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Various live rounds.

Bringing ammunition into NZ

Over the Christmas break I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the USA with my wife to visit family and friends. Of course the States is a Mecca for gun owners, and I did a fair bit of shooting while I was there. I also managed to bring back some ammunition and other shooting equipment from my trip. I thought I’d provide the details of bringing ammo back from the USA to NZ, as information was sparse when I was looking into the process.

Inform your carrier

I’m putting this here because it’s the first thing you should do. Give your travel agent or the airline plenty of notice (aim for 2 weeks minimum) that you will be carrying ammunition and/or firearms in your checked luggage on the way back. You don’t want them to reject your luggage when you’re coming back home, leading to a massive waste of money.

The only real restriction in how much ammo you can bring back is what the airline says. For me, flying Air NZ, it was 5 kg per person. Between my wife and I, we brought back just shy of 10 kg of live rounds. They stipulate “sporting rounds”. I guess that means don’t bring mortar shells in or something, as every military calibre I’m aware of has sporting applications.

They also stipulated it should be in its original packaging. No problem there.

Funnily enough, after declaring to the carrier that I would be bringing ammo (and possibly a firearm) back into NZ, I underwent a “random” search when leaving Auckland for San Francisco. Just a quick swap to see if I was covered in explosives or anything – no big deal. I’m assured it was random. I think not – but who cares?

Purchasing your ammo

When you’re buying ammunition online, a lot of companies won’t sell to you if you have a USEever A delivery address and a NZ billing address. You may need to get family over there to purchase for you ahead of time (so it’s delivered by the time you get there), or you’ll have to go into a gun store.

As an aside, not being a US resident makes it very hard to obtain a firearm. There are also wait periods in a lot of states from the time of purchase to the time you can take possession of the weapon. If you’re wanting to get a rifle over there, a lot of planning is needed. You also need to make sure it’s on the approved list provided by the NZ Police, and there is an import permit involved as well. However, back to the ammo…

Leaving the country with ammunition

My experience was flying out of California (San Francisco) in the States, depending where you go, there could be a vast difference. I had no problem leaving the country with ammo. Nothing to report, my carrier already knew and no hold ups here.

Arriving in New Zealand

There is no import permit required for sporting ammunition. Some people will tell you differently, but there really isn’t. I spoke to arms officers, the police, airport police, Air NZ and airport staff before even leaving for the USA. Not everyone says the same thing, but according to the arms officer, police and my experience, no import permit is needed for live rounds. Heck, customs didn’t even check my firearms licence.

When going through customs I technically had nothing to declare. I didn’t think the ammo needed declaring, and I had nothing else that would get in the way of a completely legal reentry. However, I declared the┬áammunition anyway.

I did this just to avoid any hassle. i didn’t want to be pulled up or anything, so I volunteered the information. The customs officer searching our bags said they had no problem with ammunition, and they don’t even care how much (again, just the airline limit), but it’s firearms parts they’re concerned with.

I also brought in a scope (my wife’s Christmas present from me) and some reloading gear (my Christmas present from my wife’s grandmother) with no issues at all. Customs did mention the reloading gear, but I guess their concern was whether or not it was used or had any foreign matter in it.

They had more of an issue with the hair product in my wife’s bag than any of the firearms paraphernalia that we brought in.

I hope this clears it all up – it’s actually very easy! Any questions? Post a comment below.

Geoff

Geoff

Geoff is a shooting and reloading enthusiast who would rather be at the range, but is content to write about it. He is a member of Howick Smallbore Sporting Rifle Club and Waiuku Pistol Club.

13 thoughts on “Bringing ammunition into NZ

  1. Dear Sir.
    I found your write-up most informative, thank you.
    However, my importing of ammunition has a further dimension in that I am a cartridge collector and freelance journalist in South African gun and shooting related magazines.
    I am in the process of immigrating to New Zealand and want to bring my collection over there.

