We could use loaner guns when we travel, and sometimes it makes the most sense. At least it brings us into compliance with the First Law of Gunfights. But we have some very carefully crafted firearms and it is a comfort to have them in any locale, so we prefer to bring our own.

It’s been interesting to transport our guns on commercial air, as an ordinary muggle, compared to the way it used to be as a servant of the sovereign. In the old days it was pretty straightforward:

  1. Show up, show your ID and travel orders, with the magical line to the effect that “carriage of government firearms is authorized and required”;
  2. Wait for those at the counter to summon superiors;
  3. Wait for those superiors to summon or contact their superiors;
  4. Repeat Step 3 recursively until they actually reach someone au courant with airline and government policy;
  5. Graciously accept their apologies for the delay;
  6. Escort, or detail one man to escort, your container of weapons to the airplane and see it stowed. They are also escorted by a retinue of airport hangers-on that can include airport, state or port authority police, airline personnel, and TSA mouth-breathers;
  7. Be escorted through a door into the airside, and walked to the jetway, where you can enter the jetway from the airside and take your seat with sidearm, when so authorized, without making any magnetometers or Rapescan machines beep and whir.

Often there would be minders to meet us and whisk us through destination airports… that’s something we’ll never have again, and you don’t realize what a convenience it was until you’re shut off from it.

There are some details of more recent procedures that we’re leaving out for reasons the astute readers of this blog should be able to deduce without strain to the brain.

Here’s how it went for the first leg of this week’s trip:

  1. Learn the airline’s policy. These policies vary from line to line.
  2. Know the gun control laws in your airports of departure. For example, Your Humble Blogger travels frequently between FL (where he’s legal) and NH (ditto). One way to do that is to fly from Boston Logan airport — where they will arrest you for trying to check a gun in a bag. Needless to say we don’t give BOS (or JFK, LGA, EWR or ORD, where similar policies reign) our business.
  3. Commit to a checked bag whilst ordering tickets. That’s the “gun bag.” (Some lines require ammo to be in a separate bag; we chose to simply buy fresh on arrival).
  4. Secure a sturdy, lockable bag. We use a Pelican case with two heavy-duty padlocks.
  5. Empty everything, including the foam, out of the gun bag. This is to make sure there is no ammo or casing in there. We then pack the gun bag, our objective being to keep “gun stuff that makes TSA freak” out of other bags, whilst having minimum stuff in the gun bag to facilitate fast inspections:
    1. The gun. We also use a piece of day-glo weedwhacker cord through the barrel to demonstrate clear, and leave the magazine out.
    2. Spare magazines;
    3. Holster, optics, other must-have accessories;
    4. Owner ID. We use a business card and a printout of the boarding pass.
  6. Show up about two hours early, because checking the gun bag is a bit more involved than checking the usual Samsonite.
  7. Declare the gun bag to the airline employee at the counter. He or she will ask if it’s loaded (there is only one right answer to this question in this situation; here, Rule 1 does not apply). Airline depending, they may want to see it. They may place a copy of the baggage check ticket inside, and attach one to the outside. (That one is very important: the barcode on it manages the routing of your bag). Then…
  8. An airline official will escort you to the TSA station where checked bags are inspected. TSA will advance one agent — in this case, it looked like he was selected by that process where penguins push one off the floe to test for Orca — to see that it is, in fact, empty. The agent may ask you to remove any foam, etc. in the case. It is a great help to have bare minimum stuff in “the gun case.” Most agents will not want to touch your firearm. Once in a while, one is a gun guy or vet and will have questions.
  9. When TSA is happy, which only takes seconds or minutes, they’ll ask you to secure your bag. Then they’ll run it through the x-ray machine. But they’ve already inspected it manually? Never mind, procedures. Once they take it, your escort will bring you back out of the station and turn you loose to go to your boarding gate.
  10. On arrival, some airlines want you to go to an office to receive your firearm, but almost always the baggage busters just throw it on the conveyor with the other stuff.
  11. Before departing your plane, ask your Flight Attendant to get you the baggage carousel number or code. She or he can usually get this as you taxi in or before the doors open. Since FAs are extremely busy at debarking, it helps to prime your attendant inflight for this coming request.
  12. Have a concrete plan, if you travel without ammo as we did, for picking up defensive ammo on arrival. (We didn’t, went to the first gunshop we found, and had to select a new brand and loading).

