Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Flying With Firearms: The Panicking...

So, in two days I'll be getting on a plane headed for Colorado. Ordinarily this would be a pretty big deal in and of itself - I'm not a big fan of flying - but this year has been crazy. I'd flown exactly once between 2000 and the end of 2011 - to Disney with the family - and this trip on Thursday will be the fourth time I've gotten on a plane this year. I'm still not entirely comfortable with flying, but that's not the issue this time.

No, this time I'll be flying with firearms.

I'm bringing a rifle and three handguns; all are in one hard-sided case that has two Master locks (one on either end) and two locking clasps; the three pistols are in separate pistol rugs (to prevent scratching) and there's one unopened box of factory 45 ammo for the M&P once I get there. I've got copies of the TSA rules and Southwest's rules; I've got a copy from the CO State Patrol stating that it is legal to possess firearms in CO; I've got pictures of all four guns and serial numbers on my phone along with the CHSB forms (MA agency) stating that they are registered to me. I think I'm covered.

And yes, as has been pointed out to me, when they say I need to declare my firearms it does NOT mean running up to the counter yelling "I HAVE A GUN"...

So, what else could I do to make this smoother? I've erred on the side of caution whenever possible - like buying a new box of carry ammo so that it was in the factory container as well as putting all of my unloaded magazines inside the hard case rather than in my checked luggage. My hard-sided case has two Master locks - one on each end, and keyed alike - and two out of the four clasps lock with a key. I know that I need to retain possession of the keys at all times. All four guns are unloaded; three of the four are semi-automatics and do not have magazines inserted.

Anything else I can do, or does this look like everything is covered?

That is all.


27 comments:

Farm.Dad said...

Don't carry inside the city limits of Denver because they can and do regulate OC though they cannot regulate you having the pistol loaded concealed or unconcealed in the passenger compartment of the vehicle . Other than that belt one on and don't sweat the cheap shit bud . Aurora , ect. in the metro area cannot and do not regulate oc .
See ya soon

jetfxr69 said...

I think you've got it covered, Jay,

ZerCool said...

Trigger or action locks on the pistols? I haven't read the rules so not sure if they're required, but I'd use one anyways.

Tango said...

Trigger locks are definitely not mentioned. You should be good on the case but make sure you cannot force the case open by hand. If you can, they can fail you and say "Nope, not with this case."

When you go to the ticket counter, all you gotta do is say that you have a few firearms to declare. They will give you a few orange stickers that you fill out to put into the case. Maybe only one, I've never flown with more than one. They stick that in the hard back case. MAKE SURE THE CASE HAS NON-TSA APPROVED LOCKS! The TSA must *NOT* have access to the interior of the gun case once the initial check happens. The initial check will happen after you get your orange sticker. The employee should verify the firearms are indeed unloaded and then THEY will probably walk your case to the TSA where they will ask you to open it so they can swab, etc. When it's sealed up and good to go, put your Non-TSA approved locks back on and hope they make it to Colorado with you. The rules state that ammo should be kept in a separate container than the firearm, but few people really care about that rule, but it's a good idea. They also want them fully enclosed in their container. Factory boxes work, reloading boxes, mags if they are in a FULLY ENCLOSED container. This isn't always followed either, but that's what the rules say.

Siddhartha said...

I chain my handgun lock boxes to the inside of my luggage, that way they would have to walk out with a LARGE bag other than a small box. Just another precaution, we all know how much we can trust the TSA not to steal our stuff. You may wanna try one of those nifty gps tracking devices that the ATF used in FnF, just remember to replace the batteries...

Phssthpok said...

The only thing I could possibly think to add would be maybe to have the actions open (bolts removed if applicable) as a quick and easy way to verify 'unloaded' without handling (or at least to minimize the coon-fingering required)

John Anderson said...

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2012/09/29/pythias_brown_fomer_tsa_agent_says_stealing_from_pasenger_bags_is_common.html

Geodkyt said...

Or chamber flags. Heck, that's a good use of the stupid gun locks anyway -- run the cable down the bore or through the magwell and out the ejection port.

Not only can they tell at a glance they cannot be loaded, even if Barney Fife decides to play around with gun and ammo, he cannot induce an ND without cutting the lock cable first.

JB Miller said...

Get to luggage claim fast. Most airlines just put them in with the skies and golf clubs.

Come out the regular baggage belt.

George said...

Just one thing: RELAX! This isn't a big deal.

Jay G said...

WRT chamber flags or action locks - I'd rather have the gun closed up, rather than leave an avenue that might bang - and scratch - the firearm. I understand the reasoning - if the gun is opened, then it should be a natural that it's unloaded; but I'd prefer that the guns not take the extra beating of being open while flying/bumped all over the place.

And I intended to make like OJ Simpson to the baggage claim, but thanks JB!

Turk Turon said...

I've flown with 2-4 handguns in a single locked Pelican case. They only give you one red tag.

I put tie-wraps thru the actions and magwells so that the ticket agent can see at a glance that the gun is empty. That way they won't ask you to pick up each gun and "show empty". Depends on the agent, the airline and the airport. I fly out of Reagan National Airport in DC (located on the Virginia side of the river, thankfully.)

I also put the ammo inside a baggy and put a big rubber band around it. That way if your bag takes a major hit during handling you won't have loose rounds rolling around in your bag.

And if your plane is forced to land in NYC or New Jersey, walk directly to car rental and drive to Pennsylvania. Continue your trip from there. Your baggage will catch up to you.

Tango said...

Jay, weed eater line. Get the thick stuff. Cut a length of it and run it down the bore and out the action. Same effect showing that it's unloaded and no damage possible to the gun from it!

Christopher Meyer said...

