Thanks to everyone in the comments of the last post a couple of days ago. Here are some follow-up lessons learned from the wisdom of the commentariat, plus the evolution completed this week.

  1. How the airline handles firearms varies from airport to airport, as does how the TSA handles it. In FLL, TSA does not want to see it, and all the airline counter staff have to find one who is not a felon or another prohibited person (really!) to observe your demonstration that the firearm is unloaded).
  2. TSA is not going to be anybody’s model for organizational excellence or personnel selection any time soon, but their inspection was more effective that the cursory glance the clearly disgusted-by-gun-things airline clerk offered.
  3. Despite the worry engendered by the irritable and felonious ground staff in Fort Lauderdale, the Pelican full of bang came home without incident.
  4. We’re going to go with the recommendation of a secure case in a crummy looking bag, for those flights where the line will accept a bag within a bag.
  5. We’re also going with the recommendation of printed-out airline policies, as it seems like the airline clerk’s detailed knowledge of these policies is in inverse proportion to her conviction that she knows these policies.
  6. The confidence you get from a high-quality gun case pays off when you arrive in a light snowstorm and your pickup bed is entirely full of a week’s snow. Just peg the Pelican in the snowbank, and sort it out at home.  (Would we still do that if we had, say, a 1902 Luger carbine with its off-the-charts proneness to rust? No. We’d have thrown Small Dog in the snowbank in the pickup bed, and sorted him out at home).

Funny thing: arriving at PSM, there was a sign up that all but one the rest rooms were out of order — pardon the inconvenience, right? Except, a jet had just arrived from Iraq and there was a line of about 200 guys out the one rest room’s door… most of them Army troops wearing the patch of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. Every one of them was on a phone, tablet or other device with “home,” and  it made us grin to see them. They all looked lean and tired and had a whole other flight to go, then the joys of property accountability before

Incidentally, traveling with Small Dog Mk II? Piece of cake. Allegiant is a line that doesn’t make you keep your pet cased up, unlike American, JetBlue or Southwest, and so he was able to enjoy the miracle of jet travel:

It is most convenient to bag him during takeoff, landing, boarding and debarking, and any time we were not in the seat with him. Each time we had to stuff him back in his travel bag he went a little easier than the previous one, but he never went entirely willingly. (Really, would you? Nobody likes to be confined, except for some incorrigible criminals and a few weirdos with a paraphilia).

At one time, we stuffed him back in and went to the restroom, only to emerge to a laughing cabin and another traveler holding a wriggling dog — he’d Houdini’d his way out of doggie durance vile, and charmed the other passengers and flight attendants.

This entry was posted in Weapons Accessories, 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).

21 thoughts on “Traveling with a Gun, More Lessons Learned

John M.

Incomplete paragraph alert:

“They all looked lean and tired and had a whole other flight to go, then the joys of property accountability before”

-John M.


Glad you made it okay. Back in the 80s, when I flew a lot, it was easy peasy, and no problems that I remember at all. You just show the clerk that it’s unloaded and she puts at tag on it, you lock the suitcase, and it goes bye-bye. You board the plane, order a cold one, turn on the fan by


Oops, turn on the fan by my seat and have a smoke. Yea, that was then.


Putting a dog in a bag usually does stop debarking.


They actually checked to see if they were unloaded? I think I’ve only seen them do that once in the three or so times I’ve flown with a firearm. Although I did almost miss my flight once because my case wasn’t locked up tight enough. There’s a rule that your case must lock such that no one can stick their hand in.


The common civvy duffle bag makes a great camouflage cover for “hard” gun cases, and you can acquire the bag to match the size of the case. This can cut down on thefts, as well as unwanted “flusterings” of the ill-informed.

If the airline wont allow the gun case to travel wrapped, it at least covers arrival and departure.


Yes, the clerk would watch me rack the slide back and would look at the chamber to verify that it was unloaded, and then put a tag on it that said- it’s unloaded. Very easy back then. By the way- my ammo was also locked up in the same suitcase.

Back then sanity prevailed, most of the time.

William O. B’Livion

Neither DIA nor SFO has asked to see the gun and verify unloaded state. IIRC the Saint Louis “international” airport did.

