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Flying with Firearms: Everything You Need to Know

Don't just hope for the best. We cover the rules for packing, declaring, storing, and locking your firearm for flying...plus our favorite cases and locks.

    Don’t just throw your gun into your carry-on bag and hope for the best.

    Between long waits at the airport, strict security regulations, and inevitable delays, flying can be a pain even for the average traveler.

    It may seem like adding a gun to the mix would only make things more complicated, but traveling legally with a firearm can actually be pretty simple — if you know what you’re doing.

    Today we’ll show you how to pack your gun, ammunition, and accessories to keep them safe. And walk you through waht you need to do at the airport to make flying with your gun easier.

    LAX Airport
    Don’t let the nice lights fool you, LAX is not a fun airport

    If you use this guide and a bit of common sense, traveling with your firearm will be just as painless — well, only equally as painful — as flying without it.

    Table of Contents


    First things first, you need to know the TSA’s rules for firearms.


    In a world where pocket knives, snow globes, and even gel insoles can’t be stored in carry-on bags, it should come as no surprise that you can’t take a gun in your carry-on.

    Here’s a quick (-ish…) rundown of the TSA rules:

    • Declare any firearms you present for transport as checked baggage.
    • Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported only as checked baggage. Only the passenger should retain the key or combination to the lock. Do not use a TSA lock (more on that later).
    • Parts like magazines, bolts and firing pins are prohibited in carry-on baggage but may be transported in checked baggage. I routinely toss those loose in checked baggage to cut weight on my rifle cases.
    • Ammunition is prohibited in carry-on baggage but may be transported in checked baggage.
    • Ammunition being transported may not exceed 11 pounds and must be in its original packaging or stored securely in a container made for that purpose.
    • Replica firearms including those that are toys may not be flown in carry-on baggage.
    • Rifle scopes are allowed in carry-ons and checked luggage by TSA.

    Don’t forget…every airline has its own regulations, on top of what TSA requires. So do a little research to make sure you’re checking every box you need to in order to fly with your guns.

    Bear in mind that you shouldn’t use a regular TSA-approved lock used for regular luggage.

    tsa master key
    In case you’ve ever wondered what they look like, these are TSA Master Keys

    Master Lock makes a variety of inexpensive but heavy-duty lock options that you can use on your case.

    But for a full rundown on locking your guns up, check out our guide to the 5 Best Gun Case Locks for Traveling with Firearms.

    at Amazon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Keep the key on your person, with no copies in your checked luggage. Otherwise, what’s the point of the lock?

    Based on years of flying experience, we recommend you use solid key locks with a shank clearance just tall enough to fit the gun case without allowing extra movement once closed. 

    Locks are an enormously misunderstood and misinterpreted part of flying with firearms. It is true TSA now lists allowing a TSA lock on their website but that does not make it smart. 

    Do you really think it’s a good idea to secure a gun case with a lock quite literally anyone can pop open in a fraction of a second?

    head shake

    You don’t want to skimp on your protective case for both your peace of mind and for the TSA’s. After all, your case is the primary protector of your gun while your bag is being tossed around by less-than-careful baggage handlers and sliding around the hold of the plane.

    In addition to being sturdy and durable, many gun owners also like to travel with their firearms in cases that don’t obviously like gun cases in order to prevent theft.

    If that’s your jam, try a case that looks like it could just as easily be carrying sports equipment, a musical instrument, or small electronics.

    For example, a rifle or shotgun could be carried in a hard case intended for golf clubs like this one from Samsonite.

    at Amazon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

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    Just be sure to cut foam inserts to keep everything protected and in place during transport.

    Pelican is the gold standard of airline-friendly gun cases, and for good reason. There is no such thing as an indestructible gun case but theirs come close.

    I’ve used them for years and have a collection of differently-sized Pelican cases for handguns, rifles, and multiple guns. 

    The 1720 Protector Long Case is a favorite of mine, so much so I have several. It has an automatic purge valve, stainless steel bearings, and is watertight, crushproof, and dustproof. I also have the 1150 Protector Case for handguns.

    at Pelican

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Are they pricey? Yes. Are they worth it? Definitely

    If Pelican is too rich for your blood, check out our gun case recommendations for more great cases at every price point.

    How to Pack for an Easy Flight

    Nobody likes packing, but it’s an unfortunate reality of air travel.

    Packing your guns right the first time can mean the difference between breezing through security and missing your flight.