Traveling from Pease International Tradeport to Fort Lauderdale with both a cabin pet (Small Dog MkII) and a checked firearm, last week, was … interesting. Allegiant Airlines is a small, low-cost carrier that operates on thin margins, but they handled both the gun and the dog professionally — until arrival at FLL.

There, the system broke down because Allegiant wasn’t updating baggage carousel information in Fort Lauderdale’s computers. The Blogbrother had to go hunt down an Allegiant worker to find out where the bag was… and since relatively few bags had been checked, the firearm case had been sitting unattended for ten minutes on a stopped conveyor. Now you know where recommendation #11, which wasn’t in the first draft of this post, came from.

Traveling with your firearm is well within the penumbras and emanations of the natural right to life, and therefore, to self-defense. But there is an arcane and complex public-private regulatory labyrinth that seems maliciously crafted to discourage you from exercising that right. The more we do it, the less strange it will seem to airline and security personnel, and the more smoothly it will go. Stay within the law (even the questionable interpretations pushed in backward boroughs like Boston) and in time, we can address the laws. Win the culture first: make travel with arms something to which everyone is accustomed.


This post has been updated. Images have been added and one verb has been changed (from “maliciously crafted to prevent you” to a more accurate-feeling “maliciously crafted to discourage you from”).

This entry was posted in Weapons Education, Weapons Usage and Employment on by Hognose.

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

76 thoughts on “Flying With a Gun


Two random thoughts:

1)I have also had checked firearms send to odd locations and left unattended for pickup. I try to make sure none of the packaging looks like a gun (by, e.g. putting the hard case inside a nondescript piece of soft luggage).

2)One low probability event to consider: you are diverted by weather or whatever to an unfriendly airport, and the airline tells you your luggage is awaiting pickup (because they are leaving you to find your own way home from there, or the next flight out is tomorrow, or whatever). I recall a case from several years ago where someone in that situation picked up their luggage and was arrested when rechecking the next day.

I’m not sure what the best thing to do then is. I think I’d first ask the airline to put it back in their system without my touching it. If that didn’t work I might ask the local gendarmes if they would store and check it. Option 3 would be to tell the gendarmes ‘well, there’s a gun in that bag. I’m not touching it. Take whatever option you think appropriate’.

If it comes to that, I’ll be glad I wasn’t carrying an heirloom, and haven’t packed other things with the gun.


Sounds remarkably similar to the hoops we have to jump through to get a servicing tool box on internal flights in the UK. Of course said tool box contains such deadly things as spanners, wire clippers and screw drivers and as such must be opened, x-rayed and generally messed around with…


TSA once tried to prevent me from taking a 0-1″ micrometer on a flight, telling me “it’s a tool! Tools are prohibited!”. I argued with him and eventually got to bring it with me…




Sounds like Tambo Int is better with guns than Boston.

Hognose Post author

Who are the primitive African tribesmen of the New World, if not the Boston Irish?


My grandfather would watch Mayor Richard J Daley on the local news and exclaim, “At least we got them to wearing shoes nowadays.”

I work with a lace curtain Irishman and he admits it, but to say one thing positive about the good stout Irish, they don’t take to psychobabble as Freud noted, and if they do you end up with a Heil Healy and that ain’t no good.


OR Tambo and Cape Town are two of the easiest airports to travel through with firearms…


I fly out of Tampa with a firearm relatively frequently and the TSA agents here have always been professional. Many are vets and often want to chat guns. As long as you know the rules and stick to them, you won’t have a problem other than certain individuals not knowing said rules. A few examples…

1. Raleigh Durham – Checked my gun and flight attendant said I could proceed to security. I told her I knew procedure and would need to wait for TSA to clear the gun. She adamantly said I did not need to and to go the gate. As soon as I got through security I got paged to go back to TSA and wait with the gun. Gun went through without a problem and I went back through security.

