Can You Mail an Air Gun?

Can You Mail an Air Gun

You decided you didn’t need your air gun anymore, so you sold it on a third-party site like eBay or Craigslist. Someone bought it, great. But they’re not exactly within walking distance, or driving distance either. So can you mail an air gun?

According to USPS procedures and policies, some air guns can be mailed, but they must not count as a firearm per the USPS definition. Even if you can mail your air gun, remember that a Federal Firearms License is necessary for the recipient.

In this article, we’ll clearly explain USPS’ rules so you know if your air gun is even eligible for being mailed out. If it is, we’ll cover everything you need to know about shipping your gun as well. Keep reading!

Mailing an Air Gun: Can You Do It?

If you sell something like a vinyl record or a t-shirt online and someone buys it, you can ship these items with essentially no restrictions. When it comes to air guns though, the rules are much, much tighter.

Let’s show you just how that is by discussing in more depth the rules by USPS that we touched on in the intro. These rules went into effect in November 2011 and are still active as of this writing.

They’re included in the most up-to-date edition of the Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or ATF worked in conjunction with the Postal Service to create this updated set of rules.

Definitions in 431.1 and 431.6 about can you mail an air gun.

In section 431.1 (old section – 12.1.1a) of the manual, firearms are defined. According to the manual, the definition of a firearm is as follows: “any device, including a starter gun, which will, or is designed to, or may readily be converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; the frame or receiver of any such weapon; any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or any destructive device; but the term shall not include an antique firearm.”

Yes, that was a lot, but keep it in mind, because that definition and its wording are quite important.

We also want to mention that in Section 431.6 (old section – 12.1.1i). of the manual, air guns receive a definition through USPS. It’s much briefer: “air gun means a gun that fires a projectile by means of compressed air or other gas (including paintball and pellet guns.)”

Remember that definition as well. Why? Because whether you can mail your air gun depends on it.

Later in the Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual, USPS goes deeper into whether air guns are acceptable to be mailed through their services. If the air gun in question does not meet the definition and description of a firearm in Section 431.1, then it’s mailable.

As you recall, Section 431.1 defines firearms as those guns that use an explosive to expel a pellet or bullet. While there are some air guns out there that do rely on explosives, most don’t. Instead, they use compressed air. That would fit under the information in Section 431.6, which is USPS’ definition of air guns. Even if the air gun you wanted to mail used another form of gas besides compressed air, it would still be classified as an air gun instead of a firearm by USPS.

Concealing on Your Person

Besides not being defined as a firearm, the air gun must meet another guideline to be eligible for mailing. USPS says the air gun should also be “capable of being concealed on a person.”

Yes, those are vague terms, and the manual doesn’t go into any more detail on the matter than that. If you’re concealing an air gun though, you’re often stashing it in a jacket pocket and the like. If you have an air gun that’s bigger than your body, then it can’t be concealed and thus not mailed either. Most air rifles should be excluded then, as will larger air guns.

Following USPS Mailing Guidelines

You’ve read to this point and your air gun seems to be meet all the rules set by the USPS and ATF. Shipping still isn’t as easy as finding a box your air gun fits in, slapping a stamp on it, and driving it to the post office. USPS notes in their manual that you have to follow all regulations on a local and state level when mailing an air gun.

Further, you also need an adult signature for the recipient per rule 503.8.0.

What Does the Federal Firearms License Have to Do with It?

In the intro, we mentioned the Federal Firearms License. If you read our blog post on buying an air gun online, then you should remember this license, as we talked about it then, too. Well, it’s about to come up again.

If you go back to the previous paragraphs, USPS notes that, to ship an air gun, you must be in line with all local and state regulations. When we wrote about what you need to do when shopping online for an air gun, we said that the rules for shipping varied by state. Some states don’t permit you buying an air gun online at all. Others put the kibosh on having the air gun shipped directly to you.

Some of these states that prohibit direct shipping include New York (not the entire state, only parts), Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC, but there are likely others. If someone online bought your air gun and lives in one of these states, how do you get the gun to them?

Here’s where the Federal Firearms License comes in. Pawn shops, gun stores, and even personal gun sellers and collectors all need this license. Only holders of a Federal Firearms License are allowed to have guns shipped to them.

In this case then, since you’re the one shipping the gun out and the buyer is the one receiving it, you don’t necessarily need a Federal Firearms License. Your seller would, though. If they don’t have this license and you try to ship your air gun out anyway, you could face penalties on a state and even federal level. It’s not worth doing.

You may opt to get a Federal Firearms License for yourself just to increase your credibility as an air gun seller. That’s fine, but you really want to push your buyer to do the same. What if they don’t have a license and refuse to get one?

You’re still not totally without options, but things do admittedly become more of a pain for you going forward. You’d have to call around the buyer’s neighborhood and look for a pawn ship or gun store with a Federal Firearms License. You’re legally allowed to ship the gun there. Then your buyer can go to the store, pick up the air gun, and that’s the end of that.

Hopefully, it won’t get to that point. If it does, though, you may opt to charge the buyer extra for shipping. We’d also recommend not dealing with that buyer again, because they’re clearly difficult.

What If You Can’t Mail Your Air Gun? What Are Your Options?

Let’s say that for some reason you don’t have the capability of mailing your air gun. Still, the buyer already paid, so it’s expected you’ll ship the gun out soon. You don’t want to be a bad seller by canceling the order and refunding the buyer, but what else can you do?

You have a few choices here. Maybe you can plan a road trip and meet the buyer halfway if that’s feasible. While there are rules about shipping an air gun across state lines, doing a personal sale shouldn’t land you in any legal trouble.

You can also rely on your local gun stores and pawn shops to help you out. You’d drop off the air gun with the staff there and they would then ship the gun to the seller. Once again, you can only work with businesses that have a Federal Firearms License for legal shipping across state lines.

Don’t just saunter into the store and assume they’ll help. Call or visit to gauge whether the store is willing to take on this task. Make sure you offer to cover the shipping fees.

Understand that the store owner can still say no. If that’s what happens, then you can try around at some other gun stores and pawn shops with Federal Firearms Licenses and hope for better luck elsewhere.


Air guns can be mailed, but there are exceptions. They must be small enough that you can keep them on your person, so no air rifles (at least in most cases). Also, your air gun must meet the definition of an air gun, not a firearm, as established by USPS and ATF in the Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual. In other words, if your air gun uses explosives for pellet expulsion instead of compressed air, you can’t mail it.

Even if you can send the air gun out via mail, there are lots of rules for doing so. Your recipient will need to have their Federal Firearms License to receive the air gun. Otherwise, you need to send the gun to a pawn shop or gun store in the buyer’s state so they can pick it up. They also have to sign for the delivery.

Now you’re ready to ship your air gun. Best of luck!

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