Flying with Guns. You Can Do It!

By John Farnam

P-Mag Rifle Magazines with Caps
P-Mag Rifle Magazines with Caps

Defense Training International, Inc

Ft Collins, CO -( Guns and Commercial (Domestic) Air Travel, Report:

Recently, I flew out of MDW (Chicago, Midway) on South West Airlines.

I had with me two, checked bags. In one of my pieces of checked luggage, there were two pistols. In the other was my RA/XCR (300Blk, the same one I used to kill a Red Stag in OH in October)

Rifle ammunition was in four 30-round Magpul magazines. I also had some in two factory boxes. Pistol ammunition was in five pistol magazines, plus one factory box.

SW folks were very nice, as they almost always are!

I was asked to take my bags to the TSA station. The TSA guy was also very nice and, during our conversation, even showed me photos of some of his own guns!

The whole check-in process took less than twenty minutes, and I was on my way.

I, and my baggage, arrived at my final destination this afternoon, none the worse for ware!

Some ask me about Chicago airports, but I’ve never had a problem at either.

Once more:

When flying commercially, guns need to be unloaded and in lockable, and locked, hard cases.

5.11 COVRT M4 Shorty Bag
5.11 COVRT M4 Shorty Bag

Mine then go inside my regular luggage, which also needs to be locked. My rifle (XCR or FSM4) fit nicely within a hard case, within my REI roller duffel. I think it is a bad idea to travel with guns in what look like “gun cases.” My luggage is all “plain vanilla.” A little low-profile goes a long way!

Also in my REI Duffel is my Blackhawk “Diversion Bag.” It is designed to look like a soft scateboard case, but it just fits my XCR and FSM4 (with stocks collapsed). When I arrive at my destination, I take my rifle out of its air-travel hard-case and put it in the Diversion Bag. So equipped, I then go in and out of hotels with it, without garnering undue attention. Again, I’m a heavy advocate of low personal profile!

Ammunition in factory boxes is generally acceptable for air transport. Ammunition in magazines is also acceptable, so long at the magazine is not “open” at one end, exposing cartridges. I travel with P-mag Rifle Magazines, because they come with “caps” that go over the first round. The ostensible purpose of these caps is to relieve pressure on the magazine’s feed-lips, but I’ve found TSA thinks they’re just fine for transport, and I fly with them that way all the time. Rifle magazines are all secured within a padded case.

Pistol magazines I put in padded “magazine socks,” available from Hi-Viz ( MAG-STO Handgun Magazine Covers ) , the folks who make excellent light-tube sights. Once again, there are no cartridges visible. Pistol magazines, in socks, also go into a padded gun-rug.

Many I know don’t like to fly with guns at all, but I’m unwilling to be unarmed, no matter where I am, and no matter how I got there, so I make it happen. The key is to comply with the foregoing, have a “normal” appearance, and don’t fail the attitude test! Be polite, courteous, and frightfully boring. Don’t be chatty, and don’t answer questions that weren’t asked!

Even so, I don’t recommend flying with guns out of any airport in NY or NJ.

I fly out of IAD (Washington, Dulles) regularly, as well as BWI (Baltimore, MD), without issues.

All I can advise is that there is a System in place, and it works acceptably well, most of the time.

Nothing we do is risk-free!



About John Farnam & Defense Training International, Inc

As a defensive weapons and tactics instructor as well as published author, John Farnam will urge you, based on your own beliefs, to make up your mind in advance as to what you would do when faced with an imminent and unlawful lethal threat. You should, of course, also decide what preparations you should make in advance, if any. Defense Training International wants to make sure that their students fully understand the physical, legal, psychological, and societal consequences of their actions or inactions.

It is our duty to make you aware of certain unpleasant physical realities intrinsic to the Planet Earth. Mr Farnam is happy to be your counselor and advisor. Visit:

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Kurt Sunderman

What do you do in the event your connection in ORD, BWI, or EWR gets cancelled and the airline puts you up in a local hotel overnight? Is there a provision for securing your weapon at the airport?

