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Flying with firearms, ammunition and tools

The Rogers Report: Randi Rogers shares her tips for flying with shooting equipment.




Airport travel can be a daunting task these days, especially if you are traveling to a shooting competition. Not only do you have all of the normal headaches, but also you get the added challenge of bringing along your equipment. I have been very lucky to travel to many different states and have picked up some tips and tricks for flying with firearms along the way.

Before traveling, I always recommend that you read over the rules, directions and laws provided by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), your airline and the state(s) you might be visiting.

Some helpful links to firearms-specific rules I have found are located at these websites:

Delta Airlines
United Airlines
Southwest Airlines


Randi Rogers  2_1



I have used 3 different methods for checking my firearms while traveling.

1. A small, hard-sided lockable case, or a case with padlocks or combination locks, that goes inside a regular soft-sided piece of luggage.

This I have found is absolutely perfect to fit a 1 or 2 handguns. Or, I might choose to use 2 lockable cases, especially if I am trying to check 3 guns for a steel challenge event.

Tip: Make sure that when the case is locked, you cannot open the case at all; if one side opens just a bit, it might not pass an airline ticket agent’s inspection.  

2. A large, hard-sided lockable suitcase or lockable equipment case that an entire range bag will fit inside. I have used this type of packing method before; however, it has been my experience that sometimes this can be confusing to airline attendants who don’t check firearms very often. If the handguns are in a sleeve or padded pouch, I’ve had attendants question if I needed a small, hard-sided case just for the pistols, as well as the hard-sided suitcase for the other guns — I don’t know why, all I can say is, it happens.

So, to alleviate the confusion, when using the hard-sided suitcase option, I also put my handguns in a small, hard-sided pistol box. It makes for less argument at the counter, plus I know my equipment won’t get banged around during the luggage handling.

3. A large, hard-sided case with foam lining for checking long guns, like a Pelican or Americase. This is the kind of case I use when traveling to 3-Gun matches or Cowboy Action events, where I carry multiple pieces of long gun equipment. I usually disguise this case with musical instrument stickers, bands or other items. I doubt it really fools anyone, but it makes me feel better.


traveling with firearms handguns

A small, hard-sided lockable case, or a case with padlocks or combination locks, that goes inside a regular soft-sided piece of luggage.


Whenever I am checking firearms, I always, always give myself a minimum of 2 hours at the airport before my departure time. I have found this to be one of the most important steps, because almost everywhere I have traveled, there is some type of additional step to check the firearm.

Each airport has a slightly different procedure, but generally this is what I have come to expect:

1) Check in at an airport kiosk to pay for baggage and print boarding pass.

2) Approach counter to check bags. As soon as I get there, I tell the attendant that I have firearms and/or ammunition to declare.

3) The attendant will give me a declaration slip (usually orange in color,) to fill out and place in my bag(s).

5) Some attendants vary on where they want declaration to go — inside the hard-sided bag, inside the lockable case or taped to the outside of the lockable case. It should never attach to an outside handle.

6) After the bags have been tagged, they must be inspected by TSA. This is usually the largest area of deviation from airport to airport. Some airports have a TSA location right at the counter, some will ask you to walk over to a TSA office and some will ask you to wait as your luggage is x-rayed and an “all clear” is then relayed to you. While they are all different, they all take some time. So, giving yourself extra time before your departure is key!

The last piece of advice I would give anyone checking firearms is to stay calm and be flexible. Regardless of what the websites contain, each airport is different and one thing I am absolutely sure of is that arguing will get you nowhere. Don’t give up your security, but don’t argue small points.



I usually do not fly with my ammunition. Most airlines only allow you to check 11 pounds, which is only about 350 rounds of 147 grain 9mm. I almost always ship my ammunition to the hotel where I am staying or to a location provided by the match.

When shipping to a hotel you want to make sure that you include this information: Guest: Your Name and the dates of your stay on the package.

If you do fly with ammunition, always pack ammo in a separate bag from your firearm. Again, check with the airline’s regulations.

Always fly with your ammo in the original manufacturer’s box and it is always a good idea to tape the boxes shut.



Randi Rogers competes at the IDPA Back Up Gun nationals. Photo courtesy of Yamil Sued



Your firearm and ammunition are important, but as we all know, you need other stuff to compete: holsters, magazine pouches, eye protection, tools, spare parts, cleaning equipment, etc.

First, remember, your magazines, tools and parts all need to go in your checked luggage. For this reason, if I know I am bringing a lot of gear, I really love having a suitcase that is big enough to just put my range bag in and forget it. However, sometimes this doesn’t work with weight so I have learned to be flexible.

A few pieces of my equipment always go with me in my carry-on luggage — ear and eye protection, belt, holsters and magazine pouches. As strange as it sounds, it is sometimes easier to borrow a gun or magazine than it is to find a holster. For that reason, I always carry those items with me. Additionally, while most holsters are sturdy enough to handle anything, I always feel better taking the “fragile” items with me. Also, pack your magazines in your checked baggage. Some airlines do not allow you to carry them onboard.

It’s a good idea to print the rules and regulations of the airline you’re flying, in case you meet an attendant who needs to be politely educated.

For more information about flying with guns, check out my teammate’s, Julie Golob’s, tips.



