How to Transport Firearms On an Airplane

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How to Transport Firearms On an Airplane

In 2023, the Transportation Security Administration confiscated more firearms than ever before. 6,737 guns were seized by TSA at 278 airports nationwide.

The airport with the most gun confiscations was the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, with a total number of 323 firearms. On top of those staggering numbers is that fact that 93% of the total firearms found were loaded.

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Courtesy of – https://www.tsa.gov/news/press/releases/2024/01/10/tsa-detects-6737-firearms-airport-security-checkpoints-2023

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Already, only two weeks into the new year, the first gun was confiscated at Newark Liberty International Airport.  If you need to travel with a weapon, don’t become a statistic. It’s not illegal to fly with a firearm, but there are a very specific set of rules and guidelines that need to be followed in order to do so.  Below, the most important rules are detailed for how to transport firearms on an airplane. Before traveling, head to the official TSA website for the most up-to-date state, local, and national regulations.

How To Pack Your Firearm for Air Travel

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All firearms must be stored in a locked case, and no ammunition can be carried in the gun’s chambers or cylinders.

In order to travel with a firearm, the first step is that it must be unloaded.  Absolutely no live round of ammunition can be in the chamber or cylinder.

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Ammunition cannot even be in a magazine inserted in the weapon.  Once unloaded, the gun needs to be locked in a hard-sided case and submitted as a checked bag directly upon entering the airport.

This case can be locked with a key, code, fingerprints, etc.

Only the owner of the weapon should have the key or code to the case. Firearms cannot, in any circumstances, be transported in carry-on baggage.

Best Cases for Transporting Guns on An Airplane

Ah, air travel with firearms – ain’t nothin’ simple ’bout it; still less when you gotta meet those strict TSA requirements. But hey, gunslingers, this guide right here has got y’all covered, whether you’re jetting off on a hunting trip or hittin’ a shooting competition. Let’s talk about the best gun cases for airplane transport, so you keep your gear safe and stay on the right side of the law.

Selecting The Right Gun Case

First, y’need to remember that the TSA ain’t gonna allow firearms in carry-on bag. But, pack ’em securely, follow the rules, and you can check them in. The case you pick can make a world of difference. An ideal gun case for airline travel must be:

1. Hardshell and durable as hell

2. Bought with a built-in lock or a place to attach a lock

3. Impenetrable as a bunker – no one should be able to pull out the gun without breaking the lock

Lookin’ to beat the odds? Here are my hard-earned recommendations for the best gun cases for airline travel.

1. Pelican 1700 Rifle Case

Pelican Protector 1700 Long Case

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For those of you toting around rifles, it doesn’t get better than Pelican. The 1700 model with foam is a TSA-approved powerhouse, built to stand up to anything that comes its way. It has four double-throw latches and padlock protectors, making it a secure vault for your firearm, and its equipped with wheels for easy transport.

2. Nanuk 935 Waterproof Carry-On Hard Case with Wheels and Foam Insert

Nanuk 935 Waterproof Carry-On Hard Case with Wheels and Foam Insert

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This is a dandy little case for handguns, offering durability, mobility, and a waterproof seal. Handles make it a cinch to carry, and it’s sized right to conveniently stow under a seat. TSA padlocks are an added bonus. Known for its impact resistance and longevity, the Nanuk 935 is a winner for gun-totin’ travelers.

3. Case Club Waterproof Wheeled 4 Pistol and 16 Magazine Case

Case Club 4 Pistol and 16 Magazine Pre-Cut Heavy Duty Waterproof Case

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Got a bunch of handguns to transport? This beast from Case Club can handle up to four pistols, 16 magazines, and accessories. It’s waterproof, strong and employs a military-grade polyethylene interior for ultimate protection. Pre-cut compartments suit various pistol designs, ensuring a tailored fit.

4. SKB iSeries Single Rifle Case

SKB iSeries Single Rifle Case

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Precision engineered to shield your firearm from physical damage and harsh conditions, the SKB iSeries single rifle case is a top choice. It’s watertight, UV- and solvent-resistant, and the snap-down rubber molded cushion grip handle allows for sturdy handling.

Lock ‘Em Up Right

Now, you gotta remember, the responsibility of lockin’ that case right falls squarely on you. Pick yourself a solid lock and double-check it. You can use a TSA-approved lock, but my advice? Go for a non-TSA lock instead. That way, only you and the person you’re handing the case to can open it. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

How To Check Your Ammunition

Ammunition also has its own set of rules for being transported by air.  Like firearms, ammunition is prohibited in carry-on baggage, but can travel in checked baggage if packaged and declared appropriately.  Magazines and ammunition clips must be securely boxed, or included in the hard-sided and locked case with your unloaded firearm.

