photo

Nothing has ever made me feel more like the stereotypical blogger than angrily opening my laptop, connecting to the intertubes and furiously airing my grievances to the world. Double points for using a grainy cell phone photo as an illustration. But sometimes, stupidity demands to be highlighted . . .

I’m flying to Phoenix today to go see the guys at Tac-Con. Because Arizona is about as firearms-friendly as it gets, I’m taking my XD(M) with me. And let me preface what I’m about to say by noting that I hate traveling commercial. I’m the guy who always opts out in the screening line, and given the fact that I’m a normal-sized adult, I don’t really fit on airplanes. So I just assume that traveling with a firearm will be even more stressful than normal, and this morning I wasn’t surprised by the course of events.

Normally, I show up to Austin Bergstrom Airport about 75-90 minutes in advance of my departure time. While not the fastest airport I’ve ever flown out of, Austin does manage to move people through fairly quickly. Knowing that I’d have to declare my gun, I showed up a full two hours in advance and I’m really glad I did.

Since I’ve never flown US Airways, I made sure to read all the documentation online about their policies surrounding the transportation of firearms. Theirs is pretty standard stuff. Make sure your gun is unloaded, locked in a hard-sided case, ammo in a separate container with no magazines loaded. Fairly simple stuff. I locked everything up in the case the night before, packed my clothes on top, and headed out.

When I got to the US Airways lady in the baggage check line, I cheerfully told her that I had a firearm to declare. She asked that I open the case so she could place the bright orange “unloaded” tag inside. At no point did she ask if it was actually unloaded. I opened the case, and that’s when things went off the rails.

Gate Agent #1: “Is that the ammo?”

Me: “Yes”

Gate Agent #1: “You can’t keep it in the same box as the gun”

Me: “Your policy doesn’t make a distinction and the TSA website indicates that it is fine to pack it in the same case”

Gate Agent #1: “Hey Gate Agent #2 (supervisor), can you help out?”

Gate Agent #2: “Sure. What’s going on?”

Gate Agent #1: “He says he can pack his ammo in the box with his gun.”

Gate Agent #2: “I’m not sure. Call the main line.”

Gate Agent #1 (picks up the phone & dials)

…phone rings and rings…

Gate Agent #1 (to Gate Agent #2): “They’re not answering”

Gate Agent #2: “Okay”

Me: “I read both the US Airways policy as well as the TSA policy and it is totally fine to pack ammo in a box inside the locked case. I assure you it is safer as well.”

Gate Agent #1 (Ignores me and continues checking in other patrons while Agent #2 stares intently at her computer)

…five minutes go by…

Gate Agent #2: “I can’t find anything. Use the radio.”

Gate Agent #1 (picks up radio): “Hi I need someone to call me about an issue at the counter.”

Meanwhile, my underwear is spread about and the other patrons are working around me to check in. Humpty and Dumpty finally figured it out and even though Gate Agent #1 assured her supervisor and me that she had learned differently “in training,” I was allowed to pack my ammo in the case. At which point I was instructed to head over to the TSA screening station to have them run my bag through the X-Ray.

Little did I or the TSA know that Austin had hosted a large triathlon this weekend. Several of the competitors were traveling home with their bicycles, all of which had to go through the large luggage screening area. That happens to be the same place as the firearms screening area at Bergstrom. And since the TSA didn’t plan well (imagine that), there was one very deliberate employee going through bike cases with a fine-toothed comb. I spent 15 minutes waiting in line until the triathletes finally gave up, left their gear for screening, and headed through security. Not content to just leave my bag and head on, I waited for the TSA agent to finish with the bike case he was fingering. At that point, reinforcements had arrived in the form of a second agent.

The new agent took my bag, unzipped it, and started haphazardly removing clothes. I started to help and he told me sternly that “the rules” prevented me from touching my belongings. Once my clothes had been removed for the second time, the original agent came by and said, “What are you doing? You have to run that through the X-Ray.”

So the new agent stuffed my clothes and gun back in my duffel and forcefully zipped it closed. For the umpteenth time in life, I gave thanks for not owning nice clothes, and watched them run my bag through the X-Ray. Once my bag was through, the agent grilled me about the case that I’d used and asked why I only had one lock instead of two. I replied that it only had one lock hole, a small lie since the factory XD(M) case has two. He eyed me suspiciously and then told me I was free to go. Total time, thirty-five minutes versus what should have been a five minute excursion.

The rest of my boarding process was uneventful and ordinary. I opted out of being body scanned as usual, removed my shoes, and got patted down like a criminal.

What’s the lesson here? Other than spending the boatload of of cash necessary to get a private pilot’s license and buy a plane, you’re best served by leaving yourself plenty of time to deal with people who have no interest in being helpful or living in the real world. At a minimum, I should be able to show up at an airport, declare a firearm, sign a form, show them its clear, and have it go through the main baggage area. An extra five, maybe ten minutes, tops.

I’d love for the airlines and the TSA to adopt a reasonable standard regarding firearms transportation in much the same way that I’d like to see fifty-state carry reciprocity. I know that it’s a long ways off (likely never), but a man can wish.

100 Responses to Pro Travel Tip: When Dealing with US Airways and the TSA, Allow Lots of Extra Time

  1. One author on this site believes airplanes should be “gun free zones.” Presumably he’s ok with “only ones” (cops for the uninitiated) being exempt from the security theater/ slave training.

    • That would be me.

      I don’t think flying armed should be illegal, but I don’t think its a good idea for companies to allow it. Confined spaces a long way away from help and all.