    Pelican 1500 with Custom Foam
    Pelican 1500 with Custom Foam

    The more squared-away your gear is the less trouble you tend to have when declaring the firearms.

    In those cases where I am only flying with a gun or two, I like to zip it all neatly in a soft rifle case inside the hard case. If I’m flying with more than I can pack that way, I make sure to carefully Tetris together my guns so that they don’t get dinged up and can easily be seen.

    Buy a handheld luggage scale to check your luggage weight at home. They’re cheap, handy, and nice to have around for weighing anything else you might not be able to fit on a scale.

    at Amazon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

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    Ammunition also has to be checked and must be stored in containers specifically designed for carrying small amounts of ammunition.

    Shotgun shells and ammunition .75 caliber or less can be stored in the same hard case as a firearm (still in the container specifically for ammunition), but don’t have to be.

    If only we could take this much with us.

    Loaded or empty magazines and clips have to be stored the same way as guns, but firearm parts like bolts and firing pins just have to be stored in checked bags. 

    Even though the TSA says boxes made out of flimsier materials like cardboard are alright for storing ammunition during air travel, you may want to go with a more solid container.

    This will help you avoid the risk of having your ammo box fall apart mid-flight, leaving your ammunition to scatter across your bag.

    at Amazon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Lightweight but sturdy options are going to be the best bet for most travelers.

    Breeze Through Declaring Your Firearm

    When checking your baggage, you also have to declare any guns or ammunition to the airline.

    You have to do this every time you travel, so don’t forget to declare your firearms and ammunition again if you switch airlines during the same trip.

    Firearm Declaration Slip
    Firearm Declaration Slip

    What exactly does it mean to declare your gun, though?

    Declaring a firearm is not a big deal and it won’t get you funny looks or suspicious treatment. 

    After all, lots of people fly with firearms, and your gun probably won’t even be the weirdest thing the agent will have encountered since starting their shift.

    Just go to the ticketing desk inside the airport (you can’t declare a gun curbside) and tell the agent that you need to declare a firearm.

    airport ticketing counter
    Just in case you forgot what a ticketing counter looks like

    They’ll give you a card to fill out with your contact info, verifying that you’ve properly stored your gun. The agent will then check that the case is locked.

    By law, you must place the card inside your case after signing it. More importantly, if an agent attempts to label the outside of the case in such a way that clearly marks it as containing a firearm, inform them Federal law prohibits this: 18 USC Sec. 922(e)

    “No common or contract carrier shall require or cause any label, tag, or other written notice to be placed on the outside of any package, luggage, or other container that such package, luggage, or other container contains a firearm.”

    After a few questions to make sure any accessories or ammunition are stored properly, you’re usually good to go, but the agent may also want to look inside the case.

    pulp fiction looking inside

    In those cases you open the case and show them, respecting the four golden rules of gun safety. Under no circumstances should the counter agent handle your guns. 

    Chamber flags or gun locks running through the chamber of your firearms are helpful visual indicators and can speed up the process. 

    at Amazon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

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    Available Coupons

    Lock your gun case before it goes to be checked by TSA. Do not send over an unlocked or otherwise accessible case. Also, stick around…if TSA needs the case to be unlocked, you’re going to have to be the one to do it.

    You should unlock the combination locks yourself. TSA and airline staff are not supposed to ask for your combination or a copy of your key.

    If an agent demands the keys, refer him or her to the Code of Federal Regulations regarding traveling with firearms:

    • Title 49: Transportation, Part 1540 – Civil Aviation Security: General Rules, Subpart B – Responsibilities of Passengers and Other Individuals and Persons, 1540.111 (c) (iv) – The container in which it is carried is locked, and only the passenger retains the key or combination.
    • Title 49: Transportation, Part 1544 – Aircraft Operator Security: Air Carriers and Commercial Operators, Subpart C – Operations, 1544.203 (f) (iii) The container in which it is carried is locked, and only the individual checking the baggage retains the key or combination.

    (You may even want to print off relevant codes, policies, and other documentation that is posted by TSA, the federal government, or your airline regarding flying with guns. Better safe than sorry!)

    Your agent can open the lock with a key if they give the key right back to you. Remember, you should have a key on your person, but not in your checked bag.

    TSA and airline agents also shouldn’t handle your firearms. If they feel it needs an inspection, they are supposed to call over a law enforcement officer.

