While flying commercial airlines with rifles or shotguns is fairly straightforward, doing the same with handguns requires a little more planning and care. The good news is that there are several approaches you can take to flying with your handguns.
To understand the various ways that you can travel with handguns, it’s important to understand the legal requirements. I live in South Carolina, where the declaring a handgun to ticket agents and TSA officers can be somewhat like attending a gun show (“Hey, what are you traveling with today? Cool! My uncle bought one of those!”) If you live in other parts of the country, you might need to be a little more deliberate with your check-in process.
There are two sets of rules:those set by the TSA, and the policies of your airline. It’s advisable to print copies of both before you go, because people seems to have different levels of understanding about what’s correct procedure and what’s not. The TSA requires that handguns be transported unloaded, in checked baggage, and stored in a hard-locking case. Federal Code mandates that you, and only you, maintain possession of the key or combination to the gun case throughout the duration of the trip.
There is no stipulation that your handgun case must travel separately from other suitcases, nor is there a requirement that can only carry the handgun in the locking hard case. This opens up three possibilities for you:
- You can buy a standalone handgun case that travels as a separate piece of checked luggage.
- You can use a locking hard case that travels inside of another piece of luggage.
- You can even buy a really big locking hard case and store your handgun(s) and the rest of your belongings in the same case.
Let’s take a look at some options in each of those choices.