December 22nd, 2019

TSA Tips for Traveling with Firearms — What You Need to Know

Tom McHale flying with firearms guns TSA

If you will be flying with firearms this winter, you should read this article. You need to familiarize yourself with current Federal Regulations on gun transport before you get anywhere near an airport. Thankfully, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a web page that states the important requirements for airline passengers traveling with firearms and/or ammunition.

You’ll want to visit the TSA Firearms and Ammunition webpage, and read it start to finish. In addition, before your trip, you should check the regulations of the airline(s) with which you will fly. Some airlines have special requirements, such as weight restrictions.

Here are the TSA’s key guidelines for travel with firearms:

1. All firearms* must be declared to the airline during the ticket counter check-in process.
The term firearm includes:

    – 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.
    – Any destructive device.

2. The firearm must be unloaded. As defined by 49 CFR 1540.5 – “A loaded firearm means 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.”

3. The firearm must be in a hard-sided container that is locked. A locked container is defined as one that completely secures the firearm from being accessed. Locked cases that can be pulled open with little effort cannot be brought aboard the aircraft.

4. If firearms are not properly declared or packaged, TSA will provide the checked bag to law enforcement for resolution with the airline. If the issue is resolved, law enforcement will release the bag to TSA so screening may be completed.

5. TSA must resolve all alarms in checked baggage. If a locked container containing a firearm alarms, TSA will contact the airline, who will make a reasonable attempt to contact the owner and advise the passenger to go to the screening location. If contact is not made, the container will not be placed on the aircraft.

6. If a locked container alarms during screening and is not marked as containing a declared firearm, TSA will cut the lock in order to resolve the alarm.

7. 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.

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

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

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

11. TSA prohibits black powder or percussion caps used with black-powder.

12. Rifle scopes are not prohibited in carry-on bags and do not need to be in the hard-sided, locked checked bag.

NOTE: The 12 guidelines are reprinted directly from the TSA web page here: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/firearms-and-ammunition.

More Airline Travel Tips from Tom McHale
Tom McHale has written an excellent article for the Beretta Blog, Ten Things You Need to Know about Flying with Guns. We suggest you visit the Beretta Blog to read this informative story. Here are two of Tom McHale’s Travel Tips:

Weigh your gun case and ammunition
Most airlines will allow up to 11 pounds of ammunition. And, like any luggage, you will be charged more for any baggage weighing more than 50 pounds. This sounds like a lot, but when traveling to the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun competition last year, my case with shotgun, rifle, pistol and ammunition tipped the scale past the 50 pound mark.

Pack ammo in the same locking case
This is another area that’s misunderstood and full of internet myth. Your ammo just needs to be stored in some type of safe container and not loose. Technically, you can keep ammunition in magazines, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It meets the letter of the law storage requirement, but too many airline and TSA agents will give you grief. Use a plastic ammo box or original cardboard packaging and you’ll be fine carrying that in the same lockable case as your gun.

Tom McHale flying with firearms guns TSA

*Please see, United States Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 44 for information about firearm definitions.

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September 26th, 2019

Airline Travel with Firearms — What You Need to Know

Tom McHale flying with firearms guns TSA
Airport photo by Politikaner under Creative Commons License.

With hundreds of readers traveling home this week from the 2019 F-Class Nationals in Raton, NM, and many others planning hunting trips out of state, we thought we’d repeat an article providing important information about air travel with firearms. If you will be flying with firearms this fall, you should read this article. You need to familiarize yourself with current Federal Regulations on gun transport before you get anywhere near an airport. Thankfully, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a web page that states the important requirements for airline passengers traveling with firearms* and/or ammunition.

You’ll want to visit the TSA Firearms and Ammunition webpage, and read it carefully. In addition, before your trip, check the regulations of the airline(s) with which you will fly. Some airlines have special requirements, such as weight restrictions.