    At the majority of airports, you can stand in a spot that provides you with a visual view of the space where TSA checks special baggage. When the TSA agent is finished checking the locks and scanning and swabbing the case, he or she will signal you are good to go. 

    TSA checks special baggage
    TSA checks special baggage

    After you’ve finished declaring your firearm, stick around the desk for 20 or so minutes in case they need to call you back for another inspection. If you go through security and they need to call you back, you’ll have to go through it all over again. 

    Once you do leave the area and go through security, pay close attention to announcements and pages in case you are required to return to the TSA luggage checkpoint.

    Declaring is usually a quick and easy process, but you want to allow yourself at least an extra hour in case of one of the rare occasions where it does take longer.

    It’s much better to have more time to browse duty-free stores or grab a Cinnabon than to miss your flight.

    Admit it, you want one now.

    Note: Air rifles and air guns are not considered firearms, but must be stored in checked bags. They do not require declaration, but air tanks must be inspected.

    Other People’s Rules

    The TSA isn’t the only person who makes rules about flying with your firearm, and you need to know which ones will affect you.

    Most airlines have rules for flying with guns on top of the TSA’s. These rules vary from airline to airline. So check your airline of choice’s rules.

    These rules and regulations generally are found easily by searching your airline’s name and “firearm” or “gun” or by looking on their website under the section for baggage.

    We’ll give you a head start in finding the rules for the most popular airlines by linking you to their pages here:

    You’ll also need to know the laws for wherever you’re flying to. Airport staff only checks to make sure you’re following the airline and the TSA’s rules. So even if your gun is checked legally, you may be in violation of local laws once you reach your destination.

    For international travel, booking direct flights as much as possible minimizes the countries you pass through. Not to mention, it cuts down on the number of customs requirements that you have to deal with. This makes the whole process easier.

    You’ll need the have the customs rules of all countries you’ll be visiting. You’ll also need a US Customs Form 4457, which must be signed in person by a US customs official before you leave.

    US Customs Form 4457
    US Customs Form 4457

    This form allows you to bring your firearms back into the country without having to pay duty on them. And this is especially important for foreign-made guns. It can cover other foreign-made items as well and can be used multiple times — so hold on to it for future trips.

    You’ll want to get all this information together early so you have plenty of time to get it filled out properly before you leave, especially if you need a visa.

    Rules are subject to change. As a general rule, double-check regulations prior to flights. Never assume.

    Picking Up Your Gun From Baggage Claim

    Once you land, large gun cases checked as an individual piece of luggage rather than stored in checked baggage may have to be picked up with large or unusual items, like skis, instead of with other checked baggage.

    Usually, they’ll just come down the carousel with everything else, though.

    Pelican 1700 with DTA SRS
    Pelican 1700 with DTA SRS

    Why there’s no consistency in this, we’ll never know. But if your suitcase has come down the carousel and your guns haven’t, you may want to pop by the baggage office to see if they have it with the other weird items.

    Take a moment to check your case before leaving the airport to ensure it is still secure and nothing is missing. 

    If it’s been zip-tied it’s handy to have a pocket knife stashed in an easily-accessible pocket on your checked baggage so you can remove the zip tie. 

    at Amazon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

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    Final Thoughts

    So, to sum everything up:

    • Guns and ammunition both need to be in checked baggage
    • Store your gun unloaded in a hard case with a non-TSA approved lock
    • Using a solid container to store your ammunition is safer and easier
    • Be sure to declare your firearm
    • Know your airline’s rules
    • Know the laws of wherever you’re going

    That’s about it. Using this guide, you should be able to fly with your gun with relative ease, but when in doubt, contact your airline or the TSA directly.

    For international travel, refer questions to the local consulate or embassy of the country or countries you’re visiting.

    Want more tips? Check out the Brownells Daily Defense video below.

