Fly With a Gun: TSA Rules for Traveling, Carrying, and Transporting a Firearm on an Airplane

Fly With a Gun: TSA Rules for Traveling, Carrying, and Transporting a Firearm on an Airplane

Today’s question: How can you legally fly with a firearm? The Armed Attorneys break down the law regarding legal travel with a gun on a commercial airline.


Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @ArmedAttorneys
Richard Hayes: @TXGunLaw
Emily Taylor: @2A_Attorney

Make sure to subscribe for more gun law, self-defense, and firearm news.

Gun law, self-defense FAQs, and the 2A simplified every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 4 PM CT.

We’re the Armed Attorneys and today we’re going to talk about flying with your firearm. Which I think a lot of people are surprised to hear it’s easier than you think. If you’ve never done it before, there are some rules to follow but I found that it adds about 5 to 10 minutes to my check-in process so it’s really not so bad. The first thing you need to think about and this is where people get in trouble the most is, can you legally possess that firearm in the state you’re flying to? The airlines will not tell you, you can be in Louisiana, go to the airport and say, “I’m getting on a plane to New York,” or “I’m getting on a plane to New Jersey,” and, “Check your firearm in, we’ll talk about that process in a second.” And the airline is never once going to tell you you’re going to get arrested when you hit the ground in New Jersey. And yet it’s something that is of huge consideration but you’ve got to take that upon yourself. So step one, can you take the gun to the state you’re going to? What’s next Richard? The next one is the check-in procedure. And we’ll have a link in the comment below about the TSA’s procedures. But essentially, every firearm that you fly with has to be declared. The firearms and ammunition have to be declared. So how does this work? Well, you’ll have a locked, hard-sided container. Let’s use a semi-automatic pistol for example, but I recommend locking the slide open so that the agent can see that it’s unloaded. But you’ll have your locked, hard-sided container. Most of them for handguns, for example, don’t meet the minimum size requirements. They’ll be in a larger piece of checked luggage. But you’ll go to your airlines check-in counter say, “Hey, I’m flying with a handgun today.” They’ll open it up in their presence. Sometimes they’ll handle it, most of the time if the slide is locked open they’ll just look at it. Your ammunition can be in the same locked, hard-sided container. But the ammunition has to be completely enclosed, and so that could be technically in a magazine but you have to have a magazine cover to enclose it. Or, what I just recommend, carrying it in the manufacturer’s packaging or they make little special ammo boxes. But that can go in the same box as your handgun so you’ll declare it. They’ll inspect it and make sure it’s unloaded. They’ll lock it in your presence and place it inside of your larger piece of checked bags just like we were talking about with our handguns. … what happens if you get rerouted? And you’ve already checked before, that first step Emily talked about where you know you’re going to a state that’s legal to possess. Let’s say you’re flying from, I don’t know, Texas to Wisconsin, and you get rerouted in Illinois or you get rerouted to I can’t imagine, but what do you do? Yeah, this is a big concern. You know that you are legal in your own state. However, all of a sudden you find yourself in New York or New Jersey because your plane has been rerouted, and it happens. The only thing we can recommend is do not take possession of that luggage. Go to the airline, let them know that you want your luggage forwarded directly to the end destination without taking possession. That’s really the best you can do. And speaking of airlines, I think we should note that you really do need to call your airline before you fly … this is our practical tip is, check your carry-on bags. They do not want you taking firearms, firearms parts, ammunition with you on the plane. And this will get you hit with possible criminal charges, a hefty fine from the TSA, up to $14,000…

General Information Only
The material presented is for general informational, educational, and entertainment purposes only and should not be construed to be formal legal advice or the formation of a lawyer-client relationship. You should not rely on this information or its applicability to any specific circumstances without speaking with an attorney.

All Rights Reserved
This material was produced in the United States of America. No part of this material may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.


  1. wamrfixit2 on March 5, 2023 at 2:29 am

    Can I mail my handgun to another destination?

  2. jim hanty on March 5, 2023 at 2:29 am

    Y’all are doing a really good job packing so much info everyone talks about ,but are rarely sure about… good idea and plan.. you will be a success … chow..jim

  3. Crosis of Borg on March 5, 2023 at 2:30 am

    I just want to know how the TSA got the power to fine. Sounds like something that has to go through the house and senate to be legal.

