Traveling, whether by plane or in your car, with the reassurance of self-protection is often a consideration for those who carry concealed. Ensuring your safety and that of your loved ones, even while on the move, is important. This comprehensive guide aims to unravel the intricacies of flying with a gun and traveling with firearms.

No matter what your chosen method of travel (whether planes, trains or automobiles), be sure you know if your destination allows for you to have your firearm. Not all states have reciprocity or will recognize your concealed carry permit.

Flying with a Firearm

First off, it is against TSA regulations to carry a weapon onto a plane. However, with careful adherence to TSA regulations, you can place an unloaded firearm in your checked luggage. Read the regulations thoroughly. Don’t treat it like one of those “terms and conditions” windows most of us accept without reading a single word. Study it and know what it says. It maybe helpful to keep a printed copy in your gun case for reference. Atop the TSA rules, you also need to review any specific instructions provided by the airline you intend to fly. And it’s a good idea to review the gun laws of the location to which you’re flying.

Choosing a Gun Case to Fly With

You must use a lockable, hard-sided case that cannot be pried open. The MTM Single Gun Case is a good option because it is not a firearms-specific case. It can carry different weapons without issue. Regardless of which you choose, the operative terms here are “hard-sided” and “lockable.” If it doesn’t fit those two criteria, it’s a no-go.

It is very important that the firearm be unloaded before it goes into the case. Although not required, removing the slide from the frame and place the two side-by-side along with the magazine can help prevent trouble. If TSA X-rays the case, they will see the firearm is not only unloaded but in a non-firing condition.

Choose standard keyed or combination locks that only you can open. You should not use TSA “luggage locks” because TSA officials have pass keys for those units and you, therefore, cannot guarantee that only you have access to the case. TSA might X-ray the case during the screening process. If they have any concerns, they might ask you to provide the key or combination. For this reason, most airports will ask you to remain near the check-in counter while the screening takes place.

Secure Your Firearm

After the firearm is in the locked case, place it in the luggage you plan to check. As an extra precaution, you can secure the firearms case to the inside of the luggage with a cable lock. Simply unzip the liner and pass a laminated steel cable through the bars that hold the collapsible handle for pulling the luggage. Then zip the liner around the cable, leaving enough cable exposed to reach the firearms case.

Traveling with a firearm is a high-stakes proposal, so make sure you cross your Ts and dot your Is.

Run the cable through the firearms case handle and lock it. Any bike lock will work. Granted, the handles inside the suitcase are not as strong and secure as the cable, but it would take some effort to separate the firearms case from your luggage. Effort draws attention, and thieves aren’t fond of either.

Flying with Ammo

TSA regulations allow you to travel with up to 11 pounds of ammunition in your checked luggage. Regardless of what the TSA homepage might or might not say, stick to factory loads in the original packaging. Just be sure the ammo is contained and not able to “escape” in your suitcase. Some airlines have regulations on total weight. And don’t forget that hollow-points are illegal in some states.

With your firearm secured inside your checked luggage, it’s time to head to the airport. Give yourself at least an extra 30 minutes to check in. After you’ve done this a few times, you’ll get a feel for how much time you really need. But every airport is different.

Taking Your Gun to the Airport

When you arrive at the airport, proceed to your airline’s Special Services check-in counter. This is usually at the end of the normal check-in counter and is operated for passengers with unique circumstances, such as wheelchairs or service animals. These counters are often staffed with some of the most experienced agents, and that makes the process all the more easy and comfortable.

When it is your turn to approach the counter, state respectfully and in a normal voice, “I would like to declare an unloaded firearm.” Avoid phrases like, “I have a gun.” And avoid speaking louder than normal. Simply be respectful and polite. The agent will ask to see the locked case, so be prepared to open your luggage. After seeing the case, the agent will ask you to sign a card declaring the firearm is unloaded. You will then be asked to place that card on top of the firearms case and then close your luggage.

