Firearms & Travel
Should I Carry? Blog 002: Firearms & Travel
No one wants to think worst case scenario but it is something that should always be considered when venturing outdoors. Whether hunting, camping, or just hiking you should always consider the what if and be prepared with a plan who can I call, where can I run to for help? No one enjoys the thought of having to defend yourself with an armed response, which should always be a last resort, but an armed response is something you should be prepared to execute if the situation arises.
As responsible gun owners, it’s our duty to be more informed and prepared than the average person. Carrying a firearm is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly training to hit a target is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Colonel Jeff Cooper, the founder of Gunsite Academy, developed the Combat Triad that consists of Weapons Handling, Marksmanship and most importantly, MINDSET. You can be the best shooter in the world but if you can’t perform when your life is in danger the outcome could be anything from hurting yourself, injuring others, or becoming a fatality. Keeping all of this in mind, before you venture out on your next outdoor excursion ask yourself, should I carry?
Ah, yes. The holiday season. Time for food, travel, and political debates on what we should call this time of year. Whether you call it Christmas, X-mas, the holidays, winter, Chanukah, Festivus, or flat out ignore it the events are inevitable.
Winter is coming.
Even if you are not a fan of the holiday season, you can still use it to your advantage. Now is the perfect time for you to drop a hint to your loved one that you really need a new FN M249 with a SilencerCo Chimera 300. And just in case they need a little convincing, be sure to show them this video.
Diesel Dave’s laugh, though. Gets me every time.
What if the recipient of your greatest gift ever lives in a different state? What if they live a few states away and you plan on flying is flying with a gun legal? What about a silencer? Lastly, is it worth the hassle?
Travel + Commercial Air + Firearm
There are many reasons why you may find yourself in need of traveling with a firearm. Without doubt, if you find yourself in this situation, the first question is always the same: Can I travel on a commercial airline with a firearm?
The answer: yes, you can. But there are guidelines and rules (duh) that you must follow. Like you can’t have it in your carry on bag, you can’t stow it in the above compartment, and you can’t have it on your person.
What Do I Need?
Aside from all the regular travel necessities, you will need a lockable, heavy duty hard-shell case, like a Pelican case, a pair of heavy locks, and your firearm.
How To Pack A Firearm and Ammo
TSA seems to be a little confused and is unclear when it comes to the requirements of a firearm being loaded vs unloaded. In one place, TSA states:
Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm. (https://www.tsa.gov/travel/transporting-firearms-and-ammunition)
And also this:
Firearms can be transported on a commercial aircraft only if they are unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and placed in checked baggage. (https://www.tsa.gov/news/releases/2018/07/26/tsa-advises-passengers-how-travel-firearms-ammunition)
Despite the unclarity, you should always plan on having your firearm unloaded and un-chambered.
If you are bringing ammo with you, be sure it is not in your carry-on or in your pockets! Seriously, you will be saving yourself years of hassle. Make sure your ammo is secured within the hard case so it won’t rattle around. TSA can get creative when finding reasons to stop you.
Jace LeRoy and Jim, co-hosts of SiCo Radio (which is now the Bear Arms Podcast, minus Jim it’s a long story), tell of an experience they had at the Albuquerque airport with firearms and loose ammo. Check it out – it’s pretty funny. The story starts right around minute mark 13:27. SiCo Radio Traveling With Guns
What Can I Expect At The Airport?
Arrive early. TSA recommends to arrive at the airport two hours before your flight’s scheduled departure.
Declare the firearm and/or ammunition to the airline when checking your bag at the ticket counter. As part of the check-in process, you will be asked to fill out two identical forms which basically say that you are checking firearms and that they are safe. You will then place one form in the case with the firearm, lock the case with your heavy duty locks, and retain the second form.
Do yourself a favor and make sure the locks will actually fit into the lock holes in the case before you are trying to check the bag in. My first traveling with firearms experience was with a coworker as we were departing to Las Vegas for SHOT Show. After filling out our forms, we pulled our brand new locks out of their packaging and quickly realized the did not fit in the lock hole. I will forever remember the experience. My buddy, a tall muscular fellow who also moonlights as a model, strong-arming a lock, coaxing it into a place it was never meant to go, while simultaneously watching the anger rise in travelers who knew we were checking guns and were stuck behind us.
Anyway, back to the topic. Once your firearms are checked in, one of two things will happen next. If you are not flying with Delta, your case will be checked in, placed on the baggage belt, and turned over to TSA. If you are flying with Delta, you will be asked to take your case to a seperate table where bomb residue test will be conducted. Once you pass, Delta will then unnecessarily attempt to make your case more secure by strapping it with zip-ties. At this point, your case will be turned over to TSA.
TSA VS Firearms
When it comes to a firearm, TSA can inspect any and all areas of your checked luggage, including locked gun cases, regardless of if you declared the firearm in advance with the airline agents. This means they may cut your locks without informing you, or without you being present. Of course, there is a protocol and guidelines that TSA officers should follow to warrant a search of the firearms case, or a regular checked bag.
TSA VS NFA Items
Firearms and NFA items are categorized very differently and, therefore, have different rules and regulations when it comes to transporting them on an airplane. According to the ATF, NFA items include:
- Short barrel shotguns (under 18 inches in length)
- Short barrel rifles (under 16 inches in length)
- Machine gun
- Destructive device
For a full, in-depth list of NFA items, check out the ATF’s list here.
Traveling with an NFA items is different and is broken into even more categories. The Gun Control Act of 1968 states:
It is unlawful for any person, other than a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, licensed dealer, or licensed collector, to transport in interstate or foreign commerce any destructive device, machine-gun (as defined in section 5845 of the Internal Revenue Code of 195-t), short-barreled shotgun, or short-barreled rifle.
Missing from the listed items are, of course, silencers. To break this down, we can look at it in two scenarios.
If you are planning on traveling with a short barrel rifle or short barrel shotgun
Are you a licensed dealer, manufacturer, or importer?
– You are good to go. Bring one copy of your FFL license for every case you have.
– You must fill out Form 5320.20 and submit it to ATF
Once ATF approves your form, you are good to go. Just take a copy of the form with you.
Are you planning on traveling with silencers?
No form is required (although if you want to be extra cautious, you may want to fill one out just in case)
Package items like you would a firearm
Have a copy of your Form 4
TSA VS NFA Items
If for some reason TSA wants to check your locked case that contains NFA items, federal law requires that you must be present for the process. Do not turn over your keys and do not give authorization to have your locks cut. Any inspection must be performed with you present.
Is It Worth It?
Is traveling with a firearm or a silencer worth it? To be honest, it all depends on many different reasons and variables you may encounter. But the important thing here is to know that you are, in fact, able to fly with firearms, silencers, and NFA items. So remember plan ahead, pack your ammo tight, and make sure your locks fit your case before you are checking in.