Firearm Transportation and Airports


December 22, 2006, 06:19 PM
Just flew in from Long Beach California to JFK Airport in NYC with my 12 gauge shotgun. This was my first time flying and it was a breeze!

I presented my shotgun in a locked hard case and a seperate locked container with ammo to the woman behind the counter and clearly stated to her what was in each container. She asked for my key so that TSA could inspect the case, I provided it, asking if I could be present for the inspection. She said she would ask and took my 2 cases to the back. She came out a moment later saying I wont be allowed to be present for the inspection, I said OK. A few minutes later she returned with my key, confirmed that everything was OK and I was off to the airport to wait for my flight. No sweat!

Upon my arrival, my hard case came out on the baggage claim carosel along with my locked box of ammo next. No sweat!

I hope everyone here has as little effort as I did transporting their firearms during their holiday travels!

Merry Christmas and by the way, Santa Claus owns a 1911! :neener:

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Hank Zudd
December 23, 2006, 05:03 AM
back to Tx from kali, I was moving a Walther P-22 out of state that was on record as having to be altered to prevent it from being an "assualt weapon" by caldoj: (threaded barrel) anyway, checked it, ect. no sweat. 30 min from landing in Austin, one of the stews brought me a note asking if I was FAM or LEO? I didn't snap at first, then figured it out & told her no, I just checked something. Seems I was coded on their mainfest as having a gun, but I guess they forgot to tell them it was in the checked baggage. Nothing came of it but it was somewhat strange. Thought I was gonna have to put a sleeper hold or atomic wedgie on some terrorist.:neener:

December 23, 2006, 07:42 AM
I think the key is that you were using two fairly large airports and if I was guessing I'd say you got a ticket agent that had been around awhile. The thing that seems to cause the most trouble (IMHO) is just plain ignorance of the rules. If you asked the average person if it was legal to take a gun on an airplane in checked baggage I'd bet that 95% of the public (including gun owners) would tell you that you couldn't. That is the pool that the airlines are drawing their employee's from. Now, you add in the fact that not everyone is trained or pays attention during their training, throw in some regular business travelers who treat the ticket agents like their dogs and you get an employee who can be on a power trip.

Just my experiences! :)

I've had my best luck looking for middle aged women to check-in with. They seem to be willing to ask for guidance if they don't know the rules. It's hit or miss though.

Glad you made it so easily!

Have a good one,

PS - I worked at an airport for a few years back in the mid-late 80's in SD and it was always cool to watch the pheasant hunters come in en-masse with their shotguns in the fall. Never a problem with checking guns in or out of the airports in SD. :)

December 23, 2006, 08:42 AM
You did fine except for one thing. You *never* hand *anyone* your key or give them your combination. Federal law requires that only *you* maintain possession of any key or combination. You can unlock it for them, but you also relock it for them.

What if you handed her your key, they go in the back, and don't relock your case? Who's on the line if your firearm gets stolen?

Here's the link to the actual code:

Suggest anyone flying prints that out and has it ready in case you need it - be polite but firm and remember that this is the actual federal law.

December 23, 2006, 09:06 AM
This past March my wife and I flew to Florida for a short vacation and I took my 1885 High Wall and a North American .22 mag revolver (I have a Florida permit). I called the airline and checked Homeland Secutity web site and did everything exactly as required to eliminate any hassles. The inspection of the gun case took but two minutes but the conversation with the inspector was interesting as he was a avid shooter and we talked about this High Wall with the target sights. I was handed my boarding pass and noticed a heavy black line which was not on my wife's pass. At the boarding pass inspection line I was asked to "follow me" and I was throughly searched. I was not concerned as I had nothing to hide. The agents thanked me for my cooperation and that was that.
The return trip from Tampa was a bit different, the inspection of the gun case was simply opening it, they looked at it and ran it through the x ray machine. They never asked for my boarding pass and my wife and I went through just the same as the other passengers. No problems.
The ticket agents and the TSA agents knew what they were doing so it was not a problem. I did find out latter that I was given the "full treatment" at Hartford because it was my first time traveling with firearms and the casual treatment at Tampa was the normal after your name is on the "firearms travel list", whatever that is.
The question of permits for the handgun never came up and I really don't think that they care.

December 24, 2006, 12:39 PM
You did fine except for one thing. You *never* hand *anyone* your key or give them your combination. Federal law requires that only *you* maintain possession of any key or combination. You can unlock it for them, but you also relock it for them.

Absolute agreement on this point. Whenever I transport firearms, I always make sure that I have BOTH a printed copy of the TSA firearms regulations and the airline's own regulations. You'd be surprised at how many of the inspecting folks don't know their own regulations.

My experience has varied from airport to airport and between terminal to terminal.

Experience #1: LAX (Los Angeles International) to Podunk, Louisiana, Northwest Airlines. Declared firearms at check-in (Curbside guy asked if I wanted to check-in there, but just held up the locked gun case and smiled. "Oh, firearms, huh?" Yep. Gotta check in at the counter.) Opened case for the airline employee, signed the orange "I promise it's not loaded" form and relocked the case. TSA sent it through the X-Ray and nothing more happened. Podunk airport just returned it on the regular carousel, but it was such a small airport, that I didn't care.

Experience #2: Return from Podunk to LAX, Northwest again. Podunk airport clerk called in a supervisor because he thought I had too much ammo (in the locked case and in original boxes). Showed the supervisor Northwest's own regulations allowing for 11 pounds of ammo, and reasonably pointed out that the five boxes I had was well under the limit. Passed fine. Gun case came out at LAX on the special handling carousel.

