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Flying with rifles - anything to know?

The family and I are heading back to AZ for the holidays and I’m looking to bring some guns to have a range day with everyone. I’ve got a single rifle sized Pelican case that I can actually squeeze two rifles and two handguns into.

I’m not traveling with ammo.

Besides locking it up like Fort Knox and showing up early, anything else I should be aware of?

Flying on Southwest, if it matters.
 
Check the airlines restrictions, some have a limit per case.
Per Southwest (Special Luggage | Southwest Airlines)

Firearms may be checked and will count toward the two-piece free baggage allowance for each fare-paying passenger. We allow multiple firearms to be transported inside one hard-sided case.
I'm more-so looking to learn any gotchas or typical interpersonal things that people have run into while traveling (the kind of stuff that isn't posted on Southwest's website). Anything that might make for a better travel experience. Thanks!
 
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Alexx1401

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Sadly just get there with plenty of time to spare. The regs for this were set up to just be easy and work. Normally they are. The only problems are humans. Every now and then you get one (human) who is anti gun, ignorant, thinks they are an expert, or you win and get one who is all of this. There will be another one with a brain around but sometimes may take a while to find that one. So take something to entertain yourself on the other side of the security and have a good amount of time so you don't miss a flight.
Make sure case can have a couple locks on it. Some have had some idiot try to show them if they can try to pry open one end or side of the case it's not suitable. So want one with a couple locks on it. Something like the Pelican cases made for this. When you return may want to look into just shipping the stuff back to yourself. I do this now as to me it's worth the cost to just not deal with the airport.
 
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I have had pretty smooth interactions. Portland was less hassle than Dallas. Phoenix was smooth.

They may not tell you, but when you go to baggage to pick them up at your destination, they should have your firearms case at your airline’s baggage claim office and will ask for ID to claim it. Ask if you can pay a little extra for insurance on them too.
 
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I flew American PDX to PHX but I’m sure it’s very similar.
Went to the check in counter then they send you down to the south end of the airport PDX.

You open the case and they swab for explosives

Make sure you pack it in a way that you can lift the foam and allow them to inspect the interior of the case without having to remove everything

I used 2 masterlocks with keys don’t use the cheap locks (TSA Approved Style) they can cut off easily. those are for normal baggage. You want them to call you if they are going to inspect your case. They have bolt cutters and can cut any lock I know that but don’t make it easy.

Case will be in airline baggage office upon arrival like Colefoz stated.

My experience was smooth. I took loaded magazines with my guns and there wasn’t any issue. Just make sure it’s packed good and won’t shift during the throws it’s bound to encounter.

Make sure firearms are unloaded and check if your case is oversized because there is a fee for that. They didn’t measure my case but better to be safe than sorry. American was $200 oversize fee.

-Aaron
 
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mudflatmike

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When you check in, say "I'm traveling with firearms". They'll hand you a little red card that says the guns aren't loaded , you sign then it goes into the case. You take the case to a seperate TSA check poiint and it's checked, then locked by TSA. At the other end, it may come out with regular baggage or may be kept in the airline office at baggage claim untill you present yourself.
I always remove the bolt or some other critical part and put it in a different bag. Theft of firearms is VERY common in the airline system. Ammo has a weight limit, check with your airline for thier rules.
 

fredball

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Has to be and Airline Approved container and make sure you can lock it or you might get to your destination with and MT box
the luggage handlers have no boundry's and no consequences and didn't see anything
 
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Some misleading information so far:

Go to counter - they give you red slip, red slip gets signed declaring everything is unloaded. Red slip goes in case. (Which I find off personally hat they want you to open the case and show off your contents to put the red slip inside.

No one actually has to see what is inside, the guys who you leave it with (in my experience) Have no desire to, just to know that what is inside is complying with the unloaded rule.

When you lock the pelican case - use a couple locks, also, combination locks are better than key locks, but in either case, give your combination and keys to no one, there is no reason why they need either, ever.

My biggest complaint is arriving, depending on the airport, they are absolute morons, and will leave a pelican case full of thousands of dollars of guns sitting out where anyone walking by can steal the case and walk off.

I’ve personally found this experience to be hit and miss, but it is the source of my opinion of ‘airport employees.’

Inevitably I rush to baggage claim to make sure I can collect my property, sometimes I have to check it out of an office, sometimes it is just lying around in a cart. Idiots abound.
 
+1 to @American123's comments.

Southwest is a breeze as far as airlines. Give yourself time to get through the check luggage line, because those can be long.

If your Pelican case is dirty, wipe it down inside and out with rubbing alcohol a day or two in advance. My case has come up dirty the last two time I have flown, and it slows you down because they need to call in a "senior" TSA agent to review and approve.

Flew with firearms on American a week ago. At the Oversize Luggage (TSA) at PDX, there were two guns in front of me, one behind. It added 40 minutes (dirty screen) to my getting to the gate.

You can bring ammo, up to 10 or 11 lbs (varies with Airline). I bring the maximum that keeps my case below 50#.