    It being a Collection consisting of 100’s of different old and new calibres, rather than ammo for a specific calibre or rifle, I cannot package it in its separate original packaging- what now? Should I remanufacture something similar?
    I tried to get into contact with the NZ Cartridge Collectors Club through their editor, Barry Gracia at e-mail,
    bwg.22rf@xtra.co.nz but with no success as my mails keeps on returning.
    Your opinion on this subject is highly regarded but if you can put me into contact with any authority in this regard it would also be appreciated.
    Many regards
    Hendrik van der Schyff
    schyff@absamail.co.za

    1. Hi Hendrik,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I imagine your ammunition will come over in a container with your furniture and other personal effects? In this case, don’t worry about the original packaging – that was simply a stipulation of the airline that I was flying with.

      I’m not sure how active the Cartridge Collectors Club is any more. What you may wish to do is get in touch with the RSA Cartridge Collectors Club to see if they have any contacts over here for you. http://nzmr.org/nzccc/hist.html

      When your container arrives in NZ it may be searched by NZ Customs and they may quarantine ammunition or rifles if you do not have a valid firearms licence.

      You can apply for a firearms licence through the NZ Police, and you may even be able to get a visitors permit to start, in order to clear your goods. Otherwise, a friend or relative with a licence could hold your goods for you until you have the appropriate licence.

      In your position I would consult:
      Your immigration agent (if using one)
      NZ Customs
      NZ Police (ask for an Arms Officer)

      Hope that helps!

  2. Do you know where I could look to find information on NZ Customs restrictions on import of bullets (that’s the lead bullet ONLY, no powder, no brass, no primer) from the US to NZ? A friend of mine in NZ asked me to bring 500 bullets for his .270. I found plenty of info on the NZ customs website for import of LIVE ammunition, but nothing on import of just the lead projectiles.

    1. Hi Matt,

      There’s no restriction on importing projectiles.

      If you’re bringing them in your luggage for personal use you’ll be all good.

      If a supplier from the States exports (ships) them to NZ they need an export permit, which will require a letter from the NZ Police to say no corresponding import permit is necessary.

      Enjoy you’re trip!

      Geoff

  3. Hi there, I have recently brought a miniature cannon and want to import 10 GA blanks. These are impossible to buy in NZ! Any suggestions if I am not planning a trip to the States? Thanks.

    1. Hi Andrea,

      Firstly – that’s awesome!

      Secondly – yeah, they’re pretty hard to come by!

      I’ll ask around some of the groups I belong to and hopefully be able to connect you with someone. Otherwise, I’d advise getting in touch with NZ ammo distributors and asking them to bring some in for you on their next order.

      It’s pretty difficult to ship live ammo or powder internationally – no one likes to do it!

      Cheers,
      Geoff

      1. Thanks so much. I have been in touch with a few importers/distributors but none of them have been particularly helpful, but if you can put me on to somebody that would be great! Thanks!

        1. Hi Andrea,

          Some guys from a reloading group on Facebook had some good suggestions.

          There’s a guy named Peter who specialises in odd ammunition – I’ll email you his details.

          The other alternative would be to make (or have made) a bushing or sleeve that will adapt from 10 gauge to 12 gauge. Then you could buy or even reload your own blanks! Might even be much cheaper and you could ‘tune’ your loads.

          Cheers,
          Geoff

  4. HI

    I’m heading over to the states in a couple of weeks, do magazines fall into the same category? Do they need to be declared? To your knowledge, are these straight forward to purchase from a gun store in the US, being a non US resident? Thanks!

    1. Hi Gareth,

      It should be easy to obtain at a store in the US as no permit or ID is required, as long as the mag is compliant in the State or area you are purchasing it.

      If it’s an A-Cat mag, importing is no problem. If it’s E-Cat, you’ll need an import permit from police.

      In terms of exporting from the USA, I don’t know what permits may or may not be needed. I think if it’s AR or AK related, you’ll find it a bit of a struggle.

      Cheers

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