    Have you ever flown with your gun? Have any tips or tricks? Let us know in the comments below! Sometimes it’s easier to mail your ammo or guns to your final destination, take a look at How To Mail Guns (Legally)

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    50 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar

      So is the only thing needed to fly international with rifles/shotguns the Customs Form 4457 filled out prior to leaving the US? Import permit for New Zealand is pretty straight forward to get. Thanks

      April 16, 2023 11:26 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Taunted Traveler

      Consider revising the quoted statement below my writings. My ammunition was seized, oh wait! “Donated” to local law enforcement. This was left over 9mm loose ball Ammo as shipped by the manufacturer to the range in a heavy duty zip lock bag. I figured what harm could it be to store this bulk style zip lock bag of Ammo in a hard shell gasketed water tight lockable Harbor Freight container. Well a TSA supervisor demanded the key and behind closed doors without my presence they violated my handguns and ammunition packaging without law enforcement presence. Oh wait, it gets better! TSA called in the police to question and detain me because the TSA supervisor had a hard on to make my day hell. The supervisor tried everything he could to light my fuse and when I remained calm and yes sir - no sir everyone without a fight that sent him through the roof! He thought he found himself a red neck convict bearing a pistol permit. In the end I was escorted to the TSA checkpoint by this same supervisor who taunted me with threats and that I should expect upwards of a $12,000 fine for transporting loose Ammo in a locked box! You can’t make this story up! The quote…. “Shotgun shells and ammunition .75 caliber or less can be stored in the same hard case as a firearm (still in the container specifically for ammunition), but don’t have to be.“

      October 12, 2022 9:16 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      John B

      Can shotgun shells (in the original manufacturer cardboard package) be placed in the gun case with the gun? .... or do I need some sort of separate ammo box that is then placed in the gun case?

      October 5, 2022 2:48 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Do I need a CCW to fly with a firearm like to Florida for example?

      July 17, 2022 8:27 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Tyler Woods

      Since firearms are declared and inspected at check-in, is the case ever "stickered" as holding a firearm? That would eliminate the advantage of a disguised case. Several airports have been discovered and charged with operating firearms theft rings.

      July 8, 2022 7:32 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      This great article, but I am a looking to travel with just my carry gun. I was looking at the LifePod 2.0. It comes with a cable you can put around the inside frame or handle post inside the liner of the bag so the LifePod cannot just get grabbed out of the bag easily.

      Anyone have thoughts on that?

      June 21, 2022 3:54 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Michael Angel

      This is a thorough and useful article.

      FYI: Alaska Airlines allows up to 50 pounds of ammunition (packaged as described in this article), as long as all segments of your travel are on flights operated by Alaska Airlines or Horizon Air.

      May 4, 2022 12:18 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Bread man

      Hello, I plan on moving to Puerto Rico very soon.

      Does anyone know about disassembled firearms? What if I have just the upper (ar15) in a gun case with no bcg and no lower? Or disassembled lower?

      Its not considered a firearm right? But i would imagine id still need to declare it. Ill check around on TSA and airline websites. Thanks for any info!

      May 3, 2022 9:35 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Bread man

        Ya know what this was a dumb question i dont even know why I asked. An actual question i have is what else would they ask when you declare it? They wont ask for any sort of registration right? Or for a Firearms ID card?

        "United States Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 44, firearm definitions includes: any weapon (including a starter gun) which will, or is designed to, or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; the frame or receiver of any such weapon; any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; and any destructive device. As defined by 49 CFR 1540.5 a loaded firearm has a live round of ammunition, or any component thereof, in the chamber or cylinder or in a magazine inserted in the firearm.

        May 3, 2022 10:19 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Joe Brandon

      Don't use the advertised Master lock. A comb pick opens that just as fast as a key. Plenty of videos on th internet showing just how fast.

      May 2, 2022 4:52 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Lew Wickman

      So the traveling with a pistol or long gun. A word of caution when traveling by air. Almost EVERYONE misses this so no dumping on these folks. I lived in New York with the FAA for 15 years. I was in SYR. This tale did not HAPPEN to me but to a fellow who was on the same flight so I know it to be true. We were on a direct flight to SYR from Charlotte. SYR was fogged in bad. Runway vis was less than minimums, 200' and 1/2 mile vis, and with ILS Cat 1 we weren't getting in. The Cat II1 ILS at SYR was out and we were degraded to Cat 1. Not landing at SYR today, thank you very much. I ain't sweating it cause the airlines are REQUIRED to have enough fuel on boar to shoot the approach, fly the missed approach and divert to their back up field plus 45 minutes at normal cruise. BUT I digress. We divert to La Guardia. So what, you say. LOL! La Guardia is in New York City, Joe Stalin lives there I understand. Well, we land no sweat. Looks like we are going to have to overnight there until the first flight to SYR in the morning. The airlines are required to give you your baggage. That's right, they also reported to the NYC Police that there was a handgun in his luggage. LOL! Did you say "clown car, arriving!" You should have. Officer Friendly was waiting. Into the cuffs and into the back seat. Loud protestations to the contrary. Did he ever get his weapon back? I have no idea. I know he wasn't on the flight the next morning to ask him. So be cautious where they are going and NEVER argue with a man with a gun! Adios for now!

