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Flying with a rifle? Here's what you need to know.

Many people are surprised to find out what hunters already know: you can fly with your rifle. But there are certain regulations you must follow. With the hunting opener just around the corner, here are some things to keep in mind if you are going to fly with your rifle. 

Two sets of rules

The first thing to be aware of is that there are two sets of rules. The first rules are set by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the second rules are set by the individual airlines. You will want to check with your carrier to find out what they allow and what they prohibit before you pack. You also want to know the gun laws of the state you are going to and any states where you have to change planes. Many gun-carrying travelers advise against any New York stopover.  

One set of keys

As per the law, only you should have access to your lockable hard case.This means you should not use a TSA lock or give out the lock combination to TSA personnel. Keep the keys on your person at all times. As per the TSA website:

  • "Only the passenger should retain the key or combination to the lock unless TSA personnel request the key to open the firearm container to ensure compliance with TSA regulations."

Some travelers have suggested taking a second lock or set of locks with you in the event you are not reached via page and your lock is cut off by TSA. 

Keep the gun in one piece

A gun is legally defined by its serialized part. This is usually the frame or the receiver. But many people have found themselves in hot water by disassembling their rifle and then trying to travel with the parts in different bags. Do not do this. TSA regulations forbid you to carry parts of the gun (not including optics) in your carry-on bag. 

Travel with original packaging

Keeping the ammunition in the original packaging can save you a headache in the long run. If your box is at all flimsy or ripped also use a plastic storage container. But always, always avoid loose ammo. It will make your trip much smoother keep the police out of your trip and keep you off no fly lists.  You can carry some ammo in your gun case. According to TSA regulations: 

  • "Small arms ammunition, including ammunition not exceeding .75 caliber and shotgun shells of any gauge, may be carried in the same hard-sided case as the firearm."

Weigh your bags

Most airlines allow up to 50 pounds per bag and 11 pounds for ammunition. You do not want to leave anything behind so unload your guns and magazines and weigh everything. Know what weight limits your particular airline allows. Also, know what TSA allows. 

Allow for extra time

You will have to personally check your firearm case. Let the agent know your case contains a gun/ rifle. You may need to be escorted with the TSA agent or be paged later for baggage inspection. Know that each airport is different and that you may have to wait while your bags are inspected so allow for an extra hour. Everything will run better if you are not pressed for time or appear upset or nervous. Many hunters, collectors and dealers travel with their firearms. Once you know the regulations you can make better decisions. The TSA Customer Service Center can answer any specific questions you have about traveling with a firearm. 

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Ramler Law Office, P.C.
202 West Madison Avenue
Belgrade, MT 59714

Phone: 406-924-4810
Fax: 406-388-6842
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