2. Raleigh Durham – Grandfather had gifted me “our” M-1A SOCOM which, me not having a rifle case on me at the time, we FFL’d down to my dealer in Tampa. I retained the scout scope and carried it on in my smaller Storm hard case. TSA confiscated the case at the security checkpoint and demanded to know where the gun it belonged to was. Higher ups had to be called and I was eventually cleared through, but not before being made to wait 15 minutes while supervisors sorted it out. Biggest lesson learned was to never let TSA take my case out of my sight. I should have demanded to stay with it when the agent took it into her office out of sight.

3. Miami-Heathrow – Returning from a hunting trip in Africa, I cleared my rifle through Customs and handed it off to American’s baggage employees. They failed to properly check it through, returned it to British Airways and it was stranded in Miami for 5 days. American refused to send it to me and I eventually had to drive to Miami from Tampa on a weekend to claim the rifle from British Airways who were overly apologetic for the situation. They had attempted multiple times to get American to accept the rifle but American refused and their customer service didn’t even apologize for the situation that their mishandling caused. I had been in LA on business when I started the trip and I won’t even go into how hostile the airline employees at LAX were to me…

Like Hognose said, fly with your gun, normalize the behavior, win the culture.

Stephen J Carter

No matter how frequently this is done, I doubt the Left will ever allow it to become normal. They will continue pretending citizens carrying guns are a menace, it’s part of their ideology of demonizing ordinary Americans. It’d be cool seeing a gun club travel together on a flight, and all of them check in with a gun and rifle each, both stowed. Do it several times a year as a silent, undeclared protest. Just watching feral Lefty heads explode would make it worth it.


Personally I did not take a gun thru Tambo but they are routed to the SAP office from all flights and there you pick it up. Now of course there can be all sorts of problems but you will be with an Afrikaner and they know their countrymen and women better and know how to facilitate any issues.

My buff was in transit back to the states when the locals started playing games with putting it on a Delta flight, so being from the primitive locals of the Chicago land my spidey sense figured out these lumps wanted a bribe. Emails were exchanged and finally with a nice Afrikaner lady wrote me that she would handle it and she did, buff taxidermy next flight over, and it was.

But the worst incident about going to Africa with a gun was with a guy on my trip, he takes his family heirloom 7mm to Dulles to get his export paperwork witnessed by a TSA agents and they started asking him in a serious tone about receipts and proof of ownership, so he tells them its in his car and he picks up his gun and skeedaddled before they confiscated it, and he left it at home.


Love the idea about day-glo weed whacker, I’d add a second in the mag-well. I do not like the Idea about not having ammo, if I had to do that I’d want a .357 revolver so no feeding troubles. May be you could post your self a box to pick up when you get there or/and have some one meet you at the airport with some in the car.

I once read about a couple who went on a three gun course and drive back home the next day when the news cut in on the radio. It was Sep 11 2001. They were 300 miles from home with all the guns they could need and not one round of ammo. The local government ordered all the gun shops to shut.

Every one takes ammo to the range but how many come back with any?

Boat Guy

I always have ready-service ammo on the return trip. The Paltt/Mattix affair brought that one home.

I don’t fly often annymore but when I do there’s a gun in the bag; I’ve been doing it for a long time and always check the rules and airline policies beforehand.

I strike a balance between I piece I can afford to lose and one I’d want be my “one-and-only” if things go pear-shaped. Usually winds up being a 9mm or .357 revolver depending on the activities at destination. I do have either a full magazine or speedstip in the gun case.


I once reed where Ayoob packs the gun at the hotel, gets a lift to the airport with a loner gun and gets picked up when he gets wherever by someone with a second loner. He really doesn’t like to be naked.

Texas Dude

I have had relatively little trouble with it, and I have never had much hassle. At most it has added 10-15 minutes to the process of checking one’s bags. At a few airports in the north, I have gotten puzzled or slightly hostile counter agents. In the south and southwest, it is so routine that nobody really cares and they might even chat you up about guns.

