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I imagine that there’ll be some raised eyebrows today, as Americans step-up to airline check-in counters and declare they’re carrying a firearm in their luggage. It’s a relatively painless if slightly unpredictable process.

Some airlines’ check-in staff require a visual inspection of your firearm(s). Others just ask you if the gun case inside your luggage is locked and the ammo is stored separately. Others don’t have a clue what to do. Eventually, at some point, you sign a firearms declaration form, the agent chucks on or in the gun case and away you go.

Oh wait!

In many airports you then have to schlep your luggage to a separate screening area, stand around while TSA staff check your gun case for evidence of explosives, and wait for Uncle Sam’s blue shirts to give you the all-clear. That sucks. But it’s nothing compared to the “normal” delays one can encounter during air travel.

What’s been your experience — both good and bad — traveling through airports with guns?

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    • The only time I’ve ever flown is to Europe… having my property seized and being arrested tends to put a damper on vacation fun, so I’ve never flown with my gun.

    • Back in the ‘good old days’, if I absolutely had to bring something I couldn’t carry-on, I would pack my travel gun. That ensured that the big Zero stayed shut. That and the red tag “Declared Firearm” on it made it tough to slip out of the baggage handling area inconspicuously. Airlines never lost that suitcase.

      But, it’s no fun anymore. I’ve turned down otherwise interesting gigs because they’d have me flying a few times a week. I no longer have the tolerance for some TSA bumble-eff executing their pathetic security theater.

    • I only fly internationally as well so no guns for me. I carry a few scary looking knives when traveling oversees. Always checked. Never had any issues.

      Traveling accross state lines I do the same as in Texas. At least two handguns, and a 12ga.

  1. Clueless TSA agents – insisting on TSA-accessible locks like regular luggage. NOT!! The whole purpose of the process is to ensure that only you can open the bag, with your key, and no one along the way can access (except by force). Result : missed flight, stress, imposition on person picking us up – two trips to the airport.

      • Yeah, because nothing shows up and shuts uo a petty government agent like having the facts shoved in his face.

        Best just to avoid the airports whenever possible.

  2. this. I don’t fly. I used to love it as a kid but there’s no place I want to go that I can’t drive and I don’t care to deal with the security circus that is the TSA today. Same department in different airports can’t even decide what the rules are.

  3. I’ve had a few raised eyebrows before. Sometimes a newer ticket agent can be a knob about it and I ALWAYS get extra screening, even though I am a licensed pilot.

    Because I carry full mags and one in the chamber, when unloaded, that leaves one round that doesn’t fit in the magazine.

    In the future, I will remove one round from one of the magazines. However, one ticket agent got her panties in a knot because that single round didn’t have a proper container to park itself in.

    Sitting in the foam inside my blue Sig case wasn’t good enough. It was good enough for TSA, but noooooooo, little Miss Ticket Agent Tight Muffins had to be difficult about it.

    The concept is so a round isn’t bouncing around loose where it may inadvertently strike the primer during rough handling of the luggage. A round between layers of foam isn’t going anywhere.

    Anyway, little miss Tight Muffins felt the need to call law enforcement on me. I mean, what I am I going to do with an extra round of .40 hollow point? Throw it in the garbage?

    Shortly a really cool officer shows up and I said “I guess you’ll be wanting this” and handed him that extra round. He was happy as a clam to get that extra round as he also shoots .40

    That delay though damn near cost me a flight. By the time I made it to the gate, they were standing there waiting for me and closed the door behind me. I had NO time to spare. Sometimes it goes smooth and other times they look at me like I have a Zip Lock bag full if white powder.

    • Calm down. The rules are fairly clear – bullets must be in separate cases or containers. Just be thankful that magazines are considered adequate containers (as long as they are not loaded in the firearm). Buy yourself a plastic case for bullets at your local sporting goods store for a couple bucks. Used to unload all my magazines into one, before TSA finally told me that I could leave the rounds in the magazines.

      I suspect that you are going to ultimately run into problems with putting the one round in a Ziplock baggie – some TSA agents have told me that the container rule is to prevent loose ammunition from somehow, magicly, going off in flight, or when the bags are being thrown around (just watch them load a plane some day). Maybe it would be hard to set off a round in a baggie in your luggage with some hard, probably pointed, object also in your luggage, but can you convince them that it is impossible? This is not a fight that you want to have whe trying to make a flight.

      • @ Bruce
        Who said anything about putting a round inside a Zip Lock bag? Nobody said anything about putting a round inside a Zip Lock bag. What I said is in the future, as that incident was the last time I flew commercial, I will simply remove one round from a magazine, ( at home) so I have a proper place to place the chamber round prior to putting the case in the luggage and inspection at a ticket counter.
        Did you actually read my comment or just sort of skim over it?

      • I agree. I’ve traveled all across the country for business and pleasure for years. I fly out of DIA typically 6-10 times/year. I typically fly Southwest or United. I take either my LC9s Pro or my G30 (my backup weapon when I was a LEO). I throw all the rounds in an original HST 50-round pack. I just pack the magazines in my suitcase empty and place the firearm in a small, plastic triangular-shaped case I picked up 12 or 13 years ago for travel (I believe it is MGM or something and $5 at a Cabela’s-type store). I throw my padlock on the case.

