CLM Number 213
Charter Lifetime Member
Join Date: Feb 2008
B. CHECKING YOUR BAG AT THE AIRLINE
So you get it all packed and secured and you get to the airport. Here's where the list begins.
1. Be early. Please. If you're going to fly with the firearm, be early. I've never had it add more than 30 minutes to the whole process for me, but you want to give it even more than that in case you have to go through an extra security verification or two.
2. Go to the counter. You cannot use a skycap. You must declare with an agent. If you check in at the curb and then tell them you have a firearm, they may hustle you right to the front of the line. I've also had them get mad when I tried that and put me at the back and waste more of my time.
Special Note: I want to say this before we get to #3. The system I've worked out is very general, but it flies with almost every US airline I've flown on. In fact, I've had no problems. That's why I use original box for ammo and lock it down, etc. From airline to airline, they may have specific regs that TSA does not. TSA will let you cover your loaded mags. North West Airlines doesn't. Some want original ammo box, some don't . So instead of jumping through all the hoops for one airline or another, I just decided to get ONE system down and stick to it. So while you may be able to do some things a little different here and there--and I am not suggesting you cannot--I am only giving you my system that I've found to be less complex.
3. When I get to the counter, I pull out my driver's license, passport, copy of my itinerary (if I have it), a copy of the TSA firearm regs, and a copy of the airline's firearm regs.
I hand them to the agent and say, in a calm and slow tone, "Good morning. I'd like to declare that I will be carrying a legal firearm in my checked luggage, prepared to TSA and your airline's packing standards, and it's disassembled and ready for your inspection."
The combination of this formal and polite declaration, along with all the paperwork has been GOLD for me. Better, actually. Before there was always some hesitation or confusion on their part. But by giving them all the paperwork, by being formal and gracious, I've cut out more than 90% of the hustle I used to face while checking in. They seem to appreciate the preparedness, the organization, and the willingness for their inspection. You can say whatever you like, but I don't recommend walking up and simply saying that you have a gun (something I've seen happen before). I've just given you 100% check in gold, and if you ever do that and compare it you'll realize what great approach it is. Do as you will.
4. The agent will inspect the firearm. The more dissembled it is, the easier that will be. The more it looks like a "gun", the bigger the chance you have of a brady card carrier stalling you, arguing with you about how it's packed, etc. In general, if you have any real delays or issues, just calmly say, "Could I please have your supervisor inspect it, reference the TSA standards I provided for you, and help us all to get out of here in a timely manner?" I've only had to do that once, ever. I don't know if that's typical or lucky. But that's what led to my script and document presentation.
5. The agent IS NOT PERMITTED to mark the outside of the luggage with any sort of special tag showing there is a firearm inside. This is a big deal. This is what will keep your bag from becoming a target. If they try, just let them know that the tag must be inside of the bag. If they argue, get a supervisor. You generally won't have to fight this one, unless you're flying out of DC, San Francisco, NYC, etc.
6. At this point, they'll usually let you go. About every other time they'll take me to secondary screening which is around the corner, in a different room, etc. They'll have me unlock the case, they'll look, have me lock it back, send it through a screening machine, and that's it. Never had any problem there, and I prefer it actually because it's not being handled by the check in agents too much or anything.
C. THINGS I'VE HAD GO WRONG:
Not much to mention here, but just to give you all the info I can I'll give you my few stories.
1. Before I started disassembling the gun, I had agents pick it up, sweep me and everyone in line with the muzzle, and generally start a buzzing behind me that was followed by accusing looks when I saw these folks on the plane. Not worth it. Had all this happen a few times, and while it was a headache, it wasn't enough to discourage me from traveling with my gun--but it was enough to inspire me to just disassemble the thing when I pack it.
2. I had one female check in agent argue with me about every little thing. She was clearly a brady card carrier who said things like, "that thing", and "that deadly weapon" when she talked about the firearm. First I wasn't allowed to fly with ANY ammo. Then it was that I had to give her the combo to the lock. Then it was that I had to have a firearm tag on the outside of the luggage. It just went on and on until I got a supervisor, he got a copy of the regs, and we all went our way. That's why I take copies of the regs with me, put them in the case, and put them in the handle of the gun case after I lock it into my bag. And that's why I disassemble the gun in the case, and that's why I use a gracious and professional script.
3. One time in Denver International I was called down to a holding area after I had been at my gate for a while. They needed me to open it again and inspect. Not sure why. Took 15 minutes total, from leaving my seat at the gate to returning to that seat, and everyone was really polite and apologetic about it all. At least I knew my bag was under the plane and hadn't missed the connection.
And that's it. No other troubles.
Feel free to add your own comments, stories, etc. You may do things very, very different and that is fine. I'm simply detailing my system and experience for those who are curious or who don't take their CCW with them when they travel because they're worried about the whole airport process. I know this system works for me, and so I have hope it will work for you as well.
It's really as simple as:
1. Secure the firearm in a locked case, according to regs.
2. Secure that locked case within your bag as possible.
3. Upon check-in properly declare your firearm and submit to inspections.
But as you know, there's always a little more to it than that. I do feel it's important to not go unarmed just because of the expectation of airport hustling. With luck, and the more of us that fly with our firearms, the easier it will become.
ôSay what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, but I consider the capacity for it terrifying...--Kurt Vonnegut