Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Flying With Firearms...

In a few months, I will be doing exactly that. I've been invited to the fourth annual Blogorado bash, and have been driving myself crazy trying to decide which ordnance to bring. I've only been to two shoots - the Northeast Bloggershoot, of course, and also the first Northcoast shoot - and both were within driving distance, so flying with firearms wasn't an issue. 2,000+ miles ain't gonna happen. While I would love the road trip, I wouldn't love the extra 3 days it tacked on to either side of the vacation - three days I won't have. Flying it is, which means executing another Jay G. first: flying with a firearm.

I know plenty of folks have done it and had no problems; I haven't been brave enough yet. Then again, I'm flying out of Logan, so that's an added issue. There's a not-inconsequential chance that something might go "missing" - small though it may be - and there's the omnipresent danger of daring to possess a firearm in Massachusetts... But I digress. My real issue is the hassle of flying with firearms - again, since I've never done it, I wonder if it's more the fear of the unknown at work here.

The plan is to take 1 or 2 rifles and 3-4 handguns. I'm reluctant to include some of the nicer firearms, because some are family heirlooms and as such irreplaceable. On the flip side, there's hardly a reason to bring an M&P, given that they're more or less ubiquitous and should be readily available should I desire to shoot one. I'm also trying to keep the ammunition requirements simple - since I'll be ordering ammo to be shipped, I'd like to keep as few calibers as possible.

Some folks have recommended shipping the guns to myself at the end location, which is another option of course. It carries more or less the same danger, though - if the package goes missing for any reason, I'm still frantically scrambling to alert the BATF (I'm a Class 03 FFL holder and and such have to report the loss of any handgun within 48 hours) and I'm out the firearm. In a sense, bringing them with me gives me greater control, in that when I get off the plane and go to retrieve, if something's missing I can start the process immediately.

So... Folks out there that have done this... Help me out. Tell me that you've done this a bunch of times and everything was fine. MA folks - anyone have any trouble flying into or out of Logan? I know a good number of folks have flown with a single firearm - anyone see a difference when flying with multiple arms? This is all completely new to me, and as such (as I often do), I readily admit that I may very well be blowing this waaaaay out of proportion. I have a tendency to overthink things sometimes... (stop laughing)...

Success stories - and horror stories - as well as tips & suggestions are very much welcome.

That is all.

28 comments:

Alan said...

Get a couple of Pelican cases and be prepared to pay oversize bag fees for the rifles.

Flying with guns is pretty safe. You use your non-TSA locks on the case which the TSA can't open. It also means the baggage handlers can't open it either and the last thing the TSA wants is to lose a gun under their care.

Matt said...

My nearest airport is in Chicago. To fly with firearms, therefore, presents me with a neat binary choice: federal prison, or state prison. Needless to say, I go with the UPS option instead.

The advantage of this, of course, is that by shipping the guns to yourself in care of your destination, you also avoid the need to affix huge "STEAL ME!" placards to the packaging. As far as the shipping company is concerned, it's just another box that has a certain weight. And since they know that if you're ever disappointed with them or their quality of service, you can easily move all your business to their competitors, they have a pretty powerful incentive to make sure their employees don't steal your stuff. Not so much, for the TSA, or even the airlines.

George said...

I've done it a bunch of times, and everything was fine.

Print out and bring with you your airline's firearms policy. The clerk at the desk might be rusty on the policy. Just walk in, tell them you need to declare some firearms, and there you go.

I've flow with multiple handguns, not an issue.

Dave H said...

Is flying out of Manchester NH an option? When my company's HQ was in Wilmington several of the people here refused to go through Logan and went through there instead.

Other than that, I can't offer any help.

George said...

Oh, and +1 to what Allen said. You want a box that is big enough so that it can't be stashed someplace. A big Pelican case works nicely.

Oscar said...

there is a pretty good video with information that helped me my first time around. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qI-YYWDYXJ4&feature=player_embedded

Braden Lynch said...

