How to travel by air with a firearm
There has been quite a few people who are confused when it comes to traveling with your firearm by air. This post will review how you should pack your stuff.
These are general rules and guidelines, that should not be construed as legal advice. If you are flying into our out of any of the airports around New York City (JFK, LaGuardia or Newark) all bets are off since the Port Authority and the district attorneys in the area may ignore federal law when it comes to your right to travel from place to place with a firearm. They occasionally will violate the Safe Passage Act of the Firearm Owners Protection Act. Before traveling, ensure you are legally able to posses and/or carry your firearm at your destination.
For reference, you can visit and print out this page at the TSA website.
Buy a good case
Get yourself a good hard case that will fit your firearm, a couple of magazines and a box of your favorite self-defense ammunition. I would suggest an appropriately-sized NanVault from GunVault. The unique key for this portable case is not an approved TSA lock and it should not be. (See below) Hard cases from Pelican are also a good choice, but some will required you purchase padlocks. If you are traveling with multiple guns, a Pelican box or similar is the way to go.
The case includes a cable that will allow you to string it through a bar within your luggage, and when you get to your destination you can use the cable to secure the case within your car or hotel room.
Pack everything up
Ensure your gun is unloaded. Although the TSA site says you can have magazines loaded, I’d suggest unloading the magazines and putting the ammunition into the original box it came in. To make it easier during the X-Ray process, I do not insert a magazine even though it is unloaded. In my photo example, I’m using my go-to stuff … Speer Gold Dot hollow-point stuff banned by the Geneva Convention. 😉
Run the cable through an interior bar within the luggage. Most roller luggage have something inside to loop the cable around. This way, if an unscrupulous scumbag who works for the airline or airport is able to get into your luggage – TSA approved locks on the outside are a joke – opens your bag and tries to take the hard case, they would have to cut the steel cable to take the hard case. Hopefully they won’t have the time, and they will leave it.
At the check in counter
Simply let the agent know you need to declare a firearm. This is required. The form just requires your name and signature. It does not ask the make, model or serial number of any gun. You are declaring you have a unloaded firearm in your checked bag. It is unlikely an airline employee will want to inspect your gun to ensure it is loaded. It is unlikely you’ll be asked to take it out and show that it is unloaded.
The declaration form should be placed inside of your bag near your hard case with the firearm inside. Lock the outside of your bag – using one of those stupid TSA-approved locks – to slow thieves down a little bit and keep your valuables, hair conditioner and cool new sonic toothbrush safe.
On to TSA baggage screening
You should stick around near your bag during the screening process as the TSA might want to open up your bag to confirm the gun is unloaded. To speed the process along, you may want to run a short length of cable through the action and barrel to make it easier for some TSA agents to quickly determine it is unloaded. Don’t place a snap cap in the chamber. The only directive the TSA has at this point is to ensure the gun is unloaded, ammunition is properly packaged, and that the case can not be easily opened. If you can pry the case open and get a look-see inside of the case, it will not pass inspection.
You absolutely should not use TSA-approved locks on the hard-sided case your gun is locked in. If the TSA wants to look inside, you must hand them the key – in person – and they must open the case in your presence to inspect it. Do not give them the key without being able to see what they are doing. Don’t let them go into some back room to open the case on their own. They can easily bring your bag back out to you and open it right then and there.
At your destination
Nothing is required when you are picking up your bag. One thing I always do is quickly open my bag to ensure the hard case is still there.
Sounds doable,I wonder if I can bring it to Florida.
Assuming you are from Connecticut, you can get a non-resident Florida permit. Next time you travel to Florida, you can apply for a permit in person.
The site says you should have your permit in about three months, and on your next trip you’ll be good-to-go.
I’d heard that but forgot to when I was down there a few months ago.
Thanks Steve –
It is good to have “government approved” Real ID helps, at least it doesn’t hurt. It is a gold star on your driver’s license indicating that the State has inspected your Papers and is satisfied that you are who you say are.
I always travel with my passport.
I like to use my”carry permit”when staying stateside.
What a shame that our fundamental, Constitutionally guaranteed rights are hobbled so. Imagine if you went from state to state, but were unable to speak or had to get special approval to do so in specified areas (did someone say universities?)…..
As always, all of Steve’s great advice does not apply to criminals.
Have you seen the latest recommendation from the clueless governor’s Advisory Board or some such thing that metastasized out of Newtown?
Mental health screenings for anyone who wants to buy a gun and gun sellers!
Not a word about violent content video games, Hollywood’s gratuitous violence films and TV series, or the inability to respond to pleas for help from parents concerned about their children being crazy. “Oh, he’s got _______’s Syndrome”, and has been on powerful psychotropic and anti-depressant drugs, such as SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) — worth billions in pharmaceutical sales and advertising.
I think these new drugs cause more deaths than guns every will.
From what I have learned, being on the same drug too long, too high a dosage or lapsing administration. Monitoring is crucial but a lot can happen in a month or more. Some psychologists and people who have actually used these pharmaceuticals indicate followups are often ad hoc.
These are extremely potent drugs that effect all aspects of physiology and mental state.