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This article was originally published by Texas Law Shield and is reprinted here with permission.

Last year, over 1,800 guns were confiscated in airports across the country by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the majority of them loaded and in travelers’ carry-on luggage. Despite many of these cases being accidental, there are potentially devastating consequences that accompany being found with a handgun in your carry-on luggage, or a firearm that has not been properly processed in accordance with TSA policies and federal, state, and local law. We hope that this article will give you the knowledge necessary to avoid the unnecessary hardship of being caught at the airport with a prohibited weapon . . .

The TSA has a number of rules which must be followed in order to carry a firearm and/or ammunition aboard a commercial airliner or in the “sterile area” of an airport (the portion of an airport that provides passengers access to boarding aircraft and is controlled with metal detectors and x-ray machines by the TSA). These rules follow federal statutory law, and complying with them will prevent you from violating federal laws which carry harsh penalties.

The TSA uses a fairly broad characterization, taken from federal law, of what constitutes a firearm. 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3) states that a firearm is “any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive, the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any firearm muffler or firearm silencer, or any destructive device.” Thus, if you want to travel with a starter gun, any pistol/rifle/shotgun, silencer, or flare gun, you will need to follow all TSA policies regarding firearms. Other weapons similar to, but not classified as firearms, such as BB guns, compressed air guns, and pellet guns, may be included in checked baggage in accordance with rules governing their transportation.

Any and all firearms must be unloaded, stored in a locked, hard-sided container, and in checked baggage. The TSA uses the definition of “loaded firearm” from federal regulation 49 C.F.R. 1540.5: “a firearm that has a live round of ammunition, or any component thereof, in the chamber or cylinder or in a magazine inserted in the firearm.” It should be mentioned, however, that it is wise to check the laws of your destination state, as that state may use a different definition of “loaded firearm” than your home state. For example, under New York Penal Law § 265.00, a “loaded firearm” is a firearm that is possessed by a person who, at the same time, possesses a quantity of ammunition which may be used to discharge a firearm. Therefore, if you travel to a state with more restrictive laws on firearms possession, be sure that beforehand, you have packed so that you will not be violating that state’s laws when you arrive.

The TSA allows plastic or metal hard-sided cases, as long as the case completely secures the firearm from being accessed (e.g. it cannot be easily pulled apart), and you are the only person who has the key or combination to the lock, though TSA-approved locks are acceptable on checked firearms and ammunition. No tag is required on the outside of the case(s), and in fact, federal statute 18 U.S.C. 922(e) prohibits an airline from requiring any label or tag on your checked luggage indicating that a firearm is inside. Any magazines or clips, whether loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within the hard-sided case.

No firearms, firearms parts (e.g. frames, receivers, etc.), or ammunition are allowed in carry-on baggage; these must be declared and checked with the airline. Different airlines and airports have varying policies on how they want you to declare your firearms and/or ammunition, but generally, these must be declared orally or in writing according to the airline carrier’s instructions when you check-in with the ticket counter. Some airlines might have you fill out an “unloaded firearms declaration” tag to be included within the locked, hard-sided case containing the firearm(s) or ammunition. Additionally, it is a good idea to ask about any limitations or fees that might apply. If your firearm(s) are not properly declared (or packaged), the TSA will give the checked bag to law enforcement for resolution with the airline. This may lead to a delay that could prevent you from making your flight, so it is very important to properly declare all firearm(s) and ammunition with the airline.

The TSA requires that all small arms ammunition be checked-in in addition to firearms. All ammunition must be securely packed in fiber (e.g. cardboard), wood, or metal boxes, or in other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition. It can also be loaded into magazines that are securely boxed or placed in the hard-sided, locked container holding the firearm. Additionally, airlines may have their own preferences as to how they want ammunition packaged and the amount you may have in checked baggage. For example, American Airlines prefers that all ammunition be in its original packaging from the manufacturer, and will accept no more than 11 pounds of ammunition per person. Ammunition containing explosive or incendiary projectiles may not be accepted by a particular airline, as well as loose ammunition, magazines, or clips. Gunpowder and black powder are prohibited from commercial flights by the TSA. Before bringing ammunition to the airport, check with the airline for guidance on how it should be packed.=

