken and rattling inside. Consider some padding an assurance they won't refuse your shipment, or halt it in transit out of an abundance of caution.

What labeling should be used on an ammunition shipment?

Federal law and carrier policies require that you use this "limited quantity" label on all ammunition shipments, to indicate it contains "hazardous materials". You must apply this label to 2 opposide sides of the package, meaning you need to print 2 copies:

Print 2 of these "limited quantity" labels and attach them to 2 sides of the box

In a way, this is the opposite of what you do when shipping a gun. When shipping a gun, you must not label the package as containing a gun but you must declare the package contains a firearm. With ammunition, you must label the package to indicate it contains hazardous materials but do not have a specific requirement to declare it contains ammunition (although the carrier will probably ask you what type of hazardous materials the package contains, and you should answer honestly).

Do shipping carriers have special rules about ammo?

Yes, each carrier has its own set of specific rules about ammunition. Not only are these rules different between carriers, but these they change over time. We walk through the 3 most common carrier options below: USPS, FedEx, and UPS.

What are USPS rules on shipping ammo?

USPS will not ship ammunition.  That means you must ship ammunition through FedEx, UPS, or some other private carrier.

What are FedEx rules on shipping ammo?

FedEx requires ground service for all ammunition shipments. This is because ammunition is considered "hazardous materials" unsuitable for air shipping.

FedEx requires that ammunition be shipped from dedicated FedEx stores. Ammunition "may never be shipped from a FedEx Office or other FedEx associated retail location."

Fedex probably limits ammunition shipments to "small arms" calibers, which federal law defines as "caliber not larger than 19.1 mm. Shotgun cartridges of any caliber are included in this description."

You can learn more about the FedEx ammunition shipping policies at FedEx: "How to ship firearms and ammunition", or by calling the FedEx Dangerous Goods/Hazardous Materials Hotline at 1-800-GoFedEx (1-800-463-3339).

What are UPS rules on shipping ammo?

UPS requires ground service for all ammunition shipments because it is considered "hazardous materials".

UPS requires that ammunition be shipped through an official UPS Customer Center, or via pickup scheduled through a UPS Scheduled Pickup Account. Ammunition may never be shipped via UPS Drop Boxes, The UPS Store locations, or any other third parties.

UPS will only ship ammo that "does not exceed 12.7 mm (50 caliber or 0.5 inch) for rifle or pistol cartridges or 8 gauge for shotgun shells".

Shipping papers are not required.

You can read more about the UPS ammunition shipping policies at UPS: "How to Ship Firearms or Ammunition".

How to answer other questions about shipping ammo?

If you have a question about shipping ammo that we haven't answered here, you can contact us, contact a carrier by phone or email, or visit a carrier location in person.

Checklist for shipping ammo

Follow this checklist to help ensure you are shipping your ammunition legally and safely:

  1. Do NOT ship the ammunition if you are prohibited from possessing it.  See the BATF guidance to learn more.
  2. DO check the state-by-state guidance on ammunition restrictions to see if you need to ship to a licensee.  (You probably don't.)
  3. DO confirm the recipient's address in Google Maps to make sure it's accurate.  Also, unless you are using GunTab to protect from fraud, make sure you see a respectable-looking home or business.
  4. Do NOT include ammunition in the same shipment as a gun.  (Federal law prohibits this.)
  5. DO package the ammo for shipment in a clean, sturdy, double-walled cardboard box or a hard case (plastic or metal).  DO pack the ammunition snugly in the cardboard box, either in smaller boxes or metal clips. DO ensure cartridges are properly padded to protect from accidental discharge.  When you’re done, you should be able to shake the box without any movement inside the box.  (You are financially responsible if items are damaged in transit, so proper packaging is a way to protect yourself.)
  6. DO print the packing slip (or some other order information) and put it inside box.  (This is optional when shipping directly to the buyer.)
  7. DO print at least 2 copies of the diamond-shaped "limited quantity" label (see above).  DO attach them to at least 2 sides of the box.  (Federal law requires this.)
  8. Do NOT label the box as containing ammunition.  (Federal law prohibits markings, and anonymity helps prevent theft.)
  9. Do NOT put the package in a carrier drop box or give it to a third-party.  Only take the package to an official carrier location where you hand it to a carrier representative.
  10. Do NOT attempt to ship ammunition via USPS, even if you have an FFL.  (Federal law prohibits this.)
  11. DO inform the carrier representative that the package contains ammunition.  (Federal law requires this.)
  12. DO ask for the "signature required" option on delivery.
  13. DO be prepared to pay for ground shipping. (Carriers generally require that ammunition is shipped by ground.)
  14. DO purchase shipping insurance. (You are financially responsible if items are damaged in transit, so insurance allows you to recover any loss from the carrier.)
  15. DO provide the tracking number to the buyer as soon as possible.

GunTab helps keep you safe

If you care about shipping safely, then you probably care about making your whole transaction safe.  GunTab is "the PayPal for guns" and guarantees both sides are safe in every transaction. It's the safest, easiest way to handle your ammo transactions.  It's free to open an account, try it now.

Disclaimer: This post is provided without any guarantees and does not represent legal advice. Use at your own risk.