      • Confined spaces my a$$. If I had a choice between airline A (no guns allowed) and airline B (guns on board allowed), I’d fly on airline B each and every time. If I remember your disaster of an article, plenty of people who know more about airplanes than me agreed that even if there was an exchange of gun fire, it would be very (extremely?) unlikely to do critical damage to a plane. Airlines should be free to decide whether or not allow guns on board. I’m sure then there would be least one airline that would allow on board carry. We could see how the market responds and it should be up to the airline to either keep or abandon the practice. My guess is that a gun friendly airline would be the safest one to fly.

        • Hence the free market solution. I’m happy with gun free zones if they provide equal or greater protection than I would be able to provide myself by carrying. In my opinion, airlines do a good job of that so I’m happy to fly unarmed. But some people share your opinion, and the market might want to provide that service. I never said it should be illegal, just that I didn’t think guns on airplanes was a good idea.

        • I know you never said it should be illegal, but you are saying it’s too risky and therefore should not be allowed, yes? I’m saying that it should be allowed, or more specifically, it should be up to each airline to decide whether to allow it or not. I was also pointing out that your reasons against guns on planes are not very good, going back to your previous article. I’d be more worried about a civilian getting in the way rather than a bullet going through the window or the fuselage. But I think in an event of a highjacking, that’s a risk worth taking. And just the fact that Airline B is allowing on-board carry would probably deter any suicidal maniacs from trying to take over in mid-flight. I’d bet that even though people would carry on-bard, nobody would ever need to clear their holsters. Of course the airline could introduce limitations. Let’s say that before they allow you to carry on-board, they need to see some proof of training, like a NRA certified course or something like that. I’d be fine with that and I’d feel much safer flying with that airline.

      • I tend to agree with Foghorn on this. First of all, planes are very crowded spaces without much cover. If you open up on one with a gun, there is a good chance an innocent bystander will be hit.

        Secondly, while the movie scene where you shoot out a window and suck half the passengers out the hole is bogus, there are some pretty important places you don’t want to be making holes. Namely the floor and behind the overhead racks. You might hit something the plane needs. There is a reason that federal air marshalls have some of the toughest trainng and qualification rules in Federal Law Enforcement. They need to be able to hit what they are aiming for with minimal to no collateral damage.

        Finally, for all we complain about security theater, since passenger screening began in the 1970’s, the number of airplanes hijacked in the US went to basically zero. Until 9/11 that is. Granted, it would have been good had there been a guy with a gun on those flights, but then the terrorists would have had them too and a shootout at 36,000 feet would not have ended well.

        I’m generally against gun free zones, but then again most places I’m thinking of would have adequate cover for me.

        • A shootout at 36,000 feet would not end well? Can you offer a scenario that ends WORSE than 9/11 while being attributable to the presence of legal guns aboard?

  2. Unfortunately, the airlines and TSA are prone to Firearms Freakout Syndrome. The stupid part is that you’re playing by their rules, and they still freak out.

    I wonder what they do to LEOs who declare firearms.

    • Unless the officer is traveling on official business and has a note from mom they go through the same crap… no love lost with TSA.

      • They have to have their travel orders placed in NLETS where the TSA and airline can see it. The fringe benefit is they can carry on the plane.

        If it’s an LEO traveling for vacation or whatever, they go through the same procedures people like us do.

        Oh, FYI, American Airlines is superb with regards to firearms.

        • I was about to comment on American’s usual firearms friendliness.. I’ve flown with long arms and pistols and haven’t had any issues with AA’s personnel. I know they take grief for other things, but they sem to get guns right.

          You should also send a complaint/comment in to Customer Service. AA and US Air are merging and the AA culture is going to be predominant.

    • I do not know how TSA responds to LEOs today, but a few decades ago when I was a LEO, I had airport security freak out over a pair of handcuffs in my carry-on baggage. I had my credentials in the same bag they were inspecting, so I could not show it to them right away…then they had a long conversation as to whether the credentials were real or not.I often joke that if I had only packed a leash, I probably would have made it through the gate sooner

    • They still freak out, and are just as obtuse. I can’t say that I have a lot if love for TSA. The “regulations” are the same, but they are devoid of independent thought.

      I pack my ammo separately now due to Firearms Freakout Syndrome. “Less than 11 pounds in the original factory packaging” is a set of buzzwords which seems to calm the confused bureaucracy somewhat. The TSA “likes” my double – locked Pelican case.

      I’ve had a lot of issues with clueless agents not knowing how to check in my firearms as well. I’m also not a fan of the pecker checkers – oops – body scanners.

    • The stupid part is that you’re playing by their rules, and they still freak out.

      That was your mistake. Just like in Flickerball, there are NO rules.

    • I once was mistaken for a LEO when I asked for firearms declarations form and they gave me a long sheet and asked for my badge. I’m an average height barrel chested younger guy with a good sized goatee and was wearing my typical comfy flight clothes of a loose short sleeve untucked button down and somewhat tactical-looking cargo pants. But I also had my year and a half old son and six months pregnant wife with me. Overall, I guess I might look like an off duty detective, but it was a strange experience altogether.

      • I just had a very similar experience. One of the gate agents assumed I was an air marshall, but the other one rightly understood that I was declaring an unloaded firearm.

        I have to say: my experience going through the airport in Indianapolis was much more smooth than the OP. And it was the first time I’d gone through the process as well.

  3. That’s a bummer.

    I fly with a handgun and ammo at least once every couple of months. I’ve never had a problem, and have found it the one area where the TSA and usair seem to actually have their act together.

