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December 8th, 2020

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:

TSA FIREARM Guidelines

1. When traveling, comply with the laws concerning possession of firearms as they vary by local, state and international governments.

2. If you are traveling internationally with a firearm in checked baggage, please check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for information and requirements prior to travel.

3. Declare each firearm each time you present it for transport as checked baggage. Ask your airline about limitations or fees that may apply.

4. Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only. 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. Only the passenger should retain the key or combination to the lock unless TSA personnel request the key to open the firearm container to ensure compliance with TSA regulations. You may use any brand or type of lock to secure your firearm case, including TSA-recognized locks.

5. Bringing an unloaded firearm with accessible ammunition to the security checkpoint carries the same civil penalty/fine as bringing a loaded firearm to the checkpoint. You may find information on civil penalties at the Civil Enforcement page.

6. Firearm parts, including magazines, clips, bolts and firing pins, are prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage.

7. Replica firearms, including firearm replicas that are toys, may be transported in checked baggage only.

8. Rifle scopes are permitted in carry-on and checked baggage.

TSA Ammunition Guidelines

1. Ammunition is prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage.

2. Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm. Read the requirements governing the transport of ammunition in checked baggage as defined by 49 CFR 175.10 (a)(8).

3. Small arms ammunition (up to .75 caliber and shotgun shells of any gauge) must be packaged in a fiber (such as cardboard), wood, plastic, or metal box specifically designed to carry ammunition and declared to your airline.

4. Ammunition may be transported in the same hard-sided, locked case as a firearm if it has been packed as described above. You cannot use firearm magazines or clips for packing ammunition unless they completely enclose the ammunition. Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be boxed or included within a hard-sided, locked case.

5. Please check with your airline for quantity limits for ammunition.

NOTE: The guidelines above are reprinted directly from the TSA web page here: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/transporting-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 12th, 2020

Traveling by Air 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 to Raton, New Mexico next month for the 2020 F-Class Nationals (October 25 – November 1, 2020), and with 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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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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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.”

Permalink - Articles, Tech Tip 2 Comments »