The regs now allow ammo in the container, to the best of my knowledge, although individual airlines may occasionally attempt to go with stricter standards. I always toss a few loaded magazines and the usual carry holsters in the locked container, as magazines or the original packaging are acceptable containers. This is also where the cable locks that come with every handgun seems to have a use; I lock one through the action so that I never have to manipulate a weapon in front of anyone. One thing (obviously not applicable to evryone) is that tossing a badge in there seems to soothe the occasional hoplophobe. Ammo and holsters in the container has the side benefit of allowing one to gun up as soon as you have some moderate privacy, like the rental car or in a bathroom if the place is really shady and that is cool under your destination’s carry laws.

The only recent change is that at every airport in the last year and half or so, after initial check in, they have made me go to a TSA station with the bag, where they do follow-upon, sometimes using those explosives detecting wands with the wipes on the bag and items in it.

Since I started checking guns on a regular basis, I have never had a problem with my bags getting lost, either.

In one brief moment of sanity in an otherwise insane agency working for a poorly run presidential administration, for a few years they significantly liberalized their interpretation of FAA regs for carrying on the plane. The process was easy, paperwork was fast and secure and had minimal hassles. Aircrews loved it, too, in particular because the previous administration was trying to kill the FFDO program and largely succeeding, by simply cancelling most of the requalifcation training sessions so that all of the certifications would lapse. Commercial airline pilots seem to have a lot of gun guys and they loved to talk about that stuff, and their anger about the slow demise of the FFDO program.

Alas, someone in the previous administration figured out that TSA was finally doing something right and killed the new way of carrying unless you were actively transporting a prisoner or (big surprise) on a protective detail for the anointed political gods. So much for a cheap and effective way to significantly increase public safety on aircraft. And now I am checking a “gun bag” every time. But it isn’t that much of a hassle.


I brought an 1884 Martini back to the U. S. from England last month. Looked up the regs, gun has to be in a hard, locked case. So I got a hard golf bag, took the stock and internals off the rifle (they went in another bag) and put the rifle in the golf bag with my heavy clothes.

You would have thought it was the end of the world. Apparently they had never seen a bag with a gun and clothes in it. And they were NOT going to let it through. It took two hours of going up the power ladder to get to someone who had the power to say “It’s some coats. Let it through.”

Same thing in the U. S., where I had a connecting flight.

So, nothing in the box but the gun.


“So, nothing in the box but the gun.”

That’s interesting. One of those odd random facts is that I’ve heard of people who travel with expensive stuff (cameras, electronic test equipment, …) sometimes carry a gun not because they want a gun, but because they want to be able to lock the case – so they get a big pelican case or whatever and put in their cameras, then add the gun so they can lock the case.

For handguns, I usually put the gun in a small case and put that in a lockable hard side (just a generic plastic samsonite) briefcase. I fill the space in the brief case with clothes or whatever just so it won’t rattle. No problems so far (but I don’t fly that often).


The gun box was in a larger container with other things, there wasn’t anything in the gun box but the gun in the examples you cite. The regulations say very clearly that the locked box with the gun in it can be in a larger container with other items.

This was a rifle barrel and frame uninsulated by its own hard plastic, with clothes actually touching the dangerous steel and wood themselves. Very different.


I flew with my G30 from PHX to MHT and back on SouthWest several times while visiting my parents in Exeter, and it went very smoothly – ammo & all. The gun went in one locked box, while the ammo was in a separate locked box (two smallish pelican boxes) in the same largish suitcase. SW was very professional about it at both ends – the suitcase(no external markings) went on the carousel with everything else.

I did have an issue once with Delta – the bag didn’t show up in PHX, so I went to the baggage office thinking they may have given it “special handling”. When the lady therein seemed apathetic/uninterested in helping, I told her: “My bag contains a weapon, and you appear to have lost it – inside a secure area. My next call will be to the FBI reporting this as a security violation.” The bag was found within minutes.


“4. Secure a sturdy, lockable bag. We use a Pelican case with two heavy-duty padlocks.”

It is still a plastic box in the end. I think the heavy duty padlocks are a bit too much. If the pelican box gets stolen the thief has all the time in the world to cut the locks out of their plastic holes.All IMHO

“9. When TSA is happy, which only takes seconds or minutes, they’ll ask you to secure your bag. Then they’ll run it through the x-ray machine. But they’ve already inspected it manually? Never mind, procedures. Once they take it, your escort will bring you back out of the station and turn you loose to go to your boarding gate.”

that makes actually sense imho. The TSA very special agent might have missed a secret compartment in the bag, box whatever that the x-ray can find.