Experience #3. LAX back to Podunk via Continental. Same procedure at check-in and all was fine, but the TSA officious young wanna-be insisted on a personal inspection of the case. I said OK, and then he asked for my key and said that he'd be right back with my case. WRONG! I once again had to whip out the printed regulations and I explained to him that he was welcome to look inside, but I had to be present. He sulked away and came back with a supervisor, who confirmed that I was correct. He still insisted on unlocking the case himself. Well, as long as I was standing right there, I didn't have too much of a problem with him doing the unlocking, so I handed him my key ring with about twenty keys on it. I pointed out the correct two, then watched him struggle for about two minutes to get the case open. (One of the locks is balky.) Heh heh, I then offered to help. :evil: After that, no problem.

Experience #4. Dallas to LAX via American. One gun case, two cats, each in her own carrier. At the check-in desk, they loaded the cats, gun case and my suitcase onto a flatbed cart, and we all went to the TSA office down the hall. At it turned out, during the long drive to the Dallas airport, one of the cats had to pee. Although the super-absorbent material wicked it away so the cat was comfortable, the whiz triggered the sensor for explosive material. (Probably the ammonia present in cat whiz.) Cat had to be removed from the carrier, and the carrier hand examined by a supervisor. An "exception" was entered into the TSA log. Cat was returned to the carrier. The gun case examination went much more smoothly. :p

However, in LAX, the gun case came out on the normal luggage carousel, which didn't make me happy, as I was trying at the same time to figure out where the cats were. But, in the end, all turned out well.

Moral of the story: It depends. Know the regulations, and you'll be fine.

PS. I love carrying a full-sized gun case through LAX. Some of the looks I get are absolutely priceless...

December 24, 2006, 02:02 PM
Cacique500 and Typhoon THANK YOU for that link, I will print this page out immediately, you guys are spot on. Thank you for your careful thoughts and time! Merry Christmas! :D

EDIT: Is it Section 2 (IV) that I tell them? ( The container in which it is carried is locked, and only the passenger retains the key or combination.)

December 28, 2006, 12:28 AM
Sorry for the delayed response. It's been an interesting holiday.

I didn't quite get the question.

Please elaborate or send me a PM.


December 29, 2006, 01:50 AM
Ok so you guys say that federal law states I should never hand anyone my key or give my combination because the federal law requires that only I maintain possession of it. I understand this but I want to be sure so:

1) My question for you guys is that in the link you posted what section applies to this? It obviously appears that it is Section 2 (IV) that states "The container in which it is carried is locked, and only the passenger retains the key or combination." So is this the actual text of the Federal law OR is this paraphrased OR an interpretation of the law? Its weird that it dosen't say anything about the owner possessing the key during inspection, etc. Perhaps I am looking too deep into this, I just want to be as prepared as possible. TIA! I fly tomorrow afternoon.

2) Where did the firearm inspection take place for you guys in your past experiences? In the public in front of the checkin counter? Behind closed doors with TSA/Security?

December 29, 2006, 03:15 AM
I just flew from Nashville, TN to Portland, ME over the holidays, transporting two pistols, a suppressor, and an 870 AOW with me.

The TSA agents in Nashville were awesome! I knew they'd want to inspect the guns, particularly the AOW, when they saw the 14" bbl through the X-ray. So, I hung around, waiting for it. They let me stand there and watch as they inspected the case, after I explained to them that I am a manufacturer and that the weapon was an ATF registered weapon, built for police use. No problems whatsoever.

The thugs in Portland were the complete opposite. Not only did they not allow to enter the inspection area, he got snippy when I placed my arms on top of the little divider wall, telling me that I had to be on the opposite side of the wall from their little fiefdom. My elbows were protruding into his domain, 3 feet above the table. Yeah, my elbows are going to magically reach out and pose a threat to you! Then, he had to call a supervisor to make sure I was allowed to transport ammo. Umm, yeah, up to 11 pounds, as long as it's in the proper containers. (It was all in the original packaging.) Then, they swabbed several jars of gourmet mustards I had bought while there in Maine. What did he think it was, mustard gas? Arrgh, I'll never fly through Portland International Jetport again if I can avoid it.

December 29, 2006, 06:22 AM
Just flew home from Sacramento to Denver with a firearm on Frontier. Had a combo lock on the case. Ticketing agent asked to see firearm, showed ticketing agent than weapon was clear, signed silly orange ticket, put ticket in guncase, locked guncase, put guncase back in suitcase.

Was told by ticketing agent that TSA would come find me if they needed to open the case. Small airport, nowhere to go but the gate, so wouldn't be much of a problem but it didn't come up.

Slick as pig snot.

December 29, 2006, 09:00 AM
Sorry for the delay in responding...Holidays and all that ;)

The link I posted and the one you reference in your post is the actual federal law...not an interpretation.

2 (iv) is the correct part that you should reference if they give you any hassle.

Also note that if you go to TSA's guidelines it says that "it is preferred that the passenger give up their key or combination" or something to that effect...contrary to Fed Law.

My inspections have taken place in back rooms as well as out in the open (seems to usually be a TSA oversize baggage area or something to that effect).

Just keep a copy of the ECFR with need to whip them out unless you get into any issues. Some of the guys know the regs...some don't. Bottom line is don't give up your key/combo and DO NOT let the TOUCH your firearm...period no exceptions. Have a safe flight!

December 29, 2006, 03:25 PM
THanks guys, im in the airport right now. Everything went smooth, however I had to open my case two times. Once at the checkin desk with 2 officers present, then again when TSA took the bags. A small inconvenience, but I didnt mind it at all. :)

Thanks folks!


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