  • About Randi Rogers

    Randi Rogers is a shooter from the top of her head down to the tips of her toes. Working as the Sales and Marketing Manager for the holster manufacturing company Comp-Tac, Randi dabbles in hunting, fishing and the great outdoors but at the end of the day she wants to have a gun in her hand. For the last 18 years as a Smith & Wesson and Compt-Tac pro competition shooter, Randi has won over 50 world and national titles in action shooting sports such as Cowboy Action Shooting, IDPA, IPSC, USPSA and 3Gun. Randi fills her days concealed carrying in a Comp-Tac Holster, spending time practicing at the range, writing for different outdoor publications and finding new ways to help other women enjoy the recreation and entertainment of target shooting.


The Conversation

  • Wayne says: May 16, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    One more small point. Watch your connections. I once spent a night without my suitcase, sleeping on the floor in Newark, because I couldn’t legally pick up my suitcase when my connecting flight was cancelled. Fortunately it was only for a day. Today I am very careful that connections are in pro gun states like Charlotte and Atlanta.

  • Neil says: May 15, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    I take around 100 (107 last year) flights a year for work and check pistols on nearly every trip except in prohibited areas where my collection of carry permits dont extend. Ammo in the case is just fine as long as it is in a case that separates the rounds. I use my reloading boxes and never have had an issue.

    I typically fly with a pistol case inside of my checked luggage. The ticket counters are usually are a little confused over this method but a little polite explanation usually irons it all out. For a case inside a bag the declaration must be on the outside of the case within the bag and visible when the bag is inspected by the TSA. For a stand alone case it goes inside.

    For the locks, hell no to TSA locks! Anyone can get those keys. I use master locks with keys and only I possess the keys. The only time the case should be opened is when it is inspected in your presence if or if TSA finds a problem. Otherwise they just swab it or scan it and youre good.

    TSA has NEVER opened my gun case for an inspection EVER. I do put two unlocked locks in the case with a message and a business card for TSA to replace and contact me in the event that they cut my original locks and Im not around. This system provides me the peace of mind of knowing the chain of custody has not been broken from point A to B of my destination.

    As for opening the case for the ticketing agent, it is airline policy usually to ensure the gun is unloaded and the ammo is stored properly before going over to the TSA area. Rarely do they ask me to show clear. If they do, I oblige, who cares. Being all demanding and trying to put the airline folks in their place is a recipe for disaster.

    I honestly dont make any special time allowances for checking my bags/guns because this is a very simple process.

  • Norm says: May 15, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Best advice is to have a printed copy of the airlines’ firearms policy on you.

  • Norm says: May 15, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    The problem is Barbra most ticket agents dont know their job when it involves firearms. Last year when traveling from Charlotte, I had 3 or 4 agents gathered around demanding that I let them “check out for safety” my firearms. While it did add some time, my refusal was upheld by their supervisor and the TSA agent. The supervisor apologized and upgraded me to first class.

  • Max says: May 14, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    I fly with my CCW firearm all the time, and sometimes with several firearms. In my experience, chaos is the order of the day. Some airline agents have required me to rack the slide and show them an empty chamber, others only want me to sign the declaration. I usually carry my ammunition in the small “ammo wallets” available from Case-Gard that hold about 18 rounds. Ammo and guns in the same checked bag have never been a problem. Using TSA approved locks on the pistol case AND the outside of the luggage has sped up my clearance a lot. I agree with the need to be flexible and just do what they ask will make your trip easier.

  • Dave says: May 13, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    The attendant should not be telling you where to put the tag and should not be looking in the firearm case. Only open the case for the TSA agent. The agent will put the tag in the proper location. Attendants used to check firearms before 2001, but not any more. Many bad experiences with attendants pre-2001 checking firearms.

    Just go to the counter, make the firearms declaration, check any non-firearm bags thru, and wait for the TSA officer. DO NOT open the firearm case for the attendant.

    As a rule, no part of a firearm except sometimes scopes are allowed in carry-on. Magazines are considered part of the firearm. Just check them through.

    Also note, a firearm case is not required to have a TSA lock on it.

    • Barbara Baird says: May 14, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      I would not tell a ticket agent his or her job. I’ve flown recently and had to place the tag on top of the case and the attendant taped it.
      I’m wondering if your refusal to do what the ticket agent instructs you to do might cause 1) a delay and 2) a problem.

    • NoNeedForAName says: May 14, 2014 at 9:09 pm

      no offense, but you’re clearly speaking from a strict interpretation of something you read online, and not from the practical perspective of having dealt with people.

      You’re right – there is no strict TSA policy about where the tags go. You’re forgetting however that the Ticket Agents and the TSA work together constantly,day in and day out, addressing issues like this. It would be silly if they didn’t come up with makeshift agreements of “hey – when you send me a customer with these forms, just have them stick the forms with the case so we know where to look for them”. It saves everybody a little procedural headache and speeds up the red tape a little bit.

      Because it’s not an official procedure – you won’t read about it online, on any gun blog, or in any TSA pamphlet. It will vary from airport to airport. It’s just one of those things. Take a deep breath, realize that where you put the piece of paper is not conspiracy, and deal with it. lol