I'm not an expert on this, but I have heard of horror stories where flights are diverted to those less tolerant cities like Chicago and this has resulted in big trouble.

I like Matt's idea. Ship via UPS or FedEx and know that they have a much better track record than airlines. I would trust them over TSA any day.

I would insure them, too.

Ambulance Driver said...

+1 for Alan's suggestion.

Every time I've flown with a firearm, it has been totally painless. At most, it took me an extra five minutes at check-in, and that was with multiple guns.

It'd be a better idea to drop ship your ammo to Colorado.

Miguel said...

Taking 6 firearms? And you are an FFL? Ship the damn things plenty in advance. You will be murdered with extra fees at the airport since I am assuming you are gonna take a boatload of ammo too.
I flown before with guns and It has been a breeze. Then again it has been from Gun Friendly state to Gun Friendly state.

Jay G said...

I'm going to have the ammunition shipped separately, no doubt about that.

The FFL is a class 03 - Curios and Relics. I picked it up years ago for a multitude of reasons, mainly because I have a milsurp sickness and it's easier to feed than treat... :) It means precisely jack-squat when dealing with modern firearms - EXCEPT when something bad happens...

Alan said...

Or you could fly with your carry gun only. It's not like there won't be lots of guns there anyway.

Dropship some ammo in popular calibers so you don't feel like a leach.

Besides, you won't want to shoot YOUR guns anyway. You'll want to shoot OldNFO's.

jetfxr69 said...

Have appropriate lockable (Non-TSA locks) cases, and it's fairly painless. The declaration requirement is easy, and the tags go INSIDE the cases. Nothing on the outside to say "STEAL ME" other than the fact that most people don't pack in Pelican or similar boxes.

Based on what I've seen from other Blogorado posts, you've GOT to take the Savage Model 10....

:)

Jay G said...

Alan, jetfxr69,

Not to tip my hand, but I'll have something of my own (well, in my possession) worth bringing to the shoot... ;)

Bubblehead Les. said...

If you plan to ship your Firearms ahead of time, remember, you also need to schedule some time to ship them back home, so plan for a hour or so at the nearest USPEX place.

Unless you want my Brother-in Law to come down from SteamBoat and hold them for you. He can ship them to me, and then I'll make sure they get back to you.

Someday. ASAP. Guaranteed before Christmas. Don't know WHICH Christmas, but.... ; )

Adam said...

Had a construction project in upstate New York a couple years back. Turned out the local foreman was as avid a skeet shooter as I am. I shipped a fairly high end Beretta in two pieces labelled as machine parts. Took out the appropriate level of insurance. I used FedEx and it worked perfectly.

Great advice in planning extra time to re-package them before you leave.

Armed Texan said...

I've flown out of DFW, Tucson, and Manchester with handguns. The only time I had any anxiety is when the ticket agent made me go to a special TSA area so that they could inspect my baggage by hand specifically because I was declaring a firearm. The TSA goon swabbed my bag inside and out, then scanned the swab for explosive residue. While waiting for the scan to complete he commented on my choice of guns (1911, of course) and seemed a little covetous. After he completed his security kabuki, I stuck around to make sure the bag got on the conveyor belt even though he kept telling me I was free to leave and took his time filling out paper work before sending the bag on its way.

Laura said...

Besides, you won't want to shoot YOUR guns anyway. You'll want to shoot OldNFO's.

yes, this. lol.

Jeff B said...

Have flown with a pistol several times, and a pistol and hunting rifle twice.

Not familiar with Logan, but at Denver, it's simple: Tell ticket counter person "I have to declare a firearm", and she has a TSA person come over, you BOTH walk to this room with a CT scanner type thing, and they run your locked case through it while you watch. If they need to inspect closer, they ask you for the key, open it in front of you, and re-lock in front of you, then off it goes with the rest of checked bags.

