Traveling with firearms may take a little extra preparation, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. A little research ahead of time will save you delays and costly headaches on the way to the tournament.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires that you declare all firearms at the airport ticket counter during check-in (rather than at a curb counter) and that the firearm be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container. If you are at a larger airport, the chances are good that an airline employee will notice you and your locked case, and shepherd you directly to the oversized luggage counter. Simply state “I would like to declare a firearm,” and the agent will ask you to open the case to verify the gun is unloaded. A form will be provided for you to sign that will be placed in the case. You might want to stick around after check-in, just in case TSA needs access to your case.
As for ammunition, TSA allows for placement in the same container as your gun; some airlines do not. Consequently, your planning should include a review of the TSA restrictions for “special items,” your airline and even the terminal’s policies. Pay special attention to any weight restrictions.
Make things easy on yourself and be organized. Keep your ammunition in the original packaging, and handloads should be in a plastic box. Double check and make sure no loose rounds have strayed under the foam of your case. Make sure that all the holes on your case are filled with tight-fitting locks that only you have the key or combination for. If TSA needs to perform additional inspection of your case, they will ask you to unlock it. Generally, a large hard-sided rifle case will have four matching holes meant for the locks. Fill them all!
Finally, make sure your case is in good condition with locks that fit well. TSA requires that the container your firearms are in while traveling is completely secure.
Below are five great cases that will keep your firearms in safe and secure condition while traveling to your next match.
GunCruzer Quick Draw Universal 6-Pack
Stores up to six handguns and 12 magazines while safely protecting them from shock and vibration. The crush-proof case comes with cushioned grips, reinforced padlock protectors, is watertight and dust proof. Measures 20.25 x 16.93 x 8.78 inches, the 6-Pack can handle nearly any semi-automatic pistol that’s longer than 7 inches in overall length. Comes with an unconditional lifetime guarantee. $289. (800) 440-9925; www.casecruzer.com
Cabela’s Armor Xtreme Dual Pistol Case
Updated Cabela’s cases have room for two pistols in injection molded, high-impact resin built to keep out dust and the elements. They use a pressure release valve for pressure equalization at altitude, two powder-coated steel latches for security, and a collapsible handle for convenient carrying. Egg crate foam for cushioning lining the interior is standard. Sized at 16½ x 14 x 5 inches, the Armor Extreme Dual Pistol Case meets airline requirements. $80. (800) 237-4444; www.cabelas.com
Franzen ArmLoc II Magnum Handgun Safety System
Designed for durability with Kevlar threading used for strength. A double locking system, personalized combination lock and a high-intensity nightlight are built in for safety and convenience. Its “one touch” feature provides quick access in the home or hotel room. Meets FAA requirements for commercial airline travel and includes wall and bed frame mounts. $115. (800) 405-2298; www.franzenint.com
Boyt Harness Hard-Sided/Soft-Case Combo
The combination hard-side/soft-case bag from Boyt Harness is padded with removable, multi-compatible double magazine pouches. Accommodates a single rifle with or without optics. The hard case has collapsible handles and a padlock-compatible molded lockable hasp. Manufactured from heavy duty nylon, these case combos are available in three colors: black, desert tan, and green. $353 to $386. (800) 550-2698; www.boytharness.com
Pelican Storm Rifle Case
Pelican Storm cases feature six press-and-pull latches, two folding handles, in-line wheels, pressure-release valve and four lockable hasps. The form interior is specially designed for bolt-action rifles with optics and accessories. Watertight, they are TSA-approved and are guaranteed for life with a lifetime warranty. Built from HPX resin, the exterior dimensions are 53.8 x 16.5 x 6.7 inches. Available in black or olive colors. $290. (800) 542-7344; www.pelican.com
Helpful to have: The Traveler’s Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States
Written and updated each year by J. Scott Kappas, Esq., this reference will keep you current on firearms laws each time you cross a state border. Includes important changes by state legislatures and pending legislation. An essential guide for anyone traveling with their firearms, the 2017 edition had over 100 changes from the previous year. $15. (800) 707-4020; www.gunlaws.com/travel.htm
Carroll Pilant, Sierra Bullets: “I color code my primers with a Magic Marker. I was on my way to Brazil for the IHMSA match and TSA dumped all my ammo into a pile to weigh it. If they hadn’t all been the same loads, I would have been in trouble.”
Bob Pew, NRA Legislative Analyst and FFL holder: “It has become harder to ship a gun to yourself because the carriers will not take those shipments. They are legal, but UPS and FEDEX have internal rules against it. Shipping to an FFL will always work, but you have to meet any local requirements to get your guns, like a waiting period if there is one. Frankly, this is more complicated than it used to be and shipping to yourself is not really simpler than taking the firearm on a commercial flight.”
Dr. Norman Wong, Master Bullseye Competitor: “I travel with a portable luggage scale. On one trip, we were within the weight allowance departing, but were overweight returning. There were heavy fines for those darn souvenirs, which could have been shifted into the carry-on bags.”
Dave Sevigny, Pro Shooter: “Make sure your baggage claim stickers are printed for the correct destination with your name. I have stopped agents more than once for placing someone else’s tags on my luggage. Also, I place my cleaning supplies in a Tupperware container for easy viewing.”