Travel With Firearms
Travel with firearms to Africa can be quite a daunting exercise that really needs to be right to avoid getting your rifles turned away at check-in, lost in transit, impounded or damaged.
Use An Expert African Hunting/Firearms Travel Agent
- As said before, when looking to hunt Africa, only deal with experienced, reputable and professional African hunting outfitters who know what they are doing. This advice extends to your travel agent.
- Do not book yourself and your firearms on a specific airline just because you like them or have millions of Bonus Air Miles to use. Travel with firearms is a different ball game from a business trip and an travel agent experienced in this field is important if you want your firearms to arrive in Africa with you.
- An expert travel agent will know the best routes to your African hunting country with the most firearm 'friendly' airline. He will know all the current airline firearm regulations and firearm import regulations. He will be on top of any regulation changes and should ready to help you out with re-routing if flights are cancelled or tracking down lost-in-transit firearms.
The Type Of Firearm And Calibre
- It's worth checking if your selected hunting firearms are actually legitimate for travel and admission into your destination and any transit country. This really only applies to hunters intending to use handguns or semi-automatic firearms.
- Technically all international airlines are not permitted to carry any firearms that may match ex-military, current military calibres or, indeed, any calibre ever used by the military historically. Airlines differ in their stringency of applying this regulation. As an example, British Airways used to refuse to carry .308 sport hunting rifles because of the close relationship to the 7.62 military calibre - they have appeared to have changed their policy now. If you want to travel with a .308 calibre rifle, just be aware of this issue, when you pre-notify your airline.
Firearm Documentation To Carry With You From Your Home Country
Hunters whose firearm permits to their African destination have been obtained in advance by their outfitter, will have already obtained and submitted copies of their firearm documentation to the outfitter. The original documents will still need to travel with you in case they need to be produced for security or any other reasons.
Hunters who will be getting their firearm permits on arrival in their destination country or who need an in-transit permit in South Africa, definitely need to make sure they are carrying all the correct firearm documentation.
Proof of Ownership of Firearm
- For US hunters only:
US Customs Form 4457 (Certificate Of Registration For Personal Effects Taken Abroad). This form lists all your firearms (as well as any other items you want on it, like cameras etc) with the serial numbers and serves as proof that you owned them before you left home. You will need to take the firearms to your local CBP office where the form will be completed and certified. This can be also done at an international airport on departure. Once certified, US Customs Form 4457 can be retained for future travel ONLY if the form date has not expired.
***NEW*** As of 23 March 2017, the South African Police will no longer accept US Customs Form 4457 as proof of firearm ownership, if the date in the top right hand corner has expired. Please check your 4457 form and if expired, apply for a new one. You can download the 4457 here.
Firearm Licence/Permit/Certificate from their home country which serves as proof of ownership. For British hunters with UK Firearm Certificates, make sure your FAC is updated with the firearms coming to Africa entered into Section 1, Part i, as fully possessed, rather than in the dealer's handwritten section, as sold to you.
- For hunters of all nationalities:
If hunting or transiting in South Africa and intending to get your RSA firearm import permit on arrival, make sure you are in possession of the letter of invitation from your outfitter. See the section on South Africa in Firearm Import Regulations For African Hunting Countries
Firearm Insurance documents. It is very important to get your firearms adequately insured for travel in Africa.
Canadian Hunters Travelling With Firearms
To leave Canada with a hunting firearm, you will need to apply for a small package of Export Permits.
The applications can be made online at EXCOL or by hand as below..
Click on links below and download/print application forms from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
Note, on the forms, the consignee information should be completed in your name but the address should be 'care of' (c/o) the name and address of your hunt outfitter.
Be very accurate with the type, calibre, unit of measurement and quantity of ammunition on the application form
Supporting Documentation To Accompany Application Forms:
- Letter from you stating dates of travel, the fact the firearm export is temporary and the firearm and firearm parts will be returning to Canada and the fact that the firearm export is for personal use on a hunting trip.
- Proof of travel - flight itinerary or booking confirmation
- Confirmation of permission to take the firearm into the destination country OR assurance this will be arranged - letter from hunting outfitter.
Send all the completed forms and supporting documents to the address on the forms.
For advice or questions visit the Royal Canadian Mounted Police website.
Australian Hunters Travelling With Firearms
Australians wishing to take their own firearms to hunt in Africa, must apply for a Restricted Goods Permit.
- This permit can include a maximum of 4 firearms, a maximum of 200 rounds of ammunition for hunting and firearm accessories, such as scopes.
- Time the permit application accurately as it is only valid for 28 days. If it expires, you'll have to repeat the whole process.
How To Apply:
Supporting Documentation To Accompany Application Forms:
- Evidence of Identity check - this means 100 points of identification for example, a passport, drivers licence, firearms licence or credit card. You must also include 1 photo ID and 1 sinature ID
- Current firearms licence
- Certificate(s) of Registration (proof-of-ownership documents) for the firearm(s) to be exported.
All this documentation can go to a Customs office for processing before you leave, but the RGP cannot be authorised more than 28 days before your depature. Do NOT take your firearms into any Customs office other than the airport on the day of your departure.
