Flying, unfortunately, comes with Todd Jarrett’s job – that includes competing in shooting matches, attending numerous trade shows, working for BLACKHAWK!’s Pro Shooter/New Products for CQC line and instructing firearms courses for military law enforcement/competitive shooters. Jarrett has been in the gun world for 26 years and last year, he made about 50 flights and spent at least 250 nights away from home.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lists rules and regulations for flying with guns, but Jarrett, in a special interview for Guns & Patriots, advises you on how to work with antsy agents and also adds a few tips that you will not see in the pages of a government document or airline policy.
First, all guns need to be unloaded and transported in proper cases for checked baggage only. Jarrett says, “I like to have the right luggage. I use the Storm Case boxes. They are designed to carry guns for the U.S. military. They are heavy duty and will last for 250,000 flying miles. I know because I have three that I have used for years.” He adds, “If you are flying with an AR-15, take it apart … so you do not have to drag this black rifle out at the counter in front of everyone. Freaking out everybody makes you a target for the flight.” Jarrett recommends locking your cases before you leave home, because that shows a customer service representative that you are responsible.
Jarrett recommends that you not show up in tactical attire or camouflage when traveling to a competition, school or going on a hunt somewhere. He says, “Just tell them, ‘I’m going hunting, or I’m going to a shooting competition.’ … You need to have good vibes with the person behind the counter, or you will get yourself in a world of hurt if you don’t.”
He continued, “You’re going to run across the TSA agent who is having a bad day. I’ve been to the airport and they’ll tell me ‘That case is not getting on the airplane. It’s designed for guns!’ You’re at the mercy of the airlines and TSA.”
He adds, “The airline personnel don't like dealing with guns. Most of them don't understand what to do with them. Ninety-five percent of them don't know if they are loaded or not. So every time you go to airport get there early, so you can deal with the counter and TSA.
“Furthermore, a captain of an airliner can refuse to fly with your gun on his plane. You’ll get a pilot that doesn’t like guns and he’ll say, ‘Nope, that gun is not going on my airplane!’ He is the captain of that ship and it’s his prerogative.” You will have to fly on another airliner that day or check to find another plane with a more gun-friendly captain. Although this scenario has not happened to Jarrett (yet), he has heard of it happening to his law enforcement friends.
He also recommends that you do your homework beforehand, and look at the particular airline’s policy online, print it out and have it ready to produce in case there is a question about how to transport a firearm. Jarrett says, “If you get into a problem with a supervisor, you can point to the policy and tell him that you’re able to travel with this firearm. If they still give you a hard time, ask to speak to a station manager and his job is to make you, the customer, happy.”
Upon arrival at the ticket counter, he says, “Offer your ID and ask for a firearms declaration.” After the agent asks to see the firearms and you open the case, tell the agent the guns are not loaded and mention that they also are disassembled. He says, “Tell them there’s no ammunition in the magazine and there’s no ammunition in the chamber. They usually are uneducated about whether there is a round in the chamber or not, so that is why it is up to you to tell them.”
Jarrett recommends that you stay proactive throughout the course of checking your baggage. Look for TSA x-ray machines. Are they on the floor, or will your checked baggage go into a hole somewhere? Of course, if the machines are in public, you will be asked to stand near the machine while your bag gets x-rayed. If there is a problem, you can work with the agents easily, because you will have your keys to the locked case available.
If it looks like the attendant at the desk is going to shove your case into a hole in the wall, you need to ask for a bag check. A TSA officer will open your bag, check it and then call ahead to notify the ground crew that the bag is coming to them. In fact, Jarrett says you should request a bag check for any baggage that contains expensive items.
TSA requires that you pack ammunition in a fiber, wood or metal box designed to carry a small amount of ammunition. Depending on the airline’s regulations, you may carry it in the same hard-sided case as the firearms, but you are limited to 11 pounds of ammo, total. Jarrett says that in all the years he has been flying, he has never had his ammo weighed; however, if you intend on taking a lot of ammo with you, Jarrett recommends that you take your ammo to UPS and ship it. Never transport primers, because, as Jarrett says, “If you can shoot one of them off, you can imagine what 5,000 would do. You could actually blow a plane up with that!” He adds, “I don’t even recommend shipping your cleaner or solvent. TSA will take it from you. Just go to a Walmart when you get there and buy your cleaning stuff. Or, just ship it with your ammo. Box it up and make sure it’s nice and clean first.”
And, another thing … or two
Check your bags, especially if you have been to a range or hunting and had a bag with you that you intend to carry on the airplane. A few years ago, someone thought he was helping out Jarrett’s girlfriend and dropped a live round into her bag that she had at the range – the same one she intended to use as a carry-on bag. An error such as this might cost you several thousand dollars in fines. So, if you have had your purse, your tote bag, a camera bag, out at the range or competition with you, check it not only for knives, sharp items, but also for live rounds.
When you get to your destination, Jarrett recommends that you do not ever leave your guns in a vehicle. If you have a discreet bag, you may even decide to take your gun to dinner with you. Jarrett says he has taken a gun into a restaurant with him, and if someone asks him, he says the case contains expensive equipment! As always, check to see if this practice is acceptable with that state’s concealed carry laws, and whether your state has reciprocity with that state.
Get educated about how to fly with guns and remember to stay cool about the whole experience.
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