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 carriers.
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.