      October 1, 2021 3:58 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Rick Thoresen

      Is it advisable to check my Pelican 1170 pistol case as a stand alone item or place it in my checked luggage? This is about a space issue in my luggage. I've always placed it in my baggage but have had TSA officials completely empty my bag even though the pistol case was in full view when the bag was opened. Time consuming and irritating to say the least.

      August 17, 2021 3:14 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Rick McAllister

      Read through all the comments and didnt see anything about electronic sights and/or handgun mounted lights. Are these permitted…wondering more about potential issues with having batteries. Is there any insight concerning air travel with either of these mounted on a handgun? Thanks.

      July 22, 2021 7:29 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      I had a problem flying out of Las Vegas with my firearm. I pack small revolver specifically because I fly with expensive electronics that I need to pack properly and I don't want careless people behind the scenes breaking anything. That said, when I was flying out of Vegas the TSA guys made me give them my keys so they could take my luggage behind the scenes and go through it. I wish I would have had the law printed out where it says "§ 1540.111.c.2 (iv) The container in which it is carried is locked, and only the passenger retains the key or combination." However, the way the guy was talking it sounds like that wouldn't have made a difference.

      June 16, 2021 7:20 pm
      • Commenter Avatar

        Had this happen to me in Nashville once. I told the agent to kick rocks I would not give my key up and wouldn’t allow any inspection without my presence. He eventually gave up and my rifles showed up unscathed. I only knew because I read the statutes a dozen times before I left home.

        April 3, 2023 10:19 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      I may be slow but, Delta's "manufacturers" case? Specific to brand or just a case specifically for a weapon?

      May 19, 2021 11:55 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      What about CCW upon landing considering its concealed ? Does the local law inforcement check to make sure at the airport it’s legal ? I flew out of Seattle and during my time gone they made open carry illegal? How will that affect my return?

      March 1, 2021 7:39 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        David, PPT Editor

        I've never seen or heard of local PD doing checks at airports.

        If they made open carry illegal while you were gone, I would recommend not open carrying.

        March 2, 2021 6:07 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Good article. The info on the TSA locks and the recommendation for the Pelican 1200 case were extremely helpful. One recent change I noticed was that you MAY use TSA locks on your gun case, but you don't have to. Personally, I would NOT. Anyway, I recently flew from Florida to San Diego with a firearm, and returned by car. Since info is scarce and sometimes conflicting, I thought I'd share my experience.
      I didn't want any issues, so I emailed the Firearms Bureau at California DoJ for info. NEVER received a response. So my wife called the North San Diego PD. The sergeant she spoke with said they had no concerns as long as I complied with the regulations for transporting the firearm. He said my bag may be sent directly the the airline's Baggage Service Office, but it may also come off the carousel with all the others. If so, I should NOT open my bag in any public area at the airport. Instead, I needed to take my bag to the Baggage Service Office, inform the individual there that I flew with a declared firearm, and that I needed to inspect my bag to make sure my firearm was still in the bag. Then, I was to proceed directly to my transportation, and even though the weapon was in a locked case, he recommended stowing the bag in the trunk of the vehicle, and of course, to not remove the firearm from my bag until I arrived at my destination.
      He further advised that I bring a receipt for the firearm in the event anyone questioned me as to whether or not I had acquired it legally. He then gave us the number for the SD Harbor Police, as they were the Federal agency that has jurisdiction at the airport. Finally, he gave us his name and phone number, saying to call him in the event I ran into any problems.
      The call the the SD Harbor Police went the same way. They told us they didn't care as long as I followed proper procedures, and they confirmed everything the sergeant from the NSDPD told us.
      What actually happened was my bag was sent directly to the Baggage Service Office. I waited at the baggage carousel just in case to reduce the chance of someone stealing it, and when it was clear it wasn't coming off the carousel, I proceeded to the BSO. My bag was indeed sitting there.
      Now, remember that part of the TSA reg that says a bag CANNOT be marked in any way to indicate it contains a firearm? Well, there was a red tag on my bag that said "Return to BSO." I don't know when that was placed on my bag, as I didn't see the agent place it on there when I checked it (but he could have.) I guess it technically met the requirement since it didn't specify the bag had a firearm. Personally, I'm glad it went straight to the BSO so no thief had a chance to pinch my bag off the carousel. Anyway, I told the agent at the BSO that it was my bag, I had a declared firearm, and I wished to inspect the bag before I left. She only asked for ID before allowing me to inspect the bag. Once I ascertained the firearm was still there, I closed up my bag and departed. Aside from the usual TSA drill, being asked for my ID at the Baggage Service Office was the only question anyone asked. My weapon stayed locked in the case and in my bag during my stay, and I placed the bag in the trunk of the vehicle when I departed. Once safely at my first stop in Arizona, I discreetly loaded my mags and placed my firearm in my EDC holster for the rest of the drive. No issues whatsoever.
      Finally, I flew with a Springfield XD/.40 Sub-Compact, with only the flush 9-round mags to avoid any issues with their hi-cap magazine laws.
      I know this was long, but hopefully it will be helpful.