Even for concealed handgun license or permit holders, carrying a concealed handgun onto an aircraft or in a sterile area is a very serious crime! Several federal statutes make it illegal to carry a handgun, either concealed or unconcealed onto an aircraft or in a sterile area (14 C.F.R. § 135.119, 49 C.F.R. § 1544.201(d), 49 C.F.R. § 1540.111). Being on, or attempting to get on an aircraft while carrying a concealed handgun carries with it a possible prison sentence of up to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $250,000! Also, attempting to place or having placed a loaded firearm in property that is inaccessible to passengers in flight (e.g. having a loaded handgun in your checked baggage), carries with it a potential 10 year prison sentence and $250,000 fine. In addition to potential criminal penalties, 49 U.S.C. § 46303 provides that anyone who is on or attempts to board an aircraft intended for air transportation that has a concealed handgun or other firearm that would be accessible in flight, is liable to the U.S. Government for a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation. This civil penalty is usually imposed regardless of whether or not any criminal prosecution is pursued.

All states have enacted laws that criminalize carrying an unsecured firearm into the sterile area of an airport. Some states prohibit bringing an unsecured firearm into any part of the airport terminal. Generally, if a person is found to be at the airport screening area with a firearm on their person or in their carry-on, the TSA will turn them over to local law enforcement for arrest and prosecution under state law. Be aware of your destination state’s laws; even if you comply with all TSA declaration and packing policies, you may still be prosecuted for an offense in another state that has more restrictive firearms and/or ammunition policies than your home state. For example, last year a North Dakota resident was arrested at La Guardia International Airport while trying to return home on a flight, because she had ammunition in a separate box, but in the same container as her handgun in checked baggage. While this was in compliance with North Dakota law, she was charged with a serious felony under New York law, which holds a much more strict definition of what constitutes a “loaded firearm.”

The two most important things to do before traveling with your firearm(s) and/or ammunition is: 1) to check with every airport you will be flying through to verify what their firearms policies are, and 2) to learn about the laws of the state you will be flying into, and ultimately out of. If you have any questions about how you can ensure a smooth and safe travel experience with your firearms and/or ammunition, please don’t hesitate to call a Texas Law Shield program attorney. The law is complicated, and we are here to help with any questions. However, being caught with a firearm at the airport, whether intentional or accidental is not a “use of a firearm” covered by the Texas Law Shield program.

We wish you safe travels and will update you on any changes in these laws that may impact your Second Amendment rights.

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58 Responses to How to Fly With A Gun

  1. I moved from the Memphis TN area out to the Portland area via air craft. I flew out with one suitcase full of all my belongings, a tranquilized cat, and a case full of guns. Honestly… the cat was harder to transport than the guns.

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned in this article was the issue of optics. At present you can put your optics in a carry one if you don’t want to worry about it being knocked around or stolen.

  2. The first time I flew with a firearm, I was quite nervous. I thought I understood all the ins and outs of how to do it properly, but wondered in the airline staff did.

    It was such a non-issue I was almost disappointed.

    I still get a bit nervous when I fly out of an airport I have not flown out of with a firearm. It’s the ‘unknown’ aspect that makes me nervous.

    Bottom line, it’s not hard to comply, but it does take some homework.

    Too, I think a big part of ‘success’ is, in combination with having your ducks in a row, acting like you have your ducks in a row. Being “professional” in manner (not rude, not arrogant, but polite and ‘competent’) seems to go a long way.

    • +1

      I’ve never done the flying + gun thing, at least not since I did the flying myself. It seems I invariably find myself going to places where the gun is either illegal or so restricted as to be pointless (e.g., gotta leave it in the hotel room for the cleaning people to either steal or SWAT).

    • I would be far more nervous about getting to the other side an it not being there. Unless you had a bunch of stops it would be pretty easy to find out where it got snatched but it would still ruin your trip. Although, I guess it should make you less nervous than say your wife’s jewelry getting stolen because you likely dont notice until you are home and unpacked, or worse, not realize until the next time she wants to wear the piece that got stolen. A gun missing would be pretty easy to spot, especially if it is a CCW since you probably were intending to put it on before you left the airport, and with modern logistics and RFID tracking etc it would be pretty easy to track down where sticky fingers pulled it off the line.

