Traveling with Firearms

Most people don’t realize that you can safely and legally fly with firearms. Although the regulations can make your head spin, if you’re like me and you want to be prepared, learning how to legally transport firearms is a must.


I travel a lot, and there are certain places that I wouldn’t consider going without having a weapon. Hell, even staying at a hotel in a so called “good neighborhood” isn’t always the safest thing to do. That’s why I think it’s important to be able to carry your weapon while traveling.

The Safe Passage Act:

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: The U.S. Department of Justice issued a written opinion that people who travel on airlines with guns are protected under the Safe Passage Act in the Firearms Owners Protection Act. This means that if you follow their regulations, you should be able to bring your guns with you on most trips.

handgun caseThe regulations have a number of stipulations that you should be aware of:

  • You must be traveling to and from a location that you may legally have a firearm.
  • When driving to the airport your firearm must be unloaded and unreachable from the passenger section of the vehicle.
  • The Firearm must be transported directly to the check in desk unloaded and in a locked hard-sided container. (Your Case must be completely secure and should not be able to be pulled open when locked.)
  • Guns need to be declared at check-in.
  • The person transporting the firearm needs to go directly from his vehicle to the check-in desk.
  • Ammunition must be secured in a fiber (cardboard), wood, or metal box specifically designed to carry ammunition.
  • Keep in mind that some airlines have their own rules and regulations considering traveling with firearms. It’s always a good idea to ask the airline for their policy before planning your trip.

I should also point out that because gun laws are constantly changing, and can vary from state to state, you should always double check with the TSA and local law enforcement in any area you plan on traveling. Not checking the local gun laws has landed a number of people in jail who are now facing very long jail terms, so please don’t take it lightly.


Attempting to bring a firearm, ammunition, or any other weapon on a plane in your carry-on luggage or on your person can and will land you right in jail.

Other Considerations:

Don’t go crazy! I’m all for self defense, but I also want to limit the amount of TSA scrutiny and hassle while I’m traveling.  The last thing I want to do is be held up by some overzealous agent who has a problem with the second amendment. In most cases, I try to limit what I bring.

Handguns and generic looking rifles tend to speed up the inspection process.  In other words, traveling with something that looks “tactical” is more likely to increase your time and is probably not worth the hassle.

Shirts of Liberty

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  1. Very good tips. I’ve ye to travel with a firearm, but i plan on changing that. I also have heard that if you fly with a firearm, the airline is sure to never lose track of it or the bag it’s in because of the liability. So if you check in a firearm when traveling chances are that bag will never be lost :) From what I hear. Anyways, great article.

    • I think the blade requirements are pretty similar to the tips they listed although I would take their advice and check with the tsa before showing up.

      I travel with knives all the time and always put then in right in the case with my 9mm and so far never had a problem. But there are a couple places like Chicago and New York where I worry about carrying anything

  2. I was on a family trip to San Francisco. I had to go into one building and they had a metal detector that we had to walk through. I waited until there wasn’t a crowd, pulled out my concealed weapons permit and handed it to the guard. “What’s this?” I explained that it was my permit to carry a weapon and that I wanted him to know the detector will go off when I walk through. He asked if it was loaded. “Of course!” Then he said it would be ok for me to go through if I unloaded it and put the bullets in my pockets. Sure. I then went through and walked into the bathroom and put the ammunition back into the gun. Not much good without ammunition!

  3. I have for years taken many flights all over the united states and never had any issues with weapons in check baggage. I’m a NRA instructor as well as a defense contractor and always find the airlines and TSA to be very supportive and curious as to what I have weapons wise. Ammunition is another story as it is an explosive of some type but hey, pick up a box of 50 at wal mart and drop it off at the local airport police office prior to hitting the secure areas.

    I have taken M-4 rifles, AK-47’s, GLOCK pistols, and Other items at one time to the Dullas Virginia airport with no problems. Again, cliam them and show them they are not loaded at check in, in approved FAA case and unloaded.

    Lets not be afraid of your rights to carry, exercise them and educate those that don’t know.

    Case in point I was returning from overseas and had my Military issued body armor in the check baggage while clearing international customs coming into the United State the Customs and TSA guys Freaked out, took my gear and threaten to jail me. I when to a public computer printed out the policy on line and educated them, respectfully of course. they returned my gear without question and I departed the area. Yes normal civilians are not authorized to have body armor, but if your are authorized it as part of your profession than yes it’s cool.

    remember to educate those that are not up to speed. provide them factual documented guidance and work with those that are there to protect us all. Weapons are scarey to some but its based on lack of knowledge and respect.



    Hunters from the sky (Airborne)

  4. Checking a firearm is not as hard as you might think. I did so myself recently. It was actually very simple and almost painless. It was actually easier than going through the TSA security checkpoint. If you want to travel with a firearm, this is what you need to do:
    1. Use a hard sided, lockable case. I spent about $50 on the case, and about $11 dollars on locks at a hardware store. Nothing fancy.
    2. When you get to the airport, take your bag with the firearm in it to the ticket counter. Tell the agent in a pleasant, but clear manner “I want to declare a firearm.” Just like that, and make sure he/she heard you.
    3. When they ask to inspect it, open your bag, and then unlock and open the case. Show them that the weapon is unloaded and that there is no ammo. When they are satisfied, lock up the weapon.
    4. You will fill out a small form – just your basic information, and they will give you a small orange card with “UNLOADED FIREARM” printed on it. Place it on top of the gun case in your bag. Close up your bag.
    5. They will allow you to follow your bag to the TSA x-ray machine, and a TSA agent will come and ask you a few simple questions. You should now be good to go to participate in security theater.