It helps to let them know that you've paid attention to the details. The TSA dude will begin reading a litany of questions, one at a time. I answered them all in a single sentence: "The gun is unloaded, there is a barrel lock in place, I have the only key, all ammo is in original factory box, and I have the only key to the case. Anything I missed?" (Said with a smile.) This tells him you pay attention to detail and take safety seriously, it ain't your first rodeo (even though, well, it IS your first rodeo), and they appreciate that.

Ken O said...

My only word of warning cones from before the days of the TSA. When flying from Savanah to Harlingen in the 90's, the security douche on hand demanded to see my disassembled sporting gun and pulled the trigger on it, locking up the action and requiring a trip to the smith. Watch them closely.

Ed Skinner said...

Baggage claim is outside of security so "beat feet" so you're there when they come out. Make the containers look like crap so any thieves will take someone else's stuff. Ship the ammo - way too heavy for air and not worth stealing.

I got wiped and sniffed once by the TSA coming directly from the range. No bells or lights. Pass. (I did wash my hands after tinkling. Does that count?)

Be prepared. Know the rules and procedures. And watch them like a hawk because they don't.

Eric said...

I flew out of Manchester with a handgun on what was to be a nonstop 2 hour flight. 16 hours, 4 cancelled flights, 3 different airlines, a stop in Phili, and arriving at a different airport than I had intended, my luggage made it.

Flying home from D.C. was less eventful.

libertyman said...

Second the motion to fly out of Manchester, Let me know if you need any help.

Tommy said...

May I recommend the following video called Packing and the Friendly Skies?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGjddG5Owsc

It has quite a few good suggestions. It will be kinda pricey, but not worrying about them getting stolen is nice peace of mind.
:-D

Old NFO said...

I've never had a problem (other than idjit CSRs at certain counters)... Do what ever you want, but if you DO fly, Pelican Cases!

redneckmp said...

done it a time or two and yes definetly pelican case and non tsa locks, just tell the csr at checkin you have a fire arm to declare they will send you over to a special room with a tsa goon who will swab the case and possibly the fire arm fill out some paper work and your on your way, and when at bagage claim if you do not see your case check in the over sized claim area just in case i had that happen to me once.

thefaz said...

I've flown out of Manchester a few times with firearms, there was no extra TSA or any of the above mentioned issues. You go to the airline, check it along with the rest of your baggage, you open it and put the stickers inside, lock it and off it goes along with the rest of your bags. It took maybe an extra 2 minutes, no more. Just do it and don't worry about it.

Anonymous said...

Go big box and use your own locks. Keep the TSA and airline rules with you on paper.

I put a Sig P238 into a "gun case" that happens to be a Pelican 1260 (big box). Then I stuff other good things in there and it comes out to 50 pounds. Lock them with my locks and we're done.

I have had questions about the big gun case (Sarasota) and last trip had someone at BWI suggest I needed to keep it unlocked or switch to TSA locks. I declined and had no problems.

If you put a gun in any case that can fit in a backpack or be secreted out by an baggage checker, it will probably disappear. So go big enough that it cannot be removed without being seen. Those locks on the outside will tell everyone who sees the case that it is holding guns. You might as well put a sign that says "steal me" on it, so make it a large case that everyone will see moving through the employee exit. Likewise, don't dilly-dally on your way to baggage claim. They won't treat your bag different from anyone else's, so people watching luggage will know its got a gun. Don't let it spin on the belt too long.

Putting a small pistol case into your soft-side bag is not going to help. All you did was guarantee that your gun will fit into the baggage handler's backpack on his way home.

And a note to Tampa passengers: the RNC convention has caused them to create a new system for handling guns. TSA now scans the bags (as usual) in a separate area, but then escorts them in bulk to the aircraft. They do not put them into the main luggage system. They officially do this for efficiency, but privately say they also have issues with the many temp contractors the airport is adding this August. Not sure the new process will stay past then, but I went through it two weeks ago and all went smooth and professional.

Anonymous said...

know anyone you would trust to drive your guns/ammo to blogorado? have them load up, drive everything in an inconspicuous vehicle, give them a deadline of when to be there and viola.