TexasMac's Web Site
By Wayne McLerran
Last updated 8/19/16

Although I’ve had a Federal Firearm License (FFL) for the past 35
years, I did not seriously start selling firearms until 20 years ago.  
Since then the vast majority of sales have been the long heavy-barrel
Miroku manufactured Browning and Winchester 1885 Black Powder
Cartridge Rifles (BPCR).  Due to the weight, length and design of these
rifles, they are susceptible to damage during shipping.  In my book on
the Browning BPCRs, I dedicated a chapter to packaging options,
shipping and cracked stocks, the part of the rifle most likely to sustain
damage during shipping.  The information is also posted on this
website in the article titled:
Shipping Heavy Long-Barrel Black Powder
Rifles.  Although, in most cases, the recipient of firearms
shipped across state borders (interstate) must have an FFL and is
usually a dealer providing transfer services, the majority of end
customers have little or no knowledge concerning the procedures
involved in returning firearms, especially damaged firearms.

Now is a good time to offer a word of advice.  Since most buyers do
not have an FFL, they must employ the services of a FFL dealer to
transfer the firearm, referred to hereon as a transfer dealer.  When a
transfer dealer is selected, ask them to explain their procedure in
checking out firearms for damage.  Since the dealer is being paid for
transfer services, they are responsible for not discarding the shipping
box and all packing material, which is required for inspection by the
shipping company, referred to hereon as the carrier, to substantiate a
damage claim, more on this later.  Also have them explain the
procedure for returning an undamaged firearm in case you refuse to
accept it or later decide to return it during the inspection period for
reasons other than damage.  The transfer dealer may not provide
return packaging and shipping services.  In that case you must
complete the transfer process and take legal possession of the firearm
to ship it back yourself.

Ok, your transfer dealer has received a firearm for you and it’s not
damaged, but you’ve decided to return it immediately for various
reasons.  The selling dealer agrees to accept the return, having made
it clear prior to the purchase that you will be responsible for paying
the return shipping fee.  I’m not aware of all state laws governing the
transfer of firearms, but in most states you have a choice.  Assuming
the transfer dealer offers repackaging and return shipping services,
pay your dealer to send it back or take possession of the firearm and
send it directly back to the seller yourself.  Should you choose the
latter, in most interstate shipping situations, as long as the receiver
has an FFL the sender is not required to have one.  But you should
obtain and verify a signed copy of the selling dealers FFL prior to
shipping the rifle back.  Fortunately most selling dealers include a
signed copy with the firearm for the transfer dealer’s records.  If one
is not available, it can be faxed, scanned and attached to an email or
mailed to you.  To check if the license is valid, go to
gov/fflezcheck/.  Here again I’m assuming the firearm will
be shipped interstate.  If it’s an intrastate shipment, the ATF (Federal
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives) does not require
either party to have an FFL, nor do most states, but the carrier may
require a copy of the FFL regardless.  It’s a good idea to check with
your transfer dealer who should understand your state laws governing
intrastate shipments of firearms.

Before discussing what happens when a damage firearm is received,
let me make it absolutely clear that it makes no sense for a firearms
dealer to ship a damaged firearm to an unsuspecting customer,
especially with the speed and widespread communication capabilities
of the Internet.  Certainly there are a few (thankfully very few)
unethical sellers that will take advantage of buyers when selling one or
two firearms.  I have been on the receiving end of a couple of these
transactions and I spent a considerable amount of time spreading the
word around, and advertising the names and addresses of the
individuals on the Internet and firearm discussion forums.  Therefore,
before assuming that a dealer knowingly shipped you a damaged
firearm, ask yourself why would the selling dealer risk damaging their
reputation to take advantage of you?

