Bringing pre-1898 rifles to US from Europe


February 14, 2014, 05:41 PM
My wife and I have the opportunity to live in France for a year this coming fall. I am curious if anyone knows what would be involved with sending a pre-1898 rifle back to the US. I'm thinking something like an 1886 Lebel, 1888 Commission rifle, Martini-Henry, early Mosin, etc. Maybe even a front-stuffer if one presented itself. Is this just a matter of packing it well and shipping it, or would this involve a lot of red tape at Customs?

Also, does anyone know what would be required for me as a US citizen buying such a gun in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, etc.

Third, does anyone know what I could expect pricewise in Europe?

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February 14, 2014, 05:47 PM
Your best bet would probably be to call a customs office here in the states and over there.That way you know everything is kosher.

February 14, 2014, 06:00 PM
I don't know about pricing but it is a very simple process. I brought one in from South Africa and one from Australia a couple of years ago and had no issues at all. There is a form you fill out for customs but I can't remember the number of it right now. Mine came by mail and there were no holdups at all.

February 15, 2014, 07:50 PM
I think you may be shocked at the prices of the mentioned guns in Europe. Especially if they are functional. Deactivated examples are still pricey, but not as high as "live" ones.

Willie Sutton
February 15, 2014, 08:51 PM
^^ All depends where you're buying.

Pre-1898 items are not Firearms as defined by Federal Law.
It's no different than importing a camera.



February 16, 2014, 09:06 AM
I remember how my father brought back an antique musket from one of his trips to Europe, in 1959. He carried it on board, simply wrapped in brown paper. When he arrived in the States, Customs asked him what he had there. "An old gun," he said. "Well, OK." They didn't even ask him to unwrap it. My, how things change!

February 16, 2014, 09:29 AM
Why do you think you will be able to buy these rifles for less money in Europe? Mosins sell for $100 in the U.S. You can buy Martini-Henrys for less than $200. I believe the prices in Europe will be much higher.

February 16, 2014, 10:22 AM

A friend of mine did this coming back from 5 years working in Germany. I'll ask him to look at this thread. We discussed the process at length and since I was receiving his household goods as he prepared to come back the questions on process and forms and, especially, timing to ship and arrival of the firearms were frequent topics.

The short version is to be very careful to document every purchase and age of the firearm. Be certain to get certificates that they are actually manufactured pre-1898 as opposed to be a pre-98 model at the time of purchase. Carefully avoid any "weapons of war" the BATFE will refuse. Just because you have an 1888 Commission rifle doesn't ensure that there aren't going to be hiccups dealing with the BAFTE agent who is of the opinion that it was used in some conflict somewhere.

There are BATFE forms to fill out and submit for each firearm you purchase and you should complete these months in advance of your return in case one or more firearms is rejected and you have to appeal. You then have to deal with customs and the USPS (yes, you can mail them home to you). Be certain that you follow all the form requirements to the letter and stay in touch with the BATFE agent in France that will be assigned to handle the process and that you ship shortly before coming back so you're home to receive them personally.

Then there's the packaging and shipping through Customs. Be sure to protect the firearms and to use lightweight locks that can be cut off. Customs opened every case my buddy sent home. They cut locks on some and the eyes of the case on others. They even tossed the locks inside with the valuable guns without wrapping them in bubble wrap (he was lucky that none of the rifles were scratched/scarred by the locks) and then taped all the cases back together. With one case they pulled the piano hinges and put them in the case under the foam leaving the lock and case intact, while on another the tried to put them back in and bent them (or bent them pulling them). All cases were opened and all cases were taped shut again with clear packing tape. Be sure you don't pack in nice expensive cases. Be sure to get plenty of bubble wrap even if there's foam lining. Don't wrap in bubble wrap, just fold it over so they can fold it back and inspect it against the paperwork.

February 16, 2014, 07:00 PM
send me a email with your phone number. i just got back from Germany
there are a lot of hoops you have jump thur to get a rifle back from the EU to the states plus you cant even buy a weapon without a license in the EU unless the weapon is rendered unserviceable.

Jim K
February 16, 2014, 07:16 PM
I think that there has been some confusion about antique firearms vs modern firearms. Antiques are not subject to a lot of those laws and rules, but not all countries have the same definitions of "antique" that the U.S. does.


February 16, 2014, 08:23 PM
I imported two 1895 Chilean Mausers home to the U.S. One was imported as a modern rifle after the AFT wouldn't classify it as an Antique and the other one came through as an Antique. The weapons were processed 2 weeks apart by the same ATF inspector yet she decided one was and one wasn't an Antique.

Anyone know what would be involved with sending a pre-1898 rifle back to the US. I'm thinking something like an 1886

1. Fill out a ATF Form 6 for each weapon. You will need to make 3 copies and they must be signed with blue or black ink. Each copy must be individually signed with an ink signature. NO photocopies. Pictures of the weapon with one showing the serial number of the weapon to be imported must be included with the forms.
2. It will take 6 to 8 weeks to get a reply from the ATF (sometimes longer). Your experience may vary. The ATF Form 6 is good for a year for the importation of that weapon after it has been issued.
3. All weapons, antique firearms or not must have a STAMPED ATF Form 6 from the ATF to be imported to the U.S.

does anyone know what would be required for me as a US citizen buying such a gun in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, etc.

I can only tell you about Germany - In Germany you need a license of some type to purchase. Either a sporting or hunting license will do. Be prepared to spend a lot of time and money to get one. You must have a license to buy any working weapon, period Antique or not.
Nonworking weapons can be sold to any one and they are not cheap. No firearms are cheap in Europe compared to here.

Does anyone know what I could expect pricewise in Europe?

Go to and have a look.:eek:

February 17, 2014, 01:36 AM
What if I purchased said rifle, and then had the dealer ship it to the US, without it ever leaving his control while the paperwork processed? Would that save me any headache with European permits?

Willie Sutton
February 17, 2014, 07:56 AM
Having done this...

Unless what you are looking for is simply not available in the USA, it's not worth the time or effort. Things like Mosins, etc... good luck. First, they are no bargains in Europe. Where firearms are legal, collectors are just as interested in them there as they are here. Where they are not legal, you will not be in a position to buy one. Yes, the black market thrives everyplace but you're not going to be a part of it, nor would it do you much good anyhow. There are a few categories of antiques that are rare enough to warrant import (early Belgian copies of Colt cap and ball revolvers, etc.,) but again... these are specialized and not the run of the mill antique. And they will not be cheap when found. There aren't any real deals west of the Kyber Pass.

Probaby the most firearms friendly Western European country is the Czech Republic. I'm fortunate enough to have a Czech wife, and we travel there frequently. Guns are common, CCW's are available, there is a vibrant shooting community, and a fair number of dealers. With that said, under Communism all of the old stuff went underground. Finding pre-1898 antiques is diffiicult at best but can be done. West of there you can find a few things in Germany and France, as well as Spain, but again: None of it is special, or cheap. Great Britain --- forget about it.

What else?



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