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Is bringing a firearm as checked baggage worth the hassle?

Discussion in 'General Firearm Discussion' started by raftman, Aug 22, 2010.

  1. raftman

    raftman Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Suppose one were flying to another state, where the OR CHL is recognized. While I know various little rules about firearms on plane, that is, it must be in checked baggage only, it must be declared to the TSA scanning folks, it must be locked in a hard-sided case, the firearm must be unloaded but ammo can be stored in the same container provided its in a container that encloses it completely such as the original box, and so on. That all sounds reasonable enough.

    My question, in practice... does this create much of an added hassle? Does it attract so much attention and scrutiny that one ends up wishing they had just left their firearm locked securely at home? Or are they generally cool about it and say "ok thanks" and take a look at the image and decide that all is well? Do they encounter that situation often enough that all of their employees know that it's ok to have a firearm in checked baggage as long as it's properly secured? Or is it such a rare thing you'll likely get a panic reaction?

    Experiences anyone?
     
  2. jhc5

    jhc5 Seattle, WA Member

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    I fly between washington and california often to visit family, and usually bring a rifle or two to do some shooting with the family. I fly southwest airlines, and I find that it isn't much of a hassle at all.

    Just go to the check-in desk as normal. Ask for a firearms declaration form. They hand it to you, fill it out (usually only name, date, initial here/here, and signature). Then they ask you to put it in the case and head over to a special scanner. Then those guys ask you to open case to see form and inspect case. Then case is locked and scanned, and you're good to go.

    Usually that whole process takes no more than five-ten extra minutes for me. However, I have had it take 40 minutes once because the people supposed to manning the special scanner were nowhere to be found. They eventually showed up and it was as quick as usual from there. So I still recommend getting to the airport a earlier than you would if you were just checking normal luggage, especially if you're flying at a busy time of day.

    All in all thought, definitely not a big deal. Also worth noting Ive never had anyone give me funny looks or seem surprised. I even had one of the scanner guys say he wished he was allowed to pick up my henry lever gun because he'd always wanted to work a lever action like in the movies.:laugh:
     
  3. 8ball

    8ball WA Quit talkin' and start chalking!

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  4. raftman

    raftman Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    So... now I am a little confused. If it's just a pistol... it cannot go into a lockable hard-sided pistol case that then goes into a regular suitcase? It must be considered a piece of baggage on its own? And if a hard pistol case can go into a regular suitcase, must that suitcase also be hard-sided?
     
  5. jhc5

    jhc5 Seattle, WA Member

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    Based on the links provided by 8ball, I was unaware how much variation there is between airlines. His links are worth the read.

    As far a Southwest goes, you CAN put your locked hard-sided pistol case into an unlocked soft-sided suitcase.
     
  6. dontreadonme

    dontreadonme SW Washington Member

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    Here's my 2 cents: Flying out of PDX is very easy. Just declare, fill out the form, and take your stuff over to the CTX area. I make sure that I witness them locking it back up before I leave just in case. I've had ammo (in box of course), pistols, and a rifle in the same case ... no issues.

    Flying out of SFO, as you would imagine, is a nightmare. When I 'declared', the tree-hugging (no-doubt) counter worker's eyes got like saucers and she said: "excuse me, I need to make a phone call" ... huh? So I waited, and then some guys from United treated me like a felon, and who obviously didn't know anything about firearms asked me a lot more questions than were on the declaration form. I had to keep going back to the form and I stuck to my guns, literally. Will never check guns out of SFO in the future.

    I haven't checked firearms out of SEA, but I'm sure it would be more like PDX than SFO.

    Coming back from hunting in TX (HOU) and AR (LIT) ... never had an issue, in fact there were lines of folks checking firearms!


    Bottom line -- it's usually (caveat there) not as much as a hassle as you'd think.

    PS: I did check firearms out of SAN (San Diego) ... and that was surprisingly easy ... a la PDX.

    PPS: My comments were on airports rather than airlines. I haven't noticed too much differnence there, it's mostly the mindset of where you are (seemingly). On balance, if you're talking airlines, I've only got good stuff to say about Alaska. They seem to understand the travelling hunter/shooter!
     
  7. TonsOfOregonBrass

    TonsOfOregonBrass Sandy, OR Active Member

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    Flying out of PDX is easy with a gun. Flying back can be a pain depending on where you go. PHX, was a pain, but not as bad as others. Just leave early and be ready for little hassle.

    I haven't had any problems. but i plan for it so when it doesn't happen it is a good experience.
     
  8. baalzebubba

    baalzebubba Vancouver, WA Member

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    Met deviant some 6-7 years ago at security conference. He's got many other things worth reading if you're also interested in isec.
     
  9. kenr74

    kenr74 Oregon Active Member

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    It is very easy. Show it to the counter ladies and get a special tag to put with the gun. I just put it in the hard case it came in. Lock it. Put it in a backpack. Use a lock on the zippers. Hand it over to the scanners and wait for them to run it through before walking away. The ladies at the counter acted like it was a routine deal for them.
     