        Carrying a firearm on a busy travel day has saved me lots of time! I immediately tell the ticket agent at the line entrance that I have a firearm to declare. I’m immediately escorted to the TSA inspection room on the same level. The United agent provides me with the declaration form and I have it filled out by the time I get to that screening room. I have to open the firearm case, place the orange declaration that it is unloaded inside of it, and lock it in their presence. I then have to verbally declare to them that I have the only key. I DON’T use a TSA lock as it defeats the purpose.

        I had one bad experience approximately 2 years ago, and it wasn’t due to the fact that it was a firearm, just the fact that it was a super-busy chaotic day due to bad weather.

        Please remembered that those ticket agents are people too. They deal with a lot, and the more respectful you are as a fiream owner will shape their view of firearms owners in general.

        So, overall, it has actually sped up my travel as I typically am asked to bypass the long lines to declare my firearm.

  4. Long guns have to be checked by TSA and swiped for explosives. I chatted with the guy because I had been at the range the day before shooting that rifle right next to the pelican case. I was sure it would test positive. Nope. He said it checks for things like RDX or other explosives.
    Handguns are painless. They make you sign a declaration that the guns are unloaded. A copy of the declaration goes in the checked bag. Easy peasy.
    I’ll be flying in two weeks to Reno, taking my EDC.
    Flying into Austin in March with long gun and EDC.

    • I once had an agent claim that they were checking for gunpowder and GSR. I was polite as possible in telling them that he was not, but the swab and machine he was using was able to check for Semtex and RDX. He wasn’t having any of it, told me he knew his job, while he swabbed and cleared my range bag.

      • What gets me is, it has nothing to do with firearms. The swabbing, that is. I always check my gun and when I take it to the TSA agent, I have to wait while he swabs the two or three golf bags ahead of me. They swab everything that goes through the oversize area. The only difference is, the golfers don’t have to stand there and wait. They can head to the bar and wait for the zone 1 boarding announcement.

  5. If I’m flying somewhere lawful for me to carry, and I’m actually checking luggage, then yes. But I almost always only carry on when I fly.

    (It is one of the few benefits of traveling to clients within driving distance that I can carry without hassle in a rental car.)

  6. I’ve done it many, many times. I’ve never had any problems with ticket agents. So far, the worst airport, in terms of policy / process, is Denver. Plan for an extra half hour, AT LEAST.

    • The problem that I have found at the Denver airport is that after you go through the declaration at the ticket counter, you are escorted, with the bag, over to a TSA screening area, where you have to wait until they run it through their machine. Extra time if the airline doesn’t have an escort available, and if there is a backlog with the TSA screening. But, mostly, it goes pretty quickly – you just need to plan ahead a bit, and expect an extra half an hour or so, JIC. It is rarely an issue, but you can be pretty sure that Murphy will rear his head the one time you don’t allocate the extra time.

      • And, THEN after you escort the dude to the TSA screener, the dude has to then take the suitcase OUTSIDE the terminal to the curbside check-in and throw it on the conveyor belt there. The dude told me that I didn’t have to go with him for that part. Ummm… yeah… No. I’m not letting you take my suitcase OUTSIDE the airport terminal without my supervision.

        The last time I was there, the dude was the SLOWEST walker I’ve ever seen. The old farts with walkers in the malls in south Florida move faster than this guy!

        Denver is the WORST, so far.

        • checked my glock from Philly to Houston. It wasn’t that big a deal- definitely helped that that I had copies of the policy. The counter woman told me twice that I couldn’t check a gun, so I showed her airline’s thoughts on the matter. She quickly found me someone who knew what they were doing.

          Read this post ’cause I’m heading to Denver for a ski trip and was plus/minus on checking. No longer.

    • I like the system at Denver. Sure, it takes longer (plan ahead), but I’m fed up with TSA rummaging through my bags, taking my stuff, leaving zippers at the corners where they get broken, etc. I’ll put a gun in my bag even if I know I won’t be able to carry or use it, like going to California. Denver will take the bag to a separate area, screen it while I’m watching, and let me secure it. No more screening after that. I still have to take my chances with unseen TSA on the way back fron San Jose.

      Flying home from college a couple decades ago and pre-9/11/TSA, I declared the handgun to a ticket agent in Oakland. She wanted to verify that it was unloaded. I asked her if she even knew how to tell if a gun is unloaded. She admitted no, so I knew I was dealing with a useless drone. I decided that up was the safe direction, held it as high as I could over my head, locked the slide back, and gave it to her. She looked at it like a dead bird that a cat dropped in her lap, murmurred “ok,” and let me pack everything back up. At least she knew not to put the read “steal me” tag on the outside of the bag. Probably would get me shot or arrested today.

