Flying with CCW


New member
I thought I'd give a report of my recent business trip to Colorado and my airport experiences.

All and all, it went very smoothly. While there was a difference in process between the Houston and Colorado Springs airports, I didn't receive any negative vibes at all and the process on each end only delayed me by about 10 minutes.

In Houston the check-in agent was very friendly and also very clueless. She said that she normally works in terminal C but for that morning they were short handed at terminal B so she was sent over to help (the lines were very short regardless). She asked a coworker what to do and was told to do the inspection herself and escort me to TSA. She said that where she normally works that they just send the person with the item to be declared to TSA and they do the inspection there. So it was her first time to do an inspection, I guess (I hope!). She took me to the side, I unlocked and opened my case and explained to her how to tell the pistol was unloaded and what the ammunition rules were. FWIW, my CCW for this trip was a Kimber Stainless II. I also had two loaded magazines, and a box with the remaining Hydro-Shocks that were not in the magazines. TSA ran the suitcase with the pistol case in it through their machine and gave me the thumbs-up to proceed to my gate. They did not ask me to open my pistol case and they did not check my suitcase.

Overall, I would rate the Houston folks as a 9 in friendlyness, an 7 in speed, and a 4 in knowledge.

My Colorado Springs experience was largely the same in regards to attitude but totally different vis-a-vis process. This time the check-in agent knew exactly what process she was supposed to follow, even though it was different from Houston. She checked all of my bags with the exception of the bag that would carry my pistol case. She told me to take it to the TSA personnel. She filled out the declaration tag but did nothing else. The TSA agent asked me to open my pistol case. She seemed like she knew exactly what to do. After I unlocked and opened the case she checked the weapon and ammo and checked to ensure nothing was hidden in the case under the foam padding. She asked me to lock the case up again. She then proceeded to totally inspect the suitcase that the pistol case would be in. She totally unpacked it and checked it for explosive residue probably 10 times. She then repacked the suitcase, zipped it up and told me that the check-in agent would need to take the case back to the counter (which is exactly what the check-in agent said would happen).

Overall, I would rate the Springs folks as an 8 in friendlyness, a 6 in speed, and a 10 in knowledge.

Other than that my trip was smooth. The hotel (The Broadmoor) did not have an in room safe large enough to store the pistol but other than that bringing my CCW with me on this business trip was totally hassle free.

I encourage you all to pack your piece on your next trip to a CHL friendly state.

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Thanks for your report! It was informative and helpful; I'm looking forward to my next trip to Florida, and I will definitely be packing.

I think "Flying with CCW" would make a great forum subsection, where people could easily post their questions, thoughts and experiences about Airports and CCW.

If anybody else has flown with ccw, please post your summaries too, it's helpful and encouraging to read about others' experiences.
Thanks for your input. I have always been afraid it was just too much of a hassle to fool with. Your post is encourging. I am tryin to decide whether to be brave and take my ccw to Las Vegas in Dec (now that TN has reciprocity). I am still uncertain, but your post is an encouragement. (I sure would feel more comfortable with it)

Thanks for your input. I have always been afraid it was just too much of a hassle to fool with. Your post is encourging. I am tryin to decide whether to be brave and take my ccw to Las Vegas in Dec (now that TN has reciprocity). I am still uncertain, but your post is an encouragement. (I sure would feel more comfortable with it)


David, it really is not big deal. If you're wondering what happens when you get to your destination the answer is NOTHING! Your bag comes out on the belt with all the others. You just pick it up and go. I've always wondered what would happen if I checked a bag to someplace where just touching the bag at its destination would be illegal such as NYC. I suspect the TSA doesn't care at that point and would leave it up to the local authorities to catch you. Don't know though.
Frequent Flyer

I fly an average of twice a week and have been flying with a firearm for 5+ years. Unless I'm going to a no-no state (like IL) I usually pack my S&W 642. I've packed 3 1911's going to the S&W IDPA nationals in MA and 2 glocks going to a training class in TX. I've been through O'Hare (Chicago), Logan (Boston) and to CA with firearms with no issues.

