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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 ammunition 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 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 Waiuku Pistol Club, and shoots rifle, pistol and shotgun in various disciplines, occasionally, managing to get out for a hunt.

38 thoughts to “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, 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

    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.

      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!


  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!


      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.


  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.


      1. Firearms parts (including magazines) up to the value of US$100 May be exported, but ideally there are some US State Department requirements to be met, which is why most on-line Retailers will not ship overseas.

        I use Borderview Intrrnational for exporting from the US online.

        In person, as long as the magazines are A cat or you have a Permit to Import carries in your checked luggage is fine.

        1. Awesome, thanks for that info Brent – always great when we can get some more informed views in the comments section. I’ll be checking out Borderview as well – there’s a few bits and pieces I want to get out of the States at the moment.


  5. Hi Geoff
    If you could let those who maybe interested that we are looking to start Packing our own 20GP in the USA where we will be handling ALL CLASS 1 Including Powder for those that may have an interest just contact us

    1. Hi Ray,

      That’s awesome news – I’m sure there will be some people on the reloading pages on FB who would be dead keen on some of the rarer powders, such as RL17.


  6. Geoff,
    Just read through this thread and am keen to get some projectiles out of the states, I know few people travelling there often, If I got hold of the projectiles through someone in the US and had them delivered locally to LA, would the person leaving the US back to NZ need a gun licence to bring them back ??


    1. Hi Greg,

      On the NZ side, no licence needed for projectiles.

      Loaded ammo, powder or primers would make things more difficult.

      Shout with any further questions mate!


  7. Hi Geoff awesome read. Hey I’m looking at getting my sister to bring a mdt rifle chassis home with her from Australia. What’s the go with her doing so? Any issues her end? I’d hate for her to go through a million red hoops for it.

    Cheers ben!

    1. Hi Ben,

      Read the last 2 paragraphs of this page on the police website, makes it crystal clear that nothing is required.

      Make sure your sister has this saved on her phone or something.

      My brother-in-law brought in a shotgun barrel recently and had to wait at customs for police to come over and approve it, even though this is not legal.

      He got told “if you keep bringing in gun parts, you could eventually build a whole gun”. Well. Not without a receiver, which requires a permit.

      So, long story short, she should have no issues, but it pays to be prepared when it comes to firearm related stuff.


      1. Awesome reply Geoff.
        Would she need to declare it? She’s only bringing the chassis section not the but stock or grip. So essentially it’s only a bit of bullet alloy?

        1. Hi Ben,

          No, she wouldn’t need to declare it. However, if she’s bringing in more than NZ$700 worth of goods, then she would technically need to declare those goods and pay GST on them.

          I think I saw on Facebook that you weren’t going to be able to get it from the Aussie store?

          If you flick me an email,, I can give you a quote on getting in your chassis for you.


      2. Hello Geoff
        I too am having trouble with bringing Projectiles in from the States.
        I dam keen to reload some 300 Blackout with some Rainier Ballistic projectiles.
        Not having anyone in the states to post too, so I made some inquiries with NZ customs in regard to importation.
        I pretty clear on my intention and the individual I spoke to asked a supervisor to speak with me.
        This chap said yes sure, No problem, and then added he had worked for NZ post prior to Customs, he went on to inform me that I should clearly mark the package and contact the local Police arms officer,,, All Good.
        No Problem, well! so I thought, I had set up a YOUSHOP account some time ago, and read/searched post on the net as others had apparently used them for just such items, Looked like no problem,,, Until the parcel reached the youshop depot.
        I received a mail stating that the projectiles are prohibited item and that I have two options, Destroy the item or send it back to the distributor.
        So long sob story latter still trying to find either a sensible response from youshop or find another carrier.
        Would anyone have any comment that may work around this?
        Yes, I could Import I guess.

        Brett ….. Marlborough

        1. Hi Brett,

          Nothing but trouble with You Shop… NZ Post won’t touch anything firearms relates. International or domestic… Not even a scope or rings. Pretty pathetic policy really when they’ll take business from the big gun shops.