    • I just saw this comment after posting above. Since I live here and fly out of Denver, I actually like the system. The key is (at least with United when it is busy) to let the agent directing people to the lines know that you are declaring a firearm. I’ve always been immediately taken to the screening area. It actually helps me avoid having to stand in the long line. I can then get to TSA quicker (and usually Bridge security going to the A-Concourse is the shortest.)

      Hope this helps you guys in the future!

      • That doesn’t make sense (as I’m reading it). Where are you getting the destination / flight tag for your luggage? That’s usually done by the ticket agent. If you’re skipping the ticket agent, who is tagging your bag?

        • It’s the ticket agent, but you need to talk to the one that is directing people into the lines. They have always immediately taken me to the counter to get the declaration and tag, and then they take me to the TSA room.

          I probably should have mentioned, you still need to print your baggage tags at the self-checkin kiosk first. After you do this and go to get in line to check-in your bag, you immediately let the person directing you to the lines know you are checking a firearm.

          It has been approximately 6-months since I’ve flown, but I have a trip coming up in March. Hopefully, nothing has changed.

        • I don’t mess with Kiosks. Out of ATL on Delta, the Silver Medallion line is where you go to declare a firearm. There is usually only a couple people in that line so you get checked in quickly.
          Funny story last time, a lady just walked in front of every one to the front of the line of people showing reason to get in the line. I had just told the agent that I was checking a firearm when the lady passed me. The agent called out to the woman who pretended not to hear. The lady turned to me and said “what does she want?”
          I said ” I guess she wants to keep the riff raff out of Silver Medallion.”
          She said “Silver Medallion is riff raff”.
          I said “Then I’m in the right place”.

  7. Not a problem at all. I was more nervous about it than the person at the check in desk. I have considered adding one of those GPS enabled devices to my luggage so I always know where is.

    • @ C.A.
      That’s a hell of an idea. You could actually use one of those Whistler Pet Trackers. Although they wouldn’t get a signal inside a aluminum tube, if you were to pack that thing down at the bottom of the gun case and someone stole the whole thing, they’d probably never notice it and it would get a signal then. They are only about the size of a large wrist watch and only cost about a hundred dollars and around ten bucks a month. I have one for my dogs and it never dawned on my to use it for that, because I do worry about some slime-ball swiping my P229 and it does happen all the time, but the airlines don’t like to talk about that kind of stuff.

  8. Detroit, Denver, Phoenix, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Little Rock, Louisville, Orlando, Boise, Salt Lake City…No problems except for the one mentioned above, where one clueless TSA agent said my locks weren’t TSA approved. I just showed them airline and TSA policy printed from their websites – no delays. When agents look at me as if they are clueless, I’m often ready with their airline policy too, just to speed things along. I keep a folder with airline guns-in-checked-baggage policies, any local airport policy (I don’t think there are any airport policies anymore, but it seems Detroit had one a few years ago), state reciprocity agreement information, and copies of my state CCW license. I hate “showing my papers,” but I have to fly as part of my job, and I don’t like being delayed at the airport or unarmed at my destination. MN and IL are a part of my territory and neither recognize my right to carry, so I try not to fly to either of those states. So far, I’ve managed to avoid them entirely for five years or so. I wonder if those states consider any potential revenue losses due to their carry policies?

        • In Illinois, if you are licensed to carry in your home state, you can carry concealed in your car.

          On there is some interesting conversation about transporting firearms for those who are licensed out-of-state as well. Otherwise, IL does not recognize any other state’s permits.

  9. Flying out of RI to IL, I had large Pelican rifle case with a M4 with mounted sight, light, spare mags and a handgun. After the X-ray, an agent comes out and asks for my keys. I said “You just x-rayed it, why do you need to open it?” She stated that I could have hidden something inside that the x-ray could not see.

    5 mins later she returns the key and says in a deadpan voice “You ain’t goin huntin are ya?”

    • Just FYI, it is a violation of federal law for the firearm owner to relenquish possession of the key to the locked case containing the declared, checked firearm.

      That’s one that TSA sometimes screws up. They have to let the owner unlock the case, rather than taking the key.

      • I did not know that. I have had TSA request keys on many occasions. Not once was I ever asked to open the case for them.

        • Here’s the relevant section of the rules (emphasis added):

          Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only. Only the passenger should retain the key or combination to the lock.

          They can take you to the case, or bring to the case to you, but it should never be opened outside your presence. Nobody really thinks the TSA is effective, and many outright don’t trust them; do you really want them opening your gun case where you can’t see it happening?

        • No, I certainly don’t WANT them opening my case without my presence, but it has never been an option.

          Fighting with TSA shorty before your flight leaves is never a good idea.

      • And yet at San Jose, they still demand the keys and disappear into a closed room.

        “But that’s against the law and here’s a copy of the law.”

        “Do you want to fly today or go home?”

        So you make your choice.

        • I choose to speak to your Supervisor, manager, and the airport administration. By the way, here’s may carry permit, military ID, copies of yhe relevant regulations, the airline I’m flying on, and my lawyer’s phone number. How would you, Mr. Agentwholikestoharrasslaw-abiding citizens, like this conversation to go?

