What to Consider Before Traveling with a Firearm

When you cross state lines with a firearm – or even when you travel within your own state – you have to stick to the rules or risk facing serious consequences. Whether you’re flying or driving, you should start by protecting your rifle, shotgun or pistol with a sturdy, reliable hard gun case that locks. Use this guide to get all the pro tips you need to consider before traveling with firearms by plane or car.

Traveling by Car: How to Transport a Gun

If you’re traveling with a rifle, pistol or shotgun in your vehicle, you have to know federal laws and the laws for each state you travel through. The Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, or FOPA, allows you to transport firearms for lawful purposes, provided that you’re taking your gun from one place you’re legally allowed to possess it to another place you’re legally allowed to possess it. Every state has its own laws about the act of transporting guns, which often include the types of locks you have to use and where the gun has to be.

For most people, the best way to safely transport a firearm is in a hard gun case with a foam interior. A case with a hard shell protects firearms from other luggage, and the foam inside keeps them safe from bumps and dings.

Crossing State Lines with a Gun in Your Car

In most cases, you can legally transport your firearms across state lines if they’re unloaded, stored in a case, and locked in the trunk or in another place where they’re inaccessible to you or anyone else in your vehicle. There are some exceptions, including those for concealed-carry permit holders, so it’s important to double-check each state’s requirements before you buckle up for the trip.   

Traveling by Plane: How to Fly with a Gun

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has specific rules about flying with a gun. Here’s a quick run-down of the TSA’s rules for transporting a firearm on an aircraft:

  • You must declare each firearm every time you check it as baggage. If you don’t, you can be prosecuted under federal and state laws.
  • Firearms must be unloaded and kept in a locking rifle case or similar container.
  • Firearms can only be transported as checked baggage.
  • You must keep the key or the combination to the lock in your possession, unless TSA personnel ask for it to make sure you’re complying with the rules.
  • You cannot carry magazines, firing pins or any other parts of a firearm in your carry-on bags.
  • You cannot carry-on ammunition – you can only transport it in checked bags.
  • You can put small arms ammunition that doesn’t exceed .75-caliber and shotgun shells in the same hard-sided case you use for your gun.
  • You can only transport magazines, even if they’re empty, in a secure box or inside a hard-sided case.
  • You can only transport replica firearms, even if they’re toys, as checked baggage.
  • You can bring a scope in your carry-on bag or check it.

How to Choose the Right Gun Case for Travel

Finding a gun case for flying doesn’t have to be difficult. In the vast majority of cases, it’s best to use a hard gun case for any long-distance travel. While hard cases tend to be larger than soft gun travel bags, they provide superior protection.

These are the features you should look for to safely transport your guns in a hard case:

  • Crushproof construction
  • Extendable carrying handle
  • Foam interior
  • Inline wheels
  • Overmolded snap-tight handles
  • Reinforced locking points
  • Watertight protection

If you’re not sure about the legal aspects of traveling with a firearm, check with an attorney or read your state’s laws. Your two main priorities are to keep yourself out of hot water and keep your firearms, yourself and the public safe.

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