The firearms must be seen and verified by Customs at the Customs Client Services Office on departure for an RGP to be valid. Allow at least 2 hours more than the usual international flight check-in time.
For more Australian travel with firearms guidance read Australian Controls For The Export Of Firearms online booklet and visit Australian Customs And Border Protection Service website.
Packing Firearms For Air Travel
- Make sure your firearms are packed in a gun case that fully complies with the firearm carriage regulations of the all the airlines you may travel with to and within Africa.
- The firearm must be unloaded.
- The firearm must be in a hard-sided gun case.
- The gun case must be locked securely so the firearm may not be accessed by anyone other than yourself. Make sure the gun case can not be pulled open in any way, even partially.
- Travelling within or from the US only. It is not recommended that you use TSA approved locks on your gun case in line with the current legal requirements. Read More. Federal regulations prohibit unlocked gun cases (or cases with broken locks) on aircraft.
- Re-check all the carriage of firearms regulations just before travelling with your specific airline(s) in case there are any changes.
Travel With Ammunition
It has recently become clear there are major variations in the carriage of ammunition between different airlines, between the regulations published on airline websites and their interpretation by individual airline check-in personnel and indeed, the presently sporadically-applied EU regulation 185/2010 (as of 4th March 2010) (Attachment 5-B - Hold Baggage - List of Prohibited Articles) not permitting any ammunition to be carried in hold luggage on EU commercial airlines.
- The only sensible advice is to comply with all the official airline ammunition carriage regulations for all airlines (and the TSA, if flying from the US) that you may use to, within and from Africa. Carrying printed copies of your airline's published regulations may help in situations where an official has different take on them but the most obdurate officials may still brush these aside.
- Then be prepared for all contingencies at the time of travel - have your ammo capable of being packed in an unlocked box in your locked suitcase, packed in a locked box in your locked suitcase, packed in a locked box in your locked gun case, packed in an unlocked box in your locked gun case and finally, locked in a secure metal travel ammo box to be checked separately as hold luggage.
- Take plenty of spare padlocks, keys and use ammo boxes that will pack to satisfy the individual check-in person or security officer if they start to quibble. It surely is not worth arguing even if you know they are definitely wrong.
- Do not attempt to take black powder on any aircraft. For full details read Black Powder And Air Travel
Travelling With Reloading Equipment & Components
Exercise caution before kindly offering to bring firearm accessories or reloading gear with you to Africa for your PH. It would be easier if a PH in RSA needed something he really can't get anywhere in Africa, that he select the item from an online dealer in the US, place an order, apply for a RSA Import Permit, send this to dealer who needs it to get a US Export Permit and ship the item. Simple!!
- An export license is required to carry bullets, brass, gun parts and many firearm accessories out of the USA.
- Reloading hardware equipment from the US can be carried without a licence.
- Some countries require a valid import permit for ammunition components, such as South Africa, for example.
- Primers, powder and/or primed brass is not allowed to be exported on aircraft to any country.
- Just as firearms and ammunition from EU countries and Canada are prohibited from entering Zimbabwe, the same is true for any firearm parts, reloading equipment and components. EU Regulation (EC) No 314/2004 & Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
- The major airlines allow you to carry a maximum of 11lbs/5kg of ammunition per person. This is a gross weight including the box/case.
- The ammunition must be carried by the person travelling with the firearm(s) and may not be carried by an accompanying person who is not travelling with a firearm.
- If two or more hunters with firearms are travelling together, the ammunition must be packed separately as per person.
- Do not label the suitcase carrying the ammunition, as anything different - especially not as EXPLOSIVES!
- Check the pockets of the clothing you are wearing for travel, especially on your homeward journey, in case a live round or even an empty cartridge case has got into one. Security staff will take a dim view of this when it sets off the metal detectors.
- Re-check all the carriage of ammunition regulations just before travelling with your specific airline(s) in case of changes.
Travelling within or from the US only:
- Securely pack any ammunition in fiber (such as cardboard), wood or metal boxes or other packaging that is specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition. The original manufacturers ammunition packaging is ideal as the cartridges are separated.
- You may carry the ammunition securely boxed in your checked baggage, as long as it is packed as described above.
- Do not use firearm magazines/clips for packing ammunition unless they completely and securely enclose the ammunition (by securely covering the exposed portions of the magazine or by securely placing the magazine in a pouch, holder, holster or lanyard).
- You may carry the ammunition in the same hard-sided case as the firearm, as long as you pack it as described above.
Check with Transport Security Administration (TSA) for full guidelines for travelling with firearms and ammunition in and from the US.
Most non-US airlines require the ammunition to be packed separately from the firearm, so if you are using a non-US airline, don't put your ammunition in your gun case with the rifle.
Travelling from the rest of the world:
- Ammunition must be packed separately from the firearm.
- The rounds must be separated from each other, either in the manufacturers box or a purpose-built, well-fitting ammunition box. They must never be loose or in any other container.
- The ammunition box may be packed in your checked baggage.
- It is recommended that you surround the ammunition box with other items in the suitcase so that it does not move around.
More On Travelling With Firearms
Useful Links For Transiting With Firearms