      • I contacted the TSA about retaining my key/combination. After receiving a general response back that I needed to turn over my key/combination to any TSA who requests it, I follow up with them on the Title 49 CFR and asked for a supervisor to contact me. It took over a month for them to get back to me, but this is what the supervisor told me.

        “Thank you for your e-mail message of September 19, 2017, to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Contact Center inquiring about TSA’s firearms policy.

        Please be assured that providing keys to TSA personnel for the purpose of conducting required security screening is entirely consistent with federal law and TSA policy. TSA is required by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001, as implemented in the Code of Federal Regulations, to search all checked baggage for concealed explosives. Title 49 CFR §1540.111, which describes the responsibilities of passengers, prohibits the transport of a firearm unless it is in a locked container and only the passenger retains the key or combination.

        Similarly, Title 49 CFR §1544.203, which describes the responsibilities of aircraft operators, includes the same restriction. The purpose of these provisions is to ensure that the container remains secure after being checked and cannot be opened by unauthorized individuals. TSA, however, is required to screen all checked baggage, including locked containers with firearms, and nothing in regulations regarding transport of firearms prohibits TSA from performing the required screening. As such, if the container requires a search and it is locked with a key or combination unavailable to TSA, we request the passenger’s assistance in gaining access to the container. If the screening location is accessible to the passenger and he/she is able to be present at the time of the search, he/she may provide the key or combination to the TSA Officer performing the search, or unlock, without opening, the container him/herself. However, if the screening location is inaccessible to the passenger, he/she is requested to remain in the area designated by the TSA or the aircraft operator so that a TSA official may retrieve the key from the passenger and return it following the completion of the search.

        After the container has been unlocked, the key is returned to the passenger and he/she retains possession of the key as indicated by the CFR. Again, the purpose of the regulation is to ensure that no individual has unauthorized access to the container while it is in transport. If the container cannot be unlocked for a search, TSA will not allow the container to be transported.

        Thank you for contacting TSA.”

        I am hoping the NRA can lobby to get the law or the TSA policy cleared up.

  10. One ticket agent asked me to open my revolver at the ticket counter so she can see if it was unloaded. I opened the cylinder and showed it to her. She then asked “How do I know if its unloaded?” I replied “If you do not know how to tell if its is unload, why did you asked to see it?”

  11. American Airlines puts a bright red tag on all luggage that has a firearm. Agents keep the bag at your destination so you must go to their baggage office to pick it up. Every employee in the secure area knows where to find a gun if they want one because of the tags. If you need a firearm in an airport just look for the tag on someones luggage.

      • US Airways did this as recently as 2014, I flew regularly for work in and out of Charlotte, NC and anywhere I could carry I did. They tagged every bag with a HUGE neon orange sticker that said FIREARM.

      • Actually last time I flew United I noticed that the bag with my firearm in it had a strip of “F”s printed across it. Didn’t have time to argue it then, but I think airlines are subtly breaking the law — which if course means that they’re breaking the law.


    • I flew with a firearm checked in during the holidays and they tagged my baggage. But it didn’t say firearm, it said “bring straight to baggage office” or something along that lines. So they may skirt the law by saying that instead, because conceivable, it could be something valuable instead.

    • Say what? Under what circumstances would checked bags (with or without guns) *ever* be in the secure area of any airport? That wannabe myth is just silly.

  12. Yes, often, and sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s not. Some airports are worse than others. Austin is all over the place, there is clearly a lack of training there. Plus, just some idiots. One TDA employee wouldn’t let me fly with my case becasue he was able to pry it partially open, with a pair of pliers and a multi tool. Another wouldn’t let me take my ammunition because it was not in the original box. It was my own hand loaded ammunition in a plastic tape sealed box. That is the original box.
    Both situations were fixed by simply waiting until someone else came on duty and passed me right through. I’ve also heard the “we need the keys” statement before, but she was corrected by another employee.

  13. Two years ago I flew from T.F.Green in Providence to Houston, Tx. In my backpack, I checked a Glock 19 in a lockbox along with two 50 round boxes of ammunition separate from the lockbox. Arriving in Houston, I picked up my backpack at the baggage claim and walked out. Same for the return flight back to RI.

  14. I have done it many times. No problems beyond a few overly nervous ticket agents in DC. I eventual solved that issue by presenting my government ID card to put them at ease. Virtually every place I carried was gun friendly and ticket agents were more interested in what I had then making sure it was unloaded.

    I avoid flying now because my miles total exceeds seven digits. The magic was gone many years ago. Since I am retired I now only fly when I have a time constraint or when I have to cross an ocean.

  15. Unfortunately because of work, I fly with a firearm pretty frequently. The most helpful tips for me have been to:

    1. lock the slide back and use that red lock that comes standard with most firearms. That way when TSA scans it they see it’s definitely unloaded and you don’t have to worry about being paged to open up the case.

    2. Lock the Pelican case or whatever case you’re using (if it’s a handgun inside luggage) to the frame of the luggage to help ensure the firearm doesn’t “go missing.”

