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antique pistolsDepending on your own interests, or simply because of where you live, you may or may not know about the huge secondary market for collectable and antique firearms. Sites like host thousands of ads and forum discussions where firearm enthusiasts chat about the latest industry news, auctions and events. There is also a significant market where collectors buy and sell unique, one-of-a-kind original and reproduction firearms. While the antique and collectable firearm circles operate in much the same way as other collectables, because of the nature of the items being collected – hand guns, shotguns, and rifles – there are some additional requirements and restrictions should buyers and sellers be separated by significant distances and need to ship any purchases.
Is It Antique?
In layman’s terms, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms considers the definition of an antique firearm to be any firearm manufactured in or before 1898 or any replica thereof. Why is it important to know if the firearm is antique? Different shipping requirements are applied to antique versus modern firearms. Antique or antique replicas can be shipped directly between buyers and sellers, while modern firearms have additional restrictions. If you’re unsure as to the manufacture date of the item in question, it is highly recommended that you follow the shipping requirements of a modern firearm. Violation of the ATF requirements – even unintentional violation – is a felony and carries serious consequences.
Modern Firearms
Any rifle, shotgun or hand gun manufactured post-1898 cannot be shipped directly from seller to buyer. These collectables must first be shipped to a dealer or individual with a Federal Firearms License, or FFL. While the original shipper need not be licensed, the recipient MUST have an FFL. The buyer may then pick up the shipped firearm from the licensed individual to complete the transaction. has a handy database that will allow you to find an FFL in your area should you not know one offhand.
Know Your Labeling
All shippers have particular requirements when it comes to labeling of packages containing firearms or ammunition. While those requirements will vary slightly from shipper to shipper, a good rule of thumb is to leave the exterior of the package as plain as possible. There are often strict rules AGAINST labeling on a package that marks it as containing a firearm or ammunition. When in doubt, check with your preferred shipper as to their requirements for labeling and/or whether they have restrictions against shipping firearms at all. The ATF also has an excellent FAQ section when it comes to shipping firearms through USPS and other shippers.
If you’re uncertain as to the requirements or restrictions when it comes to shipping your collector or antique firearms, ask questions. A few minutes of research on the web or a short phone call to a know FFL holder can not only save time and expense – it can save you from serving hard time.
For a comprehensive breakdown of current firearms shipping dos and don’ts, visit’s Help Center.


  1. I wasn’t really aware of the popularity surrounding antique gun collecting. They do have a long history and are very interesting but I am glad you have touched upon the subject of shipping them. Do you think enough is being done to educate people on the rules and regulations surrounding firearm transportation? Sometimes it can be quite confusing. Moreover, each country and area tends to have its own set of laws. I really like the point you make a bout shipping an antique firearm as a modern one if you aren’t aware of the date because it is better to be safe than sorry. There is some really great advice in this post!

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