A Comprehensive Guide to Traveling with Your Firearm

Traveling with your Firearm Cover

When it comes to taking a trip, air travel can already be complicated. But add in traveling with your firearm on top of your plans and there is another layer of complexity entirely, as firearms and ammunition are strictly prohibited in carry-on baggage. Passengers may only travel with their firearms if they are properly packed (unloaded), checked, and declared to the airline.

TSA Has Certain Procedures When a Firearm is Found

In 2023, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) intercepted 6,737 firearms at airport security checkpoints, 93% of which were loaded. This number is a new record for TSA, surpassing last year’s record of 6,542.

When a firearm is detected at a security checkpoint, the TSA officers will immediately contact local law enforcement, who remove the passenger and firearm from the checkpoint area. Passengers can face fines up to $15,000, loss of TSA PreCheck eligibility for at least five years, and enhanced screening. Depending on local laws, they may even be arrested.

Traveling with your Firearm - TSA inspection

Traveling with your firearm can be a daunting task, but with proper preparation and understanding of the regulations, you can ensure a smooth and secure journey. This guide will walk you through the essential steps for air travel with a firearm, ensuring compliance with TSA guidelines and airline policies.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Traveling With Your Firearm

1. Secure a Hard Case

First and foremost, you’ll need a sturdy, hard-sided case. This case is designed to secure your firearm and keep it from being tampered with during transit.

2. Unload Firearms and Magazines

Before you start packing, make sure that all firearms and magazines are completely unloaded. This is a critical step, as it ensures you are legally compliant and also prevents any accidental discharge.

3. Pack Your Firearm Properly

Once unloaded, place your firearms and magazines into the hard case, making sure everything is neatly arranged and secured.

4. Pack Your Ammunition Properly

Place your ammunition in its original factory box, then place the box into the hard case. As with packing your firearm, doing this keeps you safe and legally compliant.

5. Use a Tracking Device (optional)

This step isn’t required, but for added security and peace of mind, consider placing an Apple AirTag or similar tracking device inside your hard case. This can help you keep track of your firearm during your travels.

Traveling with your Firearm - gun storage

6. Secure Your Case with Locks

Attach a lock to each eyelet on the case. It is advisable to use non-TSA locks for better security. If a lock can be opened by TSA personnel, it might also be accessible to others. Double check that when the case is latched, it is tightly sealed and that you cannot insert your fingertips between the lid and the body of the case.

7. Declare Your Firearm at Check-In

When you arrive at the airport, immediately declare that you have a firearm to the check-in counter. This is a mandatory step in the TSA compliance process. However, when you declare to have a firearm, you’ll want to be careful with your words (ie. Don’t just blurt out “I have a gun!”)

8. Sign a Waiver

You will be required to sign a waiver stating that all firearms are unloaded. This waiver is a legal document confirming that you are following TSA safety regulations.

9. Follow Instructions at the Counter

Open your case ONLY when instructed by the counter personnel. After placing the signed waiver inside the case, lock it securely. Do not open the case unless directed to do so by authorized personnel.

10. Retrieve Your Firearm at Your Destination

Once you reach your destination, you will need to retrieve your hard case at the customer service counter of the airline you flew with. Be prepared to show identification and any required documentation.

Additional Information for Traveling With Your Firearm

  • In some airports, such as Phoenix and Orlando, you may be asked to accompany your case to a secure area for additional screening. This is an extra layer of security that confirms your firearm is being handled safely and securely.
  • In addition to ammunition and firearms themselves, firearm parts, including magazines, clips, scopes, etc. are also prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage. Replica or toy firearms fall under this category as well.
  • When traveling internationally, you should also check with U.S. Customs and Border Protection for additional firearm guidelines.

Traveling with your firearm requires careful planning and adherence to regulations. It may seem nerve-wracking, but by following these steps and staying up-to-date on the latest TSA guidelines and airline policies, you can ensure a safe and legal journey with your firearm.

Interested in learning more about the basics of transporting a firearm, as well as the legal nuances of firearm ownership where you live? Find a Concealed Coalition class near you today!

State Reciprocity Maps
Map of the All States

Blog Topics


Get Certified Today