    • I flew with my old man to visit my older brother who lives in Vail, CO several years back and we both took our carry guns as our permits here are reciprocal in CO. Surprisingly flying out of Baltimore was utterly painless, while the return trip short hop from Colorado Springs involved some TSA rummaging behind a security screen. Haven’t flown since the full body scanners and all that jazz came about though.

  4. People have the odd tendency to add rules without considering the negative effects of said rules, attempting to cover every stupid possibility.

  5. I’ve flown twice while transporting a firearm. Norfolk to DFW and back. I arrived at Norfolk 3 hours early to be on the really safe side. I declared at the counter. A sticker was applied and I went to the TSA screener. Opened the suitcase and I unlocked it, she casually looked. I relocked it. Zipped the suitcase closed and loaded on the x-ray machine. Total time was 10 minutes. I spent the next 2.5 hours in the bar. I was headed to see family. DFW was the same for the actual counter and TSA portions but there were some long lines.

    Best of luck on the return trip.

    • “A sticker was applied and I went to the TSA screener. ”

      Was the sticker put on the outside of the case, visible to the rest of the traveling world?
      It is my understanding that Federal law prohibits any markings on the outside of the luggage that would indicate that it contains a firearm.

      I may be wrong, have been in the past, but that’s my understanding. Can anyone shed some light?

      Thanks,

      Ron

      • I believe the standard is an “Unloaded Firearm Declaration” card (in my case, flying United out of Indianapolis, it was bright orange), that gets placed outside of the locked gun case, but inside of the luggage the gun case was in.

        As I understand it, when the checked luggage gets screened (in the secure luggage screening area), it will/may alarm, at which time it will be opened, the TSA agent will see the declaration, and all is well.

  6. Sorry to hear about the trouble. I flew Delta two months ago and had zero trouble checking a pistol, except the counter agent was a bit flustered when I told her I had a pistol to check. Luckily the agent next to her was calm and collected, and he quickly had me on my way. They never asked to see the unloaded gun, only that I declare it unloaded. I locked the case with two non-TSA locks and used another cable lock to secure the hard case to my duffle. Maybe it was overkill, but my pistol made it through two connecting flights one way and one on the way back just fine.

  7. TK do you also insist on paying the bridge toll in pennies ? insist on arguing with the DMV clerk when she says you need to do the paperwork her way ?

    15 years of these firearm rules and you feel a need to do it in such a way that it needs to be verified. Sticking the ammo in your clothing bag is sooooo difficult for you ? Trust me that the airline clerk and TSA folks still got paid that day. You are the only one that came out the loser.

      • You don’t need five bags. Just put the pistol in a locked “container,” and put the ammo in a separate locked container. They can both be in your one suitcase. It’s simple, and I’ve done it numerous times. Just don’t make JFK or O’Hare one of your airports.

        • Ammo is not required to be in a locked container. On some airlines, it is allowed to be in the same case with the gun (which makes sense), and others require it to be separated from the gun (as if the bullets will get lose during flight and crawl into the gun and shoot up through the floor and kill a million mile three diamond medallion frequent preferred business traveler that the airline paid to suck the air out of first class).

      • He’s not TSA. TSA doesn’t give a crap about what is in your checked bags. He is more likely an anal ticket agent like the one in DTW that confiscated $40 worth of my defense ammo and sent me back to ATL unarmed.

    • Or TSA could simply follow their own rules:
      http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/firearms-and-ammunition

      Travelers must securely pack any ammunition in fiber (such as cardboard), wood or metal boxes or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition.

      Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm.

      Small arms ammunition, including ammunition not exceeding .75 caliber for a rifle or pistol and shotgun shells of any gauge, may be carried in the same hard-sided case as the firearm, as long as it follows the packing guidelines described above.

      United allows the ammunition to be in the same luggage, but not in the same hard-sided locked case, as the unloaded firearm. So, basically: leave the ammunition in the manufacturer’s packaging, and you can put both it and the gun case in the same luggage.

      I assume USAir’s policy is similar, but I’d have to verify.

      • Delta allows it in the same case with the box and the last time I flew, they never even looked at it. I had two loaded magazines in the case with the unloaded pistol. That is the way I interpret “container designed to hold small arms ammunition”. Good luck with that though. I had a bad experience in DTW last year. Now I just put my loaded magazines in a close-able pouch and toss it in my other bag.

      • United allows the ammunition to be in the same luggage, but not in the same hard-sided locked case, as the unloaded firearm.

        Well see, that’d be a problem for me, as on many of my trips my locked gun case (in some cases an XDm case exactly like that pictured at the head of this post) is my only checked bag, as I pack all my clothes and sundries in my backpack. So if I encountered an overzealous gate agent who (wrongly) said I couldn’t have ammo in the same locked case as the gun, I’d be in quite a pickle, wouldn’t I? And that is precisely why I said elsewhere that I’d argue with the ignorant agents every time, because I often have no other option. And it’s as much for me as for the next person they try to bully, because that next person may not have the time, knowledge, or rhetorical skills to fight back effectively.

        It’s like this: I don’t like a lot of these rules, and think they’re silly or asinine, and will attempt to get them changed whenever it’s in my ability to do so. But in the meantime, I accept that they exist and will make every effort to respect the requirements in them, and in return I expect those that make and enforce the rules to adhere to and respect them with the same accuracy and devotion that I do. When they do not do so, I will do everything in my power to set them straight. I probably speak to a supervisor (or a second supervisor) once for every four times I fly. In precisely zero cases have I not eventually gotten someone in authority to agree with me. Know your information (make sure you’re right) and be steadfast in the face of ignorance, apathy, or downright maliciousness and you will win the day.

