Flying with guns, or, how to keep the TSA from keeping your XD

  1. Editor
    Last week the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) took 49 firearms off passengers headed to their planes of which 44 were loaded and 23 had rounds chambered. One of these was a beautiful XD (M) taken from a passenger in Charlotte, North Carolina. As you move through life, you often have to travel. Travel, of course, occasionally involves flying in commercial airliners. Here are some tips and tricks for doing so with that favorite gun in your life.

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    (The Charlotte XDM, now in TSA hands)

    How often does this happen?

    Well, according to stats maintained by the sometimes sad and sometimes entertaining (if you have a dry sense of humor) blog ran by the TSA, they picked up about a half dozen guns from carry-on bags and passengers every day last year, for a total of about 2,200 guns in all of 2014.

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    Why would you fly with a gun?


    Many responsible gun owners (raises hand) feel naked without a legally owned firearm at their disposal for protection. Let's face it; the world is not all sunshine and cinnamon. There have been several trips that I have made, especially as a certified firearms instructor, where guns have been my work tools. Essential items that had to be taken for me to do my job. Others fly from home to another part of the country (or internationally) for hunting. Simply put, there are several reasons for flying with guns.

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    (Dont let this be your gun)

    Even after 9/11, the TSA recognizes the above as a fact and as long as you meet their guidelines, all is well. The TSA's blog has a weekly update of firearms found and seized during security checks. You do not want to see you gun for the last time on that blog.

    What does the TSA classify as a gun?


    Besides actual firearms, the TSA also looks at ammunition, BB guns, flare guns (and flares), cigarette lighters shaped like guns, parts of guns (bit not optics), replica guns (even those that are non-firing), starter pistols, and basically anything that looks like a gun or is gun-like as being something that needs to be checked in your luggage. As such, do not try to carry-on any of these items. These need to be placed in your checked bags and at check-in with the airline; you need to mention these items. Even though these are not actual guns in many cases, if it is found on a baggage check or x-ray by a screener, there can still be a pucker factor.

    Can you bring a gun on the plane in a carry on?

    The simple answer to this is: No. Even if you forget and go through the checkpoint with a legally owned CCW piece on your person or in your carry-on luggage, you are still most likely going to have said piece seized and can wind up being fined as much as $7500. The only exception is for law enforcement, and this is primarily just for federal gold badge types (FBI, DEA etc.) who make prior arrangements.

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    You can fly with almost any type of firearm; it just has to be in your checked baggage and declared.

    According to the TSA the following guidelines are in place for flying with guns:

    -The firearm must be unloaded.

    -The firearm must be in a hard-sided container that is locked. A locked container is defined as one that completely secures the firearm from being accessed. Locked cases that can be pulled open with little effort cannot be brought aboard the aircraft.

    -If firearms are not properly declared or packaged, TSA will provide the checked bag to law enforcement for resolution with the airline. If the issue is resolved, law enforcement will release the bag to TSA so screening may be completed.

    -TSA must resolve all alarms in checked baggage. If a locked container containing a firearm alarms, TSA will contact the airline, who will make a reasonable attempt to contact the owner and advise the passenger to go to the screening location. If contact is not made, the container will not be placed on the aircraft.

    -If a locked container alarms during screening and is not marked as containing a declared firearm, TSA will cut the lock in order to resolve the alarm.

    -Travelers should remain in the area designated by the aircraft operator or TSA representative to take the key back after the container is cleared for transportation.

    -Travelers must securely pack any ammunition in fiber (such as cardboard), wood or metal boxes or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition.
    Firearm magazines and ammunition clips must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm.

    -Small arms ammunition, including ammunition not exceeding .75 caliber for a rifle or pistol and shotgun shells of any gauge, may be carried in the same hard-sided case as the firearm, as long as it follows the packing guidelines described above.

    -TSA prohibits black powder or percussion caps used with black-powder.

    -Riflescopes are not prohibited in carry-on bags and do not need to be in the hard-sided, locked checked bag.

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    A simpler take on flying with guns comes from the gang over at Tacxlife, "Traveling with a Firearm allows for you to use non TSA locks on your luggage. It also allows you to scare the sh** out of anti-gun dweebs at airports when you check your gun and show that it's unloaded in the middle of the airport! It also is 1000X easier than everyone actually thinks."

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    Travel armed!

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