It can be nerve wracking if want to bring a gun on your next flight but have never done so before.
Fortunately, bringing a gun on a plane (along with ammunition) is actually quite simple and straightforward – just as long as certain rules are followed.
In short, you are allowed to bring your gun on a plane, but it must only be unloaded, and packed inside an approved-container as checked luggage only.
There’s more to it than that, though. So let’s find out exactly what you need to do to make the process of bringing a gun on your flight as smooth as possible.
Table of Contents
Bringing a Gun in Your Carry-On
99.9% of people won’t be able to bring a gun through airport security and onboard a plane.
The only people who can bring a gun on a plane are:
- Air marshals
- Law enforcement officers who have passed the TSA Law Enforcement Officer Flying Armed Training Course
- Pilots who have passed the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program
Bringing a Gun in Your Checked Bag
If you want to bring a gun on a plane, according to the TSA’s baggage rules and regulations, your only option is to pack it in your checked bag.
Of course, as we’re talking about firearms here, you can’t just place it inside your bag, wrap it in some clothes, and pick up your bag at your destination.
The TSA has very specific rules that must be followed.
This applies to all weapons, as well as firearm parts, such as magazines, clips, bolts, and firing pin.
Weapons that must be checked in include:
- BB guns
- Starter pistols
- Compressed airguns
- Replica weapons
How to Pack Your Gun for Flying
- Make sure that your firearms are unloaded and place them inside a locked hard-sided container, which must be completely secure from being accessed.
- The TSA allow more than one gun to be placed inside the same hard-sided container, but airlines may have different rules.
- Declare your firearms at the check-in counter (more on that below).
The TSA state that “the container the firearm was in when purchased “may not be suitable, so it would be a good idea to purchase a TSA-approved case.
The case must either have a combination or other type of lock, or you can purchase the locks separately.
- The SnapSafe Treklite Gun Safe Lock Box is recommended because it is inexpensive, TSA-approved, and all airlines will accept it. This is the one I use and I’ve never run into any issues.
- If you want to fly with more than one firearm, then the Case Club 3 Pistol & 3 Magazine Case is your best choice.
- The Plano All Weather Tactical Gun Case should be your go-to if you want to fly with a rifle/shotgun.
How to Pack Ammunition for Flying
If you want to bring ammunition along, too, the same rules apply.
- Ammunition must only be packed in your checked luggage.
- Ammunition must either be stored in its original packaging or inside a TSA-approved container.
- You must declare that you are flying with ammunition at the airport check-in counter.
- You are allowed to bring a reasonable amount of ammo for “personal use”. For most airlines, this means generally no more than 5 kg (11 pounds).
How to Check Your Firearms & Ammunition At the Airport
The process of checking in your firearms and ammunition is fairly straightforward.
- Declare your items: Declare your firearms and ammunition to the agent at the check-in counter.
- Fill out a Weapons Declaration Card: To fill out a Weapons Declaration Card, you will need your flight and contact information, and an acknowledgement that you will follow the rules. Place the copy that you will be given inside your case or container that you plan to store your firearms and ammunition in.
- Pay any fees: If you need to pay any fees, you will be required to do so at the airport check-in counter.
- Go to the Oversized Baggage Drop Area: Head over to this area, where a TSA agent will scan and possibly inspect your case.
Fines & Penalties For Not Complying With the Rules
According to the TSA, if you attempt to bring your weapon to the airport checkpoint, you are subject to a federal civil penalty, which can be substantial:
- Loaded firearms (or unloaded firearms with accessible ammunition): $3,000 – $10,700 + criminal referral / $10,700 – $14,950 + criminal referral (repeat violation)
- Unloaded firearms: $1,500 – $5,370 + criminal referral
- BB, pellet, and compressed-air guns: $390 – $2,250
Keep in mind that each state has different laws concerning firearms and ammunition, so you will definitely want to plan head to make sure that you won’t be violating any local firearm laws.
You can do this by visiting the following resources:
Bringing a Gun on International Flights
While it’s by no means impossible to fly internationally with firearms and ammunition, the process is more complex.
According to 22 C.F.R. § 123.17:
U.S. persons are allowed to export temporarily from the United States without a license (a valid and appropriate DDTC or BIS export license) no more than three (3) non-automatic/semi-automatic firearms in Category I(a) of the United States Munitions List (rifles and pistols up to .50 caliber) and not more than 1,000 cartridges.
You must also declare all firearms and ammunition you are traveling with to CBP.
You’ll also need to fill out US Customs Form 4457 and have it signed by a US customs official. This can help you avoid having to pay duty, as it will verify that you had your firearms before leaving the country.
Finally, you will need to obtain an ITN (International Travel Number). To get this, you will need to fill out the EEI (Electronic Export Information) in the AES (Automated Export System) per 22 C.F.R. § 123.22.
Besides this, the best way to find out if it is possible to fly with a gun internationally is to go through official avenues.
This means contacting the US diplomatic office in the country you plan to visit.
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).