Airport Travel with a Firearm, Flying with a Gun

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One of the most common questions we get on Instagram, is how to travel with a gun. There are two ways of flying with a gun that have been most successful with he least amount of trouble from TSA. When flying with a long gun, a quality hard-case with at LEAST four locking or reinforced locking locations. When flying with a gun, personal CCW or carry pistol, having the small pelican INSIDE your clothing luggage bag. We really hope this guide helps you with your experience of flying with a gun. Flying with a gun is not always the same experience and can vary with airlines. TSA and airline attendant policy can change frequently. An Instagram follower recently told me, they are now asking to show clear, having the attendant physically inspect the chamber to be empty. This certainly is new if it’s now policy.

Flying with a Rifle

Let’s tackle the most obvious, long gun travel. I really love the durability and reliability of Pelican gun cases. They have wheels, and the Air edition is super lightweight comparatively to standard cases. For a list of all the Pelican gun cases, click HERE. I do like how solid and rigid the Pelican Storm cases are. The Vault cases are nice, but feel a hair on the more affordable side, and the price reflects that. There are tons of solid hard cases out there. Things to consider when buying are the diameter of the holes on the gun cases.

Pelican long gun cases tend to have the two inner locking holes, reinforced with a steel guard. These guards diameter can prevent many quality locks from being inserted. You can drill them out a hair larger to fit certain locks. They are also close to the center carry handle and long shackled locks must be used. DO NOT use Master locks. They are absolute garbage. I like the German ABUS Granit or ABUS 80080. They are expensive, but worthy investment if you plan to travel with expensive NVG long gun setups often. The odds of someone having time to pick or cut a lock at the airport is unlikely, and CCTV catches a lot. I have seen Pelicans at SHOT Show that have had the resident fire ax taken to the hinges in a rapid attempt at getting to the contents. You want to have as many deterrents as possible. You do NOT need TSA approved and accessible locks on your gun case. Do not put gun related stickers all over your rifle cases, it brings attention to your luggage.

Flying with Night Vision and Laser Devices

If traveling with night vision rigs on your long gun, laser devices, lights, etc. You may want to strip them off your long gun and transport with your carryon luggage. I personally carry a Mystery Ranch ASAP Mystery Ranch ASAP bag with a Mystery Ranch / Team Wendy Helmet bag attached. I wish my travel bags were not Multicam, but they were the only colors available for both the ASAP and Helmet Bag when I was purchasing.

My thermal scope, thermal hand held, NVG, helmet, and laser devices travel on person with me. By Federal law, laser devices are not supposed to be transported as carry-ons. I generally stow these in my clothing luggage with my personal handgun or hide in my rolled up underwear. I once accidently had a laser device in my carryon, but TSA honestly doesn’t know what they are looking at.

Mystery Ranch ASAP bag, and Team Wendy Helmet Transit Bag Molle to the backpack.

Flying with Body Armor

Level III+ Special Threat armor, helmets, NVG, IR lights, white lights, batteries, NVG mounts, and thermal systems all are allowed as carry-ons and 99% of the time, won’t even get you searched going through TSA. They are usually more concerned with my un-opened Dude wipes for my booty hole. Since I aforementioned armor; armor systems are OK to travel with internationally as well. As long as it is not a Level IV plate system. Level IV fall under the ITAR Category, and cannot be exported on person. I have a level III+ rifle rated plate inserted into my carryon backpack and have had zero issues traveling CONUS or internationally.

Flying with a Handgun or CCW

I travel often for work meetings that doesn’t involve hunting or shooting events. I simply want to travel with my personal conceal carry. I tend to not bring my $4900.00 Staccato XC, my daily CCW, so I travel with a pistol that is much easier to travel with and less of a financial risk. I prefer to travel with my P365XL with Holosun 507k optic.

iM2050 Storm Case with Southwest Affidavit

The Pelican case I like the most for a CCW is the iM2050 Storm Case. I use an old gun cable lock AROUND the frame of the suitcase, and feed it through one of the lock ports on the case. I use a standard shorter shank padlock on the other vacant lock port. The short shank keeps the case fairly snug, and it’s already quite hard to manipulate the cable lock side of the case open much more than a few millimeters. The cable lock also prevents the case from being opened by TSA without my permission. They have to have access to the contents of the whole luggage case, but it is okay and in your best interest to always use personal locks, not TSA approved locks on your guns. In this case I store my pistol, one spare magazine, and my knife or knives. You Pelican must be visible when the bag opens, for TSA.

