Today’s guest blog is from Chris Andersen from Team Vertx of 3-Gun Nation. Simple as it ought to be, traveling with a firearm is never simple – nor is it predictable, nor will your experience be the same every time (or from airport to airport). Here are some excellent pro tips from someone who flies with firearms all the time. Mad Duo
Flying with firearms
Team Vertx 3-Gun Nation Pro
The shooting season is upon us! You’ve thinking about taking that dream trip to a match halfway across the country, but the thought of flying with your guns for the first time has you second guessing it? I fly to a lot of matches, and constantly get asked by new shooters about how the process works. The thought of arriving at the airport with firearms in tow can be a little intimidating at first, but it is really not as difficult as you might think, especially if you prepare properly and know the rules.
Start by reading them:
It also doesn’t hurt to have a printed copy of the TSA’s guidelines with you in the event that the counter representative doesn’t have an understanding of the rules. I keep a copy of these guidelines in my bag, just in case (Though I have never needed it.). I typically find airline representatives to be very knowledgeable and courteous, especially when you extend them the same level of courtesy.
Also be sure and check the website of the airline you are traveling on. They may have one or two different or more specific regulations regarding firearms, or amounts of ammunition you can travel with.
Lock it Down
Get a hard-sided, secure, lockable, hard case to transport your firearms in. If you have flown much at all, you know that baggage handlers have a reputation for being some of the most destructive individuals on earth. So plan accordingly. A good case not only protects your valuable optic, etc. from damage, they also lock securely adding a higher level of protection for your valuable firearms.
Secure your unloaded firearms along with any other items in your case using foam or other impact resistant material making sure there is not unnecessary movement. I tell people to pack the contents of your hard case as if you expected someone were about to throw it down a couple flights of stairs (If you see me at a match, ask me why sometime.). You can also pack other gear and ammunition in the same case, as long as it is properly boxed and secure.
Declare at the counter
When you arrive at the airline counter let the airline representative know that you are traveling with a firearm. They may or may not ask you to open your case and take a quick glance at the contents. They will ask you if your guns are unloaded (The answer to that question should be obvious), and then give you a short form to fill out and sign that is placed in the container with your gun. Then lock your case and keep the key with you.
Some airports will ask you to stay at the counter for 10-15 minutes in the event the TSA has a question regarding your bag. I have had them ask me to re-open it for a second inspection before. None of this takes too long, just be sure and arrive in plenty of time for your flights departure, as you always should when traveling by air.
Depending on the region of the country or airline personnel, you may be scrutinized a bit more than in other places. Keep in mind that loosing your cool is almost never going to do anything other than delay you. Take this time to be an ambassador for the shooting sports by being as polite and courteous as possible. Also keep in mind that you may be dealing with a federal official that could really ruin your day, and/or make you miss your flight.
Also make sure that anything that could be classified as a gun part is in your checked bags or your hard case, and not in your carry on. This includes detachable magazines. You won’t have any problems carrying on your belts, holster, or shell caddies etc. Just make sure that nothing in your carry on can be attached to a firearm to avoid confusion.
Pick them up
When you arrive at your destination, seek out the baggage office for the airline you are flying with. These offices are in baggage claim, usually near the baggage carousel. Let the representative know you are picking up a firearm, and they will direct you to where it will be delivered. Once it arrives you will be asked by the handler for your ID to confirm you are the rightful owner and then you are on your way!
You will find the process is really not too bad at all. After a time or two, it is really not much different than a normal flight. So get that trip booked and enjoy your match!
Thanks Chris! For you knucledraggers and low-brow shooters out there, remember, if you can’t afford one of the fancy gun cases, you can always build your own. Just make sure you secure that weapon properly. You’re already going to be treated like D.B. Cooper‘s younger brother just for admitting you have a gun that you want to check into baggage. Don’t give TSA any other reason to feel you up, slow you down or otherwise ensure your safety and well-being.
Mad Duo, Breach-Bang-CLEAR!