Written by: Greg Ellifritz
I travel quite a bit. Most of my adventures take place in third world countries where I can’t carry my gun. But whenever I travel anywhere in the United States, I bring a couple pistols…even when traveling by air.
I flew out west for a camping trip with some friends a few weeks ago. As I was going through the airline firearms check procedures, it struck me that many of my readers might not know that it is legal to carry guns in checked airplane baggage. It’s really a simple process. Here’s what you have to do:
– Unload the guns (most airlines have a limit of two-three guns maximum)
– Place the unloaded guns into a locked, hard sided pistol case
-Place the hard-sided case into your locked (with TSA-approved lock) suitcase
-When you check your bag, inform the ticket agent that you would like to declare a firearm. Don’t say “I have a gun” or something equally stupid. Say something like, “I have an unloaded pistol in my checked bag that I need to declare.”
– The ticket agent will give you a little orange form to sign and may ask to inspect the gun to see that it is unloaded (depends on the individual airport and airline).
– You place the orange form into your gun case and lock everything up. You are good to go!
It adds less than five minutes to your check in time. In more than 15 years of flying with guns, I’ve never had any issues at all.
A couple of other things you need to know….
– Ammunition is limited to 27 lbs and must be carried in a box or container that is designed to hold ammunition. Some people keep their magazines loaded and cover them with caps to qualify as a closed container. I just unload my mags and carry the ammo in a factory cartridge box. I keep the box separate from the gun case, but TSA regulations say that it is OK to keep the gun and ammo together.
– If you carry pepper spray, it must be in a four-ounce or smaller container and placed in your checked bag as well. I usually carry mine inside a ziplock bag because canisters can leak during the pressure changes the aircraft experiences.
I always carry two guns. Two guns in the same case don’t take up any more room than one. I like knowing I have a spare in case one breaks or is somehow damaged. It also gives me the ability to arm a competent travel companion for backup in a dangerous situation. “Two is one and one is none.”
If you are traveling to a state that has reciprocity with your CCW, why not take your guns? Even if you don’t think you’ll need them at your destination, it doesn’t hurt to have them along. Imagine vacationing in Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina hit. Wouldn’t you like to have a gun if you were subjected to that chaos? What if you get stranded in your travels after another 9/11- style terror attack stops airline travel? If you have to rent a car and drive across the country to get home, wouldn’t you want your pistol?
Some things are out of our control. It’s smart to be prepared, even if you are visiting an area where you don’t think you’ll “need” your gun…..
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