    3. Use factory packaging for stored ammo (yes, you can store it in the same case as the firearm) some airlines are fine with loaded mags, others aren’t so I always unload them to avoid any delays.

    4. It is legal under FOPA to catch a connection in an unfriendly state, but NY and NJ have been non-compliant in the past, general rule of thumb is don’t take possession of your checked luggage w/ the firearm if such a connection is delayed. Makes it a PITA to carry on all other essentials because the TSA always has a field day with my go bag, but I don’t have the time to deal with a detainment.

    Also, fly Southwest ifnwhen b/c they’re the most laid back, haha actually recently had a person checking my bag strike up a convo about her personal edc firearms.

    It’ll be interesting to see how any of this changes now, my guess is that the bag will no longer be sent to the baggage claim carousel with all the others. What will most likely happen is they will have it brought by an agent to the airline’s baggage claim desk where you’ll be able to retrieve it as the last bag from the flight, then maybe even escorted outside. It ain’t right, but that’s how I see it going down.

    • It would be nice if an Airline were to advertise itself as friendly to guns (and train its employees in the correct procedures, etc) but I guess that’s a pipe dream.

  16. It depends on my destination, so sometimes yes and sometimes no. I’ve never had a problem, though, likely because I check on airline, airport, and TSA procedures and follow them. When I’ve got a firearm, the ticket agent instructs me to a semi-private area nearby where a supervisor checks my paperwork and the firearm and ammo containers, and always has asked me to verify the gun is not loaded. One interesting difference in baggage security is that you are not supposed to use “TSA approved” locks but rather use locks only you have the keys or combination to. Once the guns/ammo are checked out, and any other articles in the bags inspected, you lock the bag or bags and they are (supposedly) never opened again by anyone other than you when you pick up your checked luggage. This whole process has never taken more than about 15 minutes.

  17. Checked in at Boston, Providence, Baltimore, Tampa, Yuma, Phoenix, Reno, San Diego, Spokane, Rutland, Lihue, and Detroit.

    Phoenix was always the worst because they wanted the key after the bag was checked (they no longer do this).

    In providence, the TSA sup insisted my bag had to be locked, I told him just the case, he called someone on the phone and they corrected him.

    In Yuma, I had a TSA worker tell me ammo can never be in the mags.

    In Detroit, I had a delta agent want the make and model of my gun, because she wanted to buy one.

    The best ones in my experience were Lihue, Boston, and San Diego.

    • The guy in Detroit did not want to buy one. He is the only guy on the counter that handles checked firearms and he is an anti. The reason he pretended to like your gun is because he wanted to loosen you up to get information. Ticket agents are trained to be the first point of security to see if you have and restricted items in your luggage. They can’t just ask, “do you have any restricted items in your luggage?”. They have to pry. “Hey that’s a nice shirt. How do you get that collar so nicely pressed? See I can’t do a darn thing with mine”. Then the passenger brags about his brand of spray starch that he takes with him everywhere to keep his shirts looking spiffy. At that point the ticket agent will ask to see it. When the passenger happily obliges, the agent reminds the passenger that spray starch is a restricted item and confiscates it.

  18. I fly all the time and I always take a gun. Generally it is quick, easy and hassle free but I always have a copy of TSA and airline policies because I regularly run into agents who don’t know the rules. I’ve had people tell me my non-TSA locks were not allowed (Kansas City), my cases were not allowed because they could be cut open (Atlanta – hard plastic), wait here 15 minutes and if we don’t ask for your keys you are good to go (Vegas), asked to show the gun is unloaded but have the agent admit they don’t know how to tell (Seattle). For the most part things go well.

    Alaska Airlines does not mark or segregate luggage with firearms and just puts them on the belt with everyone else’s bags. So I’m “that guy” pushing my way up to where luggage drops on the belt. I also secure my locked gun case to my suitcase using a bicycle cable attached through the luggage frame. Makes it a little harder for someone to snatch out of my bag.

  19. I’ve had two minor incidents and a funny story.

    One time was when the ticket agent in Santa Barbara, CA demanded the bright orange “steal me” tag go on the outside of the suitcase. I argued and asked for a supervisor. No supervisor available (small airport). Finally the line got long enough behind me that she let me put it on the inside.

    Second time was going round and round with a ticket agent that would not let me fly until I removed the bolt from my 1911. “It doesn’t have a bolt” was not good enough for her. Finally a supervisor cleared things up.

    The funny story is that at a big handgun match in Richmond, CA (many, many years ago) I won a beautiful aluminium rifle case. When I flew back the rifle case was empty, my handgun in the suitcase, same way it went out there. When I arrived at baggage claim, my suitcase (with handgun) was going round and round the carousel, but there was an agent carefully guarding my empty rifle case.

    With the number of hunters and Olympic shooters going in and out of Colorado Springs and Denver, I’ve never had a problem at either airport.


  20. Whenever I fly, a have a gun or two in my checked luggage. I never had a problem (yet), and usually get “upgraded” to the TSA Pre-check for no cost.