    I recommend not travelling with ammo – it makes the entire process easier. If you absolutely have to, the TSA website says it has to be in a cardboard (preferred) or plastic box made for containing ammunition. A Ziploc bag, metal box, or Tupperware bowl is not gonna fly. No pun intended.

    Make sure you do you’re own homework. Thoroughly familiarize yourself with the TSA rules from their website. Check with the airline website for their rules, as well. A call to the airline isn’t a bad idea.

    Lastly, DO NOT TAKE A WEAPON THROUGH THE TSA SECURITY THEATER. Check it with your luggage and you will likely have no problem.

  5. If I am traveling with ammo(box of 25). Can the ammo,mag,and handgun (all) be in the locked box that is checked in? Or does the ammo have to be separated in individual lock boxes?

    • Last time I traveled with a firearm, the ammo had to be a separate, hard sided, locked case, IN THE ORIGINAL CARDBOARD BOX and you are limited to 11 pounds max of ammo. And there was a $75 fee for each case… So I just travel without ammo, and just buy a small amount of ammo when I get to my destination. If there is any left over, I give it to a friend or family.

    • IT IS VERY DIFFERENT!!! Check with the country you are traveling to. And very important, check with no less than three different sources in that country. It is very easy to end up in a jail in another country…

  6. Couple of thoughts…a previous poster stated that “normal civilians are not authorized to have body armor.” Not true. Anyone legally able to purchase body armor, bullet proof vests, trauma plates and holders, can easily do so…some states do restrict its purchase by felons (a great idea) and one state restricts its sale online (another great idea, if you want a vest to work properly it needs to be manufactured to your body type/size, etc.). Sure, online retailers don’t know if you are a felon and will make the sale, but then criminals by definition aren’t law abiding citizens anyway…

    As to flying, everything posted previously about flying and checking in a firearm is correct, however, if you are flying with ammo, each airline has a weight limit for ammo. Delta’s is 12 pounds, which equates to 2 60 round boxes of 230 grain FMJ. The ammo is required to be in the original manufacturers box unless you want exceptional scrutiny by TSA. My suitcase has several internal pockets and its inside one of those that I place the ammo that is in its original box, so that it’s separate from the firearm and its case. I place the mags in the box with my firearm.

    I pack my travel firearm in its original Sig case once the paper work is done and lock it with two locks. Then, I put in inside my nondescript red suitcase with the rest of my clothes so that it looks like every other banged up suitcase. I’ve only had one problem, at Reagan Airport in VA, when on a work trip to Miami my suitcase didn’t make the trip. I immediately called the Airport Authority police in VA, identified myself as a LEO, described my case and what was in it. The officer called me back in 20 minutes, saying that he had found it in a “hidey-hole” used frequently by baggage handlers to stash things they think might contain cool stuff for later…I thanked him, and soon thereafter, a story hit the news locally about baggage handlers caught stealing luggage…

    On occasion, at the end of travel to smaller towns where the TSA hasn’t purchased the scanners, I leave all my dirty laundry around my ammo and firearm, just so the TSA has to dig through them to look at my stuff…

    Just act normal, know the rules before you fly, and you’ll be ok (that is, until this administration decides you are a terrorist, then you won’t be…). But, that’s a story for another time.

    • nova leo’s last paragraph says it all. Know the rules then act normal. As with anything else, nervousness sends red flags waving. If you act confident and like it is no big deal, likely it won’t be.
      One other thing…another poster said the right words when approaching the ticket counter. You say, “I’d like to declare a firearm.” DO NOT USE THE WORD GUN! For some reason, the G-word sends people into a frenzy.

    • It also helps if you show up at the airport in a clean cut and well dressed manor. When traveling with my firearm I want to avoid the extra attention and scrutiny of the TSA by dressing well, being clean shaven and appearing like a law-abiding professional.

      Showing up looking scruffy, wearing tattered clothes and sporting the latest tactical pack and a ball cap with a “punisher” morale patch on your head is likely to attract the wrong kind of attention from the TSA.

  7. Awesome post! Thanks for the reminder and the additional tips! I have found in some cases it is just easier to find alternative weapon options once you arrive in your destination, that might not be as 2nd amendment friendly!

  8. Great previous info everyone and correct. I travel all over the USA, (most States that is), with my checked handgun and minimal ammo without incident doing all of the things listed previously by everyone.
    I am now a bit nervous planning a trip transporting an AK 47 without ammo. Seattle-Florida-Texas. Will I have a problem with a full-auto rifle anyone?

  9. Of course flying *out* of a US airport is only part of the process. You also need to get *into* the next airport so it’s wise to do some serious research into your destination airport and speak to your carrier in order to ensure you’re sticking to all the various rules – it’s just not worth risking losing your firearm due to a lack of research.

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