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By Wayne McLerran
Posted 8/19/16

Note: For the following discussion Miroku manufactured Browning and
Winchester 1885 BPCRs will be referred to as Browning BPCRs.

The vast majority of firearms I ship are Browning 1885 BPCRs, which are typical
in length and weight of most target grade BPCRs.  There have been many reports of
cracked or broken Browning stocks.  In all cases I’m aware of the damage took
place during shipping.  I’ve received and shipped well over 200 new and used
Browning’s to date and have had to deal with seven cracked stocks, two cracked
forearms and a couple of damaged front sights.  All the stocks were cracked on the
right side of the thin wrist near the end of the receiver tang.  Four were in original
Browning shipping boxes, inside larger corrugated cartons.  One was in a well-
padded rifle cases inside a corrugated carton.  The damages clearly were the direct
result of rough handling by the shipping companies, from here on referred to as

Rifles in general are more susceptible to shipping damage, especially ones with a
heavy barrel and a wood stock, the wrist being the weakest portion of the stock.  
Imagine the outcome when dropping or tipping over a box with one of these long
heavy barrel rifles inside.  When it slams flat on a concrete floor or the flat bed of
a delivery truck the heavy barrel tends to crush the surrounding padding and shifts
significantly more than the much lighter and much wider wood stock.  Something
has to give so the stock flexes at the wrist, the weakest part.  One of the boxed
rifles I received was slammed down or stuck so hard the front sight penetrated
though a layer of foam and two layers of cardboard.  Needless to say, both the
sight and stock had to be replaced.

Now consider what happens if a boxed 12 lb rifle is dropped on its end off the bed
of a delivery truck.  The force of the impact can shatter the stock or damage the
muzzle and front sight or both.  There are some steps that can be taken to mitigate
this type of damage:
1.        The first rule is do not take shortcuts concerning the packaging.  The best
method is to remove the stock and ship it separately, or pack it separately in the
same box.  Therefore, the sender must understand how to remove the stock and the
recipient must be willing and have the knowledge to properly reinstall it.  If you’re
shipping the rifle to a gunsmith for barrel or receiver work, the stock may not be
required.  If you’re sending it to the manufacturer, check with them prior to
shipping the rifle.  It’s Browning’s policy to test fire all firearms after any repairs
or modifications although the stock may not be required.
2.        If the Browning factory plastic sight box is not available, the rear sight can
be removed and shipped with the rifle.  Another option is to leave the sight
mounted on the rifle, wrap it with several layers of thin bubble wrap or similar
material, fold it down and tape it to the rifle stock after wrapping the stock with
paper to protect it from the tape.  Wrap cardboard around the front sight and tape it
in place to help protect the sight.
3.        If using the Browning factory rifle box, the design is not adequate to protect
the rifle due to the thin foam cover sheet used under the top lid.  I recommend
wrapping a layer or two of corrugated cardboard directly around the front sight and
muzzle.  Fill the space between the factory box and the outer shipping container
with plenty of foam padding or foam peanuts.  Use plenty of padding inside both
ends of the outer shipping box.  Crumpled newspaper can be used but may not be
as resilient as foam and can compact in transit, reducing its effectiveness. If the
outer shipping box is not sufficiently large to allow plenty of padding, position the
bottom of the factory rifle box with thicker foam against one side of the shipping
box and fill the space remaining above the top of the factory box with as much
padding as possible.  
4.        If the rifle is being shipped without the factory box, wrap the rifle is plenty
of packing material.  Bubble wrap is probably the best choice.  Fill the rest of the
shipping container with packing material to minimize shifting of the rifle.
5.        Or purchase one of the inexpensive hard-plastic, foam-padded gun cases
from a local sporting goods store.  If it’s available, ask for the corrugated
cardboard box the case was shipped in, the ideal outer shipping box.  Of course
this precludes the customer receiving the factory rifle box with the rifle.  But it
could be sent separately if required.
6.        Stamp or write “FRAGILE” in several locations on the outside of the box.

If you’re wondering where to obtain long, relatively narrow, boxes for shipping
rifles, try a local gun shop.  As firearms are received from distributors and other
dealers, the outer shipping boxes are usually tossed in the dumpster.  Another
source is a business that specializes is packaging items for shipment.  UPS &
FedEx have satellite stores located in many shopping centers.

Concerning shippers, I’m only aware of three options: FedEx, UPS, or the US
Postal Service (USPS).  At one time I was exclusive using USPS Register Mail but
have switched to FedEx based on shipping fees and on the number of damage
claims I’ve had to deal with.  Each shipper has specific requirements when
shipping a firearm.  USPS will ship rifles, but not handguns unless you have a
Federal Firearms License and fill out the required form.  USPS shipping fees will
generally be higher than FedEx or UPS, especially when the item is insured.

Depending on your choice of carriers, if a firearm is lost, stolen or damaged in
transit the claim settlement process can be long and somewhat complicated.  From
experience I can confirm that all three carriers, especially USPS, can be hard to
deal with if an item is damaged.  If the rifle is damaged but the outer shipping box
is not you’ll have an extremely hard time convincing the carrier to pay a
settlement.  Refer to the article titled:
Receiving & Returning Firearms & the
Damage Claim Process.

Do not include anything in the shipping address or on the box that suggests
the content of the package is a firearm.
 From experience, carriers will likely
assume that an insured long skinny box contains a rifle.  But play it safe and don’t
confirm the contents by sending it to Bob’s Gun Shop or Jim’s Firearms Inc.  
Consider using BGS or JFI respectively.  It’s the actual address that matters, not
the name of the business.

Do expect carriers to ask about the contents and be honest in your response.  They
may also ask question concerning how the rifle was packaged, if the action is
disarmed and even open the shipping box for inspection if necessary.  On several
occasions I’ve had to explain that the rifle was a single shot and there was no
receiver bolt to remove nor could the action be disassembled.  And be sure to have
a copy of the recipients FFL handy should the carrier requests to see it prior to
accepting the rifle for shipping.  Finally,
don’t forget to fully insure the package.

Wishing you great shooting,