Flying with Guns

Discussion in 'The Constitutional & RKBA Forum' started by Marlin, Jun 15, 2010.

  1. Marlin

    Marlin *TFF Admin Staff Chief Counselor*

    Here are some helpful hints from one who frequently does fly with guns.....


    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Flying With Guns by Barbara Baird (more by this author)
    Posted 06/15/2010 ET

    Flying, unfortunately, comes with Todd Jarrett’s job – that includes competing in shooting matches, attending numerous trade shows, working for BLACKHAWK!’s Pro Shooter/New Products for CQC line and instructing firearms courses for military law enforcement/competitive shooters. Jarrett has been in the gun world for 26 years and last year, he made about 50 flights and spent at least 250 nights away from home.

    The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lists rules and regulations for flying with guns, but Jarrett, in a special interview for Guns & Patriots, advises you on how to work with antsy agents and also adds a few tips that you will not see in the pages of a government document or airline policy.

    First, all guns need to be unloaded and transported in proper cases for checked baggage only. Jarrett says, “I like to have the right luggage. I use the Storm Case boxes. They are designed to carry guns for the U.S. military. They are heavy duty and will last for 250,000 flying miles. I know because I have three that I have used for years.” He adds, “If you are flying with an AR-15, take it apart … so you do not have to drag this black rifle out at the counter in front of everyone. Freaking out everybody makes you a target for the flight.” Jarrett recommends locking your cases before you leave home, because that shows a customer service representative that you are responsible.

    Jarrett recommends that you not show up in tactical attire or camouflage when traveling to a competition, school or going on a hunt somewhere. He says, “Just tell them, ‘I’m going hunting, or I’m going to a shooting competition.’ … You need to have good vibes with the person behind the counter, or you will get yourself in a world of hurt if you don’t.”

    He continued, “You’re going to run across the TSA agent who is having a bad day. I’ve been to the airport and they’ll tell me ‘That case is not getting on the airplane. It’s designed for guns!’ You’re at the mercy of the airlines and TSA.”

    He adds, “The airline personnel don't like dealing with guns. Most of them don't understand what to do with them. Ninety-five percent of them don't know if they are loaded or not. So every time you go to airport get there early, so you can deal with the counter and TSA.

    “Furthermore, a captain of an airliner can refuse to fly with your gun on his plane. You’ll get a pilot that doesn’t like guns and he’ll say, ‘Nope, that gun is not going on my airplane!’ He is the captain of that ship and it’s his prerogative.” You will have to fly on another airliner that day or check to find another plane with a more gun-friendly captain. Although this scenario has not happened to Jarrett (yet), he has heard of it happening to his law enforcement friends.
    He also recommends that you do your homework beforehand, and look at the particular airline’s policy online, print it out and have it ready to produce in case there is a question about how to transport a firearm. Jarrett says, “If you get into a problem with a supervisor, you can point to the policy and tell him that you’re able to travel with this firearm. If they still give you a hard time, ask to speak to a station manager and his job is to make you, the customer, happy.”

    Upon arrival at the ticket counter, he says, “Offer your ID and ask for a firearms declaration.” After the agent asks to see the firearms and you open the case, tell the agent the guns are not loaded and mention that they also are disassembled. He says, “Tell them there’s no ammunition in the magazine and there’s no ammunition in the chamber. They usually are uneducated about whether there is a round in the chamber or not, so that is why it is up to you to tell them.”

    Jarrett recommends that you stay proactive throughout the course of checking your baggage. Look for TSA x-ray machines. Are they on the floor, or will your checked baggage go into a hole somewhere? Of course, if the machines are in public, you will be asked to stand near the machine while your bag gets x-rayed. If there is a problem, you can work with the agents easily, because you will have your keys to the locked case available.

    If it looks like the attendant at the desk is going to shove your case into a hole in the wall, you need to ask for a bag check. A TSA officer will open your bag, check it and then call ahead to notify the ground crew that the bag is coming to them. In fact, Jarrett says you should request a bag check for any baggage that contains expensive items.

