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July 8th, 2021

Air Travel Advice — How to Fly Safely with Firearms

Airport security travel bag check-in O'hare TSA

We know that many of our readers will be heading to Indiana soon to attend the F-Class National Championships at Camp Atterbury July 22-30. If you’ll be flying to Indiana this month, 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.

Guidelines for Air Travel in 2021

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.”

Use Carry-On for 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.

F-Class National Championships Camp Atterbury Indiana
The 2021 NRA F-Class Nat’l Championships at Camp Atterbury, Indiana begin soon. The Mid-Range F-Class Nationals run July 22-26, 2021, while the Long Range F-Class Nationals take place July 27-30, 2021.

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.”

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 Two-Gun Tactical Case

Plano Double Rifle Case Amazon Airport security travel bag check-in O'hare airline approved AW2TSA
The Plano AW2 two-gun case offers the functionality and durability of an SKB-type hard case for HALF the money. This is now just $116.67, while the equivalent SKB is around $300.00.

This Plano AW2 two-gun case is Amazon’s #1 Best Seller in wheeled, heavy-duty firearms cases. This is offered in three sizes: 36″, 42″, and 52″. We like the biggest 52″ version, as it is long enough inside to fit most scoped match rifles. Alternatively, if you have a really long F-Class, ELR, or Palma rig, you can detach the barreled action from the stock, and run the two sections in the shorter 42″ case. This case is strong enough for airline travel, meeting FAA requirements for checked baggage. This Plano case offers a good balance between strength and weight, all for a reasonable cost — $116.67 on Amazon.

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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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