      I haven’t traveled with guns yet, and having had minor stuff lifted from my suitcase (and never found) I’m not looking forward to it if I ever do.

      • “I would be far more nervous about getting to the other side an it not being there.”

        That DID actually happen to me on the return from a hunting trip out west. It was my rifle in a long case and no mistaking what it was, so I was worried someone in the chain was helping himself.

        I was very nervous about that, but in the end, it was very clear to just have been a misread on the destination sticker. The airport code it went to from one connection only differed by one letter from my real destination code, and the airline put a track on it right away. Got it the next day.

        It could have been any other checked bag with that type of mistake, so I don’t include it as a “flying with firearms” specific problem at check-in and inspection time.

      • Theft of a firearm being shipped in accordance with TSA policies is a very serious offense on the part of the airline and/or airport. They will go through hell and high water to avoid having the ATF or FBI get involved.

        • As I said, my experience had a happy ending, and I don’t doubt what you say. What you are saying is consistent with the response I got from both airport security AND the airline itself when I reported my “item” missing.

          That, however, does not change the fact that I initially had that particular fear of what happened. Ya just never know when someone might take the chance, I thought. I didn’t necessarily believe it, but it did cross my mind.

          Bottom line is that flying with a firearm is generally better than a lot of folks believe. The hassles people get do seem to be the exception or at least limited to certain airports/airlines.

    • +1 This has been my experience as well.

      Side note: My range bag stays far, far away from any airport-bound luggage. Same for clothes. Some municipalities would love nothing more than to bust you for a stray shell casing.

  3. I recently experienced my first time traveling with a handgun. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was. It is a bit unnerving to walk right past the NO GUNS sign on the door to get to the check in counter. I have heard stories about airlines wanting to open your case and inspect or disassemble the gun right there at the counter. I would never allow this and would ask to see a supervisor. If they insist before they will check you in I would make them provide a secure location and never let them touch my weapon. The real key is being familiar with both the TSA and airline rules. I printed both and had them handy in my carryon just in case.

    • Very good points. Be ‘armed’ with the laws, regulations and the particular airline policies and be polite but firm if someone steps outside that seems good advice.

      I count myself lucky that I’ve never had an ‘issue’ myself, but being prepared is, as always, part of the battle.

    • In most situations they’ll just make you sign a waiver stating that the gun is unloaded. I have heard that they sometimes won’t even make you open the case.

  4. As I pointed out before, I have flown with checked firearms numerous times, but the last time I did it, it was out of Philadelphia airport and it was a mess. It was initially cleared through the first TSA security checks and the Airline representatives, and they told me I was good to go. Believe me, I stood by the counter for 15 minutes to make sure. To make a very long story short, I was called back down from the gate, with TSA claiming my baggage was pulled due to “undeclared firearm”. For reasons that are still not clear to me today, TSA agents further down the inspection line had assumed I had used the kiosk and didn’t declare my firearm. It took over a hour to clear this up, with a Philadelphia cop standing by ready to arrest me at anytime. When it finally did, I had to go through security checks AGAIN, and had to wait another two hours at my destination for my luggage to arrive on the next plane since it didn’t make it on the same flight. Oh and the only reason why I made the flight was due to delays from mechanical issues. Moral of the story? Other then Philly sucks, I don’t know. TSA could care less, and they never responded back to my complaints about the left foot not speaking to the right ear. I guess it just goes to show you will be harassed at one point, even if you do everything right.

    • “It took over a hour to clear this up … I had to go through security checks AGAIN … Moral of the story? Other then Philly sucks, I don’t know. “

      I think a good moral to your story is “allow plenty of time.” As I said above, I’ve been lucky and don’t have a horror story to tell, but I pretty much at least double my “arrive early” time at the airport from what I’d do if flying without a firearm.

      • Edit to Add: Yellow Devil, I was not saying YOU did not allow ‘plenty of time,’ just emphasizing the fact for anyone that may not have thought about it.