    About Ammo

    TSA requires that you pack ammunition in a fiber, wood or metal box designed to carry a small amount of ammunition. Depending on the airline’s regulations, you may carry it in the same hard-sided case as the firearms, but you are limited to 11 pounds of ammo, total. Jarrett says that in all the years he has been flying, he has never had his ammo weighed; however, if you intend on taking a lot of ammo with you, Jarrett recommends that you take your ammo to UPS and ship it. Never transport primers, because, as Jarrett says, “If you can shoot one of them off, you can imagine what 5,000 would do. You could actually blow a plane up with that!” He adds, “I don’t even recommend shipping your cleaner or solvent. TSA will take it from you. Just go to a Walmart when you get there and buy your cleaning stuff. Or, just ship it with your ammo. Box it up and make sure it’s nice and clean first.”

    And, another thing … or two

    Check your bags, especially if you have been to a range or hunting and had a bag with you that you intend to carry on the airplane. A few years ago, someone thought he was helping out Jarrett’s girlfriend and dropped a live round into her bag that she had at the range – the same one she intended to use as a carry-on bag. An error such as this might cost you several thousand dollars in fines. So, if you have had your purse, your tote bag, a camera bag, out at the range or competition with you, check it not only for knives, sharp items, but also for live rounds.
    When you get to your destination, Jarrett recommends that you do not ever leave your guns in a vehicle. If you have a discreet bag, you may even decide to take your gun to dinner with you. Jarrett says he has taken a gun into a restaurant with him, and if someone asks him, he says the case contains expensive equipment! As always, check to see if this practice is acceptable with that state’s concealed carry laws, and whether your state has reciprocity with that state.

    Get educated about how to fly with guns and remember to stay cool about the whole experience.
    To read more about Todd Jarrett, see

    © 2010 Human Events

    Editor's Note: Barbara is also the publisher of Women’s Outdoor News. Please visit her site.
  2. rentalguy1

    rentalguy1 Former Guest

    This is just one reason why I REFUSE to fly commercial. I will fly on a privately chartered aircraft, or, most likely, drive.

  3. Shopnut

    Shopnut Former Guest

    Jun 13, 2010
    Pac NW
    One good thing about the TSA is that since they stood up, I have never had a ticket agent handle my gun case at all at any airport; not even to weigh it. This is how I have avoided excess baggage fees for heavy items. The TSA does not care what it weighs as it already has a check sticker on it when they inspect.

    I hate the airports that inspect the gun case in a secure area. This means you can not be present if they want to open the case. Vegas is like this. Norfolk and Seattle airports are two that let you watch the inspections. If you refuse to provide or are unable to provide a key, then they will pick or break the lock to get it open. The TSA is only required to make a reasonable attempt to notify you prior to opening; whatever that means. Having two extra locks with you is a good idea. I have had gun parts lost when my guns were packed disassembled in the past, so I keep them together these days. The TSA allows any kind of lock with a key, even those with keys that look like tiny nail files.

    It is a good idea to check on how many of each kind of gun an airline will allow you to check in your luggage. United has no restrictions, but NWA does (or used to) restrict a person to two rifles, two handguns, one machine gun, one silencer and so on.

    Not all airlines allow or limit you to 11 pounds of ammo. Alaska allows 50 pounds (I like) domestic, 11 pounds international. Most other airlines are 11 pounds period. At least one airline is stricter in that they limit the number of rounds and the size of the cartridge. The TSA does not seem to care what ammo you bring as long as it is in a proper ammo box, and can even be in the gun case.

    Some airports hold the gun case at their office for you to show ID and pick up. Some bring it to you. Still others just let it run down the carousel or drop it off at over sized luggage areas.

