It seems like there’s a preconceived notion that flying with firearms is a huge ordeal. Now, of course, there are plenty of variables that could make your trip more, or less, stressful, but when we flew to Utah for the EMG (Expedition Multi-gun) Nationals in 2021, the process for checking-in firearms went smoothly. No one should fear taking a trip with their firearms, as long as they use a bit of common sense while doing so.
Some of the tips I’m providing should be considered common sense; I’ll reiterate their importance for your benefit.
At the airport, you must declare the firearm(s) to the Customer Service Agent. TSA Security Screener must visibly ensure that the firearm(s) is/are clear of ammunition. TSA will also make sure there aren’t any prohibited items inside your gun case.
You’ll want to put your firearm(s) in a checked bag, in its own hard case. If you are traveling with multiple guns, you should use a good hard case like a Pelican Vault.
If you’re traveling with a handgun, you can put it in a smaller hard case within a soft check bag/suitcase. You do not want to go through a security checkpoint with your firearm in your carry-on bag or backpack.
Most airlines have a weight restriction on checked baggage. For example, Southwest has a 50lb restriction. This can make it difficult to pack your guns in a hard case since good hard cases already weigh a few pounds. Pre-weigh your packed hard case at home to avoid surprises and additional fees at the airport.
Another tip is to use good locks that fit tight on the hard case. When TSA checks your hard case they will make sure their hands can’t get into the case. Every lock location on the hard case should have a lock on it. Every case is different, so be sure to invest in the appropriate quantity of locks. If you use locks that require keys to unlock, don’t misplace your key(s). If you use a combination lock, don’t forget the combination and/or save the code in the notes on your cellphone.
Be sure every firearm is clear of ammunition. You can have ammunition in your checked baggage/gun case. Check with your airline to see how many pounds of ammunition you can fly with. For example, Southwest allows up to eleven pounds of ammunition. The ammunition must be in its original packaging. Avoid flying with reloaded ammunition and ammunition in plastic bags. Ammunition can never be loose, rolling around in your checked baggage/hard case.
If you don’t watch the TSA agent check and clear your hard case/checked baggage, don’t run over to the security checkpoint too quickly. TSA may still need to communicate with you, and it could be a hassle to make it through security only to turn back around and go back to baggage claim.
Flying with firearms shouldn’t be stressful. Do some preparation ahead of time, give yourself plenty of time at the airport, read the TSA and Airline rules, and follow my tips.