          Good luck with your projectiles!

  8. Hey, I am off to the states In July for a couple of days training and want to load up of projectiles and brass.

    No primers, powder or live rounds. I am planning to chucking it into my checked luggage.

    Are there any import restrictions I need to know about?

    1. Hi Mark,

      You sure can. If it’s for an E-Cat, then you’ll need a permit.

      Any parts for an A Category firearm (except the action) can be brought in without permit.

      My brother in law got stopped at customs and they brought the police over to check it out. But the law is, no permit needed. It’s on the police website. I think I’ve posted a link somewhere in this thread before.


  9. Hi Geoff.

    I’m off to the US in early October. Given the drop in the NZ$ recently and needing another 12 month supply of primers I am thinking of bringing some back (3,000 SPP and 3,000 LPP).

    Any issues I should be aware of?

    1. Hi Brent,

      As far as I’m aware, items like powder and primers are classed as explosives and are not allowed under the same provisions that allow a small amount of ammunition for personal use.

      You should ask the airline you will be flying on, but I don’t think you’ll be able to fly with them, as they would be Class 1 hazardous goods (so is ammo, but there is a specific allowance for that).

      Depending on how much $$ you’d be saving, you’d probably be better off trying to get a local supplier to get you a good deal. With volumes like that, I’m sure you could swing something. I know Blackwatch Reloading is quite competitive.


  10. Great article very helpful. I too am looking to bring back ammo from USA in November 2018. As I understand it, the key difference here is to buy and carry back your own ammo (declared) rather than being a licenced exporter and dealing with freight companies. Guns do require a permit but ammo does not. Containerfuls are a bit different as you’ll need ATS paperwork to export and this takes a while and your business will need to be declared and, according to my discussion with NZ Customs in September 2018:

    “There are no restrictions on the importation of standard shotgun/rifle/pistol ammunition into New Zealand. However there are shipping restrictions on the shipping of the ammunition to New Zealand. These restrictions will need to be discussed further with your shipping company.

    Ammunition is either free of Customs duty or subject to 5% Customs duty depending on the type. Customs duty is calculated on the cost of the goods. Your shipment will also be subject to Goods and Services Tax (15%). The GST is payable on the sum of the cost of the goods plus Customs duty plus insurance and freight to get the goods to New Zealand. Your shipment will also be subject to an Import Entry Transaction fee of $52.67 NZD. If the total of the Customs duty and Goods and Services Tax owing is less than $60 NZD, Customs does not collect any charges.”

    For perspective I was actually inquiring about a full container from Europe.

    1. Thanks for the excellent summary! I’m sure someone will find your comment very helpful.

      Do let us know what you end up importing! Always keen to check out cool new stuff coming into NZ.


  11. Hi Geoff,

    Did you find any info about exporting a firearm from the states with regards to their export licenses? Do these apply if you fly with the firearms as hand luggage?



    1. Hi Iwan,

      Apologies for the late response – your query got blocked as spam. This may be redundant now, but yes, you would still need an export licence.

      I would think the exception would be removing a firearm from the States temporarily for a competition or a hunt, but I don’t know how much of an exception that is. I’ve heard of guides and hunters exporting a rifle with them, and then selling it or gifting it in their destination country to save on hassle on return.

      Again, apologies for the (months) late response!


  12. Thank you for this informative read mate…how about if I was moving from Canada (BC) to our new home in NZ?
    I’m shipping all our stuff to include a lot of my US Army gear. But I’m trying to find out how much ammunition exactly that I can ship in our container?
    My brother in-law told me I was allowed to bring in 8 KG but that doesn’t sound correct…or does it?

    1. Hi Ray,

      The restriction will really be with the the shipping company, as they will have a policy on what amount of ammo adds up to a hazardous goods consignment.

      This is what is expensive and a real hassle for the shipping companies.

      Aside from that, in terms of being to import into New Zealand, you will need to have a firearms licence to receive your ammo on this side. I believe MPI or Customs holds items like this until a licence is produced (within a reasonable time frame).

      Good luck with your move!

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