    FYI, the guns go in combo-locked steel travel safes. The ammo stays in the original box. The safes and boxed ammo go into my hard-sided luggage with the firearms declaration. The luggage is then locked with a TSA lock.

    • +1 on the pre screen.

      Last time I flew I did the (retired) government ID thing and got the VIP treatment because they thought I was a LEO. I probably could have carried it with me..

  21. The airlines can go to hell, don’t need em. Drove to the Pacific Ocean & the Atlantic Ocean & back last year, one big 8,200 mile trip. My CCW is good in 40 states; the couple it wasn’t I ignored. Really need to get national reciprocity done.

  22. I primarily fly one airline and I have status with them and I fly with firearms a lot. For some reason the ticket agents always think I’m a LEO. I declare the firearm(s), sign the form and place it on top of the locked case and hand off the suitcase. Sometimes, I’m asked to wait near the desk for 15 to allow TSA to do their check. That’s pretty much it. Never been selected for extra screening and never been delayed.

    Thinking about what happened at FLL that is not a function of traveling with a firearm as anyone could have entered baggage claim with a loaded firearm from the street. They might stop allowing us to travel with ammo, just firearms.

  23. I do so weekly. Southwest Airlines for the most part gets it. Since I am “A list preferred” with Southwest I go to the front of the line. Usually only takes 5-10 minutes. It is worth the hassle.

  24. I’ve flown with both handguns and longguns between Nashville and Las Vegas several times on Southwest Airlines with nary an issue.

  25. I’ve flown with guns many times. The trick is to go the airlines website and download their policy and print it out. Then go to the TSA website and do the same. Make sure you are in compliance with both policies and bring the printouts with you because many times you will encounter an official with either the airline or the TSA who is unfamiliar with their own policies. Any time that has happened, I show them the printouts from their own websites and things get resolved quickly.
    That being said, there is no guarantee that your gun case will be put on the plane with you. Checked a shotgun in at OHare once and it didn’t make it to Ft Myers. Took them 2 days to get it to florida and when I went to pick it up, it was sitting outside the baggage office unattended. I’m still amazed that nobody stole it

  26. A very long, but informative and entertaining presentation on flying with firearms by Deviant Ollam, a big name in lock picking and security. And a big gun buff. YOu might find this interesting:


  27. I fly with my firearms wherever my CHL is valid (in about 38 states +/-). That said I’ve only flown with my firearms a couple of times and have not had any issues so far.

  28. I’ve travelled with declared guns in my checked luggage many times and other than allowing a few extra minutes, I’ve never had a problem, even in Chicago. I even flew about a month after 9/11 from O’Hare (Chicago) to Phoenix with a checked gun and had zero problems. Since I had allowed a LOT of extra time, I had a couple of hours to kill once I got through security in just a few minutes.

    I’ve found that declared firearm luggage goes in the “Special Handling” category, along with overweight, oversized, live animals and highly insured/high value bags.

    I do make a point of locking the action open or partially disassembling guns before I go to the airport, because I don’t want to work the action of a gun in an airport.

    • Don’t leave the action locked back. It will slams closed during handling and may cause damage. Ask me how I know.
      I understand you don’t want to be racking a firearm in public but the agent understands that too. I have only once had an agent even request to see the gun out of a dozen trips. Most of the time I just leave the case locked and they only ask you if it is unloaded. I’ve never had to open the case for TSA either. All they want to see is the orange card and to swab your luggage which is routine on any special items, golf bags, bicycles, car bumpers etc.

  29. Only flew round trip with checked firearms once. I was nervous since I knew the regs but had not yet experienced the process. I read and re-read all TSA and airline rules several times to be sure. At both airports TSA were professional, courteous, and calm – it was just a normal part of their day. Airline crew were also professional and not excited in the least. All agents were by the book. I will say that both locations likely see a fair number of firearms checked, so it was far more out of the ordinary for me (not a frequent flyer) than for them. In each case it only provided about a 5 minute delay.

  30. I hardly ever fly anymore, and when I did in the past, my destinations (Illinois and Maryland) would not appreciate me carrying a gun. My favorite way to travel on business in the local area is in a twin turbo six seater private plane. No TSA checks, no hassles, and it turns a three hour drive each way into a 45 minute flight over the mountains.

  31. I haven’t flown w a gun but I had to pick my daughter and wife’s brother up at the Salt Lake City airport on separate days over the holidays. Legal to carry in non secure areas. So I did.

  32. I’ve flown with a firearm many, many times and only had two problems, one recurring and one that occurred once.

    The recurring problem was that American used to require the ticket agent to verify that your chamber was empty. With one gun that’s not such a big deal. When you have to pull out your AR, three other long guns and then four pistols in a row to show them to the agent the people behind you in line are like “What the fuck?!”. Generally speaking chamber flags have no effect on this process. They will ask you to operate the action even if you have a chamber flag in the gun. I even had one guy make me stick the bolt back in a Mosin and then operate it and remove it again before he was satisfied.

