Flying with Firearms
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Everything You Need to Know About Flying with Firearms

Did you know you can fly with a gun? I have written a detailed guide on how to legally fly with firearms on a commercial airline. There’s no point in putting your gun into your carry-on bag hoping that it’ll work.

There is nothing more frustrating than being delayed at the airport, waiting long hours at the security checkpoint, and having to adhere to strict security regulations when flying.

Flying with a gun doesn’t have to be as complicated as you think, even though the hassle of airline travel seems to be getting worse every day.

If you are planning to take a firearm on an airplane for hunting, a shooting competition, or even self-defense, this is excellent news for you.

The addition of a firearm to the mix may seem like it would only complicate things, but traveling with a firearm legally is actually simple, as long as you know what you’re doing.

In this guide, we demonstrate how to pack your firearm, ammunition, and accessories so that they remain legal, safe, and secure.

Also, I will provide some pointers on how to make flying with a gun less stressful at the airport. It is possible to do it the right way or the wrong way. Keep reading to find out more about how you can fly with a gun and still stay legal.

Keep Your Hand Gun Safe and Legal By Always Checking TSA Regulations

The rules and regulations for transporting firearms are subject to change from time to time, even if you’re familiar with the process. Therefore, you should not expect this article to be 100% accurate as it contains advice from a wide variety of sources.

As a result, you must always check the rules of your airline and the TSA before flying. You should also check the policies of the airline you are flying with.

Knowing the TSA’s rules for firearms is important. We live in a world where even gel insoles, pocket knives, snow globes, and even pocket knives can’t be secured in carry-on bags, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that a gun can’t be transported inside.

Here are the TSA rules in a nutshell:

  • Guns must be unloaded, locked in non-breakable containers, and transported only with checked baggage.
  • Keys or combinations for locks should only be kept by passengers. TSA locks should not be used (more about that later).
  • Any firearms you are transporting as checked baggage must be declared.
  • Checked baggage is permitted to contain ammunition, but carry-on luggage cannot.
  • Carry-on luggage is prohibited when carrying parts like magazines and bolts; checked luggage is allowed.
  • In transportation, ammunition is not allowed to exceed 11 pounds, and it needs to be in its original packaging or in a container specifically designed for this function.
  • As far as carrying on and checking luggage are concerned, riflescopes are allowed.
  • Toy replica guns, including those that are replicas of firearms, cannot be carried on board.

Every Airline Has Its Own Regulations

Besides the TSA requirements, each airline has its own regulations, so it’s up to you to do your research to ensure you have checked every box in order to fly with your firearm. Next, we’ll discuss that in more detail.

If you plan on storing firearms in a TSA-approved lock, keep in mind that they are illegal to use for regular luggage since a TSA master key can get into the lock.

In your checked baggage shouldn’t be a copy of the key. The key should be with you at all times. A lock would serve no purpose otherwise, would it?

As a result of having flown thousands of hours, we recommend solid key locks with a shank clearance just tall enough so that the gun case can be closed without allowing additional movement.

It is an enormous misconception that locks are an integral part of flying with firearms. While TSA lists allowing TSA locks on their website, that does not automatically make the policy smart.

Protective Cases Shouldn’t Be Skimped On

Choosing a quality protective case is essential both for your peace of mind and for the TSA’s. It’s your case that protects your gun from the baggage handlers and the plane during transfer while your bag is tossed around by less-than-careful baggage handlers.

Many gun owners choose to travel with their firearms in highly secure cases that are not obvious to thieves, along with being sturdy and durable. Depending upon your preferences, you may want to consider a case that can store small electronic devices, sporting equipment, or even musical instruments.

How To Fly With A Gun: Locked Gun Case

Flying with firearms requires you to check a locked, hard-sided container for the firearms. According to federal law, these containers must be securely locked.

How should you choose a gun case? TSA-approved gun cases are not formally certified, despite what anyone may claim.

To be categorized as a TSA-approved gun case, any lockable case with a solid of hard-sided material that prevents unauthorized persons from accessing its contents must comply with its lockable nature.

Despite the low prices here, you shouldn’t try to cut corners. It is important to note that your gun case will protect your firearms during the trip from damage and theft.

It can easily cost upwards of $2,000 to purchase one or two scoped rifles, so it’s a pretty smart investment to invest in a good quality lockable case for airplane travel. Gun cases don’t have to be that expensive in order to provide excellent protection for your firearms.

If you choose to take a lockable gun case with you on an airline flight, the next step is to secure it. Typically, the interpretation of rules is quite variable from one airport to another, and also from one agent to another.