I stay out of NYC and NJ with or without firearms - bad juju there.

When I started flying with a firearm I brought factory packaging with me and went into the bathroom to load the mags. The packaging wasn't holding up and loading the mags is a pain in the butt. I read on the old PDO site that loaded magazines were OK as long as they were not in the same container as the firearm - so I started doing that about a year and a half ago.

I've only had 1 problem and that was around ammo. The regs say original packaging, cardboard or plastic that secures the ammo (read covers the primers). When I take a 1911, I pack a MOLLE magazine carrier and bring 4 loaded mags. One time in Cleveland OH, I ran into a ticket agent supervisor on Continental that wouldn't let me bring the loaded mags. I gave my 32 Federal Hydrashok's to a Cleveland PD officer who did me a favor, flew to Houston and got my buddy to meet me at the airport with a new box of Hydrashok's. I wrote a complaint letter to Continental before I took the flight. Got a free first class upgrade on my return flight 2 days later and a letter confirming that what I was trying to do was appropriate as ammo was secure in the magazines and the magazines were completely secure in the MOLLE carrier. I still fly Continental (flew them last week) and no more issues.

When I travel with the J-frame, I bring the ammo in speedloaders. I just stuff them in my pocket holster and stuff the pocket holster in my IWB holster.

I've gotten good at unlocking the firearm case and loading the firearm and getting it in my holster while its still in my suitcase. I get it on my hip as soon as I'm legal to do so.
I've gotten good at unlocking the firearm case and loading the firearm and getting it in my holster while its still in my suitcase. I get it on my hip as soon as I'm legal to do so.

Thanks for the info, lprgcfrank. Is it legal to reclaim your luggage and then go into the bathroom in the unsecured area of the airport to arm yourself?
Several months ago, my husband's sister invited us to spend some time with them in AZ. I told her that our driving trips would have to be curtailed because of her brothers medical problems. She said, " just fly"! Since I will never leave home without being armed, I declined. She almost had me convinced to change mind my about flying when I read about the guns being stolen at the Chicago airport. Am I being too paranoid?
Too Paranoid

I fly 2-4 times a week 90% of the time with a firearm. My bag looks the same whether there is a firearm in it or not. On my flight las week, the lock on the outside of my bag broke off - and the firearm was still in there. As long as there is nothing on the bag that screams 'firearm in here' I wouldn't be overly concerned.
I flew from Newark, NJ to Las Vegas, NV with my pistol. I was sweating bullets the whole time in line, thinking about what happened to another traveler (story posted below). But I prepared ahead of time by having print outs of the airlines' policies on declaring firearms, in case the counter person didn't know what to do.

There was a traveler from Utah who was wrongfully arrested in Newark airport. His crime? Possessing a firearm without a NJ license during a layover due to an airline caused baggage error. He, with assistance from my state's pro-gun organization, filed a civil rights lawsuit against Port Authority of NY and NJ.

Read about it here: Link Removed

I've heard worse stories at JFK and LaGuardia airports, so I will continue to avoid them like the plague. I will also try to stay away from planes that change in Chicago, due to reports of guns being stolen from luggage (apparently there have been investigations into counter personnel informing the baggage handler thieves which bags had guns in them).
I have taken my firearm on a couple of flights. What I have noticed is that each time things were handled a little differently by either the counter people or the TSA. I had no problems though in any of my 4 check-in points.

Be sure to print out the TSA guidlines and the rules that the carrier has posted on the net. That way you can offer printed material for someone to reference if there are questions about procedure, and that material will have the letter heads or official seals on it.

The first time I was very nervous, but everything went so smoothly that my fears were overcome immediately.