Flying with Ammunition

I always fly with ammunition separate from my firearms. In every case of travel, you must travel with the ammunition in “the factory box”. I use the same box every time, and just fill it up with fresh carry ammunition, if it needs to be rotated out from overloading. I tape the ends, so it does not open up and spill ammo everywhere in transit. I find a snug place to wedge it in, or pack it between layers of cloths in my OTTE Gear travel flat pack bags. If you are traveling with belted ammunition, the nut-sack or assault-pack is considered “the factory box”. Yes, I do have experience flying with out PKM.

Departure

Upon arriving to the airport, I have prepped my gun cases for flying with a gun. My CCW Pelican is already locked, and stowed inside an unlocked suitcase. If you are just traveling with a CCW, keep it locked up so you don’t spend time fidgeting with it at ticketing. I tend to fly Southwest Airlines out of Manchester, NH. Their policy is declare you need to “firearm check” and check your gun. If locked in your general suitcase, the inner gun case must be locked and visible. The attendant will ask you “Is the firearm unloaded?”, your obvious answer is “Yes”. They will then ask you to fill out an affidavit with your contact information, flight information, and signature. If you don’t know your flight info, they will gladly help. Next, the attendant will tape the index card to you case; lock your bag with those teeny tiny TSA locks, and off you go. This process may different, airline to airline. I have been asked to unlock my little Pelican case and “show” the firearm, where they still ask “Is the gun unloaded?”. Seems silly because 9 times out of 10, they have no flipping clue what they are actually looking at and have not been trained on inspecting loaded firearms. Alas, they are not TSA and they are not to touch your belongings. Depending on the airport, you may be accompanied by an attendant to go to a TSA scanning area to greenlight your luggage, or they ask you to simply loiter for 10 mins waiting to see if TSA summons you. You do not want to get all the way through security and be called back. It’s happened to me and a tight schedule and can be nerve racking. You don’t want to miss your flight, but your visible panic can cause TSA to do a deep dive and jam you up.

Arriving to ticketing with a rifle case is equally as simple. I roll into the lobby with an unlocked rifle case. locks residing in the water bottle pouch on the side of my back pack carryon. Most of the time, they ID the rifle case and get you straight in for gun check. This time, you will have to “show” them the gun. This is merely to drop the affidavit loose inside the case. Once the affidavit is complete, lock the case up with the 4 or 6 locks necessary. I did forget to mention before, every lock port MUST have a lock. If you loose a lock in transit to the airport, they will not let you fly.

Here’s a quick story. SAT TSA decided to go ham on me over flying home with a PKM. I had the assault-pack still loaded with an unfired belt, the gun full of spent carbon. They wanted to inspect it. The attendant at ticketing asked me to hand over my keys for TSA to inspect the firearm. DO NOT EVER GIVE OVER YOUR KEYS, ESPECIALLY WITH NFA. You are in fact relinquishing possession of a NFA item to a non licensed or approved entity. They would be committing a felony, and you have no legal obligation to yield your keys over. Protect your rights and do not give them away. They are the equivalent of mall cop feds, and have no education on firearms, not to mention, are not vetted as well as other federal officers. NFA transit is not different than interstate. Suppressors do not need to be declared to the ATF before travel, but machineguns or SBRs must be. We are a 07 FFL and 02 SOT. We do not need to declare interstate NFA travel or transit with the ATF before departures, interstate. Shooting a match in Ireland, do not fly with a suppressor, FFL or not. It would be a federal crime to violate ITAR by leaving the country with a can. I have friends that have accidently done this, TSA nor customs either direction batted an eye.

Arrival

Arrival, when flying with a gun can go one of two ways, or both. Traveling with a single piece of checked luggage with a personal CCW, most of the time is spit out on the carousel. Traveling with carryon only and a rifle case; the rifle case with be the last luggage out and will be hand carried to baggage services near the carousel. You will have to present an ID to retrieve your luggage. If you have a checked bag with a gun, and a rifle case. The baggage services may hold both pieces of luggage and require an ID release.

In Closing of Flying with a Gun

We hope this quick guide has helped you. Please post any questions or comments in the comments section. If you have any experiences with flying with a gun, we’d love to hear about it below. Thanks again for reading!

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One comment

  1. You’re a gangster, Alex

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