My personal experience with flying with fireamrs is from the nineties taking hunting rifles to Canada and Africa respectively. A stout rifle bag with a simple padlock and a sticker from customs (or the airline?) sealing it was enough. The ammunition had to go in an extra box that went into an explosion safe container in the plane. All IIRC and this was the time before the security kabuki you have to deal with nowadays when flying. *sigh* but we are all so much safer now…

Otherwise I normally use loaned firearms when travelling around europe for hunting or taking a course, because with all the different laws and regulations it is really just not worth it most of the time to get into the paper wars required.


The locks are for thieves in the baggage handling pipeline. Things move too fast to grab and cut open a bag there easily, the locks make it just too tough to grab and tuck the contents.


A shout walking stick – I’d go for wooden or plastic not aluminium – is not a bad thing to have with you. No one ever asks and if they do “the cabin pressure sometimes makes my joins hurt”. For some of us it’s true.

John M.

Tactical umbrellas are nice, too, and less fishy for younger fellas.

-John M.


I wouldn’t know I was never a younger fella, I was born middle aged.

John M.

LOL. I was born at a very young age.

-John M.


Cold Steel makes some nice polycarbonate walking sticks. If you look around you can get Ka Bar’s ‘self defense cane’, which is thick wall aluminum. It’s pretty studly, though it could be improved with a suede sleeve laced around the crook.

John M.

Hognose, how do you keep your piece from rattling around inside its box if you take the foam out of the box? Do you put some other kind of filler in there, or just let it rattle?

-John M.


I believe he was saying take the foam out to inspect the box, to make certain there are no loose rounds or empty cartridge cases that could have wedged in somewhere. Then replace the foam, pack, and secure the box.


It look to me like the foam is removed to make 100% that the box is empty and then put back.


I’m not our humble blogger, nor do I play him on TV, but my impression was that he takes the foam out, makes sure it has no ammo or empty cases, then replaces said foam. I say this with some confidence, in that in Step 8, the foam is back.

Hognose Post author

And here I thought I was being crystal clear.

Hognose Post author

As about three other commenters have figured out the foam is R&R’d just for inspection.

John M.

Thanks, I’m caught up.

-John M. (slow today)


Just today?

John M.


-John M.


Check the tags they put on your firearms very carefully. My entire firearms collection was MIA for 5 days last time I moved because the airline put someone else’s name on all my luggage. Very nerve racking!

John M.

If you can fly with your entire firearms collection, then you need a bigger firearms collection. 🙂

-John M.


Thanks for rubbing it in

John M.

I’m here to help, man.

-John M.

Tennessee Budd

If anybody can fly with my collection, I’m leaving him alone. I don’t think I could lift it all at once, & it’s damned sure too bulky to carry.


After the latest shooting, the one in baggage claim where someone retrieved a legally checked weapon, loaded it in a bathroom and started shooting, we may see other regulations in effect.


Started shooting in one of only six air ports to have a CCW ban.


If Mance V. U. S. goes well, we can expect to see a profitable little trade in short term pistol rentals to visitors.


I used to travel by air quite frequently, and in the last 10 – 15 years always using First or Business class. This was for both business and leisure, the latter being in the last 10 years.

Unless and until (which probably will not happen in my lifetime) TSA evaporates, and the carriers improve their service, I will no longer fly. There is nothing in my life that has the time requirements for flying. I made this decision about a year ago, and have steered my travel arrangements to a comfortable and leisurely ground mode.

I decided not to pay for mouth-breathers to grope and make demands of me, for apathetic airline employees providing minimum service, and for filthy accommodations on the equipment. I am old enough to remember when First Class actually was. Now it is simply a method to sometimes avoid being the meat in a behemoth sandwich.

For the most part, traveling with arms has been painless. My worst case scenario was with a badge and credentials, armed in-flight. The misandristic LEO hating counter worker examined my documentation (which was absolutely official and more than sufficient to get me where I was, currently on the 6th and final leg of a round trip.).

