View Full Version : Airline Carry of BP Revolver

Willie Sutton
January 6, 2013, 10:03 PM

Old Willie just airlined out from home in Wisconsin to California, to fly fighters for good old Uncle for a month. I am here 2-3 months a year, and in fact this is where I do most of my BP shootin'. I started BP here years ago because it was a lower hassle factor type of shooting to do due to the laws out here, plus there is "anywhere in the Mojave Desert" to shoot in. Over the years I have stashed a collection of BP revolvers here, and they are waiting for me when I arrive. I buy them here, I leave them here.

This year I was lucky enough to find a really nicely worked over 1860 Army Uberti, that had been set up perfectly for target work. Cap rake, reamed cylinders, arbor length button added, Wolfe springs, etc. Had it delivered to my place in Wisconsin. Wanted to shoot it here. So, I decided to deal with the dreaded "airline flight to a gun hating place" with the 1860 in my baggage.

Now, the law regarding what you do to transport a FIREARM is clear: You put it into a hard sided case, lock the case with a NON-TSA padlock, declare it at check in, and then check it thru. TSA is not supposed to open the hard case, and in fact you cannot legally use one of the TSA openable padlocks for the case.

But... BP replicas are not firearms. You do not need to legally do this with them. So... what to do? Put it into the bag and forget about it? Get tied up explaining to the TSA that an antique or replica arm is not a firearm? I hemmed and hawed... figured that it would be a hassle, thought about not bringing it, mailing it, forgetting the entire thing... visions of being hauled off in handcuffs... well you get the picture.

In the end I decided to treat the 1860 like a "real" firearm. Locked it into a box. Walked up to Southwest Airlines and in my best polite voice I said "I have an item I need to declare". The agent smiled (since there is only ONE item that anyone needs to declare) and without missing a beat handed me a small 4x6 card marked "firearms declaration" and asked me to fill it out. There was nothing asking about type, quantity, serial number, or anything. Just my name, phone number, and flight number. I filled it out, and was asked to put it on top of the box inside my duffle bag. Then I hauled the bag to the X-ray for checked bags, tossed it on, watched it go thru, and the TSA guy watching the X-ray machine never blinked an eye. Zero hassle, zero issues, no problem at all. Collected the bag at LAX and here I am in the desert.

Bottom line is that this form is really a declaration to the TSA that they are not allowed to open the box to which it is attached. It's a "leave this box alone if you are opening the bag for inspection" notice. It's really for the protection of the shipper, and all in all I was VERY pleased and VERY surprised at the ease of doing this.



January 6, 2013, 10:06 PM
That's handy information to have. Thanks! :)

January 7, 2013, 05:37 AM
Yeah, I really don't think you'd want to try to smuggle it onboard cuz that's the way they would look at it. You might even be arrested for being a terrorist.

January 7, 2013, 08:28 AM
Good posts, thanks for the information.

One comment: I believe you are mistaken when you say that "BP replicas are not firearms. You do not need to legally do this with them." The classification of bp replicas as 'non-firearms' is only by the BATFE and only for the purposes of transferring them. Some states, but not all, also use that classification with regard to registration requirements.

I assure you that TSA, the FAA and the airlines do legally consider bp replicas to be firearms and require they be transported like any other firearm.

Willie Sutton
January 7, 2013, 10:40 AM
"I assure you that TSA, the FAA and the airlines do legally consider bp replicas to be firearms and require they be transported like any other firearm"

Citation please?

(Because neither the TSA nor the airline had the answer close at hand).

Bear in mind please the distinction between carriage aboard the jet (hand carry) and shipment as cargo (in your bag). The former is obviously an issue. The regulations concerning the latter are the question at hand.

Really the only question, to me, was if I was REQUIRED to declare it as a firearm in my baggage and was REQUIRED to have it locked in a container by a non-TSA lock, or if was not legally required for me to do so.

In any event it was so easy to simply handle it like a modern firearm that it was barely a 30 second delay at check in. I will be doing this far more often now that I've done it once.




January 7, 2013, 02:32 PM
Over the past few years, Blogger Bob at the TSA's web site has reported quite a few antique firearms being seized because they weren't properly declared.

I'm probably stating the obvious here, but regardless of what the official TSA definition of a firearm is, at the point where you and the TSA connect, it's up to the agent on the spot to make a determination. I don't travel by air much anymore, but I don't think that I'm going out on a limb by guessing that the agent is going to make the most conservative decision possible, which would be that if it looks like a firearm to him, it must be a firearm. You'll get the opportunity, at some point, to make your case, but it's going to take some time and trouble.

Everyone's probably seen the posts about debates with USPS over what can and can't be shipped, and those regulations are crystal clear, but many post offices still don't have a handle on them. The TSA, for better or worse, seems to prefer to be shrouded in secrecy.

