e excitement of getting on a plane, anticipation of what the in-flight meal would be, and of course, the destination, used to be what you could look forward to when you made your travel arrangements. Nowadays, with the endless list of rules and regulations from TSA and each airline, traveling can leave you feeling a little extra... extra worried, extra anxious, extra tense, the list goes on. Now lets add trying to travel with your firearm to that list of "what do I do if..." However daunting the task may feel, I'm here to tell you it is definitely possible. The key to success here is to do your research!
Before you fly make sure to double check the following:
TSA's website for rules on Transporting Firearms and Ammunition
The specific policies of the airline you will be flying with that can be found on their website. If you google the rules for your airline (e.g.; “american airlines firearm policy”) it will usually take you right to the page from their site. If you have trouble locating 'firearms' try 'sporting equipment,' you might have better luck
The state laws of the location you're traveling to, through, and from, as it pertains to firearms and concealed carry (if you plan to carry). You can find reciprocity information at concealedcarry.com. Traveling internationally will require the same need-to-knows.
The two mandatory rules every gun owner needs to know while flying (and should be strictly adhered to in order to avoid criminal charges):
All firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container transported as checked baggage only.
You must declare your firearm to the airline gate agent upon checking-in.
In order to secure your firearm for travel, you will need a secure case and lock:
Hard-sided case: Your firearm must be locked and secured in a hard shell case that cannot be easily accessed. Make sure to use a padlock on every accessible case opening to ensure the case cannot be opened even a little bit.
Locks: Finding the right lock is important. I would recommend a combination lock or a key lock. The TSA regulations state you can use a TSA approved lock, however this means any TSA agent (they have a master key) has the ability to access your firearm without you present. You should be the only one to know the combination or to have a lock.
Securing Cable: The hard shell case must also be secured to your luggage so that the case itself cannot be removed. This can be done using a securing cable with an additional key lock entry.
Ammo: Your ammo must be packed in its factory box or a case specifically deigned for ammo. You at no point can have loose ammo in your carry on, or extra rounds stored in a ziplock bag somewhere. There is also a limit as to how much ammo can be transported in your luggage, check the airline's regulations for this type of info.
As with any sensitive matter, please do your due diligence each time you travel. Regulations change frequently, ensure you are checking the TSA and airline website before arriving to the airport. Safe travels this holiday season!