How to Fly with a Firearm

How to Fly with a Firearm: 5 Things to Consider

When preparing for a trip, people know all the obvious things they shouldn’t bring on an airplane. Items like large bottles of shampoo, nail clippers, or that blunt they forgot in their pocket. Yet every year, the TSA confiscates thousands of guns at security.

It’s a shame, considering that it’s legal to bring your trusty sidearm with you on your journeys. As long as you know how to fly with a firearm, you’ll avoid nasty misunderstandings with government agencies. Of course, even when following the procedure, folks get nervous about a misstep that might draw Homeland Security’s ire.

Never fear. In this guide, learn five things to consider when flying with a firearm.

1. How to Fly with a Firearm: Declare that You’re Flying With a Firearm in Checked Baggage

Just in case it wasn’t already obvious, remember: you can’t bring your gun with you onto the plane. Only a select few vetted individuals can carry in the cabin. These include authorized air marshals, law enforcement members, and commercial pilots.

You’ll need to transport your firearm in checked baggage. Declare your firearm to the official at the ticket counter, too. Failure to do so could lead to confiscation and a run-in with authorities. Traveling with a firearm requires a proper case, and that brings up the next point.

2. Store It in a TSA-Approved Container

When you fly with a firearm, it needs to be in a TSA-approved container. This means the case must have hard sides and the option for you to lock it securely. Your soft shotgun sleeve, needless to say, won’t cut it.

In addition to this, the TSA requires that you lock all of the locks. If your case has three lock points, all of them should be secured.

Don’t, however, put your ammunition in the case. Ammunition has its own regulations.

3. Keep Your Firearm Unloaded

Make sure to unload your firearm when storing it. Take extra care to remove the leftover round in the chamber.

The TSA is quite particular with how you transport ammunition. You must also store ammunition in your checked-in baggage. Don’t forget to declare it, same as your weapon.

Don’t use your boxers to wrap up the ammo for safekeeping. Put it in its original packaging so it is not loose. Otherwise, you’ll need a TSA-approved container.

Small arms ammunition that’s less than .75 caliber (including shotgun shells) can go with your firearm. That’s if, and only if, they’re in a secured, TSA-approved container.

4. Carry a Reasonable Amount of Ammo

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t bring enough ammo to last you through the apocalypse. Only take what you need. Bring a reasonable amount for your trip’s purposes that wouldn’t arouse unnecessary suspicion–and have documentation for any extraordinary overage.

Unfortunately, the TSA doesn’t give a hard number on how much ammunition you can transport. That said, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) limits you to 11 pounds per passenger. It’s recommended that you stay under that limit.

5. Prepare for Declaration and Inspection

Now you’re ready to head to the airport and fly with a firearm. Prepare yourself for the declaration process.

Calmly tell the counter agent that you have a weapon in your checked baggage. Don’t forget to mention the ammunition. Be mature and professional in doing so, and don’t joke around.

They’ll have you complete a Weapons Declaration Card. Upon filling it out, place your copy inside the gun’s hard-sided, locked storage case.

You’ll have to open this case for the agent. Don’t give them your code or key. Double and triple-check that you’ve secured the case once the inspection is complete.

Pay any associated fees, and take the firearm to the oversized baggage drop for another scan and potential inspection. In no situation should the TSA be handling your weapon. Law enforcement may, but that’s only in a highly unlikely situation.

FAQ: Additional Questions

The TSA will expect you to prepare beforehand when bringing a firearm to the airport. Pleading innocence when making a big faux pas is a great way to get yourself on a no-fly list.

Do You Need a TSA-Approved Lock?

No. On the contrary, the lock shouldn’t be TSA-approved. This should be a heavy-duty Masterlock or another reputable brand. Otherwise, an airport employee could potentially access your weapon when inspecting baggage.

Do You Need a Recognizable Gun Case?

No. Many people use a gun case that is disguised as something else–such as a guitar case. As long as you declare it, you can use any hard-sided, locked case you like.

Can You Store Multiple Firearms in the Same Case?

Yes. That said, you still need to declare each individual firearm. The same goes if you store them in multiple cases.

Can You Bring Accessories in Your Carry-On Baggage?

No. The only component of your firearm that you can bring on board is the scope. Everything else should remain in the checked-in, hard-sided case.

Are There Other Regulations?

You should research the specific airports you’ll be flying in and out of. Take note of local and state laws that may be different from your own. There may be additional regulations on top of the TSA’s.

Is Air Travel With Firearms Possible?

It depends. You’ll need to do your research on the United States Department of State website for your destination country.

Check your destination country’s government website. Even if the country you are traveling to allows firearms, check how they handle transporting them.

For your journey home, complete the CBP Form 4457 before you fly out. This will expedite your passage through customs so that you can re-enter the U.S. with less hassle.

Last but not least, research your airline’s policies. Some airlines, regardless of their home country, won’t admit anyone traveling with a firearm.

Can You Open-Carry Your Weapon into the Airport?

Don’t bring your weapon to the airport unless it’s already packed away and stored. You could cause quite a scare entering with a visible firearm–unloaded or not.

Most airports are gun-free zones. Regardless of the law, air travel with firearms is just as much about common sense as following regulations.

Get Trained with Tac Skills

Now that you know how to fly with a firearm, prepare yourself in advance for your trip. Make sure you have a TSA-approved hard-sided case and a good lock to go with it. Store your ammunition separately and follow TSA procedure to the letter.

Tac Skills helps you get training in firearms, survival medical skills, and much more. Visit our Training page and search for courses hosted in your area.