But then they also got weird about me checking 400 rounds of .223/5.56 and 200 rounds of 9mm.


I’ve been traveling with my Shield on United. Shield in a holster, and 3 unloaded mags fit into a GunVault Micro. Which fits conveniently in a laptop foam sleeve. Ammo is one box, new, in the Micro. Micro is locked.

The Micro in its sleeve is in my hard suitcase.

I ask for a firearms declaration at the check in counter. They ask if I need the white or orange, I answer “the normal one” and that’s it. They want me to open the hard suitcase, show them the locked box, but have never looked at the inside of the box. They ask if it’s unloaded, “Yes”, throw a paper form in the bag, I close it all up and I’m done. They take the bag and send it on it’s way. (it does have to be an actual airline employee, not one of the service company that helps man the counter.)

Last trip I came home thru Tampa, and they wanted me to carry the bag to the TSA area, where TSA ran it thru the scanner and waved me on my way.

It has always been on the carousel with other bags at my destination. Since it’s in my suitcase, I only have the same fear of theft as always.

On one trip I had a problem with the batteries, and wasn’t carrying the override key. ALWAYS carry the override key!



No jokes about “debarking” a dog?

Hognose Post author

When I was in high school, a buddy’s family dog had been “debarked”. It was one of a number of animals that came from a medical lab that went out of business. Because the scientists and techs didn’t care for the noise, they had gotten some barber of a veterinarian to sever the dogs’ vocal chords. She kept trying to bark, the sweet little thing, but couldn’t.

A few stories like that and you see where Hollywood can’t say “scientist” without the prefix “mad.”


I too have found it varies from airport to airport. At SFO the ticket agents usually sneer a bit when you declare while in places like Billings they don’t bat an eye. My usual method is a gun vault inside a larger bag with my cell number on the vault in case they need to reach me. Inspection varies from bringing the bag to an oversize inspection station (think ski’s or golf clubs) to directly to X ray where the TSA goon will wave me on after he runs it. All this applies to when I’m not heading for the front office. The procedures for that are different but can’t be discussed in public.


Here you can see the up-to-date firearms that get confiscated and why


49 firearms confiscated from carry-on luggage last week alone. I would like to say maybe they just forgot but that may be too optimistic.

Interesting breakdown of where they occurred. I see ATL is a repeat offender.


So… kind of a d-bag question… but what mag baseplates are those? I have previously exchanged Beretta 92FS basepads for the P01 Mac-Gar pads, but those look pretty nice.

Kurt Akemann

Not too surprising to see some of the 3rd ACR sent back to the Sandbox. The regiment has a lot of experience there, and its LTG McMaster’s old regiment, as well. Hopefully this trip to Iraq will be the 3rd’s last deployment there for a long while.

Hognose Post author

These young people were on their way home; they were coming from the Middle East.


I travel quite a bit for work and whenever possible like to bring my firearms with me. A lot depends on the airport and their baggage handling proficiency, which varies widely from airport to airport. Printing and bringing a copy of the tsa and airline policies for firearms as you suggest is an absolute requirement. Every airport agent is an ‘expert’? Be prepared to educate.

When time permits I am interested in the make/model and reasons for your choice of locks on your gun bags?


It is interesting to note that about 70% of negligent firearms owners favor empty chamber, loaded magazine ” Israeli Carry” according to TSA


So much easier to fly armed on duty/on a mil flight. Just walk on, no loose ammo in your bags and that’s about it.

On personal travel, one trick that has sped things up/helped w/ staying discrete in the check in queue is keeping that little unloaded firearm declaration slip from your previous trips. The way, when I go to check in, instead of dealing w/ a possibly confused agent, I pull an old slip and say something to the effect “I have one of these to declare…”.

Using a TSA approved hard case (for handguns) carried within your bigger outer luggage is lowest vis way to go. Also keeping one of the spare empty mags in the gun (w/ the gun in a kydex holster) and use it to keep the slide open for a visual inspection. That way you can just open the inner locked case and the TSA guy can just look and see that it is unloaded. Since doing it this way, I’ve never had to manipulate a gun in the check in area.

Hognose Post author

Great tips, Doc. Thanks a million.