Flying with Firearms

In our classes we often get questions about flying with firearms.  We took a trip to San Diego for the holidays so I thought it would be a great opportunity to share the experience.

Wheels Down Felon

Make sure you know the law of every place you will be stopping or making a connection.  Myself, even as a law enforcement officer, would be an instant felon if I landed in the wrong state with this deadly item:

GLOCK 17 Round Magazine


Law for Carry, Storage, & Transport

Make sure you know if your permit is honored at your destination.  If it is not, you need to know the laws on possession and transportation of firearms.


Airline Procedures

TSA Website

It’s pretty simple, but contact your airlines to confirm what they want you to do:

  • Firearms must be unloaded
  • Magazines must be unloaded
  • Ammunition in a purpose built container; just use the box it came from the store in.
  • Locked in a hard-sided container
  • Transported as (or in) checked baggage only

I used a small metal case that had a combination lock.  Then placed that in our checked bag. (Has my phone number on the outside)

Our airline did not put our bag on the baggage claim carousel.  The bag had to be picked up on in person from either the ticket counter or baggage service.  This will vary at each airport.


Walking into the closest bathroom and locking-n-loading might not be the best idea.  There might not be anything illegal about it, but the sounds of loading weapons in the bathroom stall is likely to spook someone and result in you meeting local law enforcement.


You are not doing anything wrong.

Don’t act weird or like you are doing something wrong.  Some airports will not bat an eye when you mention a firearm.  Others will looked confused and have to ask someone what to do.  Make sure you leave with plenty of time and don’t be in a hurry. Ultimately, the airline has the say on how things will go on their airplane. If you run into problems, just be calm and polite. 


My Load Out

Ruger LCP
Tuff-Tie Disposable Hand Restraints
Custom Pocket Holster
Ankle Holster (in checked bag)
2 empty magazines
Pocket knife (Benchmade Triage)
Box of Ammo
Business card with Phone number

Most importantly I was on vacation and wanted to carry the minimum and not worry about it.

I left my badge and business card on top to help prevent startling anyone that might see the setup.  The ticket desk attendant in California was noticeably uncomfortable when I mentioned a firearms, but seemed to be put at ease after seeing the badge.  My home state attendant didn’t bat an eye, asked a couple questions, added the card, and put the bag on the belt.