    I prefer to drive, but sometimes it is not an option due to time constraints.
  4. Shopnut

    Shopnut Former Guest

    Jun 13, 2010
    Pac NW
    Juat got done checking in with Alaska airlines. I nearly screwed up. I signed the gun tag and put it in the case without taking off the carbon copy and letting the ticket agent see that I put it in the case. She told me to put the case on the belt (which weighs it) and open it up. It weighed 60 plus pounds. I thought she was going to demand an over weight luggage fee, or worse, deny boarding to the gun case. She kept her back to the weight readout and simply reached into the case and removed the top copy of the card. Then she said she had to bring it to TSA. I figured she would be able to tell it was over weight, but what she really meant was that I would follow her to the TSA inspection area with the case.

    Success, but this did not end my problems. One of my locks broke as I was relocking the case, so I bought new locks at the news stand for $13, what a ripoff. TSA did not care that I had pistols rifles and a silencer in the case. It seems they do not care what is in it at all. Alaska Airlines wanted to ensure I did not have ammo in the gun case though, even though it is permitted. I did not care to argue that though.
  5. Double D

    Double D Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jul 16, 2009
    North Florida
    When I went to phoenix last year, I brought my pistol and 50 rounds along. I flew delta and for the most part I didnt have any problems. I did have one guy in phoenix act up a little and he screwed up the lock on my lock box. I had to fix it but that was it. Pretty much hassle free.
  6. brendar7639

    brendar7639 New Member

    Jul 3, 2010
    Thanks you for the post.
    Hi guys, Im a newbie. Nice to join this forum.
  7. Shopnut

    Shopnut Former Guest

    Jun 13, 2010
    Pac NW
    Welcome aboard brendar7639.
  8. Dr342

    Dr342 New Member

    Jan 5, 2009
    Some great tips. Thanks
  9. Shopnut

    Shopnut Former Guest

    Jun 13, 2010
    Pac NW
    I'm on the way back home now. It seems that things change a bit over time. I actually had a ticket agent handle my gun case at the airport. I was not overweight this time, so I had nothing to worry about as far as extra fees go. I had to stand by to hand over my keys to TSA if they wanted to open the case in the secure area (where I was not allowed to go), but I guess they were satisfied with the X-rays and explosives residue check.

    I think I will not risk traveling with an overly heavy gun case in the future.
  10. OldEagle

    OldEagle New Member

    Jun 30, 2010
    I'm flying out West with some handguns this fall. Are the plastic cases the guns come in new with a padlock good enough for the airlines, or do I need some sort of special locking containers? I have to change planes in Denver. There is no direct flight. Should I be overly concerned?
  11. wpage

    wpage Active Member

    Aug 25, 2009
    Considering how bad TSA has mad flying without guns. Flying with guns must be punishing.
  12. Shopnut

    Shopnut Former Guest

    Jun 13, 2010
    Pac NW
    Flying with guns is a routine matter for me. I fly with guns more often than not when traveling domestic. I see no reason to worry about it at all, but I still am anxious while awaiting the gun case arrival at baggage claim, hahaha.

    As long as the gun case is hard and lockable, that is good enough. As long as the lock has a key or a combo, then it is good enough. I think large expensive and tough locks are a waste of money as a gun case is portable and easily stolen. Also if a thief wants to break into a gun case and the locks are too tough to cut, they will simply cut the cut open around the locks. Kind of like cutting the steering wheel on a car if it has a Club secured to it.

    This link; has good info. Also check the airline restrictions as they usually have more strict guidelines than the TSA. Before 9/11 it was easier to travel with guns as curbside check in was allowed. After 9/11/2001 and before the TSA if was a pain, but it has gotten easier since the TSA took over. Just make sure you remain available with your keys in case they need to open it up.

    If you have silencers or anything exotic in the gun case, tell the TSA so they are not surprised when they x-ray it. I read about a few guys who were called back to TSA from the gate because TSA lacked the knowledge on the legalities on certain firearms. If they had not returned, or the TSA broke their locks or the case to get it open, then the passenger was SOL as the TSA will not allow a broken or unlocked gun case on the plane.
  13. jim brady

    jim brady Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2009
    Simla, Colorado
    Not too big of a hassel flying with firearms as checked bags. I work for a major airline (33 years), and have been on both ends of the firearms as baggage experiance.