There are different rules for traveling with small arms ammunition.  Before flying, check with your specific airline to make sure the amount of ammunition you plan to bring does not exceed the limit.

What To Do When You Arrive At The Airport

When arriving at the airport, persons carrying firearms should report directly to the airline counter to declare their weapon.  A member of the Transportation Security Administration will, in most cases, ask the owner of the weapon to open the locked travel case.

Then, they will check to make sure the weapon is unloaded and if any ammunition is packaged appropriately. If there are any other state or local regulations that need to be followed, the TSA agent will comply with those rules as well.  After these steps are followed, the weapon, locked securely in its hard-sided case, is transported safely to your destination as a checked bag.

Other Checking Gun Factors To Consider

Firearm parts, such as magazines, bolts, firing pins, etc. can’t from be in carry-on baggage.  Even though these pieces are not connected to the actual weapon at the time of transport, they are not allowed in the passenger area of the airplane.  They can also travel in checked baggage or with the properly packed firearm they belong to. The only item weapon-related that is able to travel in a carry-on bag is a rifle scope.

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Not even toy guns can be carried on carry-on luggage on a plane.

Another clearly stated rule by the Transportation Security Administration is that you cannot travel with a toy or replica weapon in carry-on baggage either.  This is for the safety and well-being of the general public. Toy weapons can be transported in a regular suitcase or bag and checked at the airline counter as usual.

There is a chance that different airlines and airports have different rules and guidelines when it comes to traveling with firearms.  Another thing to consider before your trip is that some places may have fees associated with checking a firearm. It would be wise to research ahead of time and choose to travel with an airline or airport that does not charge a fee for traveling with a weapon.  This is especially important if you plan to travel with more than one firearm. Airline fees are rarely cheap, and can add up quickly.

Forgot to remove your firearm from carry-on?

Look accidents happen. I myself was trying to catch a 6:00AM flight and realized as my work bag was going through the X-Ray I had forgot to take my pistol out. The good news is as you saw above this is a pretty common occurrence lately. Every situation is different, but it will be okay.  I was actually able to put my weapon in my vehicle and make my flight.  I was still fined a hefty sum, by the TSA.  When you are facing thousands of dollars in fines from the TSA, do not assume you should simply write a check. By working with an experienced defense attorney, your lawyer can request a hearing with lawyers from TSA and attempt to negotiate for lower fines.

Transporting Guns on an Airplane FAQs

Some of the most frequently asked questions about how How to Transport Firearms On an Airplane.

Is it legal to transport a firearm on an airplane?

Absolutely, you can legally transport a firearm on an airplane, but it must be in your checked baggage. All firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only. Expect to declare the firearm and/or ammunition to the airline during the ticket counter check-in process. Just remember to double-check the airlines you’ll be using for any specific regulations they might have.

Can I carry ammunition along with my firearm in the checked baggage?

Yes, indeed. Ammunition is permitted in checked baggage, but it is subject to restrictions. It must be securely packed in boxes designed for ammunition or fiber, wood, or metal boxes, with a dividing surface to protect cartridges. However, it’s essential to note that ammunition cannot be loose or in gun magazines or clips.

How should I pack my firearm while on an airplane?

When you’re packing your firearm for air travel, it must be placed in a locked and hard-sided container that is entirely secure and not prone to accidental opening during transit. The container ought to be locked, and only you should possess the key or the combination to unlock it. Keep in mind to have your firearm unloaded while packing it for travel.

What’s the procedure to declare my firearm at the airport?

When you’re checking in at the airport, inform the airline agent at the ticket counter that you wish to declare a firearm. You’ll be asked to fill out a firearm declaration form, affirming that you’ve packed the firearm in accordance with TSA rules. This form will be placed in your gun case. After this, your firearm case might be taken away for additional screening or you may be escorted to a different area for this process.

Can I bring my firearm in my carry-on?

No, you are strictly prohibited from carrying firearms in your carry-on luggage. This also applies to firearm parts, replicas, and ammunition. Regardless of whether you own a permit or the gun is registered, you must transport all firearms via checked in luggage only following the proper procedure. And remember, never attempt to bring a firearm through the security checkpoint.

Travel with Firearms Smartly

If flying with a firearm is necessary, make sure to research guidelines carefully well before the day of your trip.  This gives you time to purchase any necessary safety equipment, or call TSA to ask questions or look for clarification. Once again, do not rely solely on this list for your information, as rules and guidelines can be updated frequently.

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Alex Joseph

Alex Joseph is an avid bow hunter and father of two boys. Originally from Tacoma, Washington. Alex now resides in California.

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