It’s not specifically stated in TSA regulations that every single hole in your gun case needs to be locked. You just need to lock it securely. Once you get to the airport, you will probably find that doing so makes life easier.

In other words, if your gun case has four spots to lock it, make sure to secure it with four locks. Keep all holes filled. The type of combination code or key lock you use to secure your gun case doesn’t matter. If you use locks, make sure they fit snugly in the case’s holes.

Tip: Don’t lock your gun case with TSA-approved locks.

How come?

TSA regulations state that, when traveling with a gun, the passenger must retain the key to the lock secured to the case. Your firearms will be protected with this feature, so that no one can access them without your permission.

In theory, TSA agents could access your firearms without your knowledge since they possess a master key for TSA-approved locks. Use a padlock, like a Master lock, instead of a conventional, sturdy lock to secure your gun case when traveling with guns.

How Can You Pack An Easy Flight?

There’s no getting around packing, but it’s a requirement when traveling by plane. You can either breeze through security or miss your flight while arguing with a TSA agent if you pack your guns correctly the first time.

In general, the more tightly you organize your gear, the easier it will be to declare firearms. You don’t exactly present yourself as a responsible gun owner if you haphazardly throw things in a case and call it good.

In addition, ammunition must be stored in specialized containers designed to handle small quantities. In a hard case that contains a firearm, shells and ammunition .75 caliber or smaller can be stored, but they’re not required to.

The same rules apply to loaded and empty magazines and clips, but firearm parts like bolts and firing pins have to be stored in checked bags.

Despite the TSA’s recommendation that cardboard boxes can be used to store ammunition during air travel, you may want to use a more durable container in order to avoid the risk of having your ammunition box fall apart during flight, leaving your ammunition scattered around your bag.

Declaring Your Firearm When You Are Flying With A Gun

If you want to travel with a firearm, you must declare it to the airline once you arrive at an airport. When the agent asks you about your gun, don’t simply answer, “I have one.” Instead, say, “I need to declare it.”

Occasionally, an airline supervisor may be required to handle your bags, but it is not usually a significant issue. Your information will be needed to complete a declaration card, in which you must state that your firearms are unloaded, and they will place it in your case. You will be taken care of by most agents without batting an eye.

Make sure you declare your firearms and ammunition every time you travel, so don’t forget to do so if you switch airlines after you have declared them. “Firearm Declaration Slip” can be found online.

The act of declaring a gun is nothing to be embarrassed about, and you won’t get funny looks or be treated suspiciously. It isn’t the first time an agent has encountered a gun since starting their shift, and your gun probably won’t even be the strangest thing they’ve encountered since they started.

To declare a firearm, simply approach the ticket counter inside the airport and let the agent know. In addition to a card that you fill out with your contact information, they will inspect your gun for proper storage. If the case has been locked, the agent will confirm it.

Normally, your case is good to go after a few questions about the accessories and ammunition you’ve got. However, the agent may want to examine the case inside and out.

You must open the case in those cases, and you must demonstrate respect for the four golden rules of gun safety. Counter agents should not touch your guns under any circumstances.

You should not give your firearms to airline agents or TSA agents. An officer from the law enforcement department should intervene if they feel it requires an inspection.

Keep your eyes on announcements and pages as soon as you leave the airport and pass-through security to determine whether you will need to return to the luggage checkpoint.

Usually, declaring your income is a quick and simple process, although there are times when it might take a little bit longer. If that’s the case, you should allow yourself at least an additional hour.

Getting Your Gun From Baggage Claim

When you land, you may have to pick up large or unusual luggage, like skis, instead of your other checked baggage if you have checked the cases as individual pieces rather than as checked baggage.

Most often, they’ll just go down with the rest of the carousel. It’s impossible to explain why this isn’t consistent. You may wish to check the baggage office to see if the gun has been put away with the other strange items if your suitcase has come down the carousel, but your guns haven’t.

Make sure your luggage is still secure before you leave the airport, and nothing is missing. It’s convenient to keep a pocket knife handy on your checked baggage in case it’s zip-tied so you can untie it.

Final Thoughts

To summarize:

  • Checked baggage is required for both ammunition and firearms.
  • Guns should be stored in hard cases with non-TSA approved locks.
  • A solid container is a safer and more convenient way to store ammunition.
  • If you have a firearm, be sure to declare it.
  • Become familiar with the rules of the airline you fly with.
  • Knowing the laws of the place you’re going to is essential.

That’s it. However, you should still talk to a fellow traveler that has already flown with a gun before you fly with a gun.

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