A total of 813,791,287 passengers and crew members went through TSA screening in 2018 alone. This equates to more than two million travelers per day. What’s more, it’s a 5.5 percent spike over the previous year.
As you can imagine, the TSA sees it all. And they have strict regulations when it comes to traveling with firearms.
That said, although you may be dreading flying with a gun, it proves simpler than you think. That is as long as you know and follow the rules.
Read on to find out more about transporting firearms through airports and on airplanes legally.
The Only Thing More Painful Than Flying
What’s more painful than spending long hours cramped in tight airplane seats next to snoring sleepers and screaming babies? Getting through TSA’s monster lines.
Where else on the planet are snow globes deemed dangerous? Or, gel insoles? Or, more than 3.4 ounces of lotion in a bottle?
Of course, these safety requirements are all for our own good. But they can make you feel downright hesitant to fly.
Throw firearms into the mix, and you’ve really got a reason to feel apprehensive. Right? Wrong.
First of all, you’ll never have to brave a TSA line with a firearm in tow. Why? Because they cannot be transported in carry-on bags.
Second, when you follow the rules, you’ll enjoy a streamlined process with few snags.
Always start by declaring all firearms and ammunition. How do you do this? It’s as simple as letting the airline know when you check your luggage that a firearm is included.
Failure to do so can lead to serious flight delays. Should undeclared ammunition or firearms be found in your carry on luggage, you could even face civil or criminal penalties.
Start with a TSA Approved Gun Case
Without a TSA approved gun case, you won’t get very far, so that’s where we’ll start. You may travel with an unloaded gun in a locked, hard-sided case as checked baggage. There are no exceptions to this rule.
What’s more, the TSA will evaluate the security of your locked container. Should they feel it proves too easy to breach, then you won’t be permitted to travel with it.
Incidentally, the container the firearm came in when you initially purchased it, won’t cut it. So, don’t even go there. Invest good money into your hard case.
To avoid any problems on your flight days, contact the TSA in advance to discuss the best case for your gun. You can also ask them specific questions to ensure your next flight goes smoothly.
The bottom line remains using a locked gun case that prevents any access to the firearm. You may carry multiple guns in a large case, too. But the same rules apply.
Another option worth considering is transporting your firearms in a mobile gun safe. But this form of transportation can prove tricky because of weight limitations for checked luggage.
So, make sure you understand checked baggage weights prior to any purchase.
More to Know When Flying with a Gun
Besides having a TSA-approved gun case, you need to carefully select a lock for your case. Don’t think you can get by with a regular TSA approved lock. In fact, these are illegal to use when securing firearms for travel.
Why? Because they can be opened by any individual who has access to a TSA master lock.
As for what to do with the key to your gun case, keep it with you at all times. Don’t pack it in your checked luggage. And don’t pack an extra backup key in your checked luggage either.
When it comes to the gun case and lock that you choose, don’t spare any expense. After all, the case not only ensures your ability to fly with your weapon but it also protects it from sloppy baggage handlers and potential thieves.
Your bag will also do a fair amount of sliding around in the hold of the plane. So, you want a case that can stand up to potential rough treatment while protecting your firearms investment.
The Deal When It Comes to Ammunition
Like guns, ammunition has to be transported as checked luggage. In other words, you’ll want to find cases specifically designed for the transport of small amounts of ammunition.
That said, there are a few exceptions. For ammunition .75 caliber or less and shotgun shells, they can be stored in the same hard case as your weapon. But you don’t have to go with this option if it proves inconvenient.
As for magazines that are loaded or empty, they must be stored like the firearms described above. But firearm parts such as firing pins and bolts may be stored in your checked luggage.
Find out more about the firearms accessories you need for your next trip at Battle Arms Development.
While the TSA claims it’s fine to travel with ammunition in flimsy cardboard boxes, think again. You risk your ammo box disintegrating mid-flight.
The thought of ammo strewn throughout your bag should prove sobering. Especially in the context of the TSA’s stringent requirements when it comes to loose ammo. Put simply, transporting your ammo in cardboard is a really bad idea.
Instead, look for a lightweight yet sturdy option to ensure your ammo stays together and safely away from the other items in your checked luggage.
Stay Aware and Helpful
Making sure that your firearm is safeguarded in a case inaccessible by TSA comes with its own host of problems. You see, all checked baggage remains subject to inspection.
But how does this work when you can’t use a TSA master lock?
You need to remain hyper-vigilant to airport announcements and pages. Why? If TSA inspection deems it necessary to open your case and examine its contents, then the airline must prove able to locate you for this inspection.
If they can’t, your flight plans with a gun are over. End of story.
If you hear your name called, be prepared to provide access to your firearms case. This will save you countless hassles and guarantee you’re able to fly with your weapon of choice.
Get Creative When It Comes to Your Firearms Case
Do you remember those mid-1990s Westerns El Mariachi and Desperado starring Antonio Banderas as a machine gun-wielding musician carrying nothing more than a guitar case?
While you probably don’t need to go this far, carrying a nondescript case that doesn’t scream “Firearm!” will definitely help you avoid theft. Consider a case that looks like it could carry sports equipment, electronics, or a musical instrument.
You can even go so far as to use a hard case intended for something else to carry your guns. For example, Samsonite makes a hard case for golf clubs that would definitely suit the bill when it comes to transporting rifles.
In order to use a case not originally intended for firearms, you’ll need to cut new foam inserts. That way, you can guarantee your firearms stay safe and protected in any case that you choose.
Just know that depending on the size of your firearms case, you may need to pick it up with other luggage of unusual sizes such as snowboards, surfboards, and skis.
More Things to Know When Traveling with Guns
Laws for traveling with firearms vary from state to state and country to country. So, you’ll need to do your research before heading to the airport.
For travels abroad, refer to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. This site will provide you with information about the unique requirements involved with carrying firearms internationally.
The Firearms Owners Protection Act protects your rights to transport firearms to your destination of choice. But you need to follow it to a tee in order to avoid possible legal repercussions.
Traveling With Firearms Is a Cinch If You Follow the Rules
While it might seem like a hassle to travel with your firearms, if you follow the rules above, you’ll be amazed by how easy the process proves. Just make sure you have a solid hard case that’s not easy to breach.
Pack your ammunition separately. And keep in mind potential issues associated with mid-flight stress and shuffle in the airplane hold. The last thing you want is a case filled with loose ammo.
Finally, make sure you understand the Firearms Owners Protections Act inside and out. And don’t forget to research gun rules in the location that you’re visiting. This proves especially crucial when you’re traveling internationally.
Seamless Travel to Your Next Destination
With the tips above, you’ll be able to travel seamlessly with your gun. In fact, if you follow the rules outlined by FOPA, you should never fear traveling with firearms.
Ready for more travel tips to help you live your best life? Read on to find out about the five best travel tours to take at night if you’re a night owl.