Remembering what I said earlier about a transfer dealer having the
responsibility for not discarding the shipping box and all packing
material, following is an example of what should not happen.  I
shipped a $1,700.00 Browning BPCR to a transfer dealer.  Upon
receiving the shipment, the transfer dealer promptly unpackaged the
rifle.  After a cursory inspection, the shipping box and packing
material were discarded.  A few days later the end customer arrived,
filled out the necessary paperwork, paid for and left with the rifle,
also after a brief inspection.  Later, after arriving home, the customer
realized the stock wrist had a thin crack and he immediately
contacted me.  Assuming the transfer dealer did not drop the rifle and
crack the stock, it was most likely damaged during shipping.  Needless
to say, the customer was very disappointed and requested a refund,
which I would have complied with once the damaged rifle was
inspected by the shipping company.  Unfortunately the carrier would
not accept a damage claim since the shipping box and packing material
was not available for inspection.  UPS, FedEx and the USPS all have
the same requirement.  Although the customer understood my
position, due to the ignorance of the transfer dealer, we both ended
up with a very unhappy customer.

Before moving on, I’d like to make a recommendation to transfer
dealers.  I’m primarily a seller so I rarely serve as a transfer dealer.  
But when I do, I try never to open the shipping box until the customer
is present to watch.  If the firearm is damaged, it clearly eliminates
any thought in the customers mind that I damaged the firearm after
unpacking it.  I also tell the customer to keep the shipping box and all
packing material until they are sure the firearm is not damaged and
they are keeping it.  But due to Federal law, generally the
manufacturer, model, serial number of the firearm and selling dealers
FFL number must be logged into the transfer dealer’s Firearms,
Acquisition and Disposition record, commonly referred to as the
“Bound Book”, within the close of the next business day, hence in
some cases I’m forced to unpack the firearm without the customer

So let’s discuss what happens if a firearm is lost, stolen or damaged in
transit.  Assuming it was insured, the end customer should understand
that any claim settlement will be paid to the selling dealer who paid
the carrier for insurance, not the end customer.  Depending on the
carrier and type of damage, the claim settlement process can be long
(typically 6 to 8 weeks, but can be much longer) and somewhat
complicated.  From experience, I can confirm that all three carriers,
especially the USPS, can be hard to deal with if an item is damaged.  If
the outer shipping box was not damaged, the dealer that shipped the
firearm will have an extremely hard time convincing the carrier to pay
a settlement.  Following are the typical steps:
•        Selling dealer, transfer dealer or customer initiates a claim
process by contacting the carrier via phone or the carriers Internet
web site.  The carriers tracking number will be required to identify the
•        Assuming the shipping box and packing material are available
for inspection, the carrier will generate a pickup request, commonly
referred to as a pickup tag or call tag, and pick up the firearm and
packing material for no additional shipping fee from the transfer
dealer.  If the firearm has been transferred to the end customer, the
customer must work out the shipping details with the carrier.
•        Once the firearm and packaging material are inspected, all is
returned to the selling dealer.
•        If the carrier refuses to settle a damage claim, there are
avenues to contest the decision which lengthens the claim process.
•        Assuming the carrier accepts responsibility for the damage, the
carrier requires proof of value and repair costs from the selling
dealer.  This step can significantly lengthen the claim process sense
the carrier normally will only accept an official repair estimate from
the firearm manufacture or repair facility.  This means the firearm
must be shipped to the repair facility, which may have a substantial
turnaround time prior to evaluating the damage and sending an
estimate.  For example, it’s common for Browning to take 4 to 6
weeks to send a repair estimate.  Therefore, it’s realistic to expect
the claim process to take as much as 3 to 4 months to complete.

Once the firearm is inspected by the carrier, and it’s unlikely that the
transfer dealer or customer damaged the rifle, it’s my policy to
reimburse the customer immediately and not wait for the carrier to
settle the claim.  If the carrier ultimately refuses to pay a settlement,
than I consider the cost to repair and resell the firearm as a cost of
doing business.

By the way, it’s also my policy to refuse the return of a brand new
undamaged firearm because of “seller’s remorse” or the firearm does
not function properly.  I make it clear up front in my sales
advertisement or web site listing that the new firearm is fully
warranted and should be sent to the manufacturer for warranty

There you have it.  I hope this helps to clarify the shipping and damage
claim process.

Wishing you great shooting,