I have been groped, patted, swabbed and checked while traveling the friendly skies. And I have had my luggage tossed, my locks broken, and my items sorted through on many occasions. Those thoughts alone are enough to make one cringe at the thought of travel, especially flying when firearms are involved. But there are some things you can do to make the process easier and more efficient. It’s not a terribly complicated process, but here are a few reminders and tips.

Know Before You Go

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 recognize your concealed carry permit. So be sure to know what is allowed before you go!

Review Policies for Flying with Firearms

Policies are fairly consistent as far as what is allowed and where and how you are allowed to travel with them (for instance, firearms must be checked in your luggage), but rules or requirements can change. Be sure to take a look at both the airline’s website and the TSA’s website before you get ready to go so you don’t miss any important notifications or instructions.

Use a Locked, Hard-Sided Case

There are many options for cases, whether a fancier Pelican case or just the one your gun came in. Just be sure to have a good lock for it. I love the cable locks since the strap is flexible and fits with a variety of cases and storage options. Also remember to have the key on you at all times!

Unload and Store Your Firearm

Don’t forget that your firearm needs to be unloaded. I usually unload the magazines, too, just in case.

Pack Ammunition, If You’d Like

Ammunition can be packed in your checked bags as long as it’s in the original packaging or stored in a hard-sided case. Just be sure the ammo is contained and not able to “escape” in your suitcase. Nothing is more annoying than chasing down rounds in your baggage. As well, you may need to check to be sure you don’t go over the amount of ammo you’re allowed to pack. For instance, some airlines have regulations on total weight. Oh, and let’s not forget that hollow-points are illegal in some states. So, again: Know before you go!

Cooperate with the Rules

While I would not suggest walking to the counter and stating, “I have a gun,” you should be prepared to “declare” your unloaded firearm (in its locked, hard-sided case), and then go through the motions. They may ask you to fill out a card or form or even show that the firearm is unloaded and locked in its case. Comply. And be prepared. You never know if this will be the airline worker’s first time to check a firearm through or the person’s 1,001!


Related: USCCA Concealed Carry Reciprocity Map & Gun Laws By State

*This post was originally published in November 2016 and updated March 2022. Note: The video states that a loaded firearm is allowed in one’s vehicle in Alabama without a permit. That is no longer the case, and a concealed carry permit is required to transport a loaded gun in one’s vehicle.