By Robert Dunn
AGI Pro Course Graduate, GCA Charter Member
Moving can be a daunting and emotional task, even if it is just down the street. If you are moving out of state or out of the country, the experience can be even more complicated. When you add firearms and ammunition into the equation, you may be surprised at how difficult and frustrating a move can be. I have moved and lived all around the country and even overseas throughout my life- time, starting at a mere four years of age. Every move I’ve made has included both firearms and ammunition.
There are many things to consider when making a move, especially if it is all the way across the country. My latest move from Oregon to Georgia presented some obstacles that required a good deal of logistical strategizing. I attribute this directly to bad politics and it looks like the situation will only continue to get more convoluted and complex. The following scenarios in this article will all be based around the complexities of moving with your firearms and ammunition.
Let’s start by addressing a simple move down the street or across town to a different county. You may find it surprising how difficult this can be if you don’t think ahead and do some planning. First and foremost, it is best to always take “Murphy’s Law” into account, meaning if something bad can happen it probably will. By employing this philosophy, you can plan for the worst and be pleasantly surprised and happy if all things go well!
First, consider all of the things that are being moved, how much they weigh, and the space/area required to transport them to their new location. This will allow you to determine what type of vehicle you will need to get the job done. For example, if you are moving a large fire resistant gun safe with all of the bells and whistles, you are dealing with an object the can weigh from 500 pounds to a ton (2,000) or more, depending on how many firearms it will hold. Some things to consider are:
- How many people will be needed to help you move the safe?
- What type of dolly or hydraulic lift will you need to move the safe and get it onto the transport vehicle?
- When you get to your destination, will the safe fit through all of the entrance ways to allow it to get to its final resting place?
- Will stairs be involved? If so, rent a dolly that is specifically used for stairs.
- Will the floors and walkways support the weight of your guns and safe from start to finish?
With all of the above points considered, it would behoove you to create a game plan that addresses the roles that each of your “helpers” will play in the move so nobody gets injured. Before you start to move the safe, make sure you clear a path in the locations you are moving from and going to. When navigating stairs, one wrong move can crush or even kill someone . . . safety first!
Okay, now let’s consider where you are moving to. Keep in mind that gun laws can change dramatically from state to state, county to county or even from town to town. Call the Sheriff or local police station to make sure that you are not in violation of any gun laws that may differ from the location that you are moving from, better safe than sorry.
On that note, be aware that if you own any NFA firearms (automatic weapons, short barreled rifles, and shotguns) you have to supply proper documentation to ATF when you change your permanent residence from the address that is listed on your ATF Form 4, even if you do not leave the current state you reside in. You must submit a Form 20 application to ATF and receive approval from the agency before transporting your NFA firearms to your new permanent residence or going across state lines for both temporary and permanent transfers. You can download the application @ https://www.atf.gov/file/4781/download. In most cases, local law enforcement will also need a copy of your Form 20.
The general rule for legal Interstate transportation of firearms is that firearms must be unloaded, in a locked case and inaccessible from a vehicle’s passenger compartment. The firearms should also be covered up and cannot be visible from outside of the vehicle. Ammunition must also be stored in a locked box and covered up.
Though the FOPA (Firearms Owners’ Protection Act), which is a Federal Law that allows us to transport firearms from our old residence to our new residence, some “gun hating” states like California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey will contest these laws and our second amendment rights. As we know, gun laws and Concealed Carry Reciprocity restrictions are constantly changing and caution should be applied whenever we travel.
NOTE: Gun laws constantly change so always double check state and local laws before you move your firearms. nraila.org
If you would like more information on gun laws and tips for traveling, you can contact the NRA-ILA or visit their website at https://www.nraila.org/articles/20150101/guide-to-the-interstate-transportation
Let’s look at another moving scenario, one that closely resembles what I had to deal with on my most recent move across the country. During other moves, I would say I had some firearms and a few boxes of ammunition to move with and it was not a big deal, plus the country wasn’t as politically screwed up as it is in its current state.
This move was different because I have more of what most folks would call a “gun collection” and a lot of ammunition. I know if I was pulled over for some reason or was involved in a car crash, you would know my name by now, because it would have been National News that read something like, “right wing conservative nut bag involved in auto collision, found with an arsenal of weapons and a frightening stockpile of ammunition!” Thank goodness I am home safe and sound with no horrific stories to tell, other than what I had to go through to get my guns and ammo to my new home.