I'd go for the locked case regardless. Some TSA agent is going to paw through your stuff and even if the rules allow a BP revolver through without declaration, it's a relatively expensive doo-dad that I would just as soon see arrive along with my luggage. If it's declared, you can be darn sure that it will turn up on time.

Willie Sutton
January 7, 2013, 04:05 PM
^^^^ 100% agreement on this, and with the zero-hassle experience I had there is no reason to do otherwise.

My curiousity about what the regs actually say is academic to me, but I'd still be interested in seeing them.



January 7, 2013, 09:59 PM
Well, it's kind of difficult to provide a citation of something that doesn't exist, and there is no wording in either the FAA or TSA regulations regarding transportation of firearms that says bp replicas are not firearms.

Here is a TSA summary of the regulations: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/firearms-and-ammunition

The FAA's regulations are contained in 49 CFR 1540.111.

Willie Sutton
January 7, 2013, 11:54 PM
Lack of citation means... well... we fall back on 18 USC 921.


Both the TSA and FAA's regulations deal with with "firearms" in this context (IE in carried baggage).

The meaning of the term, without additional clarification, can only mean default to the definition specified in 18 USC 921, which specifically excludes antique firearms from the definition of a firearm. There is, as you know, a second definition of an antique firearm. If I needed to argue it, I would state "if they intended to have the regulation be applicable to both firearms and antique firearms, they would have written 'firearms and antique firearms' that into the statute"

This is the "I'd rather be a wise-ass than a wise-man" argument.

A wise-man will treat them like a firearm, and if my experience is any meauser, it's a zero-loss to do so. I was encouraged by the ease of the process.



January 8, 2013, 12:41 AM
In my airport, they take the case from you to a "secure area" and you are not permitted to accompany them. They take the key from you to open the case and inspect the contents. They return with the key and hand it over, then place the case in your checked bag. When you receive your checked bag, you will find the case inside unlocked with lock loose inside the bag. Complaints to the TSA will fall on deaf ears. I won't fly with firearms unless I absolutely must. The TSA has proven itself incompetent with every interaction I have with them.

January 8, 2013, 09:05 AM
I read an interview with a photographer and he said in order to make sure his equipment doesn't get damaged, he puts a starter pistol in with it, so his luggage gets put in the forward compartment of the aircraft instead of the regular cargo hold.

Willie Sutton
January 8, 2013, 07:10 PM
^^^^ urban myth that this has any value.

The bags are specifically NOT IDENTIFIED externally or on any documentation accessable to either TSA or the baggage handlers in order to preclude theft.

The only way to ID a transported "item" is open the bag to find the carriage of a firearm notice on a locked box. The notice "really" just means to the opening TSA inspector that they are NOT to break off the lock to inspect the contents (their normal rule) but are to call the passenger and ask for the key to the box to be brought to them so that they can inspect the box (if they desire to, which is apparently pretty unusual).



January 8, 2013, 11:15 PM
Anyone who thinks that a black powder revolver is not a FIREARM as it applies to concealed carry or on public transportation is seriously mistaken.
You WILL be arrested or cited if you're carrying it concealed without a permit, or if you check it in with baggage without declaring it.
And really, what's the point of NOT declaring it?
This foolish semantics of "It's notttttt a firearmmmm" with a sly grin won't keep you from appearing before a judge.
If you want to carry a black powder revolver concealed, GET A CONCEALED WEAPON PERMIT.
If you have it in your hard-cased, locked luggage, DECLARE IT.
Or perhaps you'd prefer to call Willie to post your bail when you're sitting in the cell. :D

As for exterior idenification of which luggage contains a firearm. This USED to be true, in the 1970s and up to the early 1980s, as I recall. It was a red tag on an elastic string, attached to the handle. I used to grumble about it, pointing out the obvious invitation to steal, but didn't make a fuss. Even then, you could find yourself in an interview room for just raising your voice.
I believe it was about the mid 1980s that they moved the tag inside the bag; took years to be sensible.
I've never had an airline refuse my baggage if the firearm it contained met all storage requirements. Some airlines do, however, but from what I've seen they tend to be local and on the East Coast.
I'm a Westerner. I don't go any farther east of the Mississippi than the Interstate Barbecue in Memphis. :D

Willie Sutton
January 9, 2013, 12:03 AM
And really, what's the point of NOT declaring it?

If you read what I have written, from the top, this is my precise point. It's such an easy thing to do that nobody should not do it based on any reason they can dream up with.

Most of your other points have nothing to do with the thread subject. CCW? Nobody is discussing CCW.

The external tag on a bag was old school, and I still have one from when I used to carry my .45 in checked baggage. "Contains Firearm" on a hang tag on the outside of the bag... might as well have said "steal me"... however I never lost anything.



January 9, 2013, 06:27 AM
Some airlines or airports take your declared luggage straight to the plane as soon as it's checked to make sure it's not loaded. Every airport, airliner, TSA agent's policy is different. Your mileage may vary.