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.