Looks like you've got it covered to me. I've never had trouble flying with firearms. Though being from Nebraska the TSA types are generally sympathetic, and my first go around they pointed out a lot of things I could do to make it smoother in the future. Have never had trouble, and looks like you're set for success. Safe travels.

PMain said...

Great idea Tango.

Jay,
Fly with mine out of the CA Republic. I try to arrive very early so if there are any issues I'm not in a hurry to board. The TSA should never have access, agree on the non-TSA locks. I mistakenly gave them the key & lost 2 matched locks for my case because I bent in to pressure from them.

The sad thing is that'll really notice the difference between gun friendly states &, well, our home states. The ticket agents won;t have a look of panic & the TSA agents will definitely be more comfortable & friendly regarding it.

The good thing is once you've done it, you'll travel a lot more relaxed the next time.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Those pictures on the Phone and the Mass Forms? Send copies now to an eMail account. Why? What if your phone breaks or gets lost? But you could always go online and bring them up if you need to from say, a Library.

Heck, send them to your Wife's account, Wally's, etc. I'm storing some Military Paperwork for an Army Buddy right now, just in case the VA loses his Paperwork again.

Never hurts to Backup the Backup.

Ed Skinner said...

Only flown once in all that time? Don't worry, there have only been a few changes. If, for examply, you're singled out for a "pat down", try not to look anxious when you notice that TSA agent's blue gloves go up and over the elbow. (Tip: Kilts worn regimental style will make that examination much quicker.)

Ed Skinner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ancient Woodsman said...

Slightly different idea of making things easier: if you're going on Southwest, take the drive up 93 to Manchester. Smaller terminal, easier parking, less gun-paranoia, and on the way back a lot easier to get your baggage safely & then get that same "GUN! GUN! GUN!!!" baggage to your vehicle safely.

Just a thought if you haven't committed to another airport - MHT might be your jetport for this one.

Geodkyt said...

My stupid gun cable locks all have plastic sheated cable -- let the action close on the cable, and no risk of scratching.

Ratus said...

I don't fly much anymore.

But, make sure they put the red firearms declaration form IN the case.

also here are some help vids

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpXqFju58GI4wXeU6sb0l2kC_VS8CTqKa

Have fun at gunblogger camp.

Ratus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glenn B said...

Jay,

If you have any problems at check-in, or possibly with whatever police work at the airport (they often are called over when someone checks in a gun), ask to speak to the Ground Security Coordinator (GSC) for the airline. I have had Port Authority Police officers tell me I could not travel with ammo in the same hard sided case as the firearms - both the GSC and the TSA officers told the cop I was right and he was wrong. I was told I could nt have loaded mags totally covered in a mag case, I was right they were wrong. I have had cops tell me, and TSA officers tell me, I had too much ammo, more than the airline allowed, and the GSC again backed me up (maybe because I had the airlines regs in my hand right along with the TSA regs). Just keep cool and stay respectful if anyone gives you a hard time, show them your copies of the rules, and ask for the GSC if there is a problem that involves anything to do with someone telling you that the airline does not allow it. If a cop says TSA does not allow it, ask for a TSA supervisor. If a TSA officer gives you a hard time politely ask to speak to his supervisor.

One strong bit of advice, show up early for your flight. I try to show up at least 1.5 to 2 hours early when I flew armed, or when I had guns in my luggage - just in case of peckerwoods giving me a hard time.

I have traveled literally hundreds of times with firearms, mostly while armed when I was a fed but also with firearms checked in my luggage traveling since I retired. Since 9/11, they gave me a hard time quite a few times, usually in NY (I imagine Boston cannot be much better) but also sometimes in other places but always when I was a fed. I even had TSA try to strip search me, in front of other passengers, no screen, when I was one of the two armed air marshals on the flight, just after 9/11. I guess I told the guy I asd the air marshal about 10 times before his supervisor asked me "What did you just say" and someone finally realized whoops, we should not be searching him.

No one is immune to the BS they put people through when you have bad luck and get stuck with one or more of the idiots and they sure have a lot of idiots working at the airports. Yet, I must say, most of the folks who do the work are okay and you probably will have little or no trouble.

One thing, after check-in, after a possible check by airport police, after the initial TSA screening and once your bags are in the baggage room - keep your ears opened. You may be paged and asked to see an airline agent because they once again want you to open your gun case. Has happened to me at least twice and I think 3 times.

Have a nice trip,
Glenn B

Anonymous said...

One quirk of CO CCW law is they do not honor permits of a state you are not a resident of, even if they have general reciprocity with that state. So if you were planning on carrying with say a FL permit, don't.

Other than that, I think your main problems will be in getting back into MA. You can even buy ammo in CO without any fuss. Of course, you might not be able to find your preferred load.

Damocles said...

I agree with most everything above. My thoughts are less about how it should go (because the check in and travel part really should go smoothly) and more about the reality that firearms are one of, if not the most, stolen kinds of baggage during travel, usually by airline personnel. For that reason I take the firing pins out of my firearms and put them in my other checked baggage so that if my firearm is stolen at least it won't be immediately (or possibly ever) useful to the thief or whomever it gets sold to. So far I have put the pins back in at my destination, and then again at home, every time. Probably a little overly cautious but I sleep better and it’s only a little hassle.

Robert said...

I'm a bit late to this thread, but my one piece of advice is that if your flight, for some odd reason, gets diverted to New York and you have to deplane and retrieve your bags, do not get your guns. Report them as lost, and have them forwarded on to your destination once they are "found".

Geodkyt said...

Actually, just point to the bag your guns are in, and tell the airline folks and TSA, "THAT bag has a lawfully declared firearm in it, and it is legal for me to ship it THROUGH New York, but it is ILLEGAL under New York for me to take possession of that bag IN New York. You'll have to forward it to me at X, or hold it here to be loaded on the plane you're sending me to my destination on."