When you travel it can be one of the most vulnerable times for you and your family. You will be in a strange place and probably will not know your surroundings well. These can lead to you ending up in "bad neighborhoods" where crime could be rampant, or your chances for victimization will greatly increase. I've recently had the pleasure of traveling with a firearm and so far every time the process has been pretty easy and straight forward. I've only traveled with Southwest Airlines but the process should be similar for other carriers.
Knowing What Is Required To Fly With a Firearm
To help streamline the process and limit the chances you get caught up in some lengthy squabble with the TSA or gate agents you need to know what is required to fly with a firearm. The biggest thing is to make sure you give yourself enough time at the ticketing counter and to go through security (AKA: Don't arrive 15 minutes before your flight).
When you fly with a firearm it must go inside your checked baggage in a hard-sided locked container, and it must be unloaded. Ammo must be stored separately from the firearm, and in an approved container.
The Best Way To Fly With A Gun
As we mentioned above a hard sided container that can lock is a requirement for flying with a firearm. Most of the time any quality gun purchase will include a hard-sided container that you can easily lock.
But if you want to fly with a little extra protection and security Pelican makes an awesome Hard-sided Gun Case, that is TSA approved.
The firearm must be completely unloaded, that means not a round in the chamber or a loaded magazine in the firearm.
Though the guidelines suggest that having a loaded magazine inside the locked case is okay, it just can not be inside the firearm. I suggest not having ammo inside the locked case at all just to be on the safe side, and avoid dealing with the "wonderful" people of the TSA.
The next thing you will need is a lock to secure the case. You can use just about any standard lock, either combination or key. Just make sure you have the key with you at all times, or the combination ready. The TSA can ask you to open the case at anytime so make sure you aren't fumbling around trying to appease them.
Taking Some Ammo With You
If you're taking a firearm chances are good you'll need some ammo with you. Ammunition must also travel inside checked baggage, and it must be stored inside fiber, wood, or metal boxes or other packaging designed to carry small amounts of ammo.
Protip: Just keep the original manufacturers packaging when flying with ammo. It will make your life a lot easier
Time To Declare Your Firearm
TSA regulations require you to notify the ticketing agent that you have a firearm locked securely inside your baggage. Each airport/airline will probably be a little different but flying out of Detroit via Southwest has always been a breeze, has have the return flights from Sky Harbor out in Phoenix.
When you approaching the counter you simply say "I need to declare a firearm". The ticketing agent will most likely provide a card for you to fill out with your name and information. On the reverse will be a little disclaimer about it being unloaded and etc.
That's all there is to flying with a firearm within the TSA guidelines. Most of the time its going to be a easy and smooth process, just ensure the firearm is unloaded and locked, and that ammo is stored in a container properly.
Edited by David