  8. I fly all the time with guns zero problems. Except TSAs habit of making up rules, sometime more strict sonetimes less. Usually involving the keys.

    I flew out of ABIA last week to long beach, easiest trip I’ve ever had. After I checked the gun, they were doing expedited screening, kept my shoes and my jacket on, metal detector and they waved me through.

  9. I fly regularly with my gun and US Airways is my main airline. To meet the hardside case requirement, I use a Pelican 1560 as a combination suitcase and hard-side reqirement. So, yes, my ammo is in the same case as the gun. Typically the gun is just tossed on top of the clothes, no holster, no other case, just sitting there.

    I have learned a couple of things:
    A) The x-ray operator likes to see the neat rows of ammo in the typical retail trays, so:
    1) I put the ammo in the original case. On one trip I bought some bulk 9mm and placed it in available .45 ACP trays/boxes. It shifted enough in handling to require a hand check of the bag.
    2) I take the ammo out of magazines, even though the rules allow for them to stay filled if they are in pouches, etc. The x-ray guy could not ‘see’ the pouch to determine if all was OK.

    B) Airline employee knowledge varies greatly, but they get to be right even when they are wrong. One ‘senior’ represenetative insisted that the gun be in a second locked hard-sided case inside my already locked, already hard-sided case. She was not going to accept the bag with the gun ‘loose’ inside. Which leads to

    C) I carry my car safe (a small metal box with a simple lock and tethering cable) so I have some where to lock the gun during my trip other than my main suitcase.

    D) TSA agents will not touch the gun during a hand inspection. Only once was the bag rejected due to this, so I had to go back to plan C above. Typically the hand inspection consists of the chemical swab around the inside of the case.

    and finally,
    E) I always pack my underwear in ziplock bag, much less distressing when the suitcase is opened. They have never opened the ziplock.

    Flying this way allows me to lock my entire checked bag with secure locks (no TSA-approved crap) and pack items of value (computers, etc.) in my checked baggage with much more confidence that any soft side or zippered bag.

    P.S. I took a 7 round magazine, but no gun, to the evil NYC and CT airports. I followed the same procedures as if it were a complete gun, and had my bag locked securely both ways.

  10. 50K miles on Delta this year. Nary a problem. Unloaded? Yep
    Don’t even ask to see the case much less see the weapon 🙂

  11. I recently flew us air out of Phoenix with a gun and it was nothing like you mentioned. They counter woman gave me no hassles and didn’t even make me open the case. The tsa guy was a dick as usual but didn’t make me open the case or x Ray it.

    Maybe your problem isn’t us air. Maybe it’s Austin….

    • Funny that you mentioned Phoenix. 2 years my family and I flew out of there (home to MA) and as my son didn’t have his MA permit yet, I carried his Sig, my SIg, and my ECD Ruger. After check-in, I was directed to a separate room where a TSA agent wanted to see the case. I started to open my bag and he told me that I couldn’t touch it. While he was looking, he was telling me what guns he had at home. I was trying to assist him, but he wouldn’t give me directions (besides “Don’t touch”). We made the flight OK.

  12. Tyler, it could have been worse. You could have arrived in Phoenix, your suitcase eventually recovered in LA, but sans pistol. Don’t laugh. When Netanyahu’s four body guards came to the U.S. to protect him, the suitcase containing their pistols wasn’t at JFK. The guards transferred to Dulles. The suitcase was eventually found in LA, but missing the pistols. Got to love NY, Neeewww Yorrrrk.

    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/138469#.VE7tguepqcM

  13. I would think TSA and airline ticket agents would be used to dealing with checked firearms in Austin. I fly out of Colorado Springs with my EDC regularly (when I’m not flying to slave states), and aside from the brief wait while they hand check my bag, I’ve never had a problem flying out or home. Never been asked to open the case. Since COS is a big military town and pretty conservative, I’m sure they see a lot of firearms. And most of the TSA folks here are ex military and pretty cool.

    The shocker was flying home from Miami early one morning, and realizing as the aircraft door was closing that I hadn’t declared my pistol when I dropped off my bag. Much to my surprise and relief, my bag was second off at baggage claim. Not a mistake I’ll make again. But it does reenforce my belief that airport “security” is a bunch of BS designed to make the average ignorant American feel like the gubmint is protecting them.

  14. One thing that I always do when traveling with a firearm that would have likely helped you is to always have a copy of both the TSA regs and that of the specific airline I’m flying on that trip. That way, when some counter agent says, “You can’t” or “You must,” I can point to their own regulations and say “Yes I can” or “No, I mustn’t.” It’s much better to be able to show it to them in writing instead of arguing about what you remember versus what they think they were taught.

    • Someone I know recently mailed a gun to himself, and printed out the USPS regs on mailing guns. This turned out to be helpful when the helpful postal worker said that mailing guns isn’t permitted.

      • Doesn’t always work. I was shipping a rifle with the USelessPS. Even though I had the regs printed, in hand, the clerk refused to look at them and refused to ship the rifle (I even had a page or two printed from the ATF website saying it’s OK to ship rifles with the USPS). As per the USPS rules, an FFL is needed to ship pistols, but anybody can ship rifles. I tried to explain that but to no avail. The clerk just would not listen. She never checked the printout I had from their own website and she never consulted her official rulebook either. I had to go to a different location to ship it. Took a while but eventually they accepted it. This was in NJ. Never use the post office in NJ to ship firearms, not worth the headache.