        I was not meaning to imply you did anything wrong or preventable at all.

        • No I get it, but if they screw up, it almost doesn’t matter how much time you give them, being inconvenienced is being inconvenienced. By the time the Philly Cop was brought into the picture, catching the plane was actually not the top of my priority list.

        • True. It’s no guarantee. Also, one is left with the dilemma “how much extra time should I allow?”

          I recently flew out of Denver flying with my EDC. Being the first time I flew out of that airport and not knowing the situation there, we allowed a very large buffer. Good thing, too.

          It was hunting season and there were a lot of dudes traveling with rifles and quite a few (like me) with handguns, and only one TSA agent doing the inspections. So, the wait was long-ish. It went without a hitch and the lady was super cool and professional, just backed up and busy.

          Interestingly, it was the first airport I flew out of that DID those inspections; most in my experience added my signed declaration card and that was the end of it.

          But, I agree; if they are going to hassle you, there’s no way to predict how long THAT will take.

        • Hope you enjoyed your stay in Denver, conveniently located only 20 minutes from Colorado.

          Unfortunately, it largely rules Colorado.

        • “Hope you enjoyed your stay in Denver, conveniently located only 20 minutes from Colorado.

          🙂

          Fortunately, my ‘stay’ was not in Denver; that’s just the airport we flew into and out of. Rental car and a few hours west and…things were much better.

          Enjoyed a lunch (and good company) Shooter’s Grill in Rifle, too. 😉

  5. I start to regain some faith in airline employees and government agents when the first few responses here depict positive results in traveling with a firearm by someone who follows the rules. Maybe I’ve been reading too many gun blogs but I just figured some agent would play by their own rules just to mess with a gun owner.

  6. The most convenient air ports for me to fly out of are Newark, NJ and JFK in NY that I have to drive through NJ to get to. So no flying with firearms for me, because I’m pretty sure it is impossible for me to do legally. How I wish the airports in Allentown or Scranton, PA were better connected to the rest of the world.

    • “How I wish the airports in Allentown or Scranton, PA were better connected to the rest of the world.”

      They aren’t, even with connecting flights?

      Once your bag is ‘checked’ and passes inspection, is it not good-to-go through any US airport?

      • It is good to go right up to point where you are at you transit point and your flight gets cancelled and they give you your baggage back. If that happens at JFK, LaGuardia or Newark you are in big trouble because they don’t recognize FOPA. Even in Chicago the cops will not bother you if this happens as long as you stay in the airport.

    • Stay away from NY/NJ with your gats. I’d pack them in a locked, hard case, put it in a cardboard box, and send
      it UPS to my destination and back. With extra baggage fees these days, it can’t cost much more, and will save
      lots of hassle with the NYPD and NJSP.

  7. On a related note, I’ve been amazed at the number of people that are ASTOUNDED that I fly with a firearm, even in ‘checked baggage.’

    The “Guns Verboten” meme runs so strongly that other than other shooters (and hunters that travel) a lot of folks (not really anti-gun, either) firmly believe that one cannot fly with a firearm at all.

    There have been those that were shocked that I was not arrested (for following the TSA’s and airline’s own rules, I guess).

    Firearm related ignorance runs very, very deep.

  8. Nice article. The story about the passenger getting arrested at La Guardia is outrageous. The first time I flew with two rifles and a pistol for a pig hunting trip it was nerve racking. Mostly because we departed from Boston. Did I mention I was carrying an R-25 that looked a lot like a very scary battle rifle? Surprisingly, at least to me at the time, it was uneventful.

    Know the rules, follow the rules, stay calm, and everything works. I’ve done it a number of times now without a single incident but I still get butterflies when I do it.

  9. [q]to check with every airport you will be flying through to verify what their firearms policies are,[/q]

    The only laws that should matter, once the bag is in the hands of the airline, is that of the origin, and that of the final destination. If you never take possession of the bags once turned over to the airlines, it shouldn’t matter where you land until you take possession of it back at the baggage carousel.