  4. Androctonus84 on March 5, 2023 at 2:32 am

    One thing to note: every airport has slightly (and sometimes more than slightly) different procedures for how this works. 

    For example, you mentioned that the airport won’t segregate your luggage at your destination. This isn’t true at Fort Lauderdale International (FLL). Because of the mass shooting they had there, where a passenger retrieved a gun from his checked bag on arrival and then shot several people in the baggage claim, they will take any checked bag with a declared firearm to the baggage claim office and require you to show identification, in the presence of a sheriff’s deputy, in order to claim the bag. 

    Another example: every time I’ve flown out of St. Louis Lambert Field (STL) they’ve required me to go through special screening as a passenger if I’ve checked a firearm. At some airports the airline staff will send your bag back to the screening area and just have you wait while it is checked out of your sight, while at others you may have to carry your bag from the check-in counter to a special screening area where they will scan your bag in front of you (and other variations). And each check-in counter employee will have a different interpretation of the procedure for dealing with this situation. As you said, some will actually want to handle the firearm to check it, while others won’t, and some don’t even ask to see it as long as you tell them it’s unloaded. At every airport where I have checked a firearm, there has always been some, often significant, variation in how it has gone, though I’ve never had a problem doing it.

    The gist of this is, be prepared for things to work somewhat differently every time you do this. Whatever the TSA guidelines say, whatever the airline’s website says (and you should read all the way through both), no matter how many articles you’ve read or videos you’ve watched on this, it will very often not be exactly like what you expected. Just follow the guidelines and rules, and (as long as they’re not asking you to do something you know is wrong) follow their instructions and procedures, and it should go quite smoothly.

  5. Eyes Only on March 5, 2023 at 2:34 am

    UPS is your friend. It’s far easier and more secure to send your firearm via UPS ahead of time. This is especially easy if you have friends or family at your destination. Adhere to UPS packaging rules and you’re good to go. Plus, you can easily attach insurance on your UPS shipment. The airlines will not reimburse for high-value items that are lost, stolen, or damaged. For a small surcharge, you can add $2,000 insurance to your UPS package and they’ll handle it with white gloves, because UPS doesn’t want to be ponying up for an insurance claim.

  6. SPK3167 on March 5, 2023 at 2:36 am

    Still a lot to consider and worry about, I’ll just get my own plane 🗿

  7. Mark Shilling on March 5, 2023 at 2:37 am

    What happens when you are flying to a gun friendly state, but with a connection in state in which your type gun is outlawed and your outbound flight is cancelled and you end up with an illegal gun in a state where you can be arrested for having it in your possession?

  8. The Surferjo Show with Chef Frankie on March 5, 2023 at 2:37 am

    QUESTION: what do you do if the ticket counter is not open?What do you do? i see times when NO ONE is at the counter till after your flight.Can you use a SKYCAP?Also you can not have your case be able to open (when locked) even a little bit………….

  9. AnimsOnDemand on March 5, 2023 at 2:39 am

    Literally going from Texas to Wisconsin as mentioned and I’m so hoping I don’t get stuck with Chicago since I have to connect there 😅

  10. cvcoco on March 5, 2023 at 2:39 am

    Does this apply to non-firing parts like sights, scopes, grips, stocks? Is there any part of a gun not considered a gun for flying purposes? Do you have to declare non-firing parts?

  11. Duane Dupon on March 5, 2023 at 2:43 am

    Some airlines have a separate area to collect your baggage….Las Vegas and Grand Rapids are two examples

  12. rob grey on March 5, 2023 at 2:44 am

    Easy peasy.
    Except when it’s not.

  13. chris darcy on March 5, 2023 at 2:44 am

    On a flight to Alabama from Houston, a single 9mm round had found its way into the deepest nook in my laptop back (aka every day carry bag) and I didn’t find it……. until check in…….. the look on the X-Ray agents face told me something was wrong! Several TSA agents, airport security, HPD and 30 mins later, I was on my way and the airport had 1 extra 9mm round to deal with. Very real, very scary, check, check, check, then check again, your carry on gear, before you leave home!! Note, while not a get out of jail free card, I really think based on my experience, being an LTC gets you a little slack with Police etc., and of course, be nice, be friendly, be humble, and you’ll have a better day, possibly. Fact, Wife driving, gets pulled over for speeding and using her phone, in a school zone, I’m with her, volunteer I’m LTC and packing and ask the Officer if he’d like to hold the pistol while we’re doing this – Wifey got a warning!

