Monday, February 01, 2010

Bullets by Mail

A recent flurry of activity on The Unofficial IPSC List (mail group) was started today when Mark H.* sent the following message:

With the low cost of the priority mail shipment, I've started getting bullets shipped by USPS. As a result, I've gotten to talk to the manager of the local post office twice, as well as 2 local postal inspectors.

Has anyone else gotten the opportunity to chat with their postal inspectors over this?

I didn't understand what the original post was talking about until I found the follow-up response from Bruce G.*
I haven't had to talk with a postal inspector.

I have received a notice that my packages were "undeliverable", and had to go to the USPS distribution center to pick them up. Interestingly, I *asked* to have a chat with the manager about that and the next time, my local carrier actually did manage to deliver them.

So at least two USPSA members, in separate states, have had United States Postal Service local deliveries refused by the delivery trucks.

Further elucidation was offered by Ira W.*:
I guess "if it fits, it ships" is not actually the truth... Perhaps there is some fine print we are missing.

Yes I have had to go to the local post office. The last time the postal worker was dragging the boxes across the floor until she gave up and asked me to come back and get them! I don't think this is normal but I obliged!!! They did offer me a hand truck!

Keith L.* offers some commentary:
I have received bullets from at least two, if not three, different manufacturers by USPS flat-rate shipments. ALL were delivered directly to my house; NONE required any chats with USPS employees. Nor should they.

IF the packages are competently shipped, they are at or under the weight restrictions. There is nothing flammable, liquid, explosive or otherwise prohibited; meaning there is NO reason for any interaction w/the USPS other than it DELIVERING it and you taking the carton off your steps and into your house.

There is NO reason to discuss the contents w/the USPS. Period.

Doing so invites the attention - and thus the INTERVENTION - of the AG's office when some officious intermeddler babbles about "bullets through the mail." There are already damn few suppliers that still ship to this appalling excuse for a state. Are you TRYING to eliminate them?

If not, don't discuss your business with those who have NO reason to be involved in it. NO good will come of it.

The upshot of it is that, where the USPS (no relation, obviously, to USPSA) is concerned -- sometimes they will, sometimes they won't.

There isn't sufficient traffic on this topic, yet, to draw any less-general conclusions.

I've also received bullet shipments via USPS, and the first time it happened I was very much surprised. I live on a cul de sac in a small liberal college town (but I repeat myself) and our mail deliveries go to a standing mail-box station on the entrance to the street. There are two large 'parcel' bins, plus sufficient individual letter boxes for each address. When a parcel arrives and is found to be too large to stuff in the 'letter' box, it is placed in one of the parcel bins and the key to that bin left by the carrier in the letter box.

Both of my bullet shipments were left on my front porch, which I consider to be entirely safe because the standard shipment of bulk bullets weights 80 pounds. (For 115 grain bullets, that's 4,000 rounds; for 200 grain bullets, that's 2,250 rounds IIRC.)

I'm guessing that the carriers to the addresses which were "undeliverable" make their rounds with a shoulder-strapped mail sack, or perhaps by one of those 3-wheeled 'baby carriage' push-carts. That would make it a huge imposition on the individual carrier, to add another 80 pounds to deliver to one address on those routes.

My own carrier makes his rounds in a USPS truck ... one of those enclosed vehicles which look like a modified golf cart. There's a minimum of lifting involved in heavy-parcel deliveries to my address, since the mail truck can roll to within 10 feet of my front door. (It's probably as easy to drop it at my door as to lift it up to one of the street-corner parcel bins, especially since the box would have to be lifted UP to put it into a bin.)

So my conclusion is that USPS isn't biased against delivering bulk bullets to a street address if it is serviced by a carrier in a truck. But in more urban surroundings, it seems not unreasonable that the postmaster might make a local policy requiring the addressee to pick it up at the post office.

They're not anti-gun; they're just anti-hernia.

[delete some inapplicable babble about shipping combustible/explosive reloading components ... sorry, I digressed]

UPDATE: from Bruce G.
Nope, my carrier drives a "real" postal truck, with a roll-up door in the back, so that wasn't the issue. I think the actual *effort* involved was the issue - he usually doesn't have to do anything but lean out of his window to put things into street-side cluster boxes, so actually getting *out* of his truck seemed to be central to the matter (notably, I chased him down on one occasion when he left a card saying the package was undeliverable. Turned out he didn't even have the box in his truck - he had apparently decided it was "undeliverable" at the distribution center, and left it there...)

And, flat-rate boxes are good for anything that fits, up to a [published] limit of 70 pounds.

Response: Note that the link Bruce cites is for priority mail, so a bulk delivery of bullets weighing X-pounds may not be treated the same as a lighter package. Still, I'm willing to concede that my hypothetical 'conclusion' may not be universally applicable ... which does not obviate the suggestion that local postmasters may be authorized to make deliverability decision based on guidelines, rather than policy established by the Post Master General.

I'm not trying to start an argument here. And I'm not presenting myself as an apologist for the USPS. I'm only saying that I can understand why a carrier may not be required to deliver 65, 70, 80 pound packages to a street address.

Incidentally, I have just looked at the Montana Gold ordering website to determine their weights for "case lots" of bullets.
.40 cal @200 grain includes 2250 bullets, weighing about 65 pounds.
.45 cal @230 grain includes 2000 bullets, weighing about 66 pounds.
So taking Montana Gold as an Industry Standard, a case of bullets seems to be keeping within the 70 pound limit for USPS Priority Shipping.

[delete a lot of inapplicable babble about shipping rates ... sorry, I digressed]

Anybody here work for USPS, and can they provide information about the definition of "undeliverable" mail?
*NOTE: correspondent names are truncated out of consideration for their privacy.

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