    First, make sure that your rifle/shotgun or pistol is in an approved case. Some are plastic, others metal. All should have a TSA lock or locks. TSA opens all cases and examines all firearms. It is a great idea to fly with them dis-assembled, however, make sure that the parts are secure from rubbing and scratching the other parts.

    Our airline makes sure that the firearms are delivered seperately from the other baggage, and we employees ask for identification before we hand over the firearm case. That is for the customer's protection - to ensure that they receive their property.

    Ammunition is another proposition. As long as it is shipped seperately from the firearm, and is in an original box, we usually don't have a problem with ammo. The risk to the passengers and the aircraft is when loose ammo is shipped, because of the rare but possible danger from one bullet striking the primer of another. A couple of boxes should be OK to ship. If you need more, it would make sense to buy it at the other end of your trip.

    Had one fellow who flew into our city with a double rifle case with 2 expensive shotguns (dis-assembled) inside. TSA at the first leg of the trip opened the case, inspected them, closed the case. The parts were not properly seperated, and the passenger was irate with my airline. We airline employees are not authorized to open gun cases under any circumstances. No need to - the Federal folks (TSA) does that.

    As far as theft goes, I can't speak for the smaller airlines, but the larger ones (Delta, United, American and Continental) are very careful in screening employees and in 33 years I have never heard of a verifiable theft-especially firearms. Hope this helps!
  14. aa1911

    aa1911 Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2010
    Pacific Northwest

    So just wanted to comment on Hawaiin airlines as I recently flew TDY to HI for the first time, I've flown just about every airline out there as I travel by air about 10-20 times per year, every single time with at least one or two firearms, usually pistols.

    I checked their policy on transporting firearms/ammo and it's the same as all the others.

    What I find funny is that I feel like I'm the first person to ever fly Hawaiian with a gun. Hawaii is about the most gun unfriendly state out there besides NY, CA, etc and their employees at the airlines reflect that.

    The employees did not know what to do when I stated I needed to declare two firearms in my checked luggage upon arrival to the counter at SeaTac. They had to scramble and find an agent that could help me. Then I literally gave them a class on what to do, too funny! (but kinda sad)

    "It's unloaded in an approved locked hardsided container; OK, what you need to do is give me the firearms unloaded slip, I sign/date and place the orange copy on or in the gun case, you keep the carbon (top) copy. Then once my bag is weighed and has the proper barcode markings, it should go to the oversized luggage station and be inspected..."

    One lady chimed in and asked if I had more than 200 round of ammunition.

    I stated that there was no such rule or limit, the limit is by weight and it happens to be 11 pounds as per Hawaii Airlines official website. She obviously saw I knew more about gun rules at the airport/airline than she did and waved it on and left us alone.

    Seriously, TSA likes to make up rules on the spot; make sure to read the website or even print out a copy to show them and make sure they are educated on their own policy! Be polite but firm with them and matter of fact.

    Lately, I've not had my bag searched as always in the past, found that a pleasant surprise.

    On my way home, the lady at Honolulu airport who finally was able to 'help' me check my luggage (that's a whole nuther funny story) was so freaked out that a gun was near her while I placed the slip on top, she just stared nervously at me and my bag and quickly ran away once complete. My wife was the one who noticed her reaction, as I was busy locking/closing my bag.

    but of course the security gaurd standing 30 feet away with a loaded gun didn't bother her? but my unloaded locked one did. There's about a 99.9% chance I am far better trained with my pistol than that low paid security gaurd!!

    But overall, I've never had an issue flying with guns in the last 15 years, it's really not a big deal and while ticketing agents usually don't care much for them, the other TSA folks who search bags are usually pretty supportive of firearms. Many have commented on my pistols and told me what they had and shot, good to see they're not all robots.

    I leave magazine and everything out of the gun and gun box, keep my ammo in the original packaging or a plastic flip top box. And I do always arrive early although it usually is only an extra 5 minutes. usually. sometimes it may take 30 minutes.

    But I think Todd Jarret's advice is pretty solid, I agree with most of it. Will keep ya out of trouble for certain.
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