When you own a gun, you will inevitably have to deal with its transport especially if you are a frequent flyer. It is therefore imperative that you familiarize yourself with laws on transporting firearms across state lines and outside the country.

Flying can be a pain for most of us with strict security regulations, long waits, and inevitable flight delays. So, you might think that flying can be a lot difficult if you are to transport your weapons.

But you will be surprised to learn that traveling with a firearm can be simple and uncomplicated if you know what you are doing. Continue reading to learn how to pack your gun, ammo, and accessories for air travel; and the things you need to do at the airport to make flying with your firearms hassle-free.

Packing your guns

The Transport Security Administration (TSA) sets and enforces the rules on airline travel with a gun. You will face consequences if you violate or disobey those rules. Foremost of those rules is forbidding of bringing firearms to checkpoints. If you do that, you will be meted with a penalty of up to $13,000. It’s also possible that airport authorities refer your case for a criminal prosecution, which may mean loss of firearm rights and worst, jail time.

As a gun owner, you should know this: the only legal way to get a gun on the plane is to place it in a checked-in luggage. This is something you should prepare before you arrive at the airport. Moreover, your gun should be unloaded meaning that the cylinder is empty if you have a revolver, or the chamber is empty if you have a pistol. The firearm must be secured in a locked, hard-sided case.

Magazines and ammunition smaller than a .75 caliber should be secured and transported in the same case as the weapon itself. The TSA says ammunition must not be loose in the case and secured in boxes specially designed to transport small amounts of ammunition.

But some airlines have specific requirements in packing ammunition. Delta Airlines, for example, require separation for cartridges meaning you should use a divided ammunition box. American Airlines has an 11-pound limit on ammo and only lets empty magazines to be checked-in. Others may let you have the magazines loaded provided that these are not inserted into the weapon.

If your airline limits you to 11 pounds of ammo and you need more than that for your training or other requirements, then you should consider buying it wherever you may be headed. You may bring rifle scopes in carry-on and checked baggage.

It is only you, the gun owner, who is authorized to retain the key or combination to the lock of the firearm case. But TSA agents may request you to open the case and ensure compliance with regulations.

At the counter

You must declare your guns or ammunition to the airline upon checking in your baggage. Remember that you will do this every time you board so you should be aware to declare your guns and ammo again if you are to switch airlines during the same travel. Go to the ticketing office inside the airport and tell the personnel that you will be declaring a firearm.

You’ll fill out a card with your contact information while the TSA agent will verify that you have stored your gun in the proper way. You will likely be asked a few questions about your accessories and ammunition. In some cases, the agent will ask for your permission to look at what’s inside the case. As mentioned earlier, it is only you who should be opening the case and not any other airport or TSA personnel. You should never hand your copy or give your combination to anyone.

After you are done declaring your weapon, it is a good idea to stick around for a couple of minutes or so just in case they call you back for inspection. Airport or TSA agents are also not supposed to handle your firearms. If they say that your firearm needs to be inspected, then they should call over a law enforcement officer.

Make sure that you keep your luggage ticket so you would be able to track it later on. As you head to the gate, you should not have anything associated with your weapon. The ammo, gun holster, and muzzle accessories must have been placed on your checked-in luggage. The same goes for training guns or replica guns.

You will also need to have US Customs Form 4457 signed by a customs officer before your departure. This form will let you bring your firearms back without having to pay duty. This is something you’ll want if you are to transport foreign made guns.

Flying to another country

If you are flying to another country, it is a must that you are familiar with the laws for gun carry and transport. Keep in mind that airport personnel is only checking to ensure compliance with airline and TSA rules. Thus, even if your weapon was cleared in the airport, you may still violate local laws the moment you have reached your destination.

Here’s a tip: book direct flights for foreign travel so you can minimize the countries you will be passing through. It can significantly lower the number of custom requirements you will have to comply with, easing the whole process and lowering the chances of missing luggage.


Let’s sum up the things you need to keep in mind when flying with firearms:

Guns and ammo should be in checked baggage only

Declare your firearms

Know the gun rules wherever you are going

As you see, flying with firearms is not that complicated. As long as you follow the tips discussed above, you should be able to transport your guns and ammo through state lines and even beyond the country without getting into any legal trouble.

You may also want to check the website of TSA (www.tsa.gov) as well as your airline for more information on traveling with guns.

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