It’s been 12 years since that tragic and life-altering day of September 11, 2001, and a lot has changed in America. We’ve lost liberties. Some things we once took for granted have been restricted. Thankfully, our right to travel on a commercial airplane with a firearm and ammunition—something millions of people do every year as they travel to hunting or shooting locations across the U.S.—is one freedom that has not been restricted. To the contrary, I would say that flying with guns is in some ways easier than it was prior to 9/11.
I have flown hundreds of thousands miles with firearms in the last dozen years on all the major air carriers and to cities and small towns across the U.S. While I have had minor hassles (you can’t fly anywhere these days with or without guns without a bit of grief), I have not, knock on wood, had one major incident with any airline or Transportation Security Authority (TSA) employee. I have had only one checked firearm not make it to my final destination (knock on wood harder) and it was only delayed a day.
There are two reasons I’ve had good fortune. One, I know the rules of packing and traveling with guns and ammo, and I follow those rules to the letter of the law. Secondly, when you show up at an airport with a gun case these days, you get special treatment, especially if you’re a frequent flyer on an airline. Most ticket agents want to check your case and whisk you away to the nearest TSA station, where they check your case and speed it through the X-ray machine as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. I surmise the agents don’t want to acknowledge to the other passengers that a person among them is checking a firearm, even though it is perfectly legal and safe, so they see to it that the process is low key, quick and smooth. That’s OK by me and you—it makes our lives easier.
Our goal here is to lay out a plan that will help you get your guns and ammo checked safely and legally at the airport so that they arrive at your hunting or shooting destination securely and on time. To do that, we’ve taken the “Traveling with Special Items, Firearms and Ammunition” information verbatim off the TSA website (tsa.gov/traveler-information/firearms-and-ammunition). That information will appear in regular text below. Then, the “notes” you’ll see in italicized print with some sections are my personal observations and tips that will make your travels easier and keep you from messing up. And you can’t mess up. Break a rule and you’ll get hassled and maybe miss your flight, at the least. Worst case, you risk a $10,000 fine and jail time. Make a copy of this, carry it with you the next time you fly and your trip will go smoothly…