I've often traveled by plane and thought, "Hmm, I should just try checking my firearm and take it with me." But, I just always seem to get nervous about it because not everyone understands gun laws, including states and airport security agents. Even if you abide by all the rules and laws, you may not always be treated like a law-abiding citizen. Perhaps, just as many of you have mentioned, I am just a bit paranoid. Someday I will have to check my firearm if I am flying to a gun-friendly state.
Theft From Luggage Rampant At Sea-Tac Airport

Link Removed

Missing Handguns At Airports Alarm National Security Experts

Handguns, stored in luggage, have been disappearing from some major airports, including here at Sea-Tac.

That means, firearms, and at times, ammunition are loose in secure areas with direct access to passenger jets.

KIRO Team 7 Investigator Chris Halsne exposes new security lapses in his special report Access to Steal.


VIDEO: Firearms Disappearing From Luggage

If you want to take your .357 Magnum revolver from Seattle on vacation with you (to say) Los Angeles, airlines allow it, but it has to go into the belly of the jet along with your luggage. However, KIRO Team 7 Investigators discover that criminals on the tarmac just might nab it before it arrives at its destination.

It's fair to say Ben Peterson is comfortable around guns. He grew up hunting and recently spent a tour in Iraq as a medic for the 7th Marines.

The last time he flew from Seattle home to Omaha, all his luggage arrived just fine, but there was an empty hole in one of his cases.

Peterson told Investigative Reporter Chris Halsne, “The pistol was just flat out gone!”

Police reports show Peterson was missing a compact 9 millimeter Taurus and 15 round clip, which disappeared after Peterson handed the locked weapon to TSA employees for a special luggage inspection.
He lost a lot of sleep worrying about who stole it and what it would be used for. Then a call came from a King County detective.

“It surprised me. I was extremely shocked. The idea that it had gone to being taken at an airport to used in a gang shooting in a period of four months or so,” said Peterson.

Detectives tell KIRO Team 7 Investigators a known gang member named Matalepuna Malu was nabbed a few blocks away from a "shots fired/fight" call at an apartment complex in White Center. Malu had Ben Peterson's still-warm gun under his seat.

Detective Ben Wheeler of the King County Sheriff's Department explains how a gun gets from luggage and Sea-Tac Airport into the hands of a criminal like Malu.

“Gang members will go and look for them specifically to use them in crimes or intimidations or shootings with other gangsters-- they do flow. They (the stolen guns) move quickly from hand to hand,” said Wheeler.

Malu is sitting in jail right now, guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm. Who stole the gun from airport luggage remains unsolved, but KIRO Team 7 Investigators uncovered that this is not an isolated case.

We found five weapons reported taken from luggage at Sea-Tac in three years.

Police records show that (now -fired) Alaska Airlines baggage handler Vincent Hereld Young stole some Beretta pistols.

During an unrelated police matter, he got caught with them weeks later, confessing he just "covered the (gun) case with his coat -- placed it inside his personal tote bag -- and after work walked across the street."

Port of Seattle Police Captain Ken Irwin admits he is concerned about disappearing weapons.

“Yes. We do have issues or times where weapons that have been declared have ended up missing when the bag gets to its destination,” said Irwin.

But Irwin adds, airport police are looking at beefing up security, not only because of reports of missing handguns, but also the thousands of other thefts from luggage.

“We're looking at the cameras right now. We have added search patrols in the area. When the officers have time they go down and enhance patrols in the ramp areas down below, particularly where the bags are handled and stored.”

Finding out exactly how many handguns are missing from luggage after they were checked into secure areas of airports nationwide has been a challenge.

So far, KIRO Team 7 Investigators tracked at least 34 handguns presumed stolen, including 10 guns missing from LAX in Los Angeles, three in Portland, three in Tampa, and two each in San Antonio and Chicago O'Hare. Oakland, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Washington D.C. Dulles and Ronald Reagan airports reported thieves stealing handguns in secure areas of the airport as well.

The Department of Homeland Security has a database of all gun theft reports for all airports, but so far has refused to provide us with it. Justice Department sources tell us it contains more than 100 reports filed since 9/11.