    • Ive tried that.

      ‘Give me the keys or your bag stays on the ground’

      They don’t care what the rules say. And honestly neither do I. I don’t give a shit what they do back there as long as my bag arrives with gun and they’re all in one piece.

      • “I’m sorry, but if you want the bag opened, you can bring the bag to me or me to the bag, but I’m not giving you my keys. If that’s a problem, then please call your supervisor.”

        I understand that you say you don’t care, and I respect that that’s your choice. However, I do care. As Captain Picard said, The line must be drawn here. This far, no further.” I will let a lot if things go, but in this area, I will argue with petty tyrants that overstep their authority every time I encounter them. Not just for me and this time, but for next time and whatever person encounters them next, because that person may not have the time or knowledge to argue back. TSA officers don’t get to make up the rules as they go according to their whim, and some of them need to be reminded of that from time to time.

        By the way, in your example, it wasn’t just rude for the officer to demand the keys, it was illegal. If the agent follows through on that demand and opens the gun container outside of the presence of the owner, that officer is breaking the law. TSA regs state that the container should be secured with a lock, and that the owner, and only the owner retains possession of the key. If TSA needs to open the container, they must do so with the owner present. Thankfully I’ve not had to choose between forcing them to follow the rules and making my flight because I allow time for bureaucratic BS, but if I ever have to make that call I’ll take the flight over the principles, and that flight will be followed up by a letter with names, badge numbers, etc. addressed to everyone from the head of the TSA down.

      • Right after a ticket agent told me what rule I broke, when I offered a solution, he refused and said “it is not my responsibility to know the rules. It is your responsibility.” I didn’t think of it at the time (guess that is why they call it a way homer) I wish I said “Then how do I know you know the rules?”

  15. A friend had her purse with small rhinestone revolvers on the side confiscated in Minneapolis on a return flight. She started in Grand Junction, CO, transferred to another plane in Salt Lake, never had a problem. She had to get them to call a supervisor to get it back. I saw a woman in the mall with larger pistols in studs on the rear pockets of her jeans. I wondered how she would fare at airports.

  16. After flying with a gun for the first time recently I’ve wondered: why do they make such a big deal of x-raying luggage KNOWN to contain a gun?

    • What gets me is, you declare the firearm and most of the time they don’t even verify you unloaded it. Three out of four check ins, they did not even have me unlock the case. But then they (TSA) always swab for explosive residue. I don’t keep my bombs with my gun and they don’t swab my other luggage.

    • I’ve always guessed that it is a verification step (for the unloaded-ness of the pistol) as some agents don’t actually check.

      Whenever I flew out of West Palm Beach, I declared at the counter and was always (save once) directed to a chair to wait. I figured that it was being X-rayed. The agent would give the OK, and off I would go to the gate. One time, I went with my bag to a room where I was directed to wait on a bench outside. After about 30 minutes, I got the all clear. When I got home to MA and opened my bag, I found that the locked metal box had been “worked on” and the lid was partial open. Fortunately, the pistol was still inside. Whew! Now I use a better case and lock the case to the frame of the suitcase with a cable.

  17. I’m actually surprised TSA is only as bad as they are, given the super selective recruiting process associated with a government job advertised on the tops of pizza delivery boxes.

    If only they’d ordered something more highfalutin that night, like take-out sushi, some of them could have been air traffic controllers.

    Oh, and, Tyler? Don’t think I didn’t notice that “Tri Uni” peeking out of the duffle. I’d know that font and those first syllables anywhere, especially in my own closet and dresser. (Not nice clothes……sheesh.) C’mon, spill it. Who’s the Tiger in your den? You or the missus, or both?

  18. Tyler, this is going to make your blood boil. I flew from San Jose Kommiefornia to Phoenix, darn taxi was LATE, we go screaming into the airport, run up to the ticket counter, I’ve got the declaration, hand it to the nice counter gal, she goes “ok”, slaps a special sticker on it and I wave my bag bye bye. No TSA…no questions…nothing. Coming back, ‘slightly’ more complicated actually had to go to TSA, tell them how to open my duffle bag to get to the properly locked up firearm, they were happy. Closed it up and off the bag went to be securely watched over until I picked it up back in the Freedom Loving State of Kommiefornia. Moral is, if you want your back really really really cared for…declare a firearm.

    • Ive spent a lot of time thinking about this, so Ive got one more.

      Ive been bumped up the line more than once because I checked a gun. Had my suitcase carried to the TSA desk once and my bags are always locked up tight, and they never get lost.

      One time I had a box of 7.62×25 that broke open and I got it back wrapped up in TSA tape. I wish I could post a picture of it.

      Fly with guns, its a good thing.

  19. You know we all would love this to be a perfect world.. However it is not.. I am a LEO and travel with a firearm every time i fly.. And go through the same deal every time.. Last time I got pulled out of line because some weird metal shape in my bag… Ya that’s a Badge.. everyone hates on police… even TSA.. You know we are all human as well and are just doing a job.. But I’ll let you all in on a little info.. If the TSA guy didn’t do what he did and hell Ebola, a active shooter, or hell a bomb got through…. Then shit it was his fault… all his fault.. come on .. its easy to bitch, these guys are a pain in our ass, until something bad happens, then hell these guys are not doing their jobs…..