To avoid having the card separated from the firearm’s case when luggage is moved around, you can place a vinyl holder on top of the case. This will allow you to slide the declaration card in and keep it securely attached. A simple badge holder, like one you might get for a conference name tag, held in place by double-sided foam tape will do. With the declaration card on top of your firearms case, close and lock the luggage. (This would be the time and place for a TSA-approved lock.)

How to Fly with a Firearm

The next step in the process can be different at each airport. At some airports, the check-in agent will contact TSA to inform them that checked luggage with an unloaded firearm is on its way. They’ll then take your luggage to a designated conveyor belt, and after that, you’ll be directed to a special waiting area. After a short wait, either the agent or a customer service representative will inform you that your bag, including the firearm, has been cleared. At this stage, you can proceed through the standard security checkpoint and board your flight.

However, flying from different airports may involve distinct procedures. Some airports may request you to bring your luggage to a dedicated room, where you’ll observe a TSA officer conducting the screening. Following that, they will send the bag to the airplane. Alternatively, at certain airports, the agent may handle your luggage and send it down the same conveyor belt used for all bags, allowing you to proceed through regular security. In essence, be prepared for variations in the process.

After you land, retrieve your checked luggage and exit the airport. Before exiting, it’s a good idea to find a quiet corner to open your luggage and ensure the locked case is still in place. Do not remove the firearm at this point. Simply execute this quick check in case there is an issue and you need to go to the airline baggage office. 

Some airlines will bind your suitcase with large plastic ties for the flight, and when you retrieve your luggage, it will be basically inaccessible without a knife or strong clippers. If you did not check a knife in that bag, then you will either have to ask an agent for assistance or walk away with your luggage thus bound. Either way, those giant zip-ties attract attention. Remove them as soon as you can.

Always review the local laws and regulations for your destination before you pack your firearm. If you plan carefully and treat the airline and TSA agents with respect, you’ll find that flying with your gun on commercial flights is remarkably easy.

Road Trips and Firearms

How does carrying a gun fit into your travel plans if you are driving through multiple states and keeping your gun in a car?

First up, you need to know the laws for every jurisdiction through which you will travel. Check out the USCCA’s reciprocity map and listing of state gun laws. This will tell you where your permit is good, if you need a permit or if you should take special precautions to ensure you don’t commit a felony just by crossing state lines. You might also want to know the rules surrounding carrying a gun in a national park or on other federal lands.

Of course, the best option for self-defense would be to keep your gun on your person in a concealed carry holster. However, that’s not always possible when crossing state lines or going on extended road trips.

Where to Store Your Gun in a Vehicle

  • Glove Box: One of the most common places to store a gun in a vehicle is the glove box. The glovebox of a vehicle is an easily accessible location in case of emergencies, but it should be locked for security. While it might seem like storing your concealed carry weapon in your glove box is the safest way to transport your firearm, it comes with risks. Most importantly, passengers can easily access it.
  • Console: Another popular option for storing a gun in a vehicle is the center console. This is a convenient location that is easily accessible by the driver but again should be locked when you’re away from the vehicle. You’ll also need to confirm the laws of the states through which you’re traveling for legality.
  • Gun Safe: If a state requires you to store your weapon and ammunition out of reach and in a separate location, a gun safe is the safest and most secure option. Gun safes come in a range of sizes and can be installed in various locations in your vehicle, including the trunk or under a seat. Investing in a quality gun safe ensures that your firearm is not only secure but also protected against damage from external elements such as moisture or heat.

Safe Travels

As you embark on your travels, whether through the clouds or on the open road, understanding the intricacies of flying with a gun and traveling with firearms is paramount. Remember, an informed and responsible traveler is a safer traveler. 


TSA Firearms Regulations:
MTM Case-Gard:


This article is a compilation of previous blog posts authored by Brad Lewis, Kevin Michalowski, Ed Combs and Beth Alcazar.