      August 29, 2020 9:12 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Does anyone know if there are rules about flying with firearms that you are not the owner of? My boyfriend is the owner. He's already at our destination and I would be bringing the firearms with me.

      August 8, 2020 4:14 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Travis Barrett

        There is no problem with that. I have done it many times, even internationally. They don't even ask.

        August 31, 2020 7:47 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Vernon Leonard

      A couple hints based on my travels. Maybe over kill, maybe not.

      I made some labels with my name and cell number and put them on the outside and inside of my case in case TSA wants to call me and check the gun. Or just write it on the case with a sharpie or other marker.

      I carry an extra set of locks in my bag. In Pre-TSA, I had an airport officer in a Not-Gun-Friendly state threaten to cut the locks off because I did not respond to the phone call fast to make sure the gun was unloaded. If he had cut the locks I would not have had a way to lock the case. I kind of think that was his intent.

      I only travel with hand guns so I usually use a Pelican 1170 case. But I put one of those smaller metal gun cases with the locking cable in my bag. A backup for the Pelican, but more for If I am in a state that requires locking case in a rental car.

      And to answer Dan, I always put the gun case in my big suitcase and declare it when you check in. Probably less chance of airline people stealing it. I usually try to use one of the locking cables to attach the case it to the metal frame of the suitcase. Not fool proof, but make it harder to steal the firearm.

      If it sounds like I have had a lot of trouble flying with a firearm, I really have not. The Pre-TSA airport officer was the only time where I really thought it was going bad. The TSA I have dealt with have always been profession, as long as you just follow the rules and don't try any shortcuts. The rules are pretty clear and Kat covered them very well.

      July 20, 2020 8:18 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Maybe I’m just a little slow on the draw here but I’m still not sure if I can put the approved hard case for a handgun in my regular suit case or if it has to go by itself?

      February 17, 2020 5:00 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Ted Lukawski

        Well, I am also confused. Does anyone know the answer to Dan’s question?

        June 7, 2020 2:16 pm
        • Commenter Avatar
          Richard H

          As a separate checked bag. If you think about it, it make sense. The purpose is to declare the weapon for inspection/special tagging. If you transport it inside of another checked bag then you are transporting a firearm without declaring it and leaving it for TSA to discover. While it may be a completely innocent mistake it's easier to just avoid these kinds of hassles. Active Self Protection has a great video about getting caught up in red tape while transporting firearms. It has been a painless process for me the 4 or 5 times I've done it for work, just involves an extra 5 to 15 minute wait for TSA to clear you on your way.

          June 25, 2020 4:22 pm
          • Commenter Avatar
            Richard H

            UPDATE: My wife just flew with her firearm and interestingly, for both the flight out and back, they (two different airlines) had her declare the firearm, tag it, and the put it in her checked bag. So I guess it is entirely possible for them to ask you to do that. I just had not had them ask me to do that on any of my work trips when I carry. Just wanted to share what we learned with the rest of y'all.

            June 30, 2020 10:20 am
      • Commenter Avatar

        In all of the airline specific rules that I looked at you have the option to place the gun case inside your checked bag or not. My opinion is that unless the gun case is for a long gun I prefer it to travel in my larger checked bag. That’s how I always travel with it. It’s larger, heavier and harder to steal.