  20. I fly around quite a bit and found myself at the TF Green airport in Warwick, RI
    I also had checked TSA rules and carrier rules. I could have a loaded magazine, but all extra ammunition must be in an approved container or spare magazine. This is to prevent an accidental primer strike. They don’t want loose ammo bouncing around in the event some college educated baggage handlers toss something around or maybe even drop your firearm on the tarmac.
    To make a long story short, I always have a full mag for my Sig P229 Elite and one for the chamber, I carry a .40 Even though the extra bullet could sit hidden in the foam inside my blue factory Sig box, but Nooooooooooooo! Oh no, it had to be much more difficult and here is why!
    Little miss Bimbo service lady insisted that I somehow at the security line, getting ready to board the plane, magically lose that extra round of .40 ammo that was in the chamber. What in hell am I going to do with a bullet at an airport, flush it?
    There is no doubt in my mind of a law against improper disposal of live ammunition, if there isn’t, they’d certainly think one up or find a law that narrowly fits the crime. I live on the west coast and I didn’t want to be on the East coast in jail or hot water.
    So the lady calls up one of the airport police guys, but by the time he arrives, they had moved me to the back room where they do rectal exams I think. No such luck. They had me stand outside the room where my luggage got the once over again, along with the wipes looking for nitrates or whatever. Then Captain America Police officer shows up with his cop hat and shiny badge ribbons, gas, clubs, the whole thing, along with his cool accent and he just looked the part. He was cool. I said to him, “I guess you’ll be wanting this” and handed him that one extra .40 round of my best self defense ammo. He took it from me and examined it for a few seconds and then he was like he won the lotto jackpot. He was like a little kid with a bag full of candy on Halloween. He said, “Oh nice!!! This is what I shoot. Excellent!!!. I just sort of looked at him, as quite frankly, his enthusiasm took me completely off guard and totally by surprise and I had nothing to say except…..ok. I was expecting handcuffs or a trip to the security office, everything except that!
    My moral of the story, do everything by the book with no deviation, because all it takes is some hourly dweeb or dweebette to make your life miserable.

  21. Also, for the record, US Airways’ current firearms policy is below. They’re actually one of the more firearms-friendly airlines…..

    http://www.usairways.com/en-US/traveltools/baggage/specialitems.html

    Firearms

    US Airways will allow passengers to transport firearms in accordance with Federal Law.

    Items of shooting equipment will be accepted as checked baggage only.
    A passenger who presents checked baggage that contains a firearm must declare the weapon and sign a written acknowledgement that the firearm is unloaded.
    Firearms must be packed in a manufacturer’s hard–sided container specifically designed for the firearm, a locked hard–sided gun case, or a locked hard–sided piece of luggage. Handguns may be packed in a locked hard–sided gun case, and then packed inside an unlocked soft–sided piece of luggage. However, a Conditional Acceptance Tag must be used in this case.
    Baggage containing firearms must be locked at all times and the key or lock combination retained by the passenger.
    A Firearm Unloaded Declaration form (available only at the airport) must be signed and placed inside the bag or gun case.
    Checked ammunition may not exceed 11 lbs/5 kg per person. Ammunition clips with ammunition loaded are not accepted. Ammunition must be packed in the original manufacturing package or constructed of wood, fiber, plastic, or metal and provide separation for cartridges. No additional documentation is required.
    There is no limit to the number of items contained in rifle, shotgun or pistol case, up to 50 lbs/23 kg, 62 in/157 cm in maximum.
    A passenger who presents a firearm to be checked to an international destination must be in possession of all required import documentation for their international destination city and any international transit points. It is the responsibility of the passenger to acquire the required documentation from the applicable government entity prior to travel (usually a consulate or embassy). Firearms will not be accepted for transport if international import requirements have not been met.

  22. Step 3. Fly Southwest. Both in Houston and Seattle, I’ve never had a customer service type pitch a fit or really even care at all, they just handed me the card to fill out and directed me to the TSA. I had one TSA agent say I should put a lock on my duffel in addition to the locked case, and I politely said ok and never did anything about it.

  23. I figured that out a long time ago– carry a gun, and your luggage will be treated far better.

    Put all the valuables in with the gun, especially when traveling internationally. The natives will pilfer your other bags, but not that locked case.

  24. I fly often with a number of airlines and have never had a problem. I have even flown into the Peoples Republic of California at San Diego. I emailed and and asked if there would be a problem with a locked handgun and ammo in factory box separate. The head of Airport Security emailed back there would not be. It went smooth. Since I was driving back to Ohio I left it locked in the trunk until out of Kalifornia and my CCW’s kicked in. Just allow a bit of extra time at airports mostly due to an occasional untrained employee on firearms. I do have a real story about 100 rds of copper and lead bullets I took in my carry-on bags. I had to go to supervisor #2 to be approved.

    • Are you talking ONLY bullets ( as in for reloading?) or complete loaded cartridges?
      That story would be interesting to hear……

  25. I have one question: In the article Tyler says “I made sure to read all the documentation online about their policies surrounding the transportation of firearms. Theirs is pretty standard stuff. Make sure your gun is unloaded, locked in a hard-sided case, ammo in a separate container with no magazines loaded” so why did he not comply with the ammo policy and actually contradict it?
    I have not read US Air’s pollicy either, but I do know that many airlines allow ammo in the same case and why not? If you read and unhderstand the rules, you can have loaded mags as well. The container holding small arms amunition must be of metal or plastic and be designed to contain the amunition. Uh…that would be a magazine.
    I had no problem last monthas no agent either way nor TSA even openned my case. The orange card can go in your suitcase on top of the gun case so it need not be openned. I was scared that my lock wouldnot be accepted as my case is the standard Glock case and it has no lock holes. I just put a padlock around the handle to eep it shut. Has passed all four times so far. I can’t afford a Pellican case but that is what I am holding out for.