My story begins with me making countless phone calls to moving companies both local and domestic. What I experienced was the people I spoke to over the phone were polite and helpful until I mentioned moving my firearms! Several companies flat out told me they would not take my business and they refused to deal with my firearms.
I finally found a local moving company that was kind, patient, professional, and eager to have my business. They were affiliated with a larger moving company that was equally easy to deal with. I was told about the requirements and stipulations of moving my stuff, which was fair enough. At that point I felt lucky that I was not being vilified for being a professional working in the firearms industry!
I found out the movers were not able to transport any of my ammunition or combustible reloading supplies (black powder, percussion caps, propellant and primers). What this meant to me was I had to be very careful driving. Sometimes I even carted all of my “supplies” into my motel room at the end of a long day of driving and loaded it all back into my pickup in the morning for another full day of driving, depending on how secure the parking lot was.
The requirements of the movers were as follows: They needed to do a complete inventory, including serial numbers, and the guns had to be packed on the day of the move so the condition and serial numbers could be verified before being wrapped up. One thing I liked about the company I selected was they used sound logic with regard to how the firearms had to be packed into the truck.
Many of the other movers I talked to DEMANDED the guns only be packed in their “gun boxes” and would not ship them in a gun safe or cabinet. They also told me the firearms had to be packed last in the rear of the truck and would have to come off of the truck first! This type of “anti-logic” was the norm for most of the moving firms.
You may wonder why this was not okay with me and it’s simple: the boxes alone would have cost upwards of $600 dollars and they would not protect the firearms from damage as much as wrapping them and placing them back into a tightly padded gun safe. Packing the guns last meant they would be the first thing stolen if someone broke into the moving truck!
The moving company I chose flat out told me the firearms would be inventoried first, individually wrapped in thick padded sheets of packing paper and then tightly packed back into the safes and would be the first things loaded on and the last to come off the truck . . . smart thinking!
Since many of my firearms are family heirlooms and also valuable, I protected my possessions by buying a lot of insurance from the moving company! Some folks might have homeowners insurance that would cover a move, but I did not have that sort of insurance plan. I bought enough insurance for my collection so it could be replaced monetarily if all of my belongings ended up burning in the rocky crags of some treacherous gully in the middle of nowhere.
Here is the process I used to make moving day safe and fairly painless. I first laid out all of my long guns, pistols, and revolvers linearly in one open space so we could all behold the job ahead of us, which was to inventory each gun by verifying the serial number, wrapping the firearm and placing it in a gun safe.
When I laid the guns in a big line, I meticulously checked each firearm individually to make sure it was not loaded and packed all of the magazines (unloaded) into a separate box. The night before the move, I entered the make, model and serial number into the computer and printed a copy for myself and one for the movers. When the movers arrived, I showed them the gun was unloaded, read them the serial number, and made note of any obvious damage to the specific gun. The mover wrote the pertinent information on the bill of lading and we both checked that specific firearm off of the master inventory list.
I would then hand the gun to another one of the movers and he would wrap the firearm up in thick padded paper and then pack it the gun safe. When it was all said and done, I locked the safes and sent a set of the safe keys via UPS to the house in Georgia, so my brother could do inventory and check the guns for damage, just in case I didn’t make it across the country before the movers.
There are other ways your firearms collection could be sent across the nation, but all of those ways are extremely expensive and labor intensive. The firearms could be sent via UPS, FedEx or even flown across the country. However, this can be very expensive and I do not have huge protective flight cases for my firearms. You could also bring your firearms to an FFL dealer and he could ship them to another FFL holder in the state/city/town you are moving to, but again this can be very pricey.
I have already spoken about one of the pitfalls of transporting firearms yourself, but it is an option. I chose not to take this route because a U-Haul truck can be easily broken into or stolen and as I mentioned, I did not want to end up on the nine o’clock news or have to camp in my truck in several rest areas on my cross country journey!
All in all I enjoyed my long drive across our great nation. I brought all of my ammunition with me in my truck and got to Georgia in one piece. I was happy to see the firearms all made it here in good shape as well. I guess it’s time for me to find some new places to go shooting and hunting!