Depending on the case, the Master 4 digit combo locks don't fit some Pelicans and Boyt and almost invariably, all other brands (hasp too thick). I have 5 pairs of locks for that very reason. Prefer to buy the keyed ones in pairs so there is only one key needed.

I will keep two keys on me at all times in different locations. Yes, I've lost a key before, and having the 2nd one saved on a lot of headaches.

Has to be and Airline Approved container and make sure you can lock it or you might get to your destination with and MT box the luggage handlers have no boundry's and no consequences and didn't see anything
The cases I've seen get through make me scratch my head as far as what is "approved." Original pistol cases, with holes drilled in the handle for locks, stuffed inside luggage.
I've seen some deep-drawn aluminum cases that cost more than most rifles.
 
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I don’t normally reply to these threads. But want to relay my experience a few years ago. Leaving Philadelphia for Sea Tac
Check in. First the airline desk person wants to tell me it’s more than 40 pounds. I explain it’s like golf clubs on their web site. She relents cause I have upgraded coach.
The aluminum gun case with two sides for storage has 4 tiny latches w cheap stamped keys AND 4 heavy fittings for padlocks. So I left the cheap latches unlocked and put 4 padlocks on. At that time they take the case away to TSA. and we wait at check in. After15-20 minutes we ask if they are done. Check in person says they should be done by now. So we go through security. Get paged after we are eating breakfast by the gate. I have to go all the way back to check in to meet TSA. They wanted the little cheap latches locked!! I have the key, lock them and hustle back to my gate.
Case comes out in regular belt in Seattle. I happen to see it as I was walking to the claim office!!
Seattle completely different. Check in sign the card, no question about weight, a porter comes with a cart we walk over about 100 yards away in the waiting area to a screened TSA area. The agent checks everything on the case. Does not open it. Says it’s good to go. Porter and I go back and it goes on the luggage belt.
In Philly. It comes off the regular belt and there they have a “catcher” who guides luggage as it comes up a belt and into an oval carrier. So I tell the guy this is coming and help him as it comes up.
So it all depends. Good luck. Leave plenty of time. Read ALL rules TSA AND Airlines and print them and bring along. Ammo has a weight limit BTW.
 
When you check in, say "I'm traveling with firearms". They'll hand you a little red card that says the guns aren't loaded , you sign then it goes into the case. You take the case to a seperate TSA check poiint and it's checked, then locked by TSA. At the other end, it may come out with regular baggage or may be kept in the airline office at baggage claim untill you present yourself.
I always remove the bolt or some other critical part and put it in a different bag. Theft of firearms is VERY common in the airline system. Ammo has a weight limit, check with your airline for thier rules.
People talking about rampant theft are giving me the heebie jeebies. I’m going to have damn near $4k in one case...:-(
 
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Don’t waste any time getting to the baggage claim after your flight lands.

Things may be different now but years ago I flew into Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix with a rifle. When I got to the baggage claim, I saw a guy carrying a case that looked like mine toward the exit. He had no other luggage and was moving quickly.
I started after him when out of the corner of my eye I saw my case coming down the chute. I collected my case and the rest of my luggage and was waiting for a cab outside the terminal when one of the other passengers came rushing up to me along with two security guards.
He pointed at my rifle case and sicced the guards on me before he realized it wasn’t his case. Apparently someone had grabbed his case. I told him about the guy I saw beating feet toward the other exit with an identical case.
I don’t know how it turned out but I doubt this guy was able to recover his rifle since the thief had a pretty good head start.
I haven’t flown with a rifle since.
 
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I did the same thing when I flew into PHX. I waited at the carousel for my case and it never came. So I headed over to the Airline Baggage Office and saw it on the shelf.

Thought for sure at first I was late and someone walked off with it. Not a good feeling at all.

Just from the posts above seems like every airline and airport handle things differently. I’m not sure if you can request it to be held for pickup but even then things happen. It all relies on a human making the right decision.

-Aaron

Don’t waste any time getting to the baggage claim after your flight lands.

Things may be different now but years ago I flew into Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix with a rifle. When I got to the baggage claim, I saw a guy carrying a case that looked like mine toward the exit. He had no other luggage and was moving quickly.
I started after him when out of the corner of my eye I saw my case coming down the chute. I collected my case and the rest of my luggage and was waiting for a cab outside the terminal when one of the other passengers came rushing up to me along with two security guards.
He pointed at my rifle case and sicced the guards on me before he realized it wasn’t his case. Apparently someone had grabbed his case. I told him about the guy I saw beating feet toward the other exit with an identical case.
I don’t know how it turned out but I doubt this guy was able to recover his rifle since the thief had a pretty good head start.
I haven’t flown with a rifle since.
 
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11Charlie

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We are flying to AZ for Christmas as well to spend time with the kids. Not bringing anything but convinced my wife that I am buying a gun safe and leaving it in the SIL garage. When we go in May for the granddaughters first birthday I will drive and bring some of the ones I don't shoot as often and leave them for future trips.
 

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