    • The container holding small arms amunition must be of metal or plastic and be designed to contain the amunition. Uh…that would be a magazine.

      Most airline regs now include the phrase “provides separation between the cartridges” which neatly eliminates loaded mags as an option.

      The orange card can go in your suitcase on top of the gun case so it need not be openned.

      That only applies to gun cases contained inside other luggage. If the case is traveling solo, the card has to go inside. I prefer to travel with my gun cases on their own even if it “looks like a gun case” because then it has its own tracking info. A gun case inside a duffel bag could be removed while the duffel is scanned on to its destination. It’s only when the duffel is opened at the far end that the disappearance is discovered. If the gun case has its own tracking, it could be seen that, for instance, it was scanned off the first plane but not scanned onto the second. That eliminates the baggage handlers at the departure and arrival airports from the necessary investigation and limits it to those at the layover airport.

      • But a 100 round box Winchester 9mm is bulk loaded loose is the box. They allow that because it is “in original manufacturers packaging”.

        Good idea about checking the gun separately.

      • quote
        “” I prefer to travel with my gun cases on their own even if it “looks like a gun case” because then it has its own tracking info. A gun case inside a duffel bag could be removed while the duffel is scanned on to its destination. It’s only when the duffel is opened at the far end that the disappearance is discovered. If the gun case has its own tracking, it could be seen that, for instance, it was scanned off the first plane but not scanned onto the second. That eliminates the baggage handlers at the departure and arrival airports from the necessary investigation and limits it to those at the layover airport.””

        Interesting Thought….. I like the scan tracking idea.

        What kind (brand/ model) case do you like or use?

        • I have traveled with my XDm in its case (pic and video), and with my P238 in its tiny little case (pic and pic). When traveling with long guns, I use a Pelican 1750 long case. In both of the small-case situations, I’ve had the gun hand-delivered to me at my destination. The rifle case is 50/50 between hand-delivered and just coming out on the belt.

        • thanks

          so, are those just the factory plastic cases they came in when NEW? and you put 2 padlocks of some sort in the lock holes? Do you ever consider ZIP TIEs around the handle or in the lock tabs ( with the locks)? just ‘cuz?

        • Yes, original boxes that the guns came in. Yes, padlocks in both holes on both cases. No, no zip ties, because I don’t see the point. The TSA standard for cases is basically that you can’t fit a finger in when the case is locked, but opened as far as it can go. If a case is sloppy enough that a zip tie would make a difference, it’d probably fail the finger test, anyway.

      • Just curious
        If you or anyone else has any idea what truly constitutes a firearm/ gun for (plane) travel. If NOT a COMPLETE FIREARM/ gun ( like a stripped 100% ar lower or any other type of stripped receiver ) or only other parts / pieces that can be freely bought and / or mailed, Examples… , an 80% ar paperweight, or x change caliber kits with no means of firing, If only misc or incomplete assy of parts is it required to be declared as a firearm ?

        can a 80% or less paperweight, or any other bit or piece possibly even be in carry-on?

  26. “…to adopt a reasonable standard regarding firearms transportation in much the same way that I’d like to see fifty-state carry reciprocity.”

    Using the word ‘reasonable’ with those in charge of such things never ends well. It goes hand-in-hand with their version of ‘common sense’.

    Either way, I feel that American’s continue on the long road to sleep. Unless something changes, drastically, in the near future, I only see it getting worse.

    • The poblem is, there is no standard. Every time I fly and check my gun, I get a different proceedure. I flew two round trips in two weeks and in the four check in processes, I had four different experienses and it was all with the same airline.
      The first agent had me open the case. She just stared at the gun then asked if it was unloaded. I said yes so she had me sign the orange card and told me to lock it in the case even though it was going inside my other bag.
      The next time, the card was placed along side the case inside my bag.
      Some airports have you wait outside the TSA screen area while they inspect your bag while others just place it on the belt and send you straight to the gate.
      In TPA, the TSA asked me all the questions that the ticket agent usually asks. This was the first time any TSA agent has asked me anything. I keep my ammo in the magazines in a closed mag pouch. The TSA agent asked me if I had any ammo, I said yes. Then he askedif it was in “original manufacturers package”. I said yes even though it isn’t. He screened the bag and said “Okay you are good to go”.
      I have only had one problem and that was in DTW where the ticket agent did not allow me to check my ammo in the magazine. I have done it ten times sinse and have had no issues. 9 times out of 10 they don’t even have me open the locked case. Why is there no standard?

  27. Thanks for all the info folks. I feel confident on my travels in the future I can travel to a gun friendly state with my EDC checked (providing I have the right repricrosity on my CCW). I was wondering about the ammo for years having heard multiple stories about carrying ammo or not. I like the idea of what “flyer” said about packing everything within a pelican case and carrying a separate case for the firearm. This would also make retrieving your bags a much easier time knowing that all your stuff is within your case not just your EDC. The only time I carried firearms on a commercial aircraft was during my time heading to the sun and sand of the middle east. We carried… *gasps*…. openly… with real assault rifles and machine guns with 120 rounds of loaded ammunition and box mags. You know not a single person was shot or killed during that flight. I understand why the rules are in place… No really I get it! I understand why we have to check our bags in. I just think that the SOP(Standard Operating Procedure) for checking in firearms should be universal across all of the airlines to prevent fornications of the royal canines with the passengers, ticketing agents, and our favorite rent-a-feds the TSA in the future.