        February 16, 2021 4:49 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Vince Anderson

      If you have a hard keyed case that also has a hand combination quick release, make sure you take the battery out. Batteries may be flagged as possible bomb material.

      January 23, 2020 5:13 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Kona Golden

      I've flown with a firearm many times. The MOST important thing to do is to flap your arms faster.

      December 8, 2019 7:01 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        David, PPT Editor

        It's true, we just tested it.

        December 9, 2019 10:46 am
        • Commenter Avatar
          Kona Golden

          Hope the landing was soft, David.
          With airline fees for oversized or over 50lb. baggage, on a few trips I actually send my gear UPS for less money than the carriers charge. No hassle, no waiting around inside the airport. Sometimes, I search ahead of time for a good sporting goods store nearby (Not Dick's) and just buy some ammo there. Ain't the internet great! Cheers.

          December 14, 2019 6:44 pm
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      Bill Green

      Took Delta to Nashville from Anchorage Alaska. The ticket counter and TSA bought my hard case in Alaska no problem. Nashville ticket counter refused it and wouldn't allow any work around. Had to catch a taxi to a sporting goods store and buy another one. Got back just in time. I was an extra hour early for the first check in so that was an aha moment for me. If you can pry your case open even a little bit, some ticket counters will refuse it.

      December 5, 2019 6:08 pm
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      Ralph A

      I would strongly recommend one additional step when transporting a pistol inside your checked baggage (in an approved hard sided, locked case). I run a flexible cable thru a lock on the hard sided Gun case and around the suitcases frame (some times thru the unzipped fabric). This prevents a “grab and run” when reaching into your checked baggage by any baggage handlers in the belly of the plane or in the terminal. This has occurred to friends of mine. Easy to do and costs under $20 total (lock and cable)

      December 5, 2019 5:08 pm
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      I have a few points and questions on this subject.
      1) In the past the declaration form was signed by the passenger and counter signed/stamped by the check in agent and then PUT INSIDE THE GUN CASE. This is the procedure shown in the TSA video at There is supposed to be no identification of any form on the baggage that it contained a firearm - no sticker, no secret code on the bag tag, no NOTHING. Has this been changed? Such outside tags scream STEAL ME.
      2) According to Delta Airlines, "All firearms checked as baggage must be picked up at the Baggage Service Office upon arrival at your final destination. ID will be required to claim your checked firearm". I understand that this MIGHT be the case with oversize cases, they wind up automatically with the skis, golf clubs, etc. Pickup required at the service office with ID indicates a violation of the "no identification" of the bag contents practice cited above.
      3) Locked cases will include those with combination locks. I used Halberton aluminum camera cases. The passenger is supposed to retain the key at all times but the case may be opened for inspection in the presence of the passenger who unlocks the case or gives the key temporarily to the agent. HOWEVER, with a combination, if you give it to the agent he then has possession of it after you leave the screening. Even if you offer to activate the combination (so they are not given it) they often refuse to let you touch the case. I have gone round and round with various agents on this (and other firearm issues). Furthermore, this situation would appear to EXCLUDE TSA-recognized locks even though their use is approved on the above web site. The universal master keys are held by TSA (and possibly others) and can be used any time and at any location inside a TSA secure area or by an unscrupulous agent.

      What is the experience with this? How can the combination lock situation be handled? What are your thoughts on all this.

      Bob in Wyoming

      September 15, 2019 10:14 am
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      Michael Vialpando

      Hey Guys, I fly a lot for work but never with firearms. I am flying southwest this weekend and want to know if I can put my soft sided gun bag inside my hard sided golf travel bag, and then lock the whole golf bag. Is that okay? I have many soft sided cases, but no hard sided cases at this time that will fit 3 rifles. Thanks!

      August 26, 2019 9:59 am
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        David, PPT Editor

        I'm not sure, the best way would be to ask Southwest directly - they should be able to give you exact information!

        August 26, 2019 11:15 am
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      The fact that my luggage with declared and screened firearms comes up the normal baggage claim carousel is idiotic and ludicrous. These should be picked up at a manned location and positive ID required. That TSA/ATF etc. do not require this is insane. No airports verify claim checks anymore so why give them too?

      August 14, 2019 3:37 am
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        It’s actually a good thing as it prevents singling out the bag/container as containing a firearm and encouraging theft. I put my handgun in a hard case inside my suitcase and it works extremely well.

        December 6, 2019 6:01 am
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      Going to Alaska on American Airlines. Can we put a pistol and rifle in same case?

