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What You Need to Know Before Traveling with a Gun

What You Need to Know Before Traveling with a Gun

The things you do, or don’t do, while traveling with a gun for a hunt can make or break the experience that lies ahead. Some of the biggest airline fiascos I’ve ever witnessed revolved around an ill-planned traveler trying to get a gun to or from a destination for a hunting adventure. Don’t let this be you! Here’s a look at what you need to know before traveling with a gun. 

Do you know all the basics when it comes to traveling with a gun? The info below is designed to help you avoid the common mistakes when traveling with a firearm.

Traveling by Air

The biggest rules, regulations and logistics will come into play when you’re making plans to travel by air.

It’s important that you are aware of what the guidelines are for the airline you are traveling. Don’t assume that all airlines are the same, or that the rules are still the same from what you experienced on your last trip. Always look for updated rules and regulations pertaining to travel with a firearm. 

For some, traveling by air with a firearm can be stressful. However, with a few simple steps, the process can be simplified and stress free. Just remember, ignorance is no excuse. Be sure you know what the airline expects from you when traveling with a firearm. And the biggest step to keeping things cool and calm upon arrival at the airport with a firearm is to be sure you make the airline staff aware of your intentions to check a firearm for travel the moment you step up to the curb.  

To give you a better grasp of what to expect when traveling by air, I’ve included guidelines for Delta airlines below. 

Traveling by air with a firearm can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker for your next hunt.

Guidelines at Delta.com

Shooting equipment is allowed as checked baggage only. It must fit within the very specific criteria that we outline below.

  • Declare to the Delta representative that you are checking a firearm
  • Declare the existence of a firearm to security personnel if there's a security checkpoint before the Delta counter
  • All firearms must be declared by the passenger to a Delta representative at the main ticket counter
  • Present firearm(s) unloaded and sign a "Firearms Unloaded" declaration
  • Firearms must be packed in a locked manufacturer's hard-sided container specifically designed for the firearm, a locked hard–sided gun case or a locked hard-sided piece of luggage. Handguns may be packed in a locked hard-sided gun case, and then packed inside an unlocked soft-sided piece of luggage. However, a Conditional Acceptance Tag must be used in this case
  • Maintain entry permits in your possession for the country or countries of destination or transit
  • Ensure small arms ammunition is packed in the manufacturer's original package or securely packed in fiber, wood, plastic or metal boxes and provide separation for cartridges
  • You are responsible for knowledge of and compliance with all Federal, State or local laws regarding the possession and transportation of firearms. For more information about this regulation you can visit the TSA website.
  • If you are transporting a firearm to the United Kingdom, a permit from the United Kingdom is specifically required. You must contact the United Kingdom for more information about securing this permit
  • Until further advised, passengers departing Brussels, Belgium are not allowed to check weapons including, antique, sporting, hunting or toy rifles in their checked baggage
  • Customer must be 18 years of age or older

All firearms checked as baggage must be picked up at the Baggage Service Office upon arrival at your final destination. ID will be required to claim your checked firearm

  • The following types of ammunition are not accepted:
  • Gun powder; such as Pyrodex or Black Powder
  • Ammunition with explosive or incendiary projectiles
  • Ammunition, including case, exceeding 11 pounds (5 kg) gross weight per passenger

Pistols and accessories must be included in one case and contain:

  • Pistol telescopes
  • Noise suppressors
  • A small pistol tool case
  • No more than 11 lbs. (5 kg) of ammunition, including case

Rifles and shotguns must be packaged as follows:

  • One hard sided case containing up to four rifles, shotguns, shooting materials, tools
  • The case must completely secure the firearm from being accessed. All areas designed to be locked must be locked.
  • Locked cases that can be easily opened are not permitted. Be aware that the container the firearm was in when purchased may not adequately secure the firearm when it is transported in checked baggage.
  • One hard sided case containing up to five handguns, one scope, tools
  • One bow and quiver of arrows and maintenance kit enclosed in a case or container strong enough to protect the bow and quiver from accidental damage
  • No more than 11 lbs. (5 kg) of ammunition, including case
An excess baggage fee will apply if checking more than one gun case.

Follow the airline guidelines carefully and you should have a smooth experience when traveling with your gun.

Best Gun Cases for the Traveling Hunter

As mentioned in the airline guidelines above, you can’t simply show up to the airport with your firearm in a zippered, soft-sided case. Nor would you want to. After working a short time for a major airline in the industry, I saw first-hand how airline staff handles baggage behind the scenes when they think nobody is watching. Rarely will your equipment be handled with the care you’d give it yourself. That’s why it’s so important that you buy the best gun case you can afford. 

Some of the best cases on the market are made by companies like Pelican, SKB, Plano, and Nanuk. Cases from these companies cover a range of design quality and prices, from under $100, to over $400. 

Make sure your gun case has all the features to keep your firearm protected.

Features to look for in a gun case include:

  • Watertight
  • Crushproof
  • Dustproof
  • Wheels for easy hauling instead of carrying
  • Fold-down handles
  • Durable Handles
  • Quality Foam Interior 
  • Lockable Case Design
  • Durable Latches
  • Airline Approved

Consider a quality gun case as insurance for one of your most prized hunting possessions.

Traveling by Truck

Much of the abuse our guns take comes from simply bouncing around in the cab of our truck. Countless hunters make the commute with a gun tucked down between the seat cushion and console throughout the hunting season. And while that does ensure that you’re at the ready when unforeseen opportunities arise, it’s hardly the safest bet for us or our guns. In fact, on many public lands and national forest grounds, it’s against the law to ride around with your firearm uncased. 

That’s why I like to use the same case I travel with by air to keep my gun protected while bouncing around in the truck. Sure, soft-sided cases will suffice here, but I still like the protection that comes from a bullet-proof hard case when I want to throw it in the bed of the truck or leave it exposed to the elements when sitting around hunting camp. 


So whether your hunting trips find you traveling by air or your favorite pickup truck, be sure to use the best gun case you can afford to protect the one tool that matters most on your hunt. A quality gun case will help you travel with confidence knowing your gun and optics are protected and in working order when you arrive for your hunt.  

About the Author

Brodie Swisher

Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, and seminar speaker.
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