    The problem that occurred once happened in like 2004. TSA rules changed to forbid not just the carrying of a gun or ammo past a security checkpoint but also any parts or accessories. Further they changed the rules so that getting it past security wasn’t just a crime but attempting to take something past security was a crime. This particular rule change occurred during the week I was traveling. I’d bought an SKS and was taking it home so my dad and I could shoot it out in the boonies. It was a bit of an odd deal because it came with 100 rounds of ammo already on stripper clips which isn’t something I’d seen before and I haven’t seen it since.

    Rifle + stripped ammo + cheap rifle case had me worried that if someone had bad intentions they could pop the case open with a screwdriver, slap a strip in the rifle and go to town. So I removed the BCG from the rifle. I only had my carry on backpack and a rifle case so I tossed the BCG in my backpack.

    The folks at security weren’t sure what this block of metal was and asked. I honestly told them what it was. That’s where the show started. The TSA people knew I wasn’t supposed to have this but due to the rule change just a few days before they didn’t know if I had to be arrested and charged with a federal crime or if they had the discretion to let me go.

    Long story short I was rather lucky. The Airport Security Manager talked to me for a bit and actually thanked me repeatedly for going out of my way to enhance security at his airport. He also explained what was going on and that the new rules were concerned with the idea of multiple people bringing parts and assembling them into a gun after security. He further explained that there were no guidelines for what to do when you found parts like this. He laughed when I pointed out that as long as they didn’t allow bullets it didn’t matter and he told me that TSA rules rarely made sense in the real world. After they called in supervisors and everyone else who was off duty and they all went through this book that was inches thick for-fucking-ever the ASM finally made an executive decision that he did in fact have the discretion to let me go so long as I put the BCG back in my rifle case. In reality he had no idea if he had this authority or not but he knew I wasn’t a threat and that I was trying to help. He didn’t want to throw federal charges at me for that.

    I learned three lessons that day. 1) Don’t carry anything remotely associated with firearms in your carry on.

    2) No one who works for TSA has a fucking clue what the rules actually are and they will make them up as they go. This can work for or against you. Be aware that TSA will tell you flat out that even if an item is allowed any TSA agent can make the decision that you can’t have it. Even if it’s listed as A-OK on the TSA website that jackass making $12/hour for his part in this security theater can take it from you or prevent you from making your flight.

    3) Airport Security Managers wear plainclothes and have final authority on all decisions security related including whether or not you be charged for that bullet that snuck into your carryon bag. Be nice to them. Your future can literally depend on keeping this person happy. If you have any problems, like a TSA agent wants to confiscate your trauma shears even though the rules explicitly say they’re allowed, have the rules printed out and ask to speak to the ASM. If the person claiming to be the ASM is wearing a TSA outfit or even a TSA pin, that’s not the ASM (Yes, TSA will try to lie to you about this sometimes). Plainclothes and a radio under a suit coat is what you’re looking for. The beam of light out of the sky and the fact that every TSA asshole practically bows as this person walks by are also good clues you’ve found the ASM. For absolute verification ask for their business card. They’ll have one.

  33. Haven’t flown in 25 years and unless a close relative dies I won’t. Man it sure was EZ back in the 80’s and 90’s…

  34. I haven’t flown since I got out of the army in ’96. Frankly, I have no intentions of flying anywhere, if I am going the “have gun, will travel” route (the only exception would be if I was traveling to Alaska, because the sorts of guns I would be traveling with would be severely restricted or even banned in Cannuckland, so why deal with THEIR gun control BS crossing the border?). I am just hoping the concealed carry reciprocity bill becomes law so I can travel armed and unhindered anywhere I want to go in the lower 48!

    • You can take a ferry from Seattle and never have to set foot in Canada if you choose not to. Drive on board and let them sail you up to the AK port of your choice.

        • I thought of that too, was told it took a week to get to AK. Have not checked it out further; if it takes a week, that’s a long time.

  35. Living in bush Alaska, I fly all the time. The majority of my travel is with air taxis in the bush, so I don’t have to follow all the normal TSA regulations. I do fly between AK, FL, MI, and SC several times a year and never have any issues checking my firearms (other than a delta employee from CA who gave me a lot of attitude and said I had to have “TSA locks”. I quickly whipped out the TSA regulations and she got real quiet). I’ve carried as many as 5 pistols and an AR in one case before. I keep an ammo stash in all the places I frequent so I don’t have to pack that as well.

  36. Well I have flown with firearms twice. Other than getting a few looks at the check in counter when I have to let ticket agent check them for being loaded (save yourself some trouble and run a garishly colored zip tie through the actions so they can see they’re unloaded) the incident was without incident.

    Although one thing I did think of is that in both cases a airport employee just brought the gun case out to me, looked at my ID and let me go. Theoretically they could have followed me off the property. But even it’s unlikely that would have helped since that part of the airport is complete open to the public anyway.

  37. I fly with my pistol in checked baggage once a month or so. It’s usually straight forward and drama free. I use a locked box for my PM9, mags, and Spyderco; carry cartridges in the original box, and put my holster(s) in the bag. Inform the clerk, get escorted to TSA for a swab check. And, as a plus, before I got TSA-pre on every flight, I used to usually get TSA-pre when I checked a gun…

    When I land I pick up my bag from baggage claim and then, depending on the destination, I gear up at the rental car or in the terminal.