  10. Bottom line, know the rules, comply with the rules, then don’t be surprised when the ticket agent makes you do something different every single time you fly. And yes, it was the same airline at the same airport several times and every single time, the procedure was different.
    Most of the time the ticket agent never even had me open the case. Another time they took all my ammo because it wasn’t in “original manufacturer’s packaging”. It only need be in a cardboard, plastic, or metal container designed to hold small arms ammunition. I think two Glock mags inside a foam lined hard side case is such a container. It is.

    • Although I know it’s not the rule, it seems to be prudent to unload the mags just in case you do run into such an officious individual. Unless you want to spend a lot of time arguing with someone who thinks he knows what the rules are.

      I’ve started saving the boxes for my carry ammo, for just this reason. (I’ll trash ’em when I rotate the ammo out through the barrel.) Not that I ever fly to a place where the gun is both useful and legal.

  11. I have found that the ease of checking in and the demeaner of the ticket agent are regionally depended. I generally start out at Reagan National where many ticket agents are uncomfortable. I always lock back the slide to show that the chamber is empty and that no magazine is inserted. I tell them explicity that I am going to release slide. I have gotten the terrified stare on a few occaisions when I do this. I am usually bound for a firearms friendly area like the upper midwest or mountain states where I have been asked if I wanted to check a firearm just because I am wearing a bit camo and a Cabela’s ball cap. When you travel with firearms you do everything by the book so there will be no problems getting it checked and making your flight without a conversation with the local constable.

  12. I’ve flown with guns multiple times, once a month after 9/11. I read the rules, knew the rules, followed the rules and had no problems. There are a few things I do to make things easier. I always make sure either the action is open or even better, the gun is field stripped, with the magazine out, just in case someone wants to verify the gun is unloaded (never happened, but I didn’t want to be racking the action of an assembled gun in an airport).

    Second, I hang out until I see my luggage go successfully through the TSA x-ray machine before I go through security. This means I get to the airport well ahead of the 1 hour they say you should get there. I’ve actually had some nice conversations with the TSA personnel about guns.

    Third, for my own peace of mind, the locks are NOT TSA approved locks, they are real locks that only I have the keys or combinations for.

    Lastly, be aware that your luggage will most likely be on of the first to come off the plane. They aren’t allowed to put a tag indicating a gun inside, but the airlines do put it into the “Special Handling” category, along with oversized, overweight, insured, live animals, etc.

  13. By now, I’ve flown with a firearm many times. It has always been “easy.” My only complaint / concern is the lack of consistency from airport to airport and airline to airline. The biggest point of contention is where the “tag” goes. Some want it INSIDE the locked gun case. Some tape it to the outside of the locked gun case. Some just throw it loose into the luggage containing the locked gun case. To me… it makes the most sense to tape it in plain view on the outside of the locked gun case, which is inside my regular luggage.

    Then some make you wait nearby the check-in until the luggage is “cleared” by TSA. Others make you go WITH the luggage to the scanner, where the TSA dude gives you the nod.

    My rule is that if my destination state reciprocates with my home state license, I’m bringing it and carrying it.

    A Right not exercised could end up being a Right lost.

    Oh… before I travel, I completely EMPTY my carry-on luggage (my computer case), to make sure there is nothing in there that would cause issues…. a stray shell casing… a pocket knife… a magazine… etc. Then I re-pack it for my trip.

    I also pat myself down, OCD-style, before I go through the security check point. I do!

    • Another thing I do is pack my G27 in “field stripped” condition. I’ve got the foam in the Pelican case cut to fit each of the four pieces (frame, recoil spring, barrel, slide). There is also a foam cut out for a manufacturer’s ammo box. So, if / when I open the case for the ticket agent, it doesn’t even look much like a gun. I also don’t want to be asked to “prove” the gun isn’t loaded – having to rack the slide, etc. No need to alarm the sheeples! And, if there are any looky-loos in line behind me, they don’t recognize it as a “gun,” either. In fact… on my most recent trip to Dallas… on the way back, the agent in Dallas looked and said, “Where’s the gun?” I said, “You’re looking at it… in pieces.” “Oh.. OK.”

      It’s just so easy to break down a Glock and put it back together at my destination. It’s just an extra (yes… over-compensating) thing to do. Works for me! Your mileage may vary.

