“I am attending a major event soon that I’ll have to fly to, but I have never flown with my shotgun. Any tips?”
Take it from someone who flies with a shotgun all the time: It’s easy if you know the ropes. TSA rules allow you to legally transport unloaded firearms in a locked, hard-sided container as checked baggage, but never in the passenger cabin. If you follow TSA rules, you should have no problems.
I recommend you do not transport ammunition, but instead purchase shells at your destination if that’s feasible. Before your trip, make sure you have a proper hard-sided and lockable case. The container the firearm was in when you purchased it is unlikely to meet TSA requirements. The locks on the case should be TSA-approved locks that are accessible to TSA personnel with a special key.
When you arrive at the airport, bypass curbside check-in and proceed to the ticket counter. You must declare to the ticket agent that you are checking an unloaded firearm. You will be checked in and any bags, other than the one containing the firearm, will be checked. The agent will have you open your gun case, sign an orange card and insert the card into the case. You will then be asked to close and lock the case. Your case will be tagged and an airline or airport official will accompany you and the case to a TSA inspection point (not the regular security checkpoint), where a TSA official will screen your bag. Normally, you will be required to remain at the TSA inspection point until your bag with the firearm is cleared. Once cleared, you will proceed to the security checkpoint as normal and your bag will be loaded onto your aircraft. Depending on the airport, you might need to retrieve your firearm at the baggage office or oversize baggage station at your final destination rather than on the baggage carousel. Always check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for new requirements and, if you are traveling internationally, your destination country’s requirements.
Don Currie is NSCA’s Chief Instructor, an Orvis Wingshooting School instructor, and Master Class competitor. To get free shooting tips and videos, sign up for his monthly newsletter. You can also see more tips from Currie at www.doncurrie.com.