    The only drama I’ve had was in Tampa of all places. The NY’er desk clerk (way too many NY’ers in Tampa!) was pretty uncomfortable and wanted to handle my gun to ‘prove’ my pistol was unloaded. I didn’t want to play, got her supervisor over and things worked out like normal. I assume she got some remedial training because it didn’t happen next time…

    If you fly to a place where your firearm is legal, don’t sweat it. Most of the folks are pros.

  38. I field strip my Glock and then pack it in a Pelican. I know I don’t have to, but I figured it may prevent any drama from any looky-loos peering over my shoulder or from the line behind me. Once, a ticket agent looked and said, “Where’s the gun?” Umm… you’re looking at it. 🙂

  39. I get to the airport a couple hours before the flight.

    I take a gun wherever I can legally do so, but it irritates me how obtrusive the process is. Everyone behind you in line knows you are checking a firearm, and some TSA people freak out and call their supervisor over to make sure everything is being done properly.

    Regardless, it is all worthwhile to be armed at my final destination.

  40. I have flown Frontier from cleveland to western locations with my revolver: it took a few extra minutes at the ticket counter and was no problem.

    You need to make sure you are on a flight from a place to a place with reciprocity and no possible stops in NJ!

  41. I stopped flying when it became a matter of being treated like a criminal to get on the plane. Before that I was too young to take a handgun with me anyway, and I’ve never had a reason to take a long gun on a flight.

  42. I flew to Jackson, WY. this summer for a family wedding. I brought the Glock along because I planned to do some IDPA and of course, CC while visiting. United Airlines from BUF, NY through CHI onto Jackson. No problems anywhere. I showed the ticket agent in Buffalo my carry permit and NYS armed guard card and mentioned the checked handgun. At first she got the LEO onboard carry authorization form out, but I told her again it was going as checked baggage. She filled out the green declaration card, I signed it and put it “inside” my luggage. A few hours later I picked up my bag in WY.and spent a nice week in the Tetons.

    The return flight was just as easy. I’m sure the airlines see quite a few firearms come through Jackson, especially hunting rifles. Never had any contact with TSA, except for personal screening after the luggage was checked in.

    I hope it remains this painless in the future. We’ll see.

    • “I showed the ticket agent in Buffalo my carry permit and NYS armed guard card ”

      Did the agent look at you like “WTF are you showing me this for?”

      I either show my DL or passport for ID.

      • Michael,

        No she didn’t. Several sources suggested having the appropriate licenses available, but you are correct…DL or passport is all that’s necessary for check-in ID. Living in NY (land of the SAFE Act),I would probably use my permit, etc. when dealing with any concealed firearms issue.

  43. I agree with you on that but…this is NY. From the NRA-ILA webpage “Guide to the Transportation of Firearms”. “Be well acquainted with the firearms laws of the jurisdictions between which they are traveling, ‘have any necessary permits or licenses ready for inspection’, and have copies of relevant provisions of current law our reciprocity information printed from official sources.”

    I guess I just decided to use it rather than just having it available. Maybe unnecessary, maybe not. I see that a few replies mentioned showing a government ID or similar to put ticket agents at ease. I did use my passport for ID when going through the TSA checkpoint.

    • I didn’t even show the Wayne Co. cop my CCW when he asked if I had one as he confiscated 30 rounds of carry ammo that the DTW Delta ticket agent refused to allow in my magazines locked in the gun case.
      He asked if I had a permit and I said yes.

  44. Generally speaking, if I am checking a bag then I am declaring a firearm. I have certainly seen airline and TSA procedure inconsistencies as discussed above. Sometimes asked to view firearm, sometimes not. Sometimes asked to wait around 10-15 minutes for TSA ok (even with TSA locks) most of the time not. Sometimes have to take ‘checked’ luggage to another area most of the time not. Most of the time declaration card taped to case, other times simply placed in bag or even inside case? I found that not having TSA locks, while desirable for obvious reasons, is almost universally penalized with additional delays. The most interesting encounter that I had was in Hawaii where the TSA officer came out to the ticketing area and had me pull the case out of my luggage, put it on a table and open the case. He asked what kind of 1911 it was and then simply complimented me on the weapon…ok? I pay attention to magazine capacity laws (some blue states like CA, NY, etc. can be challenging and my understanding is that these mag laws also apply to those of us carrying under LEOSA). I carry hollow point ammo in factory box, also locked in case–thinking this could cause issues in states like NJ? Anyone have experience? I think carrying ammo in mags sounds like the better way to go–actually wasn’t aware that this was an option. Anyway, make sure you know the state laws where you are traveling and don’t let a potential uptick in harrassment/scrutiny due to the latest tragedy deter you from protecting yourself and others while traveling the sometimes friendly skies.

    • Too easy? I call bullshit right there. Clips? Really? This has got to stop. You checked your guns a few times but never thought to bring ammo?
      Who are you and what do you really want to say?


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