Importing firearms, ammunition and military equipment is a process that requires professionalism, money and patience. Companies who wish to import firearms and related equipment, although fully licensed and possibly know from where to purchase from, do not all have the necessary “character” to support the process and stay with it until its completion when the goods arrive to their doorstep. There are many issues that importers face when importing firearms and military equipment, and I will try to touch on the main ones.
- Contracts and Bureaucracy – foreign companies that have stock of such goods are mainly operational in Eastern Europe. The companies that own military surplus firearms and equipment are the government, semi-state owned companies and private companies. Government and semi-state-owned companies generally operate under strict policies and bureaucratic processes that can be extremely frustrating to Western companies who are used to quick responses and some kind of customer support. Another frustrating issue with these companies is that in order to get an export license they require the original IIC (International Import Certificate), original purchase order and original EUC (End User Certificate) sent to them by an international express courier. Once these documents arrive to the required point of contact, usually in the Ministry of Defense, the export process starts. In some European countries many government institutions get involved in the process such as: Ministry of Defense, National Police, Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Commerce and others. Due diligence is done and it sometimes involves authenticating the IIC, Form 6 or other import license with the appropriate entity of the client’s country. One of the most important things to understand is that their export license approval process can be long, nerve racking and tedious and that a lot of patience is needed. If you think that your license will be approved within a month even if it is very urgent for you than think again, it will not happen. Furthermore, in some countries, contacting the Ministry of Defense directly and asking “what is going on?” or “how much longer it will take?” will be considered tampering with the process and it might be stopped.
- Military Surplus Firearms, Parts Kits and External Safety Issues – Throughout the Cold War the USSR and its satellite states produced and stored millions upon millions of firearms and ammunition in preparation for World War Three where the West would invade the East (or vise versa), arming as much of the population as possible. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and its States became independent, those stock piles of weapons became one of the first assets to be sold so that foreign money can invigorate, and in some cases establish, the local economies. This is the time when shrewd companies dealing with military surplus purchased stock piles of AK, Mosin Nagant rifles, SKS, AVT-40, VZ-61 Scorpion sub-machine guns, Tokarev and Makarov pistols, PKM, RPK, RPD machine guns and mountains of ammunition for peanuts. Since some of these are full auto weapons, those mostly US companies trained local Eastern European military depot soldiers and employees on how to make parts kits for importation into the US market. Others also needed instructions on how to assemble an external safety on pistols such as Tokarev TT33 to make them importable according to the BATF Point System. Today, all Eastern European military depots are well aware of the US, Canada, UK and other countries’ demand for Soviet military weapons and they usually know how to prepare it for shipment according to the end user country if for the civilian market. However, some countries prefer not to deal with cutting firearms into parts kits, to them it is a hassle, for others it is not a problem.
- Exporting The Goods – In most cases the packing of the goods and preparing them for freight goes pretty easy and smooth. It is important to check with your freight forwarder that the ship or plane that you scheduled is well aware that you will be transferring weapons and/or ammunition. Not all airlines and ship companies allow this and those who do have a different rate for these goods than the usual cargo since it involves higher insurance rates and security.