Michelle Whitney Bodenheimer shares how to protect your hunting rifle while traveling abroad.
If traveling with a rifle brings on a headache — especially as you think of wading through a sea of TSA requirements, airline regulations, foreign VISAs and import rules — fear not.
I am actively planning my next hunting adventure abroad. This July, I will join The WON’s managing editor, Britney Starr, and 4 other amazing women on a 10-day safari with Starr & Bodill African Safaris.
So, I’ve been doing research on how to keep my rifle and other gear from getting damaged or lost without replacement. I’ve also been learning how best to pack it.
Traveling with a firearm can be a hassle, but with the right preparation and right gear, it can be made much easier.
Hard-sided gun case
Airline regulations and TSA rules mandate that all firearms be unloaded and packed in an airline approved, hard-sided gun case to be sent as checked baggage. The hard-sided gun case must have a built-in lock or provide for an approved padlock that cannot be readily opened. Not only will the proper hard-sided gun case keep you in compliance with the law, it will help secure your firearm and help keep it safe from the continuous bumping and jarring of air travel.
There are a number of hard-sided gun cases available on the market at competitive price points. I prefer the PLANO All Weather Double Scoped Rifle/Shotgun Wheeled Case for transporting my rifles internationally. Not only does the sturdy construction and pluck foam interior protect my rifle and scope from damage while in transit, but also, the Dri-Loc Seal creates a water- and air-tight seal that keeps equipment protected from adverse weather and dust.
The PLANO All Weather Double Scoped Rifle/Shotgun Wheeled Case also comes equipped with solid wheels on its base. Amber Brandly, co-owner of 2 Vets Arms, prefers a hard-sided case with wheels or rollers, “to make it easy to lug around.” A solid gun case loaded down for a trip becomes heavy and cumbersome. Rollers, such as those on the PLANO, make the case much more manageable when maneuvering through crowded airports.
This PLANO case measures 51.5-inches x 12.62-inches x 5.25-inches inside, and an exterior measurement of 54.625-inches x 15.5-inches x 6-inches, leaving plenty of room for long rifle barrels. Caution should be taken, however, to contact your airline carrier before travel to determine if you will be required to pay an “oversized” luggage fee.
The PLANO All Weather Double Scoped Rifle/Shotgun Wheeled Case is available from major outdoor retailers nationwide.
Soft-sided gun case
Once you have reached your hunting destination, it is most convenient to transfer your rifle to a soft-sided gun case for daily travel to and from the field. The soft-sided gun case will provide protection for the rifle and scope in a bumpy truck ride, without being as cumbersome as a hard-sided case used for longer distance travel.
Extreme Huntress finalist Stephanie Wottrich recommends a soft-sided gun case with a zipper top, as opposed to a slide-in version. Stephanie argues that she wants “to be able to put the gun in a case on the truck rack and grab it out easily.” I agree with Stephanie, as I prefer the Galco Gunleather Field Grade Zippered Rifle/Shotgun Case to meet my needs in the field. The case is made of water-resistant, cotton-duck fabric and lined with thick acrylic fleece.
This Galco soft-sided gun case is both durable and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The case is trimmed in dark Havana leather and boasts a fully adjustable leather carrying strap with solid brass hardware. An exterior pocket on the case provides extra storage for eye and ear protection.
US Customs Form 4457
When traveling abroad, you must have proof of ownership of your firearms and other valuables upon re-entry into the USA. Without proper proof that the items are owned by you when you left the USA, you may be subject to paying a duty on each item when you bring it back into the country, or worse, criminal penalties for (perceived) improper importation of firearms.
Fortunately, ownership can be easily proven by completing Form 4457, Certificate of Registration for Personal Effects Taken Abroad, at your local US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office before departing the country. Completing Form 4457 for your firearms, and for other expensive equipment with serial numbers, is relatively simple and painless. You must take your items for registration with you to the local CBP office, complete Form 4457 and have it stamped by a CBP Agent. It is best to arrange to have Form 4457 completed well before your departure to avoid any disruption to your travel. A completed Form 4457 never expires for the owner listed on the paperwork, and can be used on future trips abroad. Note, however, that Form 4457 is not transferable.
I keep a completed Form 4457 for each firearm, binocular and piece of camera equipment I take with me on international hunting trips. It is important to note that Form 4457 may not only be requested upon re-entry into the USA, but also some foreign countries request to see this proof of ownership of firearms upon initial entry.
There is no charge to obtain a certified Form 4457 from your local CBP office. Click here to locate the CBP office nearest you.
After you have invested money to purchase your firearm, and time and money in mounting a scope, sighting it in, and practicing for your trip, the last thing you want is for your gun to become lost or damaged in transit. Having your favorite rifle go missing can definitely put a damper on your planned hunting excursion in some faraway destination.
I highly recommend Travel Guard insurance for insuring not only your firearms and other expensive sporting equipment, but also for providing coverage for trip cancellation, interruption, delay, medical expenses, lost baggage and more.
Travel Guard provides 24/7 personal assistance to its insured, providing peace of mind in the event something does go wrong. In 2009, my husband and I purchased travel insurance from Travel Guard prior to leaving for a 2-week African safari. We were traveling with both a new rifle and camera, and wanted to insure each item. Little did we know that disaster would strike while we were overseas. We discovered that Travel Guard agents answered immediately and arranged the assistance we needed. Today, I refuse to travel outside of the USA without first insuring each trip.
Be certain to speak with a Travel Guard representative before purchasing a policy to make certain you are purchasing the plan that is right for you, and one that will cover your firearms in the field. Not all plans are created equally, and not all travelers’ needs are the same. Travel Guard offers a variety of plans and varying price points.
Follow our adventures on social media with the hashtag #SafariSisters.
An experienced huntress, Michelle Whitney Bodenheimer has pursued big game, upland birds and waterfowl throughout North America and Africa. Although Michelle loves to hunt and shoot (both rifle and bow), her biggest passion in life is sharing her love for the outdoors with others. Michelle is the dedicated gear review columnist for Women’s Outdoor News, in a column called “Her Gear.” Michelle’s writings and photography also have been published in a number of outdoor journals, including On Target, Lady Angler, The Gun Dog Journal, The Shooting Channel and African Hunting Gazette. Michelle has been a repeat contributing guest on Outdoor GPS,a live hunting and fishing television program broadcast on Comcast SportsNet NW. When Michelle is not writing, she is serving her time as an outdoor educator. She is an active volunteer for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Outdoor Skills Program. Her primary responsibilities with ODFW are serving as a shotgunning coach and dog handler/guide for ODFW’s upland bird hunting clinics. Michelle also teaches regularly for Women in the Outdoors (WITO) and Becoming and Outdoors Woman (BOW) programs. She serves on the Pro Staff team for Cabela’s, as well as for the NW Ladies Hunt Camp, an educational outreach program hosted in conjunction with the NRA’s Women on Target Program and Extreme Desire TV, and is a member of the field staff for Próis Hunting and Field Apparel for Women. A current member of a number of national conservation organizations, Michelle is a life member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundations, as well as a life member of the National Rifle Association. She also served as a past director for the Southwest Washington chapter of Safari Club International. Take caution, however, if Michelle invites you along on a hunt. Having been stalked by a cougar and attacked by a cheetah, she tends to live life a bit on the wild side. View all posts by Michelle Whitney Bodenheimer