Here are the TSA’s key guidelines for travel with firearms:

Tom McHale flying with firearms guns TSA

More Airline Travel Tips from Tom McHale
Tom McHale has written an excellent article for the Beretta Blog, Ten Things You Need to Know about Flying with Guns. We suggest you visit the Beretta Blog to read this informative story. Here are two of Tom McHale’s Travel Tips:

Weigh your gun case and ammunition
Most airlines will allow up to 11 pounds of ammunition. And, like any luggage, you will be charged more for any baggage weighing more than 50 pounds. This sounds like a lot, but when traveling to the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun competition last year, my case with shotgun, rifle, pistol and ammunition tipped the scale past the 50 pound mark.

Pack ammo in the same locking case
This is another area that’s misunderstood and full of internet myth. Your ammo just needs to be stored in some type of safe container and not loose. Technically, you can keep ammunition in magazines, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It meets the letter of the law storage requirement, but too many airline and TSA agents will give you grief. Use a plastic ammo box or original cardboard packaging and you’ll be fine carrying that in the same lockable case as your gun.

Tom McHale flying with firearms guns TSA

*SEE United States Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 44. A “firearm” is defined as: 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; and any destructive device. As defined by 49 CFR 1540.5 a loaded firearm has a live round of ammunition, or any component thereof, in the chamber or cylinder or in a magazine inserted in the firearm.

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December 21st, 2018

Tips for Holiday Flyers — Rules for Firearms Transport

Airport security travel bag check-in O'hare TSA

We know that many of our readers will be traveling by air this holiday season. If you’ll be venturing to another destination by air this month, you need to be careful when transporting firearms through airports both in the USA and in other countries. It is important that you comply with all Homeland Security, TSA, and Airline policies when transporting guns and ammunition. Following the rules will help ensure you (and your gear) make it to your destination without hassles, delays or (God forbid), confiscations.

Important TSA Tips on Firearms and Flying

Good Advice from an Airport Police Officer
To help our readers comply with rules and regulations for air travel, we offer these guidelines, courtesy “Ron D.”, a member of our Shooters’ Forum. Before he retired, Ron D. served as a Police Officer assigned to Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Here Ron offers some very important advice for shooters traveling with firearms and expensive optics.

gun transport caseFirst, Ron explains that airport thieves can spot bags containing firearms no matter how they are packaged: “Don’t think you’re safe if your guns are placed in cases designed for golf clubs or trade show items. Baggage is X-Rayed now and cases are tagged with a special bar code if they contain firearms. It doesn’t take long for bad guys to figure out the bar coding for firearms.”

Carry-On Your Scopes and Expensive Items
Ron advises travelers to avoid placing very expensive items in checked baggage: “When traveling by air, carry on your rangefinder, spotting scope, rifle scope, medications, camera, etc. You would be surprised at the amount of people that carry-on jeans and shirts, but put expensive items in checked baggage. Better to loose three pairs of jeans than some expensive glass.”

Mark Bags to Avoid Confusion
Ron notes that carry-on bags are often lost because so many carry-on cases look the same. Ron reports: “People do accidentally remove the wrong bag repeatedly. I frequently heard the comment, ‘But it looks just like my bag.’ When de-planing, keep an eye on what comes out of the overhead that your bag is in. It’s easy to get distracted by someone that has been sitting next to you the whole flight. I tie two streamers of red surveyors’ tape on my carry-on bag.” You can also use paint or decals to make your carry-on bag more distinctive.

TSA Air transport safety locked bag declare firearm

Choosing a Rifle Transport Case
Ron advises: “Buy the best [rifle case] that you can afford. Don’t cry when your $3,000+ Benchrest rifle has a cracked stock or broken scope. Think about what it would be like to travel across the country (e.g. to Montana or the Cactus Classic) and arrive with a damaged rifle. Remember the Samsonite commercial. (For you younger shooters, it shows a monkey throwing the suitcase around in his cage at the zoo.) Baggage handling is NOT a fine art. There is no guarantee that your rifle case will be on top of all the other baggage. Then there is shifting of baggage in the belly of the plane. Ponder that for a while. Rifle and pistol cases must be locked. It doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to figure out that a simple pry tool will open most case locks. There is not much that you can do to disguise a rifle case. It is what it is, and opportunists know this. Among thieves, it doesn’t take long for the word to get around about a NEW type of case.”