National security experts Robert Ramsey and Mark Solomon are alarmed by our findings, agreeing “there's obviously a problem.”

They say terrorists are patient. It means nothing for them to work a job inside an airport for years, or to pay a criminal with access lots of money to stash a weapon inside secure areas.

Ramsey was candid about the potential national security threat.

“If I was going to mount an operation against an aircraft -- that's where I'd be looking.”

Theft victim Ben Peterson wonders when airport security will wake up to that potential threat.

“Given the level of security exercises at airports, I expected, between that conveyer belt and loading it into the aircraft, there would be better measures in place,” said Peterson.

Federal rules indicate gun owners should lock their weapon cases before they go on a passenger jet. However, we found in dozens of reports that TSA employees asked gun owners to leave one side of their case unlocked, so they could slide some paperwork inside.
Well, isn't that disturbing. I guess just wasn't thinking, but I never thought about it being stolen after the bag was checked. Again not thinking. So what do you do? Take a risk of your gun being stolen or risk walking the streets being unarmed?
Well, isn't that disturbing. I guess just wasn't thinking, but I never thought about it being stolen after the bag was checked. Again not thinking. So what do you do? Take a risk of your gun being stolen or risk walking the streets being unarmed?

This is one of the reasons I'm glad my carry piece is a $210 Makarov.
From A Fellow Firearms Trainer who experienced the following.

It is cleaned up a might as he does not want specifics about ID etc.

He is a top man and this tale is worth noting.


Domestic Flight Firearms Declaration Gone Bad - US Citizen's firearm gets diverted to China

This past summer I had the mother of all firearms declarations fiascos.
The final result is that a US owned airline sent my firearms to a communist country (mainland China, PRC) and left the container unlocked the entire time. They never asked for photo ID for this customer, but insisted in charging excess bag fees.

Here are the facts of what happened:
1: I took a roundtrip to teach a firearms course as a contractor, declaring 2 pistols with ammunition, 1 OC spray, knives, etc. Everything was done by TSA guidelines and then some. When I checked in the following happened: (a) the airline counter employee clearly did not have an idea of the proper firearms declaration procedure (b) she never called for TSA, (c) she had me put my two locks into my container along with the required tag (but never asked if it was unloaded or about the ammo, so I had to tell her), (d) she was more concerned about charging me for excess luggage and excess weight-cost to me was $180 total for 3 bags and this was after showing official ID and being very courteous and (e) she never once asked for any form of identification from me, though I had it in my hand ready to go. After going through screening, I was called by the PA system in the airport back through screening to the ticket counter. On the way, a TSA rep told me that the airline folks had messed up. At the counter, they blamed the TSA and said that I was "all set" and no need to come out of screening in the first place. I go back through screening and the only reason that I did not miss my flight was due to the fact that the takeoff was delayed. SO......I get to my destination and low and behold...on the baggage carousel at baggage claim my case containing firearms does not have any locks on it. The original and uncut locks were in the container. Good job airlines, you just transported unlocked firearms with ammo. This could be regarded as a "bad sign" with this particular airlines and I thought that the worst was over for my trip. but read on....