      May 19, 2019 6:16 pm
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        Jack Doyle

        There is no limit to the number or type of firearms (rifles/shotguns/pistols) per case. Different firearm types may be in the same case as long as each type is properly packed.

        Cut and pasted the above from Alaska Airlines, Special Baggage. Transporting Firearms section of their website.

        August 1, 2019 5:55 pm
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      Scott F.

      I have flown dozens of times with multiple firearms for competitive shooting. I always use a pelican case with my own keyed locks. I have flown with well over 11 lbs of ammo and never been questioned. I think if you have your stuff packaged looking professional they won't flag you. The trickiest part is every airport and airline has their own little quirks. Just give yourself a little extra time and you'll be fine. The hardest part is keeping everything under 50lbs to avoid extra charge. I have had many TSA agents look inside my cases and say WOW, looks like you know what you're doing! I fly mostly Delta and have never used an original manufacturers case. Spend the $ and get a pelican and customize the foam for what you want to bring and lock it at every point that can be locked.

      January 30, 2019 8:37 pm
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        Hi Scott,

        Question for you since you said you fly delta, if I say fly in to Atlanta but then catch a connecting flight to FL, will I have to redeclare the firearm in Atlanta? or will they just see it is declared already and transfer my luggage as usual onto my next flight?

        August 19, 2019 2:48 pm
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          They will transfer the luggage as normal.

          December 6, 2019 6:04 am
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      I just did my first cross-country, multiple-stop, multiple-airline trip with firearms.

      In Seattle, Alaska Air had me sign an "unloaded" tag and taped it to the pelican case. Then I had to carry my bag to a TSA check who did a search and swab of my luggage. Finally I carried my bag to the oversized bag drop off.

      In Salt Lake City, I just picked up my bags and left.

      Leaving SLC, American Airlines questioned me the hardest, but then just dropped the "unloaded" tag into my luggage on top of my case. I personally carried my bag to the oversized/special luggage drop off and waited for it to go through xray, then I was good to go.

      In Charlotte, NC, I picked up my bags and left.

      Leaving Charlotte, the American agent was a bit easier, but then I waited to meet with a TSA agent who took me to a room behind the check-in counter, had me unlock my case and examined it. This made me the most concerned, because I had two sidearms in one case (no problem), and because I had my daily carry ammunition packed in one of the magazines instead of a box. He had no problem with that either - he picked it up and we spoke about it. He was only looking for loose ammunition. He also complimented the case and the locks, commenting on how often he saw folks trying to use manufacturer's cases that were pry-able or flimsy and the flexible cable locks or TSA-compliant locks. He picked up but did not attempt to work the slides on either sidearm, saying he would need a firing chamber to do so safely. So the only way he could have possible confirmed they were unloaded was by weight/feel. I asked if other airports had such chambers, and he said he wasn't aware. Afterwards we re-secured everything, then he had me watch him carry the bag to the luggage check to confirm it was in the system. This check-in took the longest, but it was the most educational and informative.

      Back in Seattle, I was startled when baggage claim took my luggage off the carousel before I reached it, and insisted I show ID. I lost my temper a bit on this one. "Its policy because there's a firearm" I was told, but they were unable to show me where it was written down. My retort was that my ski equipment costs more than my firearm, but they don't require ID for my ski bag, and if they wanted to see my luggage receipt fine, but they had no right to my ID. They also couldn't explain how it could be American Airlines policy in Seattle but not in Charlotte. I'm writing a letter to the airline to complain about this further and will follow up with Eric if he's interested.

      All told it was an interesting experience that I'll probably repeat now that I know more. The only consideration is that it was a trip I could have done with only carry-on if I hadn't been bringing a firearm with me.

      November 7, 2018 3:22 pm
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      After an hour on hold with United airlines they said I could carry 11 lbs of ammo on each checked bag- not 11 lbs per individual person .

      August 14, 2018 8:19 am
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      I recently flew Delta. They REQUIRE TSA locks. I complied. When I arrived at destination my revolver was damaged. My bag had been inspected because I use TSA ziplocks to verify. I had to spend a half a day finding and going to a gunsmith. It turns out the gun was probably opened to check for ammo but slammed back into the frame thus causing the cylinder to become out of sync.

      What is one to do about TSA required locks & TSA damage ??

      August 4, 2018 12:48 am