Whether it’s for a hunting trip, shooting practice, self-defense or peace of mind, there will likely come a time when you’re going to need travel with a gun by air—and you’re going to need to know how to do it. From all the different rules and TSA regulations, we want to make sure you’re prepared to fly with a gun so your trip at the airport is hassle-free. Below we’re breaking down everything you need to know about flying with a gun, without breaking the law.
Prepare & Pack
You’re gearing up to travel by plane with your gun—and before we even start, we recommend checking out the official TSA guidelines for transporting firearms and ammunition. Being overly prepared can save you from a $10,000 fine or jail time, and we want to ensure you’re aware of every rule to avoid any hassle.
Next, do you need a permit to fly with a gun? No. However, you need to be totally sure the firearm you’re traveling with is legal to possess at your final destination. Every place has different rules on which guns are legal and it’s up to you to confirm with the local gun control regulations whether the firearm you’re bringing is allowed or not.
On to the packing: To remain in accordance with federal law, you must transport all firearms in a locked, hard-sided container. This not only ensures your firearm is protected in the event of turbulence, but the lock keeps others from tampering with your precious cargo as well. And because you will have to check this bag, you want to make sure you’re the only one who knows the combination to the lock or you’re the only one with the key (kept in a separate bag of course!).
Locked & Unloaded
TSA-approved bags require they lock, so once you’ve chosen a hard-sided case—make sure it’s lockable. If there are several lock holes, it’s worth putting a lock in each hole of your case to make your life easier once you’re actually at the airport. While the requirement is to simply have the case be “securely locked,” you want to have all your boxes checked in case the rule is interpreted differently by varying agents.
If you don’t have a lock, you can get a TSA-approved lock, but this means they will have a master key that opens your case. If you’d like to prevent anyone from accessing your firearm, we recommend using your own locks.
You’ve got the case and you’ve got the locks—now what? Make sure your firearm is unloaded. Double and triple check that your gun is empty as you can’t fly with a loaded gun.
Keep Ammo Separate
Ammunition is prohibited in carry-on luggage but can be transported in a checked bag. If your hard-sided gun case has space, you can keep the ammo in their original cardboard boxes and put it in alongside your unloaded gun. If you don’t have space, we recommend using our WeatherLock attachable pockets. These are great storage options when you need to keep extra ammo separate in a secure and organized way.
Once everything is safely packed, an agent may still ask you to separate the ammo from the gun case. If that happens, simply comply and move it to another checked bag.
If you’re using your range bag or backpack as your carry-on, double check that there aren’t any loose cartridges floating around the bag. Even empty casings can land you in big trouble at security checkpoints.
Declare Your Firearm
While you don’t need a permit to fly with your gun, you do need to declare your possession of your firearm once you arrive at the airport. Never declare your firearm at a curbside checkpoint. Always go to the ticket counter and speak directly with an airline’s ticket counter rep.
While you’re checking your bags with the TSA agent, they’ll likely have you sign a declaration card where you’ll confirm your firearms are unloaded. You’ll place this in your gun case and follow airline policy.
What happens next will vary from airport to airport. Sometimes, you’ll just have the exterior of the bag tested for explosive residue. Other times, you’ll need to open the case and let the agent inspect the contents inside. All in all, this process shouldn’t take more than 20-30 minutes, so just be sure to factor that in when deciding when to leave for the airport.
VULCAN Makes Gun Travel Easy
As we strive to be the largest and most innovative firearm accessory brand, we also want to maintain your trust by being the source for all your firearm-related questions and providing well-researched answers. From news updates to travel regulations, we want VULCAN to be your go-to site for getting the facts. Knowing how to fly with a gun is just the start—we plan on sharing even more expert advice, tips and tricks when it comes to your firearms.
The information given on this website is not legal advice. The information that may be posted in any format on this website is of a general nature and should not be construed in a person’s own situation as legal advice. If you so desire legal advice, please consult an attorney in a one-on-one setting to get legal advice that pertains to your unique circumstance.