Plano Double Rifle Case Amazon Airport security travel bag check-in O'hare TSA
This Plano Double Scoped Rifle Case offers the functionality and durability of an SKB-type hard case for HALF the money. This is now just $114.92, while the equivalent SKB is around $240.00.

General Advice for Air Travelers
Ron cautions: “Keep your hands on your items before boarding. One of the most often heard comments from theft victims was, ‘I just put my computer down for a minute while I was on the phone.’ Also, get to the baggage claim area quickly. If your family/friends can meet you there, so can the opportunists. Things do get lost in the claim area. Don’t be a Victim. Forewarned is forearmed.”

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February 1st, 2018

Traveling with Firearms — Tips for Road Warriors

Shooting Wire law Travel Shooters

If you plan to travel far from home this year with firearms, then you should research legal requirements before you head to the airport or hit the road in your car or truck. To help Road Warriors, The Shooting Wire website recently published an excellent article concerning Travel with Firearms. This helpful article by Joe Balog features smart advice from 3-Gun competitor Rich Yoder.

Here are Highlights from the Travel with Firearms Article…

Traveling by Road:
Regulations for transporting firearms in a vehicle vary from state to state. Some are quite lenient, while others are much stricter. Within many states, gun transportation laws also vary considerably from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. If possible, keep your gun cases locked in your vehicle’s trunk or truck bed, as long as your bed has weather-tight and lockable security. If your guns are outside the passenger compartment, in a case, unloaded, and kept separate from ammunition, you’ll be in compliance with all but the strictest of local and state gun laws.

Traveling by Air:
When checking in at the airport, travelers need to declare that they are traveling with a gun. At that point, airline personnel will quickly advise the traveler of the need to open his or her case and inspect the firearm. Always wait for the TSA inspector before unlocking or opening the case, and only do so when clearly directed to do so by TSA personnel. Never take a firearm out of its case in an airport.

Shooting Wire law Travel Shooters
You have the right to remain with your firearm at all times during the inspection process. Never leave your firearm until the inspection is complete, the case has been re-locked, and you are in possession of the key or combination.

Traveling Overseas:
There are additional steps during international travel. Specifically, guns must clear customs in the destination country, and once again when entering back into the United States. Multiple government forms may need to be completed and carried with the firearm, like U.S. Customs Form 4457. Be sure to check into all required paperwork well before traveling.

READ Travel with Firearms Article on The Shooting Wire

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July 27th, 2017

Gun Guy Air Travel Tips — How to Fly with Firearms

Airport security travel bag check-in O'hare TSA

We know that many of our readers will be heading to Canada soon to attend the F-Class World Championships at the Connaught Ranges outside Ottawa. If you’ll be flying North in August, or venturing to another destination by air, you need to be careful when transporting firearms through airports both in the USA and in other countries. It is important that you comply with all Homeland Security, TSA, and Airline policies when transporting guns and ammunition. Following the rules will help ensure you (and your gear) make it to your destination without hassles, delays or (God forbid), confiscations.

To help our readers comply with rules and regulations for air travel, we offer these guidelines, courtesy “Ron D.”, a member of our Shooters’ Forum. Before he retired, Ron D. served as a Police Officer assigned to Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Here Ron offers some very important advice for shooters traveling with firearms and expensive optics.

gun transport caseFirst, Ron explains that airport thieves can spot bags containing firearms no matter how they are packaged: “Don’t think you’re safe if your guns are placed in cases designed for golf clubs or trade show items. Baggage is X-Rayed now and cases are tagged with a special bar code if they contain firearms. It doesn’t take long for bad guys to figure out the bar coding for firearms.”

