Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What is the best and safest way to transport a double rifle to Africa for a hunt? Greg H., USA (question from CalPappas.com)

What is the best and safest way to transport a double rifle to Africa for a hunt? Greg H., USA

Dear Greg:
The best thing, above all else, is to insure your double rifles against theft, loss, or damage. You can shop around for the best rates but I would suggest you Google Eastern Insurance as they have the fewest exclusions and the best rates I have found.

After a good insurance policy, you MUST obtain form 4457 from a US Customs office. A few years ago it used to be a good idea to use this form as proof you owned the rifles before you departed on your journey. (Actually, use the 4457 for anything with a serial number--scopes, binocs, cameras, etc.). Now, it is mandatory to have this form when you re-enter this country and many African countries, as well as countries you transit through, require this form as proof of legal ownership.

Take detailed photos and carry copies of these with you. In fact, carry copies of all of your hunting paperwork in each of your bags and the originals on your person. (If you loose your passport you’re in trouble, if you have a copy of it you will find life easier to tolerate when visiting the embassy to get a replacement).

Follow all laws and regulations to the letter-- I mean dot every i and cross every t-- for the airlines, TSA, airport procedures, and, most of all, when you are in a foreign country. Don’t argue with anyone even if you know they are wrong. Just smile and be very polite! Calmly ask for their supervisor if you must. Keep your ammunition locked in a small hard case and in a separate luggage bag from your rifle. Don’t even think of traveling with black powder cartridges. Don’t take ammo other than what your rifle(s) is chambered for (no ammo gifts for your PH). And, your ammo’s headstamp must match the rifle’s (i.e. no reformed cases). Don’t put snap caps in a double rifle or shotgun (the unknowing will absolutely jump out of their skin if they see a snap cap in a chamber). Buy the best hard case you can and put your rifle in a padded soft case within the hard case. Have a replacement locking mechanism along (extra lock and key or SKB replaceable locks). Carry cleaning implements with you (no spray oil--take a squeeze bottle).

Try to attract as little attention as possible. By this I mean don’t advertise you are a hunter by your clothes or loud talk. There are plenty on antis out there who love to make life difficult for a hunter. (One of which I have personal experience works in the permit office in Amsterdam. He stated to me each week for six consecutive weeks my permit was on the way. After speaking to the director, I received my permit pronto). It may be a good idea to pack your break-down double in a short hard case and put this case in a duffel bag. Or, put your guncase in a large hockey player’s gear bag. If you are going to return with wood or stone carvings, bring along some bubble wrap and, on the way over, use the bubble wrap around your rifle(s).

If you have a long layover, you can claim and recheck your luggage. This way you will know if it is there and if not, you can trace it from your last point of departure.

Last of all, it has become common in South Africa for criminals within the airport to use an icepick to open the zippers of a locked bag and steal items. It may be better to travel with two locking cases without zippers. If this happens don't expect any assistance from South African Air!

I hope this helps. Good shooting,