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Mac's Guide to Flying with a Firearm:

Discussion in 'Carry Issues' started by MacG22, Mar 27, 2010.

  1. New2GT


    Nov 9, 2003
    Great thread, thanks for the writeup.

    I am going to be flying with checked firearms for the first time next weekend. I am flying to GA to go quail hunting, so I will be packing a shotgun w/ 28" barrel.

    My only question is, Mac's writeup focused on carrying a pistol in a small locked hard container which itself resides inside an unlocked (or TSA compliant locked) piece of baggage. What about for those of us with long guns who where the hard case itself is the luggage.

    I plan on purchasing this SKB 50" double long gun case:

    I am ok checking this as a single piece of luggage and have it locked with only myself having the key/combo, correct? I do plan to have a few other items in the case in addition to the shotgun - some ammo, a knife, and what the heck I might as well pack my S&W 642 for legal concealed carry while I'm in GA. The ammo will all be in original cardboard boxes. This will be my only piece of checked luggage so the ammo, knife etc. will have to be locked in this same case.

    Is this the correct way to go about it?

    Any comments on that SKB case also welcome. I can't seem to find a Hardigg online that I can get shipped here as fast as Amazon Prime offers for a reasonable price. Pelican it seems the reviews are mixed.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2010
  2. Not only is it legal, I know some guys who do exactly what you want even if just carrying a pistol. Maximum security since their "luggage" is now their locked gun case. i may buy a big Pelican case so I can do the same thing.

  3. New2GT


    Nov 9, 2003
    Ended up ordering the Pelican Storm in OD from Midwayusa. Pricey, but should work nicely. I read some very positive reviews on the Storm cases before Pelican bought them, so hopefully they haven't changed anything.
  4. gbhamm2


    Jun 7, 2010
    Great thread, I am going on a ski trip to CO in a few weeks and was wanting to bring my G23, after reading this I think I will (my KY ccw works in CO).

    My question is, has anyone had any trouble from southwest airlines or denver airport? I'm not real worried about the Louisville airport but I saw a few stories about denver.
  5. MacG22

    MacG22 CLM

    Feb 28, 2008
    I live in Denver so I fly out of there all the time. It's been easy for me. Never any problem. In fact, almost all my stories posted here or elsewhere originated from DIA.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2010
  6. zackwatt

    zackwatt That's a Bingo! Lifetime Member

    Nov 25, 2007
  7. bmylesk


    Jul 2, 2010
    SLC, UT
    thanks for your time and detailed steps! this seems to be almost fail proof!
  8. nikerret

    nikerret Mr. Awesome

    Mar 29, 2005
  9. DrBob


    Jun 26, 2010
    Really great thread. We used your advice flying Southwest over the holidays. The skycap at the curb turned down our proffered $5 tip to escort us to the front of the check-in line when I told him we had to check weapons. His loss. We walked into the Orlando terminall and got in line; the guy at the check-in kiosk told us that we should have gone to the "full service" kiosk that had no one waiting. He seemed a little uncomfortable when I opened the Pelican Case with 3 guns in it but gave us the form to fill out. He then tucked the form inside the Pelican case, had me lock it and escorted us to the TSA guy. TSA guy shook his head and commented that the form should be taped to the outside of the Pelican case; ran our suit case throught he xray machine and put it on the conveyor belt. Coming home, person at the Pittsburgh check-in kiosk also looked uncomfortable but didn't say anything. Attached the form to the outside of the Pelican case and told us to drag our bag over to the TSA. TSA guy swabbed outside of Pelican case and got a positive reading (duh?!) and had his manager come out. Asked me to unlock Pelican, looked at the guns; relocked the pelican and the suitcase and wished us a happy new year.
    Total time = about 10 or 15 minutes more each time. Pretty smooth and virtually no hassle.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2011
  10. Excellent. Hope your experience puts to rest the claim of some that your declaration goes inside the firearm case. Hard for TSA to see it if a secondary search is done later by TSA.

    Glad Mac's advice worked for you.
  11. Bill Lumberg

    Bill Lumberg BTF Inventor

    Jun 14, 2002
    What are your referring to as a declaration? I've checked guns maany times, and the only tag has been placed inside the case, not outside the case, not outside the bag, every single time.
  12. I did not say on the outside of your suitcase. If I wasn't clear I meant the signed declaration goes in your suitcase but outside the locked firearm case. Dr. Bob said the TSA agents had him put the signed declaration on the outside of the locked case, which IMO is corrrect. Some airline folks seem clueless about it. I don't think it's specified but if TSA conducts a secondary search how can they know the weapon is unloaded if they cannot see the signed tag?. You are the only one with the key to your pistol case. (If it was done by the rules)

    I travel about once a month for work.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2011
  13. Bill Lumberg

