I’ve spent a good chunk of my adult life in the firearms industry. That means I’ve also spent a lot of time flying with guns. Here are 5 tips on how to navigate the often confusing rules of traveling with firearms. This isn’t a comprehensive step by step list for new travelers, but rather a collection of things that I’ve discovered are helpful.
1. When Flying with Guns, Be as Polite as Possible
This should be a no-brainer, right? You should be nice to people when you’re flying regardless, especially since in 2022 everyone in airports is wound tighter than a GP100 mainspring. So be nice to everyone. Gate agents checking your firearm, TSA agents inspecting your bag, everyone you encounter during the arduous process of checking a weapons case. This is important because inevitably something will go wrong, which leads us to #2.
2. When Things Go Wrong, Keep Your Cool
Eventually, if you’re flying with guns enough, something will go wrong. Some airport won’t follow procedures, or they’ll cut the locks off your case, or something like that. The worst-case scenario is a gun goes missing. You’ve got to keep your cool in these situations, because nothing ever gets resolved by shouting at people. Plus, when you’re keeping your cool, it’s a lot easier to take notes on names and times that you’ll need later if/when you report the incident.
3. Decide Which Is More Important: Being Right or Making Your Flight
To explain this one, let’s say TSA asks for the key to your locks so they can inspect your firearm, but won’t let you observe. You can make a fuss, sure, and miss your flight maybe, or you can hand them the key, knowing full well what’s in the box and deal with it later. That’s up to you, I can’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do in that situation. Me personally, unless I’m transporting NFA items, I go along to get along. I’d rather make my flight and not be stressed out.
4. Understand That Not All Airports Process Guns the Same Way
This is one I see from people who aren’t used to flying with guns. I’ve never been in two airports that handled checked weapons cases the exact same way, and that’s fine. If you’re being cool with the gate agent checking you in, they’ll usually be cool with you. I was completely bewildered flying out of PHX last year since I’d never flown a gun out of there, but the gate agent was cool so the process went smoothly.
5. Have as Much Premium Status as Possible
This is like a secret ninja trick, but I’ll let you in on it. Airlines can tell if you booked through Delta.Com or on a reseller like Priceline. They treat you differently. They also treat you differently if you’re an elite member in their loyalty program. If you’re an elite member, you don’t go to general check-in, you have your own lane with other elite members and first-class customers. It may not seem like much, but it can definitely make a difference. To accumulate elite status, try to fly one airline exclusively, or get a milage card that grants you status.
Again, this isn’t an exhaustive list of tips and tricks. These are 5 tips for flying with guns that have been really useful for me in over 15 years in the firearms industry, and hopefully will help you.