Carry-On Your Scopes and Expensive Items
Ron advises travelers to avoid placing very expensive items in checked baggage: “When traveling by air, carry on your rangefinder, spotting scope, rifle scope, medications, camera, etc. You would be surprised at the amount of people that carry-on jeans and shirts, but put expensive items in checked baggage. Better to loose three pairs of jeans than some expensive glass.”

Mark Bags to Avoid Confusion
Ron notes that carry-on bags are often lost because so many carry-on cases look the same. Ron reports: “People do accidentally remove the wrong bag repeatedly. I frequently heard the comment, ‘But it looks just like my bag.’ When de-planing, keep an eye on what comes out of the overhead that your bag is in. It’s easy to get distracted by someone that has been sitting next to you the whole flight. I tie two streamers of red surveyors’ tape on my carry-on bag.” You can also use paint or decals to make your carry-on bag more distinctive.

Many readers will fly to Ottawa, ON, Canada in two weeks to attend the F-Class World Championships.
Airport security travel bag check-in O'hare TSA

Choosing a Rifle Transport Case
Ron advises: “Buy the best [rifle case] that you can afford. Don’t cry when your $3,000+ Benchrest rifle has a cracked stock or broken scope. Think about what it would be like to travel across the country (e.g. to Montana or the Cactus Classic) and arrive with a damaged rifle. Remember the Samsonite commercial. (For you younger shooters, it shows a monkey throwing the suitcase around in his cage at the zoo.) Baggage handling is NOT a fine art. There is no guarantee that your rifle case will be on top of all the other baggage. Then there is shifting of baggage in the belly of the plane. Ponder that for a while. Rifle and pistol cases must be locked. It doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to figure out that a simple pry tool will open most case locks. There is not much that you can do to disguise a rifle case. It is what it is, and opportunists know this. Among thieves, it doesn’t take long for the word to get around about a NEW type of case.”

Plano Double Rifle Case Amazon Airport security travel bag check-in O'hare TSA
This Plano Double Scoped Rifle Case offers the functionality and durability of an SKB-type hard case for HALF the money. This is now just $111.19, while the equivalent SKB is around $240.00.

General Advice for Air Travelers
Ron cautions: “Keep your hands on your items before boarding. One of the most often heard comments from theft victims was, ‘I just put my computer down for a minute while I was on the phone.’ Also, get to the baggage claim area quickly. If your family/friends can meet you there, so can the opportunists. Things do get lost in the claim area. Don’t be a Victim. Forewarned is forearmed.”

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May 15th, 2010

Ensure You “Make Weight” with Handy, Portable 75-lb Scale

Competitive shooters need to keep track of the weight of their rifle and gear. In many disciplines rifle weight is restricted, and when traveling by air overseas, every ounce counts. Hunters and varminters headed to far-off locations also need to know how much their equipment weighs. Airlines now impose costly penalties for overweight baggage.

Here’s a compact, handy scale that can help ensure your checked baggage doesn’t exceed limits. (You can use the scale to get a rough idea of your rifle weight, but to be 100% sure you “make weight” per match rules, use a quality calibrated scale, such as a postal scale rated to 40 pounds.) A scale like this is also handy when selecting spotting scopes, rests, hard cases etc., to take on a trip. This pocket scale is small enough that you can keep it in your range kit or bring it along on your travels.

luggage scale

Right now Amazon.com has the Travelon Luggage Scale on sale for $9.06 with FREE Shipping. This compact unit weighs items up to 75 pounds. Just place the hook around the item to be weighed, and lift with the metal handle at the top. The red dial marker stops in place at max weight, so you don’t have to watch the scale as you lift. Most purchasers have given this scale good reviews.

