Declaring a Firearm for flying

I've never taken a weapon with me when flying. However, now that I've obtained my CWP, I do plan on taking my H&K USPf .40 when flying home (to Texas) or to other states that honor my FL CWP.

I'm curious about the process for declaring a weapon. Can anyone share their experience in declaring a weapon when flying? And… does anyone else have suggestions about how best to pack and carry a weapon so it won’t become an easy item for theft during transport?

It is easy. You tell the baggage check-in person "Firearm Declaration" and they give you a tag to fill out. Once filled out, a TSA person is called to inspect the Locked Container your Unloaded firearm and ammo are stored in. They inspect, place the tag inside, lock it, and give you back the key. If the case is suitcase size, they put your baggage claim tag (the same as your other bags) on it and it gets sent along with your other bags. If it is a small pistol case, it is placed inside one of your checked bags.
When you land, you go to the baggage claim area. If it is a large gun case it may be in the sporting goods area, otherwise it is along with all your other bags on the carousel (unmarked). pickup your bags and go.
This is how it was for me on Continental. Easy. I had a single pistol case, it went in my checked bag with my clothes after inspection.
Visit TSA's website and read about declaring unloaded firearms. Then visit the website for the airline you are flying with. Print out the guidelines for both and bring them with you. Follow all guidelines and you won't have a problem.

You do not need to (nor should you) disclose that you have a carry permit, or whether the gun is registered. This is not within the scope of the TSA.

Do not allow anyone to attach a label to your baggage indicating that firearms are present. This is prohibited by the FAA as it only encourages theft.
Having traveled a number of times, here's how I go at it:

  1. Put the unloaded weapon(s) in a lockable hard-sided case with locks only you have the keys to open. TSA locks are not allowed.
  2. Steps that will make it easier to show that the weapon is unloaded - especially when x-rayed.
    • If the weapon is a
      • semi-automatic
        • lock the slide open
        • put a cable tie through the barrel and out the breach to show that the chamber is empty
      • revolver, flip the cylinder out.
    • Do not put the magazines in this locked case with the gun(s)
      • it invites questions about them being loaded
      • if the gun case is "liberated" from the checked bag, the lack of magazines frustrates the thief, since the weapon is now initially a single shot one
  3. Check the airline(s) you are flying on:
    • Determine if the ammo MUST be in boxes (plastic reload boxes work) OR can fly in loaded magazines.
    • If loaded magazines are permitted, make sure the pouches fully cover the magazines.
    • The round from the pipe(s) must be in a box, not loose
  4. Secure and protect magazines (separately from the weapon) and ammunition boxes from possible damage.
  5. Put the lockable hard-sided case with the weapon and the ammo/magazines into a cheap, non-descript bag - with clear labeling outside and inside - for checking in. The labeling should be limited to:
    • Your Name
    • Your Cell Phone - if you have one, or your home phone if you do not
    • Your personal email address - if you have one
  6. Other stuff - like shampoo, mouthwash, toothpaste, etc, could be in this checked bag also.
  7. Have the rules for the airline in hand when you check this non-descript bag at the airport.
  8. Make sure you have the keys to the lockable hard-sided case with you and you alone (Per Federal Regulations 49CFR § 1540.111 Carriage of weapons, explosives, and incendiaries by individuals - Link Removed) at all times. You will have to open the lockable hard-side case
    • to demonstrate to the airline that the weapon(s) are not loaded at check in
    • if the TSA wants to see.
  9. Have the serial number(s) and descriptions of your weapons on you, so if they "disappear" you can report the loss/theft immediately to the:
    • airline
    • FAA Regional Office
    • ATF Regional Office
Other things to consider:
  1. Check and/or Link Removed to determine:
    • If you can possess the weapon at all your stops.
    • Where and how you can carry at all your stops.
    • What are the deadly force rules in each state you are visiting.
  2. Have a copy of the Don Young Transportation Letter on hand - Link Removed. This covers changing modes of travel - car to plane to car - in a single journey.
Dewhitewolf and GHF are spot on with flying with a gun. Its not bad as long as you remember to declare the firearm when checking the baggage.

I've flown thru most all of the major airports and a good number of smaller ones, and as long as you remember to clear the weapon before you put it in the case about 3 times and keep the ammo in its own container (usually factory but some airlines allow plastic bullet cases) and have decent locks you should be good to go. I've flown thru O'hare with no problems, same with McCarren about a dozen times.

Surprisingly the Fairbanks airport in Alaska gave me the hardest time out of all the airports I've flown thru, even Hawai'i... Go figure on that one.
My experience from NH to FL. this past Feb. was tit. I took my KelTec PF9. Took two small size gun cases. One case had the gun which was unloaded, slide back with one of those cable locks through it. Other case had the empty mag's but no ammo. The ammo I purchased in FL.
Check in counter, told the lady I was declaring a firearm. SHE filled the tag, I only signed it. SHE called over TSA who asked me where it was. Told him it was locked in a gun case which was also in my suitcase which was ontop of the scale right there in front of him. Asked me to show him. I opened my suitcase and then unlocked the gun case showing him weapon. All he saw was that it was both, locked in a case and locked with cable. He asked if I were Law Enforcement which I replied no. He said, "ok". Lady gave me the tag and I affixed it on the gun case in front of them. The TSA watched me then lock the gun case. I asked about me locking the suitcase and he said NO. Needs to be unlocked for security purposes in case another TSA needs to inspect it. From there I was escorted probably about 20' from the checkin counter to the baggage conveyer. There, the lady told the "checkers/TSA" said baggage contained declared firearm in which they proceeded to put suitcase on conveyer and let i go through screening. When it came out the other end they gave the "ok" sign and that was it. NEVER did they ask about the Other case with mag's. Nor, did I mention it. In FL nothing happened there. I waited till I got to my destination before I even took weapon out.
I checked ahead of time with My insurance Co. about coverage on My firearms telling them about the trip asking if they are stolen/lost at the airport, in transit or even from a rental vehicle. My insurance said everything is covered (more detail I won't get in to). I don't want to say I didn't care if they were stolen or lost, but that the fact was they would be covered if said happened. Don't get me wrong, it would suck if it did happen and you read in the paper someone was killed with your weapon! You should be fine...good luck!
Locking Stuff

sambo42xa said.....

I asked about me locking the suitcase and he said NO. Needs to be unlocked for security purposes in case another TSA needs to inspect it.

Yes, it is correct that the gun must be locked, but the suitcase needs to be open or have TSA locks.

I leave the luggage with the gun case in unlocked, but I chain the locked box to the frame of the luggage being checkedm so that the whole bag will have to taken.

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