  14. I flew from Miami to Dallas via AA and checked a firearm When you go between states with reciprocity, it’s usually no big deal. My CWFL works in Texas, so I figured why not? My “test” was flying with a pistol and 50 rounds of hollow point ammunition. I purchased a Pelican case and 2 ginormous Master locks to secure it. I picked-and-plucked out the shape of my VP9 with the action open, as well as slots for 2 magazines and a plastic ammunition case. Now, I know having the action open isn’t required, but my more-experienced POTG friends advised doing it as a common courtesy. Ammunition was unloaded and in the plastic ammunition case, magazines tucked in their slot. Went up to the counter at MIA and told them I had a special item (didn’t want to scare the people around me) to declare and went through the procedure. They checked the pistol visually (the case was deep so no one except them could see the pistol) Paid the extra-checked-bag fee, signed the declaration, and off I went. Got to DFW and picked up my case at the carousel. Got to the car, re-armed myself, no sweat. Return trip was even simpler.

    Points:

    • Go above and beyond the requirements. Action open, etc.

    • Don’t sweat ammo too much, just bring a little and purchase more at your destination if possible.

    • Don’t go to the counter and say “I have a gun” , haha.

    The only states I wouldn’t attempt this in are states where my CWFL isn’t honored or the laws are anti-gun. No way in hell I would attempt NY, NJ, CT, MA, CA, or HI.

    • I’ve declared firearms in Hawaii (Lihue) and in California (L.A. and San Diego). I had zero issues and it went very smooth.

    • “Went up to the counter at MIA and told them I had a special item (didn’t want to scare the people around me) to declare and went through the procedure.”

      Haha. I sometimes wonder what others around me think about it.

      I usually do the opposite (sort of). I just say, “I need to declare an unloaded firearm for checked baggage.” When traveling with a rifle, it’s kinda pointless to pretend it is anything else, but I do that with my handgun, too.

      • When they ask what it is, I tell them “a firearm…” – I was specifically advised to never just say “I have a gun…” haha…

    • I have a MA carry permit (required for possession in the People’s Republic), but neither the airline staff nor the TSA have ever asked to see it. Technically, FOPA should cover you if you are transiting the state with a locked gun en route to a free state, but obviously New York proves that this cannot be depended on.
      I’ve never had any serious problems, just a handful of minor ones, usually the result of ignorant airline staff. I’ve been handed the declaration form for LEOs who fly armed and had them need to look up how much ammo was permitted. Closest thing to a “problem” was when TSA x-rayed the bag, they needed to call me down to unlock the pistol case. Seemed the magazines were right next to each other, which on the scanner looked like a large unidentifiable object that they needed to ID. Went down, opened the box, they saw it was magazines, and off I went. All of this was in Boston, but still fairly smooth sailing. I suspect that the airport, airline, and TSA guys simply can’t be bothered to care about state gun permit laws. Not their jurisdiction, and they don’t get paid for it. Their sole concern is company policy and federal air travel laws.

      NYC still scares me. Their callous “we don’t care that he wasn’t trying to come to the city, we’re throwing the book at him” attitude is worrisome, and I try to avoid connecting through there. If I end up stuck there anyway, I plan to decline to retrieve my bag. Let the airline hold it and put it on the next flight. Nothing in there I can’t last a day without.

  15. I’ve flown into, and out of 5 different states with firearms, and have had zero issues. The first time was a little un-nerving, but it was just the fear of my guns not getting to my destination.

  16. Don’t forget to pack a holster! I almost forgot on my last trip… got about a mile from home, and it dawned on me. Called wifey, and she was waiting for me in the driveway with it in hand. 🙂

    I usually also pack a back-up holster… like a Remora.

  17. I used to fly home on leave from the military and bring my personal firearms with me all the time. The only time I had any real trouble was when my ammo weighed more than 11 pounds because I didn’t know about that limit. I had to have someone from my office come by and pick it up or else the airline would have handed it all over to the sheriff’s office to be “destroyed” (I’m sure they would have helped themselves to all the .308. The 8mm, not so much). I wasn’t very happy that I couldn’t shoot my guns when I was home on leave.

