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Can I take cartridges on a plane?

A reader is wondering what the rules about cartridges on aircraft are ...

shooting abroad

When you're travelling by air, ammunition must be packed in its original cartons and separately to the firearm

Can I take gun cartridges on a plane?

Q: I have been invited to 
shoot in Northern Ireland and I will be travelling by air. What are the rules about taking gun cartridges with me?


  • The International Air 
Transport Association (IATA) sets standards for airline safety and security, including international standards for the transportation 
of dangerous goods.
  • Under IATA regulations, ammunition for sporting firearms is permitted in passenger checked-in baggage.
  • However, the maximum quantity that may be carried is 5kg, which amounts to around 115 standard 12-bore shotgun cartridges.
  • Ammunition must be packed in its original cartons so cartridges may not, for example, be loose in a cartridge bag.
  • The cartridges must also be packed separately to the firearm and must not be in the gun case. Ammunition, along with firearms, must be declared at check-in. (Continued below.)

Bear in mind that airlines will also publish their own rules on carriage of dangerous items, including firearms and ammunition, so be careful to check their website before booking. Some airlines will allow you to pack cartridges (in their original cartons) into your suitcase, which would then be treated as an item of controlled baggage; however, it might be worth obtaining a lockable ammunition box that can be checked in separately. Alternatively, see if your host can supply suitable ammunition on arrival.

Another question on ammunition – this time for air rifles. An airgunner wants to know if cheap pellets are worth it …

Q: My local gun shop is selling airgun pellets very cheaply. They are a budget brand but some of the tins have also been damaged in transit — hence the extremely low price. I am very tempted to stock up with these and use them to practice with, but is there any risk of damaged pellets causing harm to the barrel of my air rifle?

Air rifle expert Matt Manning replies:

A: Assuming that the pellets are made from lead, there is virtually no risk of them damaging your barrel — but they could get jammed in there 
if they are seriously misshapen.

Even if there were absolutely no risk of barrel damage, I would still steer clear of cheap and misshapen pellets unless the only shooting you do is backyard plinking.

Swapping between pellet brands is a bad idea because whatever you learn about the performance of the cheap pellets during your practice session will be totally irrelevant when you switch to something better either for live quarry or serious target shooting.

airgun pellets

Good quality pellets are the way to go if you want consistent accuracy from your airgun

Even the best-quality airgun pellets are relatively affordable — you should be able to get a tin of 500 really good ones for around £10 — so I see no point in skimping. Find a decent pellet that produces good accuracy from your airgun and stick with it for all the shooting you do. That way everything you learn during your practice sessions can be applied when shooting pests or in competition.