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April 17th, 2010

Important Rules Governing Shipment of Firearms and Air Travel

NSSF VP and Gen’l Counsel Lawrence Keane has analyzed the laws governing transport of firearms and ammunition. Here Keene explains long-standing restrictions as well as some new rules that affect firearms owners who ship guns by Common Carrier or who bring firearms when they travel by air.

Disclose to the Carrier if Contents Include Firearms or Ammunition
In a recent case, an individual was criminally prosecuted by the federal government for shipping two guns and some ammunition via a common carrier. The federal government also seized and forfeited the firearms and ammo. Why? Because the shipper “knowingly” failed to disclose to the carrier in writing that the contents of the package contained firearms and ammo. He violated Section 922(e) of the Gun Control Act. This case provides an important lesson for all of us who may, for example, ship a firearm to ourselves for an event rather than check the firearm as luggage.

You MUST declare the contents to the common carrier in writing (on the carrier’s form, check the box/fill in the line). It is a crime to “knowingly to deliver or cause to be delivered to any common or contract carrier for transportation or shipment . . . to persons other than a licensed [importer, manufacturer, dealers, or collector], any package or other container in which there is any firearm or ammunition without written notice to the carrier that such firearm or ammunition is being transported or shipped.”

Transportation Safety AgencyName on Airline Reservations and Picture ID must be Identical
An important new change is taking place for everyone who travels. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has launched a program called “Secure Flight,” which will require travelers to provide their full name as it appears on the government-issued identification they will be traveling with (i.e. passport, driver’s license) when making airline reservations. With this change, you will no longer be able to travel under an abbreviated name or nickname (i.e. Scott vs. W. Scott, Liz vs. Elizabeth or Bill vs. William). This change in airline procedure may affect you and require you to make changes to how your name appears in your travel documents including profiles with your travel agency.

Transportation Safety AgencyEducate Yourself About Restricted Items
The TSA offers a comprehensive list of all prohibited items on its website, www.TSA.gov. The lengthy list explains which items may be carried on and which must go in checked luggage. The exhaustive list of items barred from carry-on includes many things you might not expect.

For example, it is illegal to have drill bits or even screwdrivers (more than 7″ in length) in carry-on luggage. Scissors longer that 4″ must be checked. Hammers must be checked. Gel shoe inserts must be removed and checked, and even snow globes may not be carried on a plane. Because its hard to remember all the restrictions, we recommend you download the TSA’s digital PDF brochure on restricted items, and use it for reference before your new airline trip.

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August 17th, 2009

Jet Blue Offers Unlimited Travel in Sept./Oct. for $599

JetBlue Airline unlimited travelWe know many of our readers will be traveling to matches (such as the F-Class Nationals at Camp Butner) in September and early October. Or you may be planning an extended holiday combining tourism with shooting excursions. For those readers who need to travel long distances in September and October, here is a great travel deal: Jet Blue is offering unlimited air travel from Sept. 8 to Oct. 8 for $599.00. With this All-You-Can-Jet Pass, you can take any number of flights, to any destinations Jet Blue serves (including Mexico and the Caribbean), for just $599.00 (plus airport fees and int’l taxes). What’s the catch? well you have to purchase on or before August 21, 2009, and the $599.00 cost is non-refundable and non-transferable.

About the Pass
$599.00 for a month of unlimited coach-class air travel, any available seat.
On sale through Friday, August 21, 2009, or while supplies last.
Travel Dates are Tuesday, September 8, 2009 through Thursday, October 8, 2009.
Each flight must be booked at least 3 days prior to the flight’s scheduled departure.
Customers who already have a flight booked during the pass travel period can pay the difference to upgrade to the pass by calling 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583), prompt 4.

JetBlue Airline unlimited travel
How to purchase an All-You-Can-Jet Pass
Call 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583), option 4. NOTE: You do not have to be a TrueBlue member at the time of purchase, but a TrueBlue number is required to book all flights. CLICK HERE to join TrueBlue — membership is FREE.

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