Because I was traveling hot, I had no need of checked luggage or hard case, and had been as usual, a thoroughly uneventful “business” trip. That is, not until a member of the sisterhood decided to strike a blow against the man. She was unrelenting regardless of showing her the regulations both from law and her carrier. None of her superiors “were available”, and my flight was minutes from departure. I ran “literally” to a kiosk and purchased sufficient luggage and locks to turn it into a checked firearm, and was on the plane with the doors closing behind me. And, then, the doors open and the horrible her marches down the aisle glaring, to out me to the passengers so as to tell me that just because I was special that I was not, and don’t do it again. Needless to say, letters and apologies occurred, I am sure through gritting teeth, but what a huge PITA.

Non-official flying under arms has been completely perfunctory, even through BOS. Regardless, until the TSA clown show goes the way of Ringling/Barnum, and the carriers give you something better than a bus with wings, I am finished with commercial air.

Steve M.


Agreed. I last flew about fours year ago. Aside from all the stupidity and the constant nagging feeling that I could have just drove, it wasn’t thaaaat bad. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the nice little notes the TSA left in our luggage on the return trip. The notes just explained that our bags had been selected for extra scrutiny and that the TSA was not responsible if their people stole anything. It just really made me irate. The TSA is supposedly responsible enough to stop a bomb, but not responsible enough to not steal. Right.

A bus with wings is spot on. At this point, I prefer to drive.

John Distai

We got one of those, too. They stole the lock we had on the luggage.


I last flew in 1986, after I had a couple of security guards want me to accompany them to a private room for a body search.

I told them I wasn’t going into a room with a couple of [not politically correct in the 21st century] to get groped, and if they needed to do a body search, they could do it right there, in public.

I had my pants down and my thumbs in my shorts when they suddenly decided they really didn’t need to do a body search any more.

Nowadays they’d probably just whip out the pepper spray and taser for “failure to kiss ass.”

Raoul Duke

I’ve found printing off fresh copies of the airlines’ and TSA’s regulation pages and carrying them with me helps to settle any disputes or problems with recalcitrant airport or security staff.

The worst problem encountered with checking guns to baggage was at PHL… after going through the “show clear to TSA” dumbshow, the screeners wanted to take my UNLOCKED gun case into the back room for “extra screening”. This was not going to happen, as far as I was concerned. Eventually, after supervisors and airport police were involved, the dufus screener was advised to do their “extra screening” behind the “ropes” where I wasn’t allowed to go, but could still see it. The actual “screening” (whatever that was) took the guy about five seconds before he locked the case and sent it back.


The trip to SHOT was my first time flying without firearms. It was weird to see how the other half lives, not even bothering with checked bags and whatnot.

It’s a good thing I’d packed a long an extra (empty) bag in anticipation of acquiring tchotchkes and whatnot at the show, because Oleg met up with me and was all “Here’s that box of .22 Jet you sent me the money for!”

So…checked bags on the return flight.

Hognose Post author

.22 Jet! Ancient indeed.

I’ve done it before but usually as a minion. I. wasn’t going to do it through the PRMb


Great advice, thanks! Wonder if it’d be best to use a non-obvious piece of luggage for the case though. I mean, a Pelican Case with two big-azz padlocks just screams “Take Me! I’m Valuable!” when left on the baggage carousel for that long…

Maybe put the Pelican case inside of a non-nondescript Samsonite? Will they let you do that?

Hognose Post author

That’s a good idea a couple of others have suggested.


All the regulations I have seen permit, if not encourage, a compliant pistol case to be inside other luggage., that’s two layers between gun and baggage handlers.

Again, most of these regulations are directed toward keeping your gun out of the hands of airport dwelling murderers or thieves while it is in transit, insuring that you take it away with you rather than having some baggage handler caught with it on the news. The few score extra TSA gun-fiddlers required are a patronage/empire building bonus.

I agree with the poster above, get ready for no gun and bullets together next.


As a frequent world traveler, I always makes sure even a new piece luggage looks easily recognizable and the most ragged in any baggage carousel. Traveling with something that looks expensive is just asking for it to walk away. I also never travel with anything that I can’t afford to lose.