    Bill Lumberg BTF Inventor

    Jun 14, 2002
    Every time I've checked instead of carrying on the plane, the tag has gone inside the case with the gun, actually with the gun. Without exception. I've always sort of expected them to put it on the outside of the weapon case sooner or later. Hasn't happened to me yet. I did check a duty and a personal weapon in one suitcase once flying out of Reagan Int'l, and they wanted to open my suitcase to look at a fingernail clipper sized glass breaker that we were given at Cheltenham (FLETC). Guns are okay, but a pointy thing isn't? Weird.
  14. Well that's what is confusing to me. You aren't the first person who has said this. The TSA regs don't specify a location for the tag but if you think about the process a bag goes through after it leaves the check in area you'd wonder why they put the tag in with the firearm, I've had my bag come back with a TSA tag inside that says it was searched again by TSA a second time. If they open your luggage and see the locked pistol case with no tag visible, how do they know it was checked by TSA or the airline? That could be grounds to not put your bag on the plane or they have to contact you which could delay you or the plane. I'm certainly not saying it doesn't happen that way as you described, I just don't see the logic behind it. The airline folks are almost as clueless as TSA.

    IMO opinion the only rule that TSA has and is uniformly enforced is that "we don't have uniform procedures"

    Govt inefficiency and incompetence at it's best. There was an article in the Washington Post yesterday saying many airports are considering booting TSA and hiring private contractors like SFO does.

    Can't happen soon enough for me. TSA is security theater and Nepolitano is an incompetent moron.

    My .02
  15. Markasaurus


    Dec 13, 2009
    I think you'd be better off just Fed-exing your guns to your destination!!!
  16. MacG22

    MacG22 CLM

    Feb 28, 2008
    I have personally found that flying with them is quicker, easier, CHEAPER, and more secure than mailing. However, others may have found otherwise.
  17. Sippo


    Jul 27, 2010
    MacG, First I'd like to thank you for your contribution to the gun owning public for this thread. I only discovered the thread a couple of weeks ago, and since I plan to travel with my two Glocks to Front Sight this June (Lord willing), this topic has taken on a greater relevance to me.

    I visited Continental Airlines guidance for traveling with firearms. Their write up seems to imply you must travel with a hard-shelled, outer luggage. I pasted the bullet statements below. What confuses me is the way they seem to refer to "hard-sided luggage" twice in separate bullet statements as if in the first they're referring to the actual pistol container (the ones you describ as being locked with pad locks) and in the second bullet they are referring to the outer luggage we'd lock with a TSA lock. How'd you interpret this:

    **The firearm must be packaged in a hard-sided container capable of being locked. The container must be locked and the key or combination must remain in the customer's possession. If a hard-sided container is needed, see the container section of this site.
    **Handguns must be packed in hard-side lockable luggage. Baggage containing handguns must be locked at the time of acceptance by Continental Airlines and the key or combination retained in the passenger's custody.

    What's your read? Do you have personal experience with thsi carrier? Do you think soft-sided luggage is exceptable to this carrier the way it reads?
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2011
  18. MacG22

    MacG22 CLM

    Feb 28, 2008
    Sippo, I believe they're just referring to the actual case the gun is in. I don't believe for a moment that they'd force you to have hard sided luggage all in all. I *think* I've flown on Continental with no issues. However, I have a friend who flies continental all the time and has never had an issue.

    However, hard sided luggage, if you can afford it, is a good thing to have anyway. Certainly don't be discouraged from buying it if you have the opportunity.
  19. Mac, several years ago Consumer Reports tested different kinds and brands of luggage even using a huge tumbler to simulate typical abuse a piece of luggage would receive during travel.

    Guess which one fared the worst? The hard sided luggage. Apparently the hard side protects your clothing but if dropped or manhandled, it failed but the softsided luggage did not. Guess the soft side plus your clothing acted as a shock absorber.

    When I stand at the carousel I don't see much hard sided luggage any more I think the advances in nylon and other fabrics have pushed soft sided sales because of their durability and shock resistance.

    That's my observation anyway.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2011
  20. MacG22

    MacG22 CLM

    Feb 28, 2008
    I'd agree on the consumer grade stuff. The kind you just find in shops.

    Two MAJOR exceptions, though. I have a Zero Halliburton hard sided luggage case that has been amazing for me. I can put a laptop and camera gear in it and it comes out fine, and I'd never do that otherwise. It's my favorite to fly with.

    The other exception is that hard sided luggage made of some of the new composites, and especially those that latch closed, have been shown to take MUCH more abuse than soft sided luggage and are much more secure. However, you have to buy the good stuff and it's not cheap. But you can travel with gear or glass and be alright. Big articles all over the photography world on the debate. The downside is that space is less flexible and it's heavier. If you really pack it you'll almost always pay an overage fee. There are many research pieces done in it, though, mostly among travel sites and photographers.

    You can break into any soft sided, zippered bag in seconds, it's undetectable, and all you need is a bic pen. I've shown friends this trick over and over and it always shocks them. I'm sure it's on youtube. (update: just googled it, watch this ). When I take gear or I want more security, I take a hard sided case. If it's just clothing and a firearm, then I take the soft case and use the locking system I detailed in the OP.

    Definitely fervent debate on the topic, though.