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Old August 5, 2009, 01:29 AM   #1
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What's involved with air travel & pistols?

How big of a hassle would it be to transport a pistol from the lower 48 to Alaska?? There will be one connecting flight in Seattle going & coming back. It will be for backup while hunting & fishing (Alaska is a CCW reciprocity state) unless it's not worth the trouble.
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Old August 5, 2009, 09:41 AM   #2
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You need a pistol case with a lock that only you have the key or combo to and a suitcase or other outer luggage type outer carrier that you need a TSA lock for (TSA locks can be found in Wal Mart type stores, probably in the luggage section). TSA locks are just key locks that TSA can open.

You put the unloaded gun in the pistol case, lock it, put the pistol case in your outer luggage where it can be gotten to fairly easy to begin with because you might have to fish it out for TSA.

You check in, in person at the airline's counter. Tell the counter person, "I have an unloaded firearm in my checked baggage to declare." They will give you a form to fill out and direct you to take your bag containing the firearm to a TSA screening area. TSA will xray your bag, might ask you to open it so they can look at the gun. YOU and only YOU open the lock on the pistol case, they are not allowed to by Federal law. When it's all done, the pistol case gets locked with your lock, the outer luggage gets locked with the tsa lock and everything after that proceeds as normal. The form you filled out will most likely end up in the pistol case with the gun.

You can also have ammo in your checked baggage, the easiest way to transport ammo is in the original factory box, or one of the plastic boxes made for reloaders to keep rounds in.
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Old August 5, 2009, 10:53 AM   #3
chris in va
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Very well summed up. I'll add that the counterperson may not be aware of current firearm regulations and get flustered, trying to call their supervisor and such. They may even argue with you, so have the airline regulations printed out beforehand.

The guy that handled my situation was probably new and assumed I was LEO and tried to hand me a form so I could carry a loaded firearm on the aircraft. Patiently I informed him I was not LEO, and his demeanor slowly got jittery. The TSA agent took over from there.

It'll be somewhat embarassing to tell the agent you have a firearm, then wait for the TSA guy to check your equipment in front of everyone in line, but don't worry...happens all the time.

Oh, and my bag didn't come down the baggage claim carousel, but was set aside in a corner with other luggage. So if your bag doesn't show up, don't do like I did and wait 45 minutes only to discover it's somewhere else.
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Old August 5, 2009, 10:57 AM   #4
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Old August 5, 2009, 11:35 AM   #5
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Thanks for the great info!!
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Old August 5, 2009, 02:36 PM   #6
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mine normally has gone to the carousel. One time the agent tried to put the Unloaded Firearm tag on the outside of my suitcase and I had to get a supervisor to set her straight.
Retired LE, M.P., Sr. M.P. Investigator F.B.I. Trained Rangemaster/Firearms Instructor & Armorer, Presently Forensic Document Examiner for D.H.S.
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Old August 5, 2009, 08:52 PM   #7
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Taking Guns On Planes

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/combination 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 by a Criminal Entrepreneur, the lack of magazines frustrates the "Liberator", since the weapon is now initially a single shot one
  3. Check the airline(s) you are flying on:
    • To determine if the ammo
      • MUST be in boxes (plastic reload boxes work)
      • can fly in loaded magazines
    • If loaded magazines are permitted, make sure the pouches fully cover the magazines
    • The round(s) from the chamber(s)/cylinder(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.
    • If possible, develop a way to attach - in a lockable way - the hard-sided case to the piece of luggage it has been placed into.
    • 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/combinations to the lockable hard-sided case with you and you alone (Per Federal Regulations 49CFR ยง 1540.111 Carriage of weapons, explosives, and incendiaries by individuals - 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 (a signed form/tag indicating that will go in with the weapon(s))
    • 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 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 - This covers changing modes of travel - car to plane to car - in a single journey.
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