John Distai

We bought new luggage recently. We selected the more “unique” of the color choices for this reason.


When I got a new but plain-looking bag, the first thing I did was put some duct tape on the top near the handle area. Makes it look worn out and also recognizable from the other black bags. Sort of a grey man approach augmented with duct tape. Anything can be augmented with duct tape.


what was it like to fly with firearms in the early 70s, 60s and before?

Tennessee Budd

Well, first we had to set the weapon in a safe place while we spun the propeller to start the engine….


Well played.


I used to bring my 06 onto the plane and stick it in the closet by the door. Yes, there used to be a closet to hang your coat up. They also used to hand out free cigarettes, drinks and the seats were wider than the stewardesses. Long, long time ago.


After all the things that have vanished from checked bags over the years (radios, GPS s, test equipment / tools) I’ve only bothered to check a few times – although I’ll note that I’ve inadvertently left a loaded magazine (Glock 36) in my checked bag that made a few passes through security…

These days if it’s less than 1k miles I drive

Cap’n Mike

Check the airline regs carefully, as the last few times I flew, I had no problem bringing ammo. I just left it in my bag outside my locked pistol box, but I beleive it had to be in its original package. I save the cardboard box my 25 rounds of carry ammo came in for just such occasions.

The weight limit on ammo was 11 pounds IIRC.

For those new to excercising your 2nd Ammendment rights while traveling, walking up to the counter and telling the ticket agent “I have a gun” might not get the best reaction.

“I need to check a firearm” may go over better. 😉

Steve M.

I have helped my brother fly out of BDL in CT with firearms. There were absolutely no issues on either occasion. It was really quite surprising.

We could have just been lucky.

John Distai

HN – What do you do with the ammo you purchased when you return to the airport for the flight home?

Hognose Post author

Didn’t hit a range this trip, so I’m storing it here. Unless I shoot Sumdood today, then I’m storing what’s left over.


I understand it gets order of magnitude easier when you have your own RV-12…


Back when I traveled all over the world a lot – first as a civi field-engineer and the later as a .gov same – I would wrap my suitcase with a 2″ luggage strap and then tape the buckle with nylon strapping-tape. And I carried a roll of the tape in my carry on so that if my bag got selected to be opened I could just replace the tape before checking it in. Kept the bag closed and never had a problem. The old just make yours harder then the one next to it.

Joe W.

Nobody has mentioned this, but I use a nice stormcase of rifle size as a standard suitcase

for my clothing. Once we establish at check in that there is no firearm in it goes threw with out a hitch.

I have never had it lost or delayed and quite often when I arrive at the baggage pick up, a airline employee

is there holding my case and verifies my claim ticket before handing it to me. As for firearms I have gifted most of my family that I visit often, a Glock 19 with the understanding that I will be using it when I come to visit. Cheers J


Before 9/11, flying with firearms was very low-key. You declared the firearm and had to show that it was empty, you got a piece of paper to put in the case and you locked it and sent it down the belt. In every airport I ever passed through with arms, regardless of time of day or airline, there was at least one airline employee that was designated to conduct the firearms inspections. You’d walk up to the counter, declare your arms, and the agent would summon whoever it was to check your guns. Usually, you got a tiny blonde young lady who’d hunted moose with daddy since she was 6. She often recognized your guns, and knew how do conduct chamber checks on anything. If she had to handle your guns to conduct the checks, she maintained muzzle discipline and etiquette and demonstrated comfort and proficiency in handling arms. Then Team Mo’ crashed a few planes and we got the TSA. Those guys could screw up an orgy. The airline doesn’t touch your guns anymore and The TSA Guy you get has ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what he is doing.

