Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fly the Friendly Skies

Howdy, my friends! If you haven't flown the friendly skies with your guns, I highly recommend it-- as checked baggage, that is. It also helps if you're flying to and from a gun-friendly state too! Unfortunately, I'm usually headed with the wife on a business-related trip to New York or California. However, we recently had the opportunity to visit the great state of Texas for the Toyota Cup US Open Triathlon. The lil SEAL won the national title in her age group! I rented a big truck (a Flex Fuel Suburban), bought a new cowboy hat, and brought my trusty Glock 26 along for the ride. After all, TX accepts our FL CCW permit and I've heard there's a law against NOT having a gun in Texas!

Exercising your right to travel with your firearms has several obvious benefits. However, the greatest in my opinion is the VIP service you receive during baggage check-in. The line at American Airlines in TPA was jam packed the morning of our departure. One of the clerks was walking around asking if anyone had special items to check-- looking specifically at our large bicycle case. As soon as I said "unloaded firearm," her ears perked and she whisked us to our own line. The clerk looked semi-flustered, but confirmed with her supervisor which form I needed. I signed it and secured it inside my Pelican case. Then, we were quickly escorted over to the TSA examiner who looked delighted as soon as the word "firearm" was uttered. A lot of these guys are former law enforcement and/or military, so checking out some guns is probably one of the more stimulating things they get to do on a shift. Within 30 seconds, the TSA agent returned and gave us a big thumbs up and toothy smile, "You're good to go, have a nice flight!"

Once we landed in Dallas, our bags came out on the carousel as usual. I checked the contents and we were happily on our way in our big 20mpg Chevy Suburban. On our return trip, the TSA agent at DFW was a bit more thorough in her examination. She used multiple swabs checking for explosives and asked me to come into the sterile area to show her that my weapon was indeed clear. She was polite and gave us a thumbs up approval after a few minutes. Honestly, I was more concerned with the thumbs up on the bicycle. I have it packed very carefully to insure no spokes or other fragile parts are broken. Our last trip to New York for the Nautica NYC Triathlon proved to me that TSA agents don't always put the items back in the way they came out. We had some scratches on the bike frame and a bent spoke as a result.

If you read the discussion forums regarding flying with firearms, you'll hear countless horror stories about rude clerks and draconian TSA agents. I can assure you these nightmare scenarios are the statical outliers. 90% of those stories stem from the travelers being rude or showing a sense of entitlement. Anytime you interact with the public, if you're polite and patient, you'll probably be treated with mutual respect. The path of least resistance is usually best. If you're acting like a jerk, they'll probably return the favor. So, be nice and smile. A "howdy" doesn't hurt either-- especially in Texas. Remember: not everyone flies with a gun. Allow yourself some extra time at the baggage check in. Some clerks may not know the procedure, but they know how to do their job and will ask for assistance from a supervisor.

It's also important to check with your airline's website to see what the specific rules are for checking an unloaded firearm in your baggage. Here are the TSA rules on the subject:


For a small handgun like the Glock 26, I found that the little Pelican #1150 worked perfectly. There's room for a box of factory ammunition, the gun, and a magazine. I selected this case because it was small enough to fit inside our suitcase and still allow extra room for souvenirs. I also have a #1400 Pelican for larger guns and more ammo. These solutions are specifically for CCW applications. If you're going somewhere to actually doing some shooting, a stand alone rifle case is your best bet. You've got room for multiple guns and more ammo. I also recommend chamber indicators. They're cheap and positively identify the guns as unloaded. It's one less reason for the TSA agents to open your case and fiddle with your gear. As for locks, there are two schools of thought: TSA and non-TSA. Technically, nobody should have access to your case except for you. However, who knows if TSA wants to inspect it again for some reason. So, I use these little TSA-approved locks I got from Target for $10/each. Yes, TSA agents can open my case, and there's a certain amount of risk associated with that-- but I make a point to check the guns upon arrival at my destination. Plus, I'm not flying with any prized heirloom firearms. They're all generic and replaceable. I'm more attached to my Stetson than my Glock.

The reason for this newsletter was simply to show you how simple and easy it is to fly legally with your firearms. It's not scary or any more of a hassle than flying is already. Just make sure your gear is squared away and that you're polite and patient. You'll get a big smile and thumbs up from your TSA agent and be "good to go!"

Have a good one and God bless. -- Evan

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