AirTran’s Firearms Policy is Ridiculous and Unsafe

Since I started writing for TTAG I’ve been spending more of my weekends traveling to and from various places in the United States doing gun-related stuff. It’s great, since I love to travel and see new places, but it means that I have to deal with airline policies on a regular basis. One policy that always frustrates me is AirTran’s firearms policy . . .

This is how I prefer to travel with my carry piece. Everything has its place and the foam keeps all the bits safe during transport. Also, if I ever get stranded a la Lost I know that there’s a firearm and ammunition lying somewhere around that beach with my name on it.

Most airlines consider this to be an acceptable configuration for carrying a firearm and ammunition. The standard requirement for ammunition is that it be in the manufacturer’s original packaging or a cardboard or similar box that keeps the ammunition separated, which I can understand. No one wants an errant pointy bit of your luggage connecting with a primer at FL350. And allowing the ammo to be packed in with the firearm means that there’s probably some padding to keep the ammunition safe and secure.

AirTran is having none of that “safety” stuff.

Their policy explicitly states that the ammunition cannot be in the same piece of luggage as the firearm, meaning (for me) that my box of 45ACP gets thrown in with the rest of my clothes. The issue here is that it is vastly more probable that something will contact the primer (like a pointy bit of airport equipment or due to rough handling) now that the ammunition is floating around in the soft squishy unlockable luggage.

My ammunition would be MUCH safer meticulously tucked away in the foam of my hard and secure Pelican case, but AirTran requires me to put it in a less secure and less safe location while on the airplane.

Which begs the question: WHY? The only explanation I can think of is that AirTran is afraid that a round of ammunition will find its way out of the manufacturer’s container and then roll around until it magically ends up in the chamber of the firearm (an unloaded firearm with the bolt closed, mind you), somehow trip the bolt to go forward, and then a fairy will come by to pull the trigger and set the thing off. It’s a series of events that are physically impossible.

So instead of allowing me to safely stow my ammunition where it should be (the hard sided case) they make me put it in the soft luggage, where it is free to connect with an errant bolt in the fuselage of the plane and detonate at 35,000 feet.

I just want to be safe, but AirTran won’t let me.


  1. avatar caffeinated says:

    This policy coming from the same people who brought you ValueJet.

    1. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

      +1 and how did that work out?

    2. avatar FrankInFL says:

      Do they still use “Critter”?

      1. avatar caffeinated says:

        I think any association with O2 generators and Valuejet has been the subject of an aggressive denial and deception operation.

  2. avatar John says:

    The beauty of the American marketplace is that you can pick a different airline, right?

  3. avatar LT says:

    Oh c’mon now… this policy is pretty stupid but it’s not entirely unheard of – in fact, I wasn’t aware there were any airlines that let you store ammo and a firearm in the same piece of luggage (though I haven’t flown in a while).

    That said, nobody’s forcing you to be unsafe. That fancy Pelican case you’ve got? You could always purchase or make something similar for your ammo. Heck, I could probably pick enough padding from within a thirty-foot radius of where I’m sitting – and a suitable ‘case’ – to store that ammo in. Choosing to just toss the ammo in with your clothes is entirely your choice.

    Also, the word is “ridiculous,” not “rediculous.”

    1. avatar caffeinated says:

      Here are the regs per TSA. After reading this you will know more about the issue than most airline workers:

  4. avatar MadDawgJ says:

    Have you tried one of the small waterproof caliber specific ammo case? The hard plastic is much better than the soft cardboard. It should meet the requirements of “or similar box” and they are cheap, or free with bulk ammo purchase.

  5. avatar Bob says:

    Those boxes are not that safe (in terms of tampering protection) as you’d expect, and somebody working at the airport while having a bad day may end up picking your box, breaking the lock or the plastic tabs then would have access to a fully loaded gun…

    my 2c

    1. avatar caffeinated says:

      Most of the airline approved containers are far more susceptible to what you have described compared to a pelican case.

  6. avatar Todd says:

    .. AirTran requires me to put it in a less secure and less safe location while on the airplane.

    Er, no, they don’t require you to do that. They require you to keep it separate from the firearm. You choose to put it in a less secure location. Get yourself another little Pelican box and everybody’s happy.

  7. avatar Anon in CT says:

    Perhaps they know the, ahem, caliber of their employees, and don’t want them to be able to assemble of a fully loaded weapon after opening just one case?