Bill H

Read the airline rules for transporting firearms. Print the rules and have them handy for the one ticket counter person who doesn’t know what to do or gives you the wrong information. “You can’t fly with that” is usually a personal belief not airline policy. Being in the south, I use Delta a lot. Yes, unloaded firearm, ammo is factory box, no loaded mags, and you good to go with all in a hard sided locked container. Buy a small Pelican or Bulldog (weight issue) that has a steel tether cable. Secure it to your suit case frame so the… Read more »

Anthony Linder

Isn’t it far easier to ship firearms via ups or FedEx? I don’t believe there regulations here, yes / no ??


If you want to ship firearms they must go to an FFL dealer, That will cost about $30 each time. So the answer to your question is NO!

Anthony Linder

So what exactly is stopping one from shipping a firearm via UPS / FedEx to themselves at their summer home ? What local, state and federal law states its illegal ? Where is it that UPS doesn’t allow so? More importantly , how the hell will they know what’s in the cardboard box if they aren’t told ?


Do it all the time and never have a problem. But I plan ahead. Each Airline & each airport have policies. I always review all of it prior to my trips. Usually adds 1/2 hr to the check-in process. The only thing that makes me feel a little uncomfortable is having to open my gun cases at the ticket counter. Only once did Ticket Agent not seem a little taken aback. Home Airport is Denver Int’l.


The gun debate is OK, but it misses the problem AGAIN!! It was a NUT with a gun. If he didn’t have a gun he could have used a knife, pipe, ball bat, you name it. There were at least two (I’ll bet more) to stop this nut and both were missed, as is the case EVERY time. I don’t fly anymore so it is a mote point for me, but until we start stopping the NUTS we are not going to do anything!


I too fly with weapons, no problems, but check with your airline, they all handle weapons differently. I checked my weapon with the TSA once and away we went. On arrival, no gun showed up at the baggage claim, imagine my panic!! come to find out that airline hand carries weapons to the plane, from plane to plane upon plane changes, and then into the secure baggage claim office at the destination airport. Another airline, the weapon bag just comes out on the conveyor belt as normal. Yes I wish they would all handle weapons in the same manner, it… Read more »


And many TSA workers will steal your weapons, locked and all and bust them open later.


Trenton NJ is the simplest, easiest airport in the world the fly into or out of with properly checked guns and ammo.

Here’s a much more informative link about flying with guns.

Norm in NJ


I moved to Florida last January from NY after 64 years. A primary consideration to leave was The Safe Act. It took me almost a year to get a cc permit in NY. Good luck with that.
Want my advice? Get the hell out of NY as fast as you can.


I would not recommend flying out of any of the greater New York area airports (LaGuardia, Kennedy, Newark.) It is illegal by New York City and New Jersey law to possess without some form of permit. And no, they don’t accept permits from other states (or in the case of New York City, New York State permits.) I tried this once and almost ended up being arrested. At the time, the policy of the District Attorney was to arrest everyone, automatically, if they did not have a New York City permit to possess. Even those New Yorkers from upstate with… Read more »

Jerome Eisen

I have a question,i am from Florida and have a CC permit and want to move to New York,WestChester County,is their much of problem with CC permit in that neck of the woods?

Walter Herman

I’ve flown out of many airports, I’m from NJ, Atlantic City has never been a problem, however Newark was a pain but no issues. I thought I’ve have problem flying back out of Boston’s Logan but it was easier than Newark.

Tom Yanity

It depends on what airport you fly out of. The best bet for flying with weapons and ammo is to have all of the ammo in factory boxes. I have run into issues when having loaded magazines even with end caps. It all depends on the TSA at your airport. They are not all on the same page regarding regulations. I have seen multiple people not be able to take their ammo just because the TSA did not like the packaging.


I flew to and from Syracuse NY with a weapon with no problem.