There are few things more frustrating when traveling than airline travel. With all of the TSA security checkpoints, making sure you meet connecting flights and the ever increasing fees you have to pay for baggage and fuel surcharges, flying can be an absolute pain in the neck. Traveling as a responsibly armed citizen can be even more frustrating with the restrictions the government places on your second amendment rights while flying.
Since you are not allowed to carry on the plane, and you still want to carry your concealed handgun at your destination, there is an option to check your pistol in your checked luggage and retrieve it after you land.
Here is the quick and easy “How-To” of flying with your handgun when traveling within the United States.
*** Before choosing to fly with your handgun, check to make sure you are allowed to carry your firearm at your destination. This means checking reciprocity agreements and ensuring there are no extra requirements like firearm owner identification cards or gun owners licenses required by the state you are traveling to.
First… you need a rigid, hard case for your pistol. The hard case is mandated by law such that it prevents unauthorized individuals from cracking open even one side to slip out the firearm, when the case is locked. My personal favorite case manufacturer is Pelican. Their cases do a fantastic job protecting your firearm, preventing unauthorized access… and they look really “tacti-cool”. The pluck-able foam does a fantastic job of keeping your gun secured from jarring around in the baggage handling, and keeps your prized handgun looking nice.
Next, you need a lock. Make sure it is a sturdy lock and that you are the only one who can access the case. Master Locks are good. I chose to use a simple key-lock Master Lock that fit my pelican case.
The gun must be stored unloaded, magazines must be unloaded and your ammunition must be stored in a container specifically made to house the ammunition such that it will be protected from impact. I used a leftover factory ammunition box and had no issues.
Also… don’t forget to pack your holsters, mag carriers and proper gun belts you intend on using. After all, if you can’t properly carry your pistol, it is no use to go through the hassle of declaring/checking it at the airport.
Store your gun in your case and lock it up. Make sure you have the key in your possession even when you are in the airport.
Your gun and ammunition will be packed in your checked luggage (do not even attempt to put it in your carry on… that is a quick way to a felony). Upon entering the airport, head to ticketing/check in and declare your firearm. Some airlines require a written declaration form, some only require a verbal declaration. Check your airlines policy on their website beforehand.
The attendant who checks your baggage will have you sign a TSA declaration card and they will send your checked bag in the LOCKED case for a security examination. You will have to wait at check in for them to give you the clear. Once they give you the go-ahead, you can then head to the security checkpoint and head to your airplane for your flight.
Make sure you get to your baggage claim quickly. You do not want someone to pick up your baggage by mistake (or criminally purposeful) and take your handgun with them. Realize, some airlines visibly mark your baggage. This makes it easy for bad guys to identify a piece of luggage with a gun and makes your baggage a prime target for theft. Once you see your bag… get it!
Word to the wise… wait till you leave the airport to retrieve your handgun from its storage case. Since no one is supposed to know you have a concealed handgun in the first place, it is better to wait till you are either in your car, hotel room or other lodging to load your handgun and properly situate your holster (keeping all safety rules in mind when doing so).