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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March 8th, 2016

Air Travel with Guns — Expert Advice from Security Professional

Airport security travel bag check-in O'hare TSA

Before he retired, Forum member Ron D. served as a Police Officer assigned to Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Ron offers some excellent 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.

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.”

gun transport case

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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September 22nd, 2015

Don’t Be Stupid at Airports . . .

TSA Security Airport Carry-On Seizure
This photo shows some of the handguns actually found by the TSA in carry-ons last year.

Here’s an important reminder to our readers who have concealed-weapon carry permits — don’t overlook your carry gun when traveling through airports. Many travelers with carry permits are forgetting weapons stashed in carry-on luggage. The TSA is encountering more firearms than ever, and those weapons are normally confiscated with their owners subject to penalties.

In 2014, according to TSA.gov, 2,212 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country (that’s a 22% increase over 2013). Of those, 1,835 (83 percent) were loaded. Firearms were intercepted at a total of 224 airports.

CLICK to VIEW Actual Weapons Seized by the TSA at U.S. Airports.

Another problem is that Carry Permit holders may enter an airport with their guns still on their person. Here are actual examples:

A 94-year-old man attempted to enter the checkpoint at LaGuardia Airport with a loaded .38 caliber revolver clipped to his belt.

A loaded .380 caliber firearm was discovered strapped to the ankle of a passenger who walked through a metal detector at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

A loaded .380 caliber firearm was discovered in the rear pocket of a San Antonio International Airport passenger during advanced imaging technology screening.

TSA Security Airport Carry-On Seizure

If you are traveling by air, make sure you remove all firearms from your person (or carry-on luggage), unload the firearm(s), place any weapon in a locked, hard-sided container, and declare them as checked baggage. Anything else can land you in jail.

Here are the TSA guidelines for transporting firearms as checked baggage:

  • Comply with regulations on carrying firearms where you are traveling from and to, as laws vary by local, state and international governments.
  • Declare all firearms, ammunition and parts to the airline during the check-in process. Ask about limitations or fees that may apply.
  • Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only. Firearm parts, including firearms frames and receivers, must also be placed in checked baggage and are prohibited in carry-on baggage.
  • Replica firearms may be transported in checked baggage only.
  • Rifle scopes are permitted in carry-on and checked bags.
  • All firearms, ammunition and firearm parts, including firearm frames, receivers, clips and magazines are prohibited in carry-on baggage.
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December 5th, 2010

Amtrak to Allow Guns in Checked Bags Starting December 15th

Starting in mid-December, travelers on Amtrak will be able to bring their firearms in checked baggage. With airport security and airline baggage fees becoming more burdensome by the week, rail travel may become more appealing to shooters and hunters. The new Amtrak gun transport policy goes into effect on December 15, 2010. However, firearms transport will only be available between stations where checked baggage service is currently available. Amtrak has modified 142 baggage cars “to provide a secure, safe location for the firearms.”

guns on Amtrak trainsRequirements for Firearms Transport
You can’t just walk on an Amtrak train with a holstered gun or a rifle in a gun case. Far from it. Advanced notice and special packing is required. Here are Amtrak’s gun transport rules:

  • Advanced Notice: At least 24 hours before departure, travelers must notify Amtrak of their intention to transport firearms. Notification must be by phone (not online), and firearms must still be declared upon check-in.
  • Declaration: When checking-in, you must tell baggage handlers that you are transporting firearms.
  • Locked Container Requirement: As when transporting guns on a commercial airline flight, gun owners should pack firearms unloaded and in a locked, hard-sided container. NOTE: handgun cases must stored inside a suitcase or other checked bag.
  • Ammo Transport: Ammunition should be stored in a manufacturer’s box or in “fiber, wood, or metal boxes … or in other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition.”

Gun-toting travelers with questions should call Amtrak at 1-800-USA-RAIL or visit www.amtrak.com. Federal legislation mandated this Amtrak policy change.

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June 13th, 2010

GAO Ruling Affirms Amtrak Must Allow Guns as Checked Baggage

Amtrak gun transportIn December 2009, President Obama signed a transportation funding bill that included a provision allowing Amtrak passengers to bring firearms aboard trains — provided the arms are stowed in locked, checked baggage.

Amtrak’s gun ban was instituted after the 9/11/2001 terrorist attack. The 2009 legislation will restore rail riders’ rights that existed prior to “9/11″. Amtrak has until December to put the new law into effect, and Amtrak is obliged to deliver an implementation plan to Congress next week.

Amtrak officials have resisted the new policy on gun transport from the beginning, pointing to a shortage of funding. However, just last week, on 6/10/2010, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) removed any “wiggle room” for Amtrak. The GAO held that the legislation obligating Amtrak to carry firearms was “permanent law”, erasing doubts that Amtrak would have to comply. The amendment (to the 2009 funding bill) which obliges Amtrak to resume firearms carriage was authored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS). Senator Wicker explained the purpose of his amendment: “Sportsmen who would like to use an Amtrak train for hunting trips cannot do so because they are not allowed to bring a firearm in checked luggage, something that is done every day at airports across our country.”

How does all this shake-out for shooters traveling by rail? Amtrak’s current policy still prohibits carriage of firearms on trains, and that won’t change until December, 2010. Below is the language of Amtrak’s stated rules regarding transport of firearms:

AMTRAK Baggage Policy — Firearms in Checked Baggage
Amtrak’s current policy prohibits all firearms, ammunition and other weapons aboard its trains. This includes any being carried on the person, in carry-on baggage, or in checked baggage. Please be advised that this policy remains in effect until Amtrak begins firearm carriage service by December 2010.

The Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2010, enacted into law on December 16, 2009, requires Amtrak to implement the procedures necessary to provide storage and carriage of firearms in checked baggage cars and at Amtrak stations that accept checked baggage, within one year of the bill’s enactment. This requirement applies solely to checked baggage, not carry-on baggage.

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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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