Whether it’s a handgun for self-defense, a rifle for the range or a shotgun for the hunt, one thing stays the same: Personal firearms can add another hurdle in the path of a successful permanent change-of-station move.
Here are some general tips from official Defense Department sources on how best to relocate with your weaponry. Be advised: For all but the most basic moves, it’s a good idea to check with your local transportation or personal property office to be sure you’ve got the right plan for your individual circumstances.
1. OK, for starters. Personal firearms can be shipped as part of your military move within the continental U.S., so long as no state or local laws are violated. Check with your local office at the link above for details.
2. Some disassembly required. Before movers will pack your weapons, you’ll need to remove the bolt, firing pin, trigger assembly and any other arming parts. You’ll also need to remove any ammunition, which the movers won’t ship. Move.mil recommends listing all of your firearm’s specs (make, model, caliber/gauge, serial number, etc.) on your inventory and keeping a copy of the details with you.
3. Ship-it-yourself. Per guidance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, firearm owners are allowed to ship their items to themselves in another state, in care of another person. This could be an option to simply a personally procured move or to avoid any other potential PCS-related concerns.
4. Going international. Rules on weapon imports and ownership vary greatly by location. Find some basic advice here if you’re heading to Germany, here (PDF) for those en route to Japan, and here if your travels may take you across Canada (driving with firearms while heading to and from Alaska, for instance).
5. Coming home. Service members or family members heading back from overseas must fill out special paperwork to bring along “firearms, ammunition and implements of war,” per Move.mil. Get the forms here.