2: For my return trip, my counter experience was less eventful, but (a) they never asked for my photo identification and (b) even though I noticed that they did not conduct the correct procedure for a firearms declaration and handed them my locks they said "sir, don't worry so're all set and have a nice flight." Off I went to screening and to my gate. I fly home and at the baggage claim my luggage containing firearms is not there. I file the standard claim, not panicking, but here is what happened next:
(a) at 3am local time next day, I start getting calls from Hong Kong, on one of my cell phones, telling me that my luggage has arrived and that I need to claim it
(b) subsequent calls (voicemails) state to me that I need to submit documentation to claim my luggage and they provided a fax number overseas to send this to.
(c) I call the airlines asking what is going on. I have back and forth calls with what turned out were customer service people in yet another country (I think India) and they were very blunt with me, did not admit blame, and made it seemed as though I had been the person making the mistake
(d) someone from the airlines reaches me by phone and I am being told that I have to send copies of my passport, drivers license, gun permit, and proof that I purchased all firearms to them by fax immediately and then they may release it from customs and I could expect in a few weeks to see my firearms.
(e) I finally put my foot down, now 24 hours after my luggage should have arrive with me, and call that airlines customer service and demand to speak to someone at the executive level, not from an overseas outsourced customer fulfillment center, and someone with a real name. I tell them that there is no way that I will send any form of photo ID, especially that with my SSAN, photo, etc. on it, and especially do a foreign country, to a communist country, and one that not only has war plans against ours, but that is known for collecting and archiving private info on US citizens travelling abroad. I tell them that its not my fault that this happened, which they now openly admitted to, but state that I have to do it the way that I was asked. I tell them no way, its their mistake, and their multibillion dollar company must have "some way" to make this go away and get my property back.
(f) I then consult a number of people in the know on what to do.
(g) the airlines then has some very very senior person now calling me and emailing to me. They admit all fault and despite their requests for me to forfeit all kinds of personal documents, I stand my ground, also reminding them that I am a member of the 3 largest firearms lobbies (including the NRA) and can write good letters. I gave them a deadline of 21 days from my flight to have said items into my hands, or they will face the consequences. At this point, I had already lost 1/2 day of wages to handle this, plus the excess baggage fees, plus lots of time on the phone and email.
(h) at one point in the conversations with the airline exec,they state to me that they have the ability to "make a settlement." I said that for 3-4K this is fine (their limit is 2k, but I have insurance on that particular trip to cover more) but I state to them very plainly...that they do not seem to be the least bit concerned about public safety (if the firearms had been stolen and now being used by criminals to hurt innocent people) and they don't seem to be concerned about the list of federal laws and import/export regs they are violating.
(i) I spend the next 2 weeks back and forth with these folks form the airline trying to get my bag back. I remind them that the following agencies will be contacted with all details if they fail to accomplish the mission US BATFE, US DOS, US DHS ICE, US DHS TSA.
(j) finally, i get a call saying that its inbound. It arrives, and nothing is missing from my luggage. Amazingly. 2 pistols, ammo, knives, lights, OC, etc. are in there. Here is the best part: the luggage containing firearms was unlocked. The original two locks that I handed to the counter agent (as mentioned on the original flight before) were INSIDE the luggage, unused, next to the firearms tag. Worse yet, next to this were the undisturbed 2 EXTRA LOCKS (provided in case they have to cut the original two, along with a business card, and a note describing this and how to call me in the airport.) The luggage tag said "Hong Kong" and had my name on it. It did not have the code for firearms used by that airline a checked bag containing a firearm. So, guns went all of the way across the world...then got off the carousel into a non-sterile airport in Hong Kong, China....sat there until airport employees found it and put it in their unclaimed luggage area (still unlocked), and then eventually someone figured out that this luggage should not have been there. Thank goodness that my firearms all have a trigger lock and chamber flag in them when declared.

3: SUMMARY: A very experienced and well travelled instructor has his legally and properly declared firearms, in a checked bag, at both ends of a trip, remain unlocked and go to overseas to an unfriendly country. At both ends of the trip, they never asked for photo ID when I checked in, but they insisted on charging excess bag fees. They were noncompliant with the longstanding and very standardized methods for conducting a firearms declaration for a checked bag. Some airports and airlines are very good about this, but these people don't ever read their same regulations and the firearms declaration has remained almost the same for about 15 years or so.
Great story CA CCWInstructor. I am glad your friend figured out how to deal successfully with the powers that be and retrieve his property.

The airlines and TSA have handled all 4 of my expeiences with them a little differently each time I have checked in with firearms. I always carry a printed copy of the TSA regulations and the specific airline policy. I believe that when an issue begins developing the printed word will help direct the interaction to follow proper procedures.

spc :)

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