Bringing a gun into an airport checkpoint is a really big mistake, but as more people carry more frequently, such mistakes are bound to happen. The Transportation Security Administration is reporting that the number of guns discovered at security checkpoints at our nation's airports has been steadily growing in recent years. TSA says they confiscated 2,653 guns from airline passengers in 2015, and are on track to break that record this year. They have been averaging a little more than seven guns a day at airport security checkpoints nationwide.This article may be a bit confusing to some people, but it's probably because they are confused about the difference between "Carry-On" and "Checked" baggage.
No, you cannot have a firearm in the passenger area. But it is perfectly legal to have a firearm in "Checked Baggage" (the bags which are stowed in the cargo area of the airplane, and not immediately accessible to you or anyone else in the passenger section of the airplane).
The rules for transporting a firearm in "Checked Baggage" will probably vary between airlines ... you need to check their online website to determine to priorities for the airline that's taking you to your next match.
But generally, there are a few rules in common for firearms in "Checked Baggage"
- The firearm must be unloaded! Some airlines ask that you demonstrate to the ticket agent that you have an unloaded firearm during check-in, but that is becoming increasingly rare because you'll scare the pants off that check-in clerk if you are determined to "Unload And Show Clear" during the check-in process. As long as the firearm is in a locked hard-shell bag, you're probably okay.
- Most airlines do not tag a bag as "Firearm Enclosed", but some may. (Actually, most do.) Not saying you should not declare, but if you must ... baggage handlers LOVE bags with a Red Tag on the handle. Answer questions when they are asked, but it may not be necessary to offer information. Again, check the rules for the airline you're riding with.The gun should be in a hard-side suitcase, and then inside a hard box, and the bag should be locked with a key. Get the most secure suitcase you can find; they're less expensive than buying a new race gun. Oh, and baggage handlers will also focus on top-of-the-line secure bags because they know there are goodies inside. No, you can't win; but you can make it more challenging.
- Ammunition, if you're travelling with it, must be in a separate bag. If you're going to a match, it's a lot better idea to ship it ahead of time to your match hotel than to include it in your checked baggage.
- Ammunition, by the way, has special packaging rules. They sound like "in original packaging", but what they're saying is you shouldn't have loose rounds in a box. Or a tub. Or anything that might get 'broken' by rough handling. (I'm not picking on Baggage Handlers", but see the TV ad for Gorilla Luggage below.) Which just makes good sense. And by the way, plastic ammo boxes WILL get broken during shipment. Cardboard ("Original") boxes are more likely to survive the bumps and grinds of baggage handlers.
- Shipping to the "Match Hotel" works fine for ammunition, but it has special problems if you try to ship your gun. Assuming you're going out-of-state, you may run afoul of local/state laws if you ship a firearm, even to yourself, interstate. (If you'r going to a match in the same state, you're probably going to drive. If you don't plan to drive ... you may want to reconsider your travel plans)
- SPARES: Expect the Unexpected. If you have two guns, bring them both; in separate packages, especially if you're shipping them (in luggage .. have two pieces of luggage with spares in each one). Have a complete set of tools, including a small brass hammer, punches (a 1/8" as a minimum), screwdrivers and any other tools you would use to perform maintenance on your firearm. Consider spare ejector, extractor (tune it at home so you don't have to do it at the match), various screws, recoil spring, main spring ... every spring you can think of!) firing pin, firing pin block. Don't forget that blue stuff that keeps the screws from backing out because you expect to do a lot of shooting at a match.
- Ammunition ... always bring at least 50% more ammunition than you expect to need. You never know how many 'reshoots' you will have to do because some dummy didn't write your time down on your score sheet. At a major match, and if you're shooting some caliber that isn't standard (like .38 Super Comp), bring twice what you expect to need. At least. If you can't buy it at a sporting goods store in town, expect to need it.
- Insurance: Get some. Make it appropriate to the value of your firearm(s). You may not be glad you did, but you will be sorry if you don't. If your 'stuff' gets lost in transit, insurance may be the cheapest, yet most valuable, purchase you make.
- Magazines (speedloaders) expect to lose some, or have them turn up non-functional; the likelihood of this happening is directly proportional to the expense of attending the match.
- Car Keys: This sounds stupid, but when you leave your car at the airport, be SURE you didn't lock your keys in your car in the airport parking lot. I once had to call my Sweety's sister from New York to ask her to break into my house and get my spare set of keys, because I left the keys to my car IN my car in the parking lot ... in Oregon. She sent the spare keys to me, which saved me having to get a taxi from Portland to Corvallis just to get home from the airport.
- Other Stuff: Cash, travelers' checks, credit cards, Drivers' license ... all the stuff you normally know you need to have on your person when you travel.