  28. The only problem I ever had with US Air was in Charlotte, NC. Although I had printed out their firearms policy, from their website, making sure the header was included, the gate agent wouldn’t accept the firearm since it was not in a separate box within my hard sided (Pelican) case. Even after showing her the written directives, she had to find some supervisor to tell her what she read was for real. As posted by “Flyer” above, I also use the Pelican case, mine is the size of an average carry-on bag, as a suitcase as well as a gun case. My locks secure all of my possessions, and the Pelican case is more than ample to handle any rough treatment in transit. The return leg, at LAX, was a complete 180, no problems with either the gate agent or TSA. The whole process took less than 10 minutes, including taking the bag to a special X-ray portal.

    Though I haven’t any first hand knowledge (luckily), any of the NY/NJ Port Authority airports are problematic. From reports I’ve read, the gate agents will notify the PAPD when anyone attempts to check a firearm. Without LE status (active or qualified retired) under federal law, and absent the appropriate permit, you will be arrested. And this would include a situation where a flight has been diverted and you end up there unplanned. The only option, that I can see, is to not accept custody of your bag from the airline, have them hold it to ship through on whatever flight they arrange. Granted, this definitely increases the chance of losing the firearm, but that still beats getting arrested, posting bail, lawyers fees, etc. And while there is a Federal Firearms Transportation Act, the courts there have held that it can only be used as an “affirmative defense” , as your travel was “broken”, by the stop at the airport.

  29. I have flown a lot, but not much since 9/11. And you guys make me scared to try flying with a firearm, since my departure airport is typically Newark, NJ. even though I live in PA. Philly is actually farther away and harder to get to for me, but I suppose it would have to be my option to use if flying with firearms.

    • As I posted before, despite my overall disdain for the TSA at Philly (well to be fair, my general disdain at Philly period), I’ve shipped both AR-15 and pistol with ammunition through there without too much issue or them freaking out. I would never step foot in New Jersey, let alone use their airports.

  30. I’ve flown commercial airlines with firearms several times, and the only time I had a (minor) problem was when a box of 500 rounds of 22 ammo decided it would spring a leak right as the airline check-in clerk was checking my guns. She was helpful enough to find some packing tape and let me wrap tape around around the box and replace it in my luggage. Can’t remember the airline.

    So far, traveling with firearms has been fairly easy as long as you follow both the airline’s and TSA’s rules.

    It’s the NORMAL stupidity of traveling these days that makes traveling no fun: long lines at security, stupid restrictions on liquids, crammed carry-on bins, and shrinking seat and leg room.

    • I would call this post a minor problem. I have a better story than this and have only told it a few times as a reply. Maybe I should submit it as a post? Tyler’s only issue was, time wasted (but he checked in early) and his clothes were ruffled through more than necessary. It wasn’t the airlines’s or TSA’s fault that 30 bicycles showed up at once. In my story, I had to deal with the police and my ammo was confiscated.
      The problem is, it is up to a ticket agent (who may or may not be a gun owner) to interpret guidelines (that may or may not be poorly written and contradictory). There is absolutely no consistency from person to person within the same airline.
      This is the only rules that really matter.
      1) Gun is unloaded
      2) Gun is in a locked hard case
      3) You pack maximum of 11 pounds of ammo
      Everything else is bullshit and leaves room for an asshole ticket agent to fuck with you. Print out the rules for him if you want but that is stupid. It is on the company web page. He can pull it up just like you did. He is still going to be a jerk and deny your travel.

  31. Security at Austin is not known for being very bright. I was flying from there to Phoenix on a one way ticket, bought the day of the flight, so I get the joy of the extra screening. Well, we were waiting, my friend and I were talking about the DC-3 he owned that we were trying to get fixed at the Waco airport. We had run out of time, hence the trip home from Austin. Well, the TSA heard us talking about something called DC-3, and called the Austin PD to question us. We were told that we had to watch what we were talking about while at the airport, so I asked why I could not talk about airplanes, while at the airport, since I was a aircraft mechanic as well as a pilot. I asked the members of Austins finest if they had a clue what a DC-3 was, they didn’t, I pointed at a huge aviation history mural that was in the area and pointed out the DC-3, and told them I would talk about airplanes at the airport all I wanted to and if they did not like it, to go get stuffed.
    Turns out they and the TSA thought DC-3 was some sort of a new explosive

  32. So…. What are the TSA FAA requirements for Black powder
    muzzle loaders and revolvers or pre 1898 ( antique ) firearms? Are there any differences to regular (modern) guns?

  33. #1. You’re going to AZ

    #2. You are going to AZ

    Next time, don’t bring ammo.

    Solved.

    There’s a difference between being right, and wasting time. You should learn that if you have experienced an argument with a woman.

  34. Does anyone here have experience traveling with an AR-15 type semi-automatic (civilian) rifle as checked baggage? I have a NYS-compliant rifle (which technically doesn’t make it an assault rifle), but I understand some airlines have some unpublished rules regarding semi-automatic rifles. USAirways, for example, indicates that rifles must be declared, unloaded, locked in a hard-sided case, etc., but when speaking to an agent that they make distinction between “sport” rifles versus “assault” rifles. I wondered if this restricted rifles to bolt-action only.

    I’d be interested in anyone that can offer some experience.

    • I’ve seen no distinction made as to the type of firearm. They ask if they’re unloaded, you say yes, locks go on, and you get on the plane. I’ve never had anyone ask anything else.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *