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How to Fly With a Gun

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AND BOY ARE MY ARMS TIRED!

Traveling to exotic and distant destinations like Des Moines, Iowa or Bentonville, Arkansas can be fun and exciting. These are the destinations of choice that can fill out your Instagram “living your best life” feed. It’s the stuff your followers will eat up. But just because you are a jet setter does not mean that you have to be left unprepared. As an every day carry professional, I have carried CCW for over half of my life. It’s part of my daily life, just like putting on pants. And when legal I also choose to do so when I travel out of my own home state. Wait, you carry a firearm with you when you fly? Why, yes. Yes I do.

Traveling with a firearm can seem intimidating but if you know what you are doing it is easy as pie. First thing you need to know is that unless you are an Air Marshal, you cannot carry or have a weapon of any kind beyond the screening area.

Pre trip check list

  • Research

Before I take any trip, one of the first things I do is research the state that I am traveling to. The biggest thing I want to know is if I am legally allowed to carry a firearm with me at all. The USCCA has some of the most complete and up to date information available for us everyday carry professionals. The USCCA interactive reciprocity map allows you to punch in your info into and see the rest of the US.

https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/resources/ccw_reciprocity_map/al-gun-laws/

Remember to make sure to do this every time you travel, since the USCCA is constantly updating the information you can learn about any updates to your destination state’s laws.

  • Safe

Make sure to get some type of firearm locker that is appropriate to the size firearm you are going to travel with. When I travel with a pistol I use the Snapsafe XL lockbox. It is small enough for me to throw into a small checked suitcase, but large enough to fit everything from a 1911 to my Hellcat pistol. I chose the dial combination version as to not have to ever worry about batteries.

  • Decorate my bags

Who doesn’t love arts and crafts? Basically what I am talking about is taking your luggage and adding tags with your information and something that will help you distinguish your bags from all the others. On my bags I have a bright pink luggage tag with all of my current Information, and some lime green tassels. Even from far away, I can easily pick out my bags.

  • Lockable luggage

You want to try to have as many layers of security as possible. So I use the hard sided TSA lock approved Samsonite suit cases. I prefer the hard sided cases to lessen the chance of the bag being ripped open. The zipper locks are built into the suitcase and require no batteries or keys.  This gives me one less thing to worry about losing.

  • Ammo

Each airline will have different rules on the amount or weight of ammo they allow. You should check with your specific airline to get all the current regulations. Now for the rules that don’t change: The ammo must be in a separate container. This container cannot be in the lock box with the firearm. The firearm lock box and ammo box can be in the same suitcase, but must be in separate containers. I just use the factory ammo box that the ammo came in and have never had a problem. I also only carry the exact amount of ammo for the handgun I am carrying. So for my Hellcat Pro, I am carrying 16 rounds in the 20 round box. Save the weight since some airlines are sticklers.

  • Disassemble and double check

To make my trip easier, I personally field strip my pistol. I do this for a couple reasons. First, if they need to see the firearm at the ticket counter, they can tell from a glance that it is unloaded. Then in the X-ray, they see a disassembled firearm which hopefully raises less suspicion. This is also the time that I double and triple check my carry on luggage, purse, or backpack to make sure they contain no ammo, knives, or any of my grenades. Leave them at home! I have been though the airport where they have to double check my backpack since I also use it for range use. Trust me you don’t want to have to explain ammo.

At the ticket counter counter (ticket agent)

  • Early bird gets the worm

As a “professional” traveler, I always like to show up extra early for each of my flights. This is especially important when traveling with a firearm. It’s better to have that extra insurance of time in case you run into any issues.

  • Act Accordingly

This is the time to be the quiet professional. In over 20 years flying with firearms I have never had a rude person when it came to checking in firearms. This is because a smile and good attitude go a long way. Make sure to use a good clear voice and don’t use any extra verbiage than needed, “I need to declare a firearm please.” Make sure to have your ID card and ticket available for the ticket agent. Be prepared. Don’t be one of those travelers that has to waste time looking for stuff.

  • Firearms Declaration Form

The ticket agent will give you a firearms declaration form. Go ahead and fill out the information that is needed on the form. This is where you certify who the firearm belongs to and that it is unloaded. At this time, the experience can be different based on the ticket agent and/or airline policy. There have been times where the ticket agent would like me to open the lock box to inspect, and other times they have asked that I leave it closed. I have had times where they want to put the declaration form inside my lock box, other times they will tape it to the outside. Once the ticket agent is satisfied, one last time set your lock box then insert it into your check on baggage. I will then lock my suitcase. After that, the bag goes to the back. In Las Vegas especially, it is airport policy to ask you to hang around for 20 minutes near the ticket counter until your bag has made it though X-ray. (See, showing up early helps you not to have to rush). Now get though security, the pat downs, poking and prodding and head on over to your gate. Sit back, relax, and have a libation if that’s your thing. Flying can be stressful.

At your final destination it can go one of two ways:

You get your luggage as normal at the carousel or you may have to pick it up at the sky cap. I have had both experiences so make sure you can adapt easily. All luggage looks the same after a while, so making yours unique makes it easy for you to stand in one spot by the carousel and see your luggage from afar. My trick is to pick a spot far enough back away from the scrum of passengers fighting for luggage but in an area where I can see the deposit chute so I know exactly when my bag hits the carousel and I can make sure no one picks up my bag.

Once I have my bag, I will move away from the crowd and unlock my suitcase just to make sure my lock box is included. Now is not the time to completely remove it and assemble/load.  Please wait until you leave the airport. If you traveled with something obviously containing a firearm, like a tactical pelican stye case, you may have to go to the airline’s baggage customer service sky cap area. I have been asked in the past to show my baggage claim ticket and ID. This is good since I would rather not have someone have access to my sensitive cargo.

Once I am out of the airport proper and in a private location I will load and make ready to enjoy the rest of my trip. This is where the research you did prior goes a long way to know where you can and cannot legally carry your CCW in a different state. If you are an every day carry professional like I am, you try to always be prepared. Just because you travel does not mean you have to be any less prepared. With just a little bit of work, you too can travel with your firearms.

Have safe and legal travels.

James “The XDMAN” Mr UnPewFessional himself!

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Lawrence Madden

    January 16, 2023 at 6:57 pm

    What about a holster? Can that be in carryon, or does it need to be in checked bag? Can you wear it on your belt?

  2. Greg Muns

    January 16, 2023 at 7:48 pm

    See: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/transporting-firearms-and-ammunition
    Ammunition can absolutely be in same lockbox as the weapon. Some airlines allow loaded mags, some require ammo to be in original container. But TSA does not mandate ammo be in a separate box…

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