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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August 23rd, 2019

Flying with Firearms — Smart Advice for Traveling Competitors

Airport security travel bag check-in O'hare TSA

We know that many of our readers will soon travel by air to attend major matches in Raton, New Mexico. The Spirit of America Match runs September 7-13, and the F-Class Mid-Range and Long-Range Nationals follow September 15-22. If you’ll be venturing to Raton, or to another destination by air in the weeks ahead, 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.

Airport security travel bag check-in O'hare TSA
The NRA F-Class Mid-Range Nationals (Sept. 15-18) and Long Range Nationals (Sept. 19-22) will be held at the NRA Whittington Center 1000-Yard Range in Raton, New Mexico.

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

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.”

Important TSA Tips on Firearms and Flying

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 $111.64, while the equivalent SKB is around $240.00.

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December 4th, 2018

Holiday Air Travel with Firearms — Know the TSA Regulations

Tom McHale flying with firearms guns TSA

If you will be flying with firearms this holiday season, 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.

TSA Tips on Traveling with Firearms:

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.

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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November 18th, 2017

TSA Tips for Traveling Safe During the Holiday Season

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

Thanksgiving is almost here. We know many readers will soon be traveling to spend the holiday with family members. If you will be flying with firearms this November, 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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June 3rd, 2014

Flying with Firearms — Tips from an Industry Security Expert

Shooting Industry Magazine has released a helpful blog article concerning airline travel and firearms. Written by well-known shooting instructor, gun writer (and part-time police officer) Massad Ayoob, the article covers key points travelers must understand before carrying firearms into an airport zone. In his article Flying with Firearms, Ayoob warns travelers that “State gun laws change frequently” and that “our country is a 50-piece patchwork quilt of gun laws”.

Massad Ayoob, Flying, FAA, TSA, airport security

Here are some of the recommended resources gun-toting travelers should consult before they head to any airport in the United States:

Flying with Firearms — Familiarize Yourself With The Laws
by Massad Ayoob
State gun laws change frequently, including reciprocity on concealed-carry permits even in the gun-friendly “red states.” Here are a few sources I recommend for you and your customers.

Online, the best and most up-to-date source of gun laws I’ve found is www.Handgunlaws.us. For smart phones, the best app I can recommend is Legal Heat (www.mylegalheat.com).

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are the authoritative sources on flying with firearms.

The controlling TSA regulation can be found at www.tsa.gov, search “Firearms.” The FAA’s controlling regulation is 108.11. To view the FAA’s controlling regulation, visit the U.S. Government Printing Office: www.gpo.gov/fdsys, click “Advanced Search” and enter “14 CFR 108.11” — the first result contains the report.

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