How to Fly With a Rifle
For those of us that travel even just a few times over the course of a life for hunting adventures, knowing how to travel with your equipment, particularly the rifle and ammo, is pretty dang important. It’s not necessarily complicated. You just have to read the rules; airlines and TSA are understandably cautious of everyone.
My latest experience flying with a gun post 9/11 was for an elk hunt in New Mexico. A TSA agent and police officer took me into a room back behind the check-in counters and eyed me (a bit meanly, I thought) as they unlocked my case and inspected the rifle. But once they determined my fundamental allegiance to the crowd of “rule followers,” they kindly handed me back my luggage and bid me farewell.
Know the Rules
If you Google “how to fly with a rifle,” the TSA’s website is the second result. In retrospect, I find it quite surprising that Beretta takes the number one spot on this issue, but hey, kudos to their SEO team. The TSA’s site walks you, step by step, on exactly how to fly with a rifle. You can READ THOSE RULES HERE, we’ll wait.
Before I’d arrived at the airport, I took the bolt out of my Remington 700. You’re required to fly with a hard case that has a lock, so I’d done that too. And then the rules had also said to “pack your ammo separately, in a checked bag, with the rounds in the original factory box.” Some airlines will allow you to pack the rifle and ammunition in the same case, and others require that they travel separately. Regardless, DO NOT try to carry-on your rifle rounds.
Plan on being at the airport at least 30 minutes earlier than you usually would. So, if it’s recommended that you arrive two hours before your flight, get there two and a half hours early. There shouldn’t be hold-ups if you’ve followed the rules, but it’s best to play it safe.
Smile and Nod
While going on a hunting trip that requires you to fly is a high-time adventure with a lot of BS’ing and backslapping, save that energy for the airplane. When the TSA agent and police officer take you into the room to inspect your rifle and ammunition, just be polite - “yessir, no sir, please and thank you” - that sort of language. That is, of course, unless you want to miss your flight, connections and a day’s work of hunting. TSA security agents have tough enough jobs without some obnoxious being jabbering while they’re literally working to save lives. Once you’re safe and secure in your seat, then you can continue an enthusiastic (but not overly so for the sake of your fellow passengers) conversation about what lies ahead.
Flying to another part of the world to hunt wild game is a privilege, and often a costly one at that. You certainly don’t want to run off the rails before getting on the track. Remember, not everyone is comfortable in the presence of firearms, even security agents whose job requires them be around guns. But if you know the rules and are polite and respectful to the airport employees, you’re going to make your hunt or return home on time.