A friend of mine recently moved across multiple state lines with his entire gun collection, all his ammo, and his other preps. Let’s just say he had a bit of learning experience when he found that his truck was MASSIVELY overweight. Thankfully, he found this out before he hit the road. I have done a similar move myself and found that good information about how to move with these items is hard to find. The following will not be an exhaustive guide to moving but maybe you can learn from some of our mistakes.
Most of the learning that occurred centered around weight. Believe it or not, even a modest gun collection can eat up a significant portion of your available cargo weight without taking up much space. The weight of ammo, guns, and gun safes adds up surprisingly quickly and if you aren’t careful you will find yourself well over the GVW (gross vehicle weight) of your rented moving truck quickly.
Choose the Right Truck
The first thing to keep in mind in regard to weight is that the larger trucks don’t always carry more weight. For instance, most truck rental operations offer a 22′ truck and a 26′ truck. You initial reaction may be to go with the 26′ truck since it offers roughly 200 additional cubic feet of cargo space. However, both the 22′ and 26′ trucks are built on the same chassis and have the same 26,000 pound GVW (the gross weigh that the vehicle is rated carry safely and the weight which you must be under for weigh stations). That means that, since the 22′ truck weighs less empty, it can actually carry more cargo weight – about 1200 pounds more cargo weight! That is good to know when you have a lot of compact, dense, and heavy items to carry.
26,000 GVW vehicles are the largest that you can operate without some form of a CDL. You need to know the GVW of the vehicle that you rent. Ask before you rent and then check the sticker inside the driver side door frame. There should be gross weight information listed there.
Find a Truck Stop with a Scale
Once you have your truck loaded, head over to the nearest truck stop with a scale. You want to make sure that you have all the passengers on board that will be with you on the trip and the gas tank is full so you can see your actual maximum weight. You might be surprised how much weight a full tank of gas and a couple of passengers can add. It is best to be surprised before you hit the road, not while you at a weigh station.
The scale will give you the weight at each axle including a trailer if you have one. Remember that the weight of the trailer is included in your GVW and that your vehicle will likely have a weight rating for each axle so take care to distribute your load so you aren’t overweight on any one axle. This is especially true for the steering axle (the front axle) since it will have a much lower weight rating than the rear.
It is hard to overload a truck with items like couches, dressers, and tables because these items have a lot of bulk to go with their weight. However, it is relatively easy to overload a truck if you have a modest gun collection, a gun safe or two, and ammo to go with it. You need to be sure of your weight before you hit the road because if you have to go through a weigh station and you are over your GVW, you will have a very, very bad day. The scale at your local truck stop is the best way to ensure you can cruise right through any weigh station.
This is the most convoluted and tricky part of traveling on the highways in a rental truck. It seems that everyone offers their opinion on whether rental trucks need to enter weigh stations but no one knows for sure. The most prudent thing to do, in my opinion, is to plan on pulling into any open weigh station.
Most people will tell you that, in a rental vehicle, you can drive right by them without stopping and that is mostly true… until it isn’t. It is possible that you might drive by only to find that you are chased down by a highway patrolman and politely told to turn around and go through. It happens.
If you do go through, you will likely be waved through without weighing. However, if you are weighed, you need to be sure you are under your vehicle’s GVW. Being over weight can result in heavy fines and you will likely not be allowed to continue with your overweight vehicle which means going through your business right there at the weigh station which is less than discreet. I know you wouldn’t own anything illegal but moving your guns and ammo around in a public place is a good way to make it on the evening news even when they are perfectly legal (and downright enjoyable) to own.
Every state varies as to whether they require rental trucks to enter weighs stations and the particular state laws are not always apparent. The only way I found to ascertain all the laws was to call the DOTs of the individual states that I planned to pass through and even then it wasn’t clear since some of the people I talked to didn’t even seem sure themselves. We even received conflicting information from the rental company. Some states will clearly mark what kinds of vehicles must pull in on the weigh station signs but that is the exception, not the rule.
Remember, GVW isn’t just a bureaucratic booby trap meant to hamstring people who like to overload trucks. It is there for safety as well. Those trucks are designed to accelerate, steer, and stop that much weight. I do not relish the idea of driving an overweight truck through the mountains. It can be a hazard to your and everyone on the road around you.
You may also have to deal with varying gun laws surrounding the transport of firearms. While there are federal protections for transporting firearms under FOPA, this country is also dotted with a sticky web of state and local laws. The law enforcement agencies in these areas may take the approach of confiscating/arresting and sorting out the legalities later. The NRA-ILA has a great resource on navigating these laws.
Basically, you need to put some thought into how you will lock up your guns in a container like a gun safe. There are some general guidelines that will keep you legal in most places. Firearms should be UNLOADED and LOCKED in a container of some kind and the container should be placed where you do not have access to it from the passenger compartment. Your ammo needs to be separate from the firearm containers.
If you are using your safe to secure your guns, plan on strapping it securely to a wall of the truck. It will be tempting to tip it over on its back or side to prevent shifting/falling during transport but many safes will not open when they are tipped on their back or sides. You don’t want to have to try to lift a full safe in order to open it.
Remember that many localities have laws surrounding so called “assault weapons”. These are treated as a sort of separate class of firearms that may even be illegal to even transport through said localities. Your best bet is to drive around these places even if it costs you several extra hours and gallons of fuel.
The previous paragraph can also pertain to magazines as well. Know the magazine restrictions for the places you must drive and plain accordingly.
I should probably note that typing the previous paragraphs has me seething with anger and my blood pressure has spiked. The thought of being arrested for simply driving through a locality with a legally owned firearm should make you just as mad.
Try to Relax
If you have done your homework and planned well, try to relax and enjoy the trip. You probably won’t have any issues and this is a beautiful country to drive across.