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Old 03-27-2010, 16:21   #1
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Mac's Guide to Flying with a Firearm:

Well, I see a lot of people post questions, anecdotes, etc about flying with firearms. I thought I would add my carry procedure for flying with my CCW.

My Colorado CWP gives me a lot of places I can carry. And seeing as I travel a lot, I've started flying with my CCW quite a bit too. At first it can be a little confusing, nervous, etc. But after doing this for a few years, and a lot of trips, I've been able to boil my system down to something that I believe is secure and works for me.

This info will come in several consecutive posts due to pics. However, I will cover:

A. Packing and security
B. Checking your bag at the airline
C. Things I've had go wrong (there are very few, and none were major issues).

But first, a few things:


1. Study the laws of your destination. Please. Find out if you can possess a pistol there, find out if you can carry, find out what the carry rules are (for example, in New Mexico you cannot carry a backup gun, etc). And just because it is easy as pie to fly TO a place, if that place is like...say, NYC... it can be difficult to get HOME with it. Some of this is legal, and some is just how uncooperative the folks at the airline can be. Just google CCW laws for a specific state, visit "concealed carry trip planner"--a good website with some good info (though it takes a few months at least for new laws to be updated), or reference the current version of the Traveler's Firearms Guide.

2. Know your rights and the regulations you are subject to. I'm not kidding here. There are some foundational rules that both protect you and can hurt you. Know what they are before you fly. I'll give you my system and how I confirm these, but check them out yourself before you go. They can change. And if a TSA agent asks you to do something that is NOT in their regs, don't do it. Get a supervisor. Mostly this is giving them your key or combo to the gun case... but know what your rights are. Don't make a scene. Don't be mean. No need for that if you have the law and regs on your side. Be gracious, professional, and FIRM. That's all that's needed.

3. Keep copies of the TSA regs on you, in our bag, and with your gun. I keep a copy with my travel docs (passport, license, tickets, etc), in the locked case with the gun, and tucked into the handle of the case for inspectors. Often I'll keep a copy of the individual airline's regs as well.

4. I recommend you fly with your CCW, so long as you follow all laws both for flying and for your destination. This is an important way to responsibly and calmly stand up for our gun rights without being "activists" and putting ourselves in contentious situations. And the more customers airlines have who travel with guns--smoothly and without incident--the easier it will become for us. This could potentially affect a lot of ccw laws and firearm transportation laws positively over time... but that's a whole 'nother discussion.


One of the main fears people have of flying with a firearm is security. Even if you can get on the plane, what if someone steals my super custom whizz-bang 99? We've all heard these stories, and I've talked to a guy who had it happen.

So I put in an extra step where possible. And I'll detail that below. I will say that it is very rare to see a case taken. And it's even more rare to lose a bag forever. Most lost luggage comes back in a day or so. For me, it's worth flying with my CCW, but I usually don't take the Dan Wesson. I'll take a Glock, M&P, XD, etc. A striker pistol that is a good gun, I shoot well, but is replaceable if I accidentally cut Murphy off in traffic on the way to the airport or something.

First of all, let me give you a link to the TSA site. This is their summary of their regs. Again, I always keep a copy of this with me, with the gun, and in the main bag as a whole.

Here's a bare bones summary:
1. You are allowed to fly with a firearm.
2. It must be unloaded.
3. It must be in a locked case, that cannot be easily openend/defeated, and ONLY YOU may have the lock or combo to access it (a very important point).
4. Ammo must be in it's own case (generally the original box, but I'll detail why later). Ammo does not have to be locked in the same case, and can only be stored in the magazine if the magazine is properly stored itself: ie, in a tight case, covered properly, etc. I don't recommend leaving in the mag, and I'll detail that later as well.
5. Other than the gun, all locks must be TSA approved locks. TSA approved locks have a TSA master key that can open them. But when it comes to the gun, specifically, it says that ONLY YOU can have access. So get your own lock, keyed or combo, and make it as good as you can for what will fit your lock slot... which is usually about a 1'' bolt or smaller.

So that's the basic concept from TSA. Here's how I've applied it based upon my experience with the airlines.


I find a good case. Some use Pelican, Storm, etc. I just use one of my gun cases. Works fine, is flatter than other others, and I already own it.

I break the gun down. This is not required by TSA, but I do it anyway. This is from experience. When you declare your firearm, you are now at the mercy of the agent. They may be experienced with handguns, they may be completely unfamiliar with them, or they may be card carrying brady bunch members. You don't know. I've had them take the empty gun, pick it up for everyone behind me to see, wrinkle their brow while they stare at it, cover me, God, and everyone else with the muzzle, and then ask if I'm sure it's unloaded. So I just break it down. It makes it much less threatening. It makes it easy to see what's in it (and not in it), and if they pick up one part or another there's no fear of causing a scene.

I put my ammo in the locked case. It's the safest place for it and it makes it simple.

Not pictured, but I also put a filled out ID/Address tag INSIDE the case with the gun, and a copy of the TSA regs, folded so that the title is out and anyone who opens it can see it's there.

I unload my magazines and put them outside the case with the holsters I'll be taking.

Here's what it looks like (for reference, this is just the case that came with my M&P9c... I previously used an XD case):
The SHOT ShowCase


I pack the UNLOADED mags and holster separately from the locked gun case. I put them in a shoe bag that fits next to the firearm case in the suitcase.

The SHOT ShowCase

On the front of the gun case I put a strip of duct tape and in bold black sharpie I put my name, address, cell phone number, and email address. I've blotched it out of these pictures but you can see where I put it.

On the back of the case I put the same info, as well as a warning that tampering will be prosecuted. This is a simple thing, not necessary, but I want anyone who might think about taking this case to know I will hunt them down.

The SHOT ShowCase

Finally, I put a combination pad lock on the gun case. There is a reason for this. But a keyed lock is fine, too. TSA is NOT allowed to have a copy of your combo or key that goes on the gun case. I put a combo so, if one of them tries to say, "We need to check it again, just give me the combo" I can say, "I'm sorry, sir, but I'm the only one allowed to have it. And Further, it's my pin number so for security purposes I cannot give it out." That is why I do it, and it's been 100% fool proof to date.

The SHOT ShowCase

And that's what I will put into the larger bag. I put the gun case, locked with a combo lock, and an unassuming shoe bag that has my mags and holsters.

ôSay what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, but I consider the capacity for it terrifying...--Kurt Vonnegut
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