  10. Ranb

    Ranb Belfair, WA Active Member

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    It is usually a very routine deal. But procedures vary a bit at some airports. It used to be that the ticket agents never handled the gun case, so I was able to pack the case as heavy as I wanted without paying anythig extra, now they are weighing each case. Sometimes the TSA inspects right in front of you, at other times they take the case to a secure area and you have to wait in case they want to unlock it for a visual inspection in addition to the X-ray.

    If they want to open it while you are not present and you can not be located right away, then they will pick or cut the locks. If they cut them, then you need to replace them at your own expense before the case is put on the plane. Bring extra locks so you do not have to pay triple the price at the airport bookstore.

    Baggage claim procedures vary also. You may find the gun case with all the other luggage, or it may be waiting for you at the airline service counter or over-sized baggage. I am usually asked for ID before I get the gun case.

    Ranb
     
  11. Ranb

    Ranb Belfair, WA Active Member

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    I do not agree with some of what this link says. It has been my experience that TSA will accept ANY lock on a gun case. Even the cheap flimsy TSA locks and the tiny things on some gun cases that can be opened with a tiny fingernail file.

    They will not hesitate to open a gun case after you leave, rules or not. I had this happen at SeaTac once. I watched the examiner visually inspect the case, then left for the gate. I was called back, but by the time I arrived they had already picked the locks and airport security had been called because the X-ray machine revealed silencers in the case. No one there knew anything about silencer legalites in WA until I explained it and showed them my ATF forms. I could have told them to pack sand, but I wanted to make my flight.

    It is very important that you review the airline's policy online right before you travel. I love the Alaska airlines 50 pound ammo limit. I also like United's "if you can put it in the gun case it is allowed" rule.

    Ranb
     
  12. 8ball

    8ball WA Quit talkin' and start chalking!

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  13. stitchclimber

    stitchclimber St. Louis Active Member

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    I do it all the time. Easy.
     
  14. rodell

    rodell Newcastle, WA Active Member

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    Seatac is not a problem at all, or hasn't been for me. Long arm, handgun, whatever.

    I've flown all over the country, including into places where handguns are not particularly appreciated. It isn't the airlines' job to enforce the rules, just deliver the baggage. I even used to fly into NY state (when I was a resident with a permit) and no one even batted an eye at an airline. Same in MD and MA.
     
  15. deen_ad

    deen_ad Vancouver, WA Well-Known Member

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    I flew out of PDX with a .45 to Duluth MN. Had to go help my step daughter flee her boyfriend so I packed my handgun in a hard case, put the ammo in the factory box and all went in a softside case. I declared at the counter, they checked the case and ammo, then took it to the TSA check. I told one of the TSA people which bag I had the pistol in and went to the security check. They directed me to an empty line about four rows away from everyone else and did a VERY thorough check, including a check of everything in my carry on so I did receive a little "extra" checking.

    80 MILLION gun owners didn't shoot anyone today, a few criminals did!

    ----------------------------------------------------------

    The "Feedback Score" is low by 4, not everyone posts it I guess.

    Deen
    NRA Benefactor/Recruiter
    Washington Arms Collector member
    South West Washington Arms Collector member
     
  16. Jerry

    Jerry Vancouver, WA Well-Known Member

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    Go to the airline's website. They have clear instructions on flying with firearms.

    Then go to TSA and do the same.

    Keep copies of both when you go to the airport.

    Different TSA chumps have differing interpretations of the rules, so be prepared to be very polite and accomodating.

    Of the 6 times that I've flown with 1 or more firearms, I had only one bad experience.

    I had a problem in El Paso a few years ago, flying back to PDX after a week of hunting javelinas & jack rabbits, that resulted in me dashing about El Paso with a cab driver looking for a rifle case that would satisfy one TSA guy. THe guy said to me "I don't give a bubblegum what TSA does in Portland". I finally found 2 cases at the El Paso Gun Exchange that worked and flew home.

    The airline folks, Southwest, were absolutely awseome. They brought me a free beer as soon as we were off the ground!
     
  17. Ranb

    Ranb Belfair, WA Active Member

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    I always find a TSA inspection notice in my luggage whenever I fly domestic, whether I pack guns with or not. Not sure why. :)

    Ranb
     
  18. Abiqua

    Abiqua Oregon Active Member

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    Totally worth the hassle. And it's really not that much of a hassle. The first time you do it you'll be suprised how anti-climactic it is.

    Use good quality locks, NOT TSA locks.
     
  19. marty8587

    marty8587 NE Portland Active Member

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    I brought an inherited pistol back from Las Vegas with no problem. I did spend some time on the phone to learn what to do and what to expect. I think the main thing is they don't want any suprises. It was worth it.
     
  20. Riot

    Riot Benton County, Washington Well-Known Member

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    It's easy...just call the local airport and ask them what their proceedures are. Almost all my guns were purchased in NC- had to bring them over to WA when I moved so I've done it a time or two.