So there I was, flying from Houston to Nebraska. Locked up in my long case are my pistol and my open-bolt submachinegun. Experience has taught that you should take a few extra steps with the machinegun to avoid complications. You want to avoid letting the bolt go forward uncontrolled, for instance, as the sound is…distinct, and draws large amounts of attention in airport lobbies. The barrel return spring on an MG3 can make a pretty epic sound in an airport lobby, too, but I digress. If possible, I take the bolt and barrel out of the machinegun as it leaves the receiver an open tube and you can show the chamber to somebody without touching the “gunny-looking” part and just handle the barrel. At the counter I declare my arms and the ticket agent processes me and summons The TSA Guy. Pay particular attention to the fact that now The TSA Guy is IN CHARGE. He takes your case from you and leads you away from the counter to the TSA Place and you aren’t allowed to touch your firearms anymore or even stand very close to TSA Guy while he conducts the chamber checks. TSA Guy opens my case and before I can get very far into explaining how he can check the chamber TSA Guy remarks, “Oh, this one breaks down nice and short”, and before I can even draw breath to object, he reaches into the case, bends down, AND BRINGS THE BARREL SHROUD UP TO HIS EYE. The business end, you know, the place where if the barrel was installed the bullets would come out of.

TSA, bless their little hearts, they keep us safe.

Max Alexander


SHOT Show 2017. Flew Baltimore – Vegas. Handgun in hard case (pelican – locked non-TSA padlocks). Boxed ammo in separate hard case, not locked, inside original packaging, inside soft luggage bag locked with TSA locks.

Baltimore – Vegas direct, Spirit Airlines. Gun not even looked at. Say ‘I have a firearm to declare’ at check in and get out the gun box, unlock it. Check in staff entirely unperturbed, filled out a firearms declaration, IIRC it was tied to the gun box? Wait a bit after check in to aee if called by TSA. Nothing happened. Do security.

Arrived at Vegas fine, luggage arrived fine. Handgun actually remained in hotel safe throughout stay due to 1) no guns at SHOT Show and 2) I was entirely drunk. Only had it for potential SHTF over inaugeration, planning to fight my way back to Virginia with it……

Arrived at Vegas airport at 0300 for the return with Delta, drunk as a fool from a SHOT Show party. Conducted same procedure. Tried to pretend to be sober. Checked bag. Fell into coma waiting for possible TSA call.

Went to security. Attempted to get through with 8 ounces of water approx. left in my camelback waterbottle. Attempted to drink it. Not allowed. Sent back. Told I had to tip it and not allowed to drink it. Drank it in full view of her on my way back to the start of the security line. Managed to navigate security successfully with no water on my person.

Arrived in Salt Lake City to a blizzard, still drunk. Flight delayed. Finally arrived back in Baltimore with a hangover, handgun and baggage made it through without incident.

Trying to pretend to be sober when drunk doesn’t really work. Very unprofessional I know!

Divine Wind

Back in late ’90s went to PHX with .45 auto, going to Gunsite for a week. No problem leaving Oaktown, Kali, but on return trip in PHX went to the counter, stated to the ‘lady’ about declaring a firearm, she walked me over to deserted counter, had me open the case and show her the firearm was unloaded. Racked and locked the slide, the empty mag already been removed previously, and showed her, looking at her pretty face via the chamber thru the mag well. Her response was ” Well, how do I know it’s unloaded?”. I kindly asked if any of her cohorts were firearm enthusiasts, she acknowledged yes, I asked her to have them come over. It happened, gun declared unloaded. Then she wanted to put a huge international orange sticker on the outside of my second larger piece of luggage that said in bold print ‘FIREARM’. I told her that was prohibited and inviting theft. Another visit, this time from a supervisor who knew the law. Upshot, no sticker.

I use loaners whenever possible now for courses outside my area, less hassle.


For what it’s worth I’ve never experienced #8 the “second check” (before the Xray). Usually the “is it unloaded?” question is or is not verified at the checked baggage counter and after that it’s to the checked baggage line where it gets X-rayed.

P.s. I’m sure now that I’ve said I’ve never experienced #8 that will happen the next time I go.


I could add to this. Be 100% SURE YOUR WEAPON IS NOT IN YOUR CARRY ON BAG!!!!. As a TSA Security Inspector I probably wrote hundreds of cases where the first words out of the caught passengers mouth were, “I didn’t know it was in the bag”. It ain’t cheap!

“Loaded firearms (or unloaded firearms with accessible ammunition)

$3,000 – $7,500 + criminal referra”l


Hognose Post author

I don’t think TSA has ever caught an actual terrorist, but they’ve caught thousands of dumbasses.