    Once the person checking my guns in made a smart aleck comment to me. I had bought my SCAR-17 (black) the day after Sandy Hook because I knew they would disappear. I took it home with me for Christmas and on the flight back to the military, the old lady checking it in was shocked at seeing it and asked if I was going to go out and shoot anybody. That really annoyed me.

  18. I regularly fly into and out of Boston Logan with a mil-spec (but semi auto) AR-15, a Glock 17, and a Ruger carry piece in a Pelican case. I keep mags loaded but but in their own dedicated stack. Never had an issue.

  19. Just flew into and out of a small NY State airport within the last week with a pistol in checked baggage with no problems.

  20. Watched a video one time about how it was a good idea, if you want to make sure your valuables travel safely without being rummaged through by TSA, to get a large hard-sided lockable piece of luggage, pack everything inside it it, toss in a cheap flare gun, and declare it as a firearm. That way all your things are safely locked away for the duration of your trip.

    I don’t know if this advice still applies. Seems like it would be a hassle unless you were super paranoid about theft, but an interesting idea nonetheless.

      • When you declare a firearm, you give your luggage to TSA in order to have them rummage through it. Don’t know where you got the Idea that they don’t.

        I’ve never had that happen. I’ve declared a firearm in Indianapolis and St. Louis, and in both places, if TSA inspected my luggage, it wasn’t in my presence. I simply filled out the declaration, put it in my luggage on top of my locked firearm case, and checked the luggage as per normal. Then, picked it up at baggage claim upon landing.

        In both cases, the airline desk attendant who checked the luggage told me to “be available” in case TSA wanted to inspect, but I never got called/paged for such an inspection.

        • I fly out of Atlanta and they have you stand there while they dig through your luggage and swab everything down for explosive residue. I do remember in Tampa they did what you are saying. They have you stand outside the area while they x-ray your luggage. If they clear it then they come tell you. This goes back to my point of consistency. Why is the procedure different at different airports, or depending on the gate agent?
          One thing Matt in FL suggested the last time TTAG covered this topic is, check your firearm case separately from your other luggage. I have been checking my pistol in a small case and placing it inside my other bag. Matt’s point was, you want a tracking number on your gun/s. I am going to get a large Pelican Storm case such as the im2750 that can hold my guns and a few other things and that way I can lock it all up together. My carry on bag will only contain a change of clothes.

      • This is often due to a mis-understanding with them thinking they need to inspect everything inside the luggage looking for the ‘firearms case’ inside as most folks (still) pack the firearms case inside the luggage.

        If you explain that the outer luggage is the firearms case when it’s a non-standard firearms case I’ve had a much better time of them realizing they’re to only swab the outside and test that before bothering with any unlocking.

        The ‘lightbulb’ moment was when one asked for the keys to the gun case and then immediately came back and asked if I had a case for the firearm was inside the luggage; once I explained the hard-sided luggage was the case and met the requirements they helped me understand the rules better going forward and what to tell the TSA so they’d ‘activate their full brain’ and realize something off-script but allowed was happening.

        And I say this as someone that travels with rubbermaid totes w/ brass padlocks and simple plastic flare guns whenever I need to check anything, so that’s about as non-standard as you can get honestly.

  21. I found myself in the Deadhorse, AK airport a few years ago with a .460 Smith due to a botched motorcycle trip. I very calmly asked the ticket counter lady how I may bring my firearm with me on my flight. She simply said it had to be in a locked hard case, which I didn’t have. There was however, a general store nearby, so I bought myself a nice Dewalt angle grinder simply because Dewalts have nice hard plastic case. They even had a TSA approved combo lock! I checked my bag with no problems.

  22. The multiple handguns in one case is covered under the particular airlines policy. Allegiant Airlines, out of Las Vegas, allows only one handgun per checked bag.
    From the TSA website “”Travelers should remain in the area designated by the aircraft operator or TSA representative to take the key back after the container is cleared for transportation.” This implies to me that they can take your key and open the suitcase without your being present. Any clarification or further info on that would be appreciated. My previous post was truncated for some reason. My apologies.

  23. what about international flights? Does it make any difference to the airline. It should my problem when I get there.

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