    I’ve never flown with a firearm (outside of the Army, where it was just stored in the overheard luggage compartment (A-320) or between my knees (C-130m, Huey, etc.)), but it would seem logical to pull the firing pin and keep it on one’s person, except that would be breaking another TSA policy, I guess.

  8. avatar Richard W. says:

    In all honesty, it may also not have anything to do with the airline, but the jurisdictions where they might fly (or be diverted to) during the course of your flight. Some places (as is documented here many times a month) have extreme laws on transportation of firearms and ammunition and their lawyers probably advise the on side of caution with this in mind. Heck, if your luggage was lost, they may even have to transport it to you THROUGH a jurisdiction where their driver would be in violation for carrying the gun and ammo in the same locked container.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      I think Richard W. is correct. If the airline mishandled his luggage and then had to deliver it in a car or truck, many states require the pistol to be unloaded, in a locked case, and separate from the ammunition.

      The easy answer is a small, padded case that is just larger than the ammunition box. Put the ammo in there and then put that in your luggage with your clothes.

  9. avatar Mr. Lion says:

    No one wants an errant pointy bit of your luggage connecting with a primer at FL350.

    Probably not from an avoiding panic standpoint, but it’s not like a free round could ever have any ballstic effect, nor cause significant damage to an aircraft even if it did.

    I suspect the policy in question has more to do with preventing someone, in theory, from having everything they need to put holes in things in one handy box. Whatever logic they may have used to get there, it’s almost certainly the reason.

    Get a second box, zip-tie it to the first. Presto.

    1. avatar Mike OFWG says:

      You are correct, I have seen belts of ammo (7.62) thrown on a bonfire, nothing but pops as the cases split.

      1. avatar Anon in CT says:

        Clearly you were at a rocket surgeon convention.

  10. avatar KWAL says:

    This is more than you will ever need to know. Great resource complete with video presentation. I’m surprised no one has linked to it:

    1. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

      If you look hard enough you’ll find the story of the first time I flew with firearms on there 😉

  11. avatar Hal says:

    I’ve flown twice very recently, and each time I was required to do the exact same thing as RF. It was on two different airlines. I’m not 100% on this but I think it might actually be a TSA thing, not an airline thing. Which of course wouldn’t be suprising at all that the TSA put absolutely no thought into a regulation.

    1. avatar racer88 says:

      It’s definitely not a TSA thing. I’ve flown many, many times with a firearm…. mostly with Delta. ALL of them have allowed the ammo to be in the same pelican case. This is how I do it:

      I have not flown Airtran with a firearm, though. I’m flying with them for the first time next week…. to Vegas. My license isn’t recognized there, so I will be “sans pistolet.”

      1. avatar Ken says:

        It’s “tactical butterscotch!!!”

      2. avatar Ed. says:

        You should remember that Nevada is an open carry state.

        1. avatar racer88 says:

          I’m going to be staying and speaking at a convention at a casino / hotel. So, I’m thinking open carry probably not a good idea. Never mind that I’m simply not comfortable with open carry.

          My REAL problem will be my PANTS! All my pants are sized for IWB carry, AND I’ve recently lost about 12 lbs. So, without a IWB holster, my pants are going to be LOOSE.

        2. avatar caffeinated says:

          Baggy pants are all the rage depending on what part of Vegas you are in.

  12. avatar Mike OFWG says:

    Some of us find it more convenient to mail (UPS) our ‘machine parts’ on ahead, but that requires an address or mail drop.

  13. avatar Mark N. says:

    The part I don’t get is why the TSA freaks out about loaded magazines. Ammo is safer in a magazine than some cardboard box, right? Where’s the logic in that?

    1. avatar caffeinated says:

      Everytime I’ve flown out of Tampa, I have loaded magazines in the same box as my unloaded and locked pistol. The regulation is that the top of the magazine is covered in something like a magazine pouch.

  14. avatar TSgt B says:

    Who ever accused these regulatory morons of being smart?

  15. avatar Ray says:

    You have to know that someone at the airlines heard pistols referred to as ‘autoloaders’ and . . .

  16. avatar Josh says:

    Wow, that’s good to know. I will be traveling to Colorado next month on airtran with my AR15. I will most likely just get ammo out there than bring any with me.

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