How to Fly with a Gun: Everything You Need to Know

Pelican Flyer  |  May 15, 2020

Boarding a domestic flight with a gun in your checked bag is your right as an American, but for your safety and security, you need to know how to do it in accordance with the law. Preparing for a trip with a firearm is fairly straightforward. You just need to know the rules set by the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and make sure you have the proper gear so you don’t get turned away at security.

Know the TSA Rules

The TSA is clear and transparent about what it demands from those traveling with firearms. Despite this, over 4,000 guns are discovered in carry-on bags at airport security checkpoints across America each year, with 86 percent of those firearms being loaded. Showing up at security with a concealed firearm in your backpack or carry-on is not a good idea and it can result in an arrest or civil penalty. Instead, carefully follow the TSA’s firearm guidelines.

Here’s what the TSA says about transporting guns and ammo, in a nutshell:

  • Your firearm must be packed and unloaded in locked, hard-sided pistol cases in your checked baggage. Never attempt to carry on a firearm.
  • Never give the key or combination of your gun case to anyone except for a TSA agent who expressly requests it (always provide it if an agent asks).
  • Never attempt to carry on any ammunition or firearm parts, including magazines, clips, bolts or firing pins. They may be placed in checked baggage.
  • Always declare any firearms, ammunition and firearm parts when checking your baggage. Note that your airline may have its own rules and limitations.
  • Ammunition, magazines and clips must be transported within the same locked, hard-sided gun case as your unloaded firearm. Do not use magazines or clips when packing ammunition unless they completely enclose the ammunition.
  • If you’re traveling abroad, you need to inquire about regulations with U.S. Customs and Border Protection before making any travel plans. You may need a permit or expressed, written consent to take your gun into another country.
  • Remember, gun laws and regulations change all the time, so always check the TSA website close to the time you leave to ensure that your information is up to date.

The Best Travel Gun Cases

Not all travel gun cases are created equal, nor are all gun cases in compliance with the regulations of the TSA. In fact, the administration is very specific about what kinds of cases you can use to transport guns via air — hard-sided, locked and not easily opened. What’s more, the TSA expressly states that locked cases “that can be easily opened are not permitted.” Therefore, you need to spend some time finding the right rifle or pistol case for your specific firearm.

On top of TSA guidelines, you also need to think about protecting your gun, because we’ve all seen the way luggage gets thrown around on the tarmac. All Pelican gun cases have unique designs that use ultra-protective foam and rugged hard exteriors to shield your expensive firearms from impact, dust, water and damage. You really don’t need to worry about quality protection when you go with a Pelican case.

Here are three of our best gun cases for air travel.

Pelican 1170 Protector Case

pelican consumer blog handgun pistol sidearm case

Ideal for a single pistol and magazine, this case was designed to provide watertight, crushproof and dustproof protection so your gun makes it to your destination unscathed. It’s compatible with the 1506TSA TSA Lock to ensure that it complies with the TSA’s firearm case lock regulations.

Pelican V600 Vault Case

pelican consumer blog gun foam travel hard case

At almost double the size of the 1170, the V600 Vault Case is an excellent gun case for traveling with multiple firearms, accessories and parts. It has five layers of protective foam and a high-impact, polymer shell to keep it safe and secure on long trips. It’s also compatible with the 1506TSA TSA Lock.

Pelican V730 Vault Tactical Rifle Case

pelican consumer blog double rifle ar15 case

If you’re looking for a reliable, TSA-friendly rifle case, the V730 is a very smart choice. It offers enough room for two rifles (plus ammo and parts) and has four stainless steel lock hasps to ensure extra security during transport. Another great choice is the 1750 Protector Long Gun Case. It includes a 3-piece foam set, wheels for easy transportation, and fold-down handles for easy storage. Equip and lock it with padlocks to ensure total compliance and peace of mind. Once the TSA inspects your case at check-in, you should be able to use any padlock. Just in case make sure to check with the TSA and local authorities before flying with your gun.

Bottom Line: Follow the Law

Despite the seemingly stringent regulations, hundreds of thousands of Americans travel with guns each year without incident. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t take your legal firearms with you on your trips, so long as you’re able to closely comply with all the rules and regulations in place that keep you and your fellow passengers safe in flight.

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