  14. Rick Huebner on March 5, 2023 at 2:45 am

    I have flown with a firearm in my checked baggage multiple times. In all cases at my destination the bag is brought to me individually or I have to get it from the oversize bag claim area. They also put a tag on the bag indicating that it is some sort of special bag. Finally, inside of the bag that contains the locked hard-sided case, there is a placard placed that says there is a firearm in that container. I’ve never had my bag containing the hard-sided case show up on the conveyor belt. I have had ticket agents asked me to open the lot gun case in their presents in airports where I was quite certain it was not legal to carry a firearm. In that case, in particular, I asked for a TSA agent or police officer to come witness. This. This. Also always clarify any steps that someone asked you to take. For example, double check that The ticket agent wants you to take the gun out of the locked case to show them it is unloaded. I feel like you can get yourself in trouble for handling a firearm in an area where that state may not allow firearms.

  15. greg f on March 5, 2023 at 2:45 am

    May be best to pay a ffl dealer sent it to another ffl dealer to at the state you are going to .

  16. Lee Smith on March 5, 2023 at 2:48 am

    Very well done video thank you

  17. Dan Metz on March 5, 2023 at 2:48 am

    I have hunted in Africa 3x and always flown there with rifles, usually two. Here’s my question: I usually fly Chicago-New York-Johannesburg-final destination in Africa. Ergo, I am traveling THROUGH New York, one of the most unfriendly states in the Union. I’ve not been stopped – but could I be? Does it matter than New York is NOT my final destination? At times, due to flight schedules, I’ve stayed overnight near JFK to make an early (l-o-n-g) flight to Joberg. Anybody want to comment?

  18. Samuel Brewster on March 5, 2023 at 2:50 am

    I once brought an airsoft into my carry on by accident. The TSA people were looking in my bag and I was wondering why and they asked me: Why is there a firearm in your backpack? And I have them a look like “what?” And they took it out very carefully and showed it too me and it clearly had the Orange tip on it. I told them that it was an airsoft. Thankfully they didn’t press charges and the police officer was nice and said she would hold onto it until I came back. The only thing was that I had TSA pre and now I’m banned for three years! I didn’t even know until I booked a ticket and it didn’t have TSA pre on it! Ahh. Oh well. Lesson learned: don’t put your airsoft into your backpack

  19. Rich Garrett on March 5, 2023 at 2:54 am


  20. Mr. Matthews on March 5, 2023 at 2:55 am

    Canines will sniff out gunpowder as well. It’s best to not have a carry-on because he will alert on your bag because it was near ammunition. I’ve seen a K-9 smell brand new ammunition sitting under the passenger seat of a closed squad car.

  21. Doctor Quackenbush on March 5, 2023 at 2:55 am

    IIRC, Delta started segregating luggage with firearms and placing large zip ties around them (after a shooting in a baggage claim area).

    Also, I have seen ads for lockable containers with TSA locks. Yikes!

  22. HoulieMon on March 5, 2023 at 2:56 am

    Stinking liberal good for nothing states ! NJ. NY suck !

  23. Charles Nash on March 5, 2023 at 3:00 am

    Great presentation. One point, however. American Airlines insists that ammunition be in the original box or a plastic box. Even though ammunition in magazines is acceptable to the TSA, it is not acceptable to AA.

  24. André Lyons on March 5, 2023 at 3:01 am

    Not sure about anywhere else, but here in Atlanta at Heartsfield Jackson TSA is pretty chill about finding a firearm IN a bag. They will usually recommend that the passenger take the firearm to their car, or check it with their luggage. Those passengers are usually escorted by City of Atlanta Officers away from the area since it’s not legal to possess a firearm in the airport(unless you are law enforcement). It’s the passengers that refuse to comply or are not legal to carry that get more scrutiny and a visit to our fine jail system.

    I would suggest, especially in Atlanta, that you allow for an additional hour before any flight (whether traveling with or without a gun) to allow for all the things that can and will happen in the airport.

  25. Wolf on March 5, 2023 at 3:02 am

    Very interesting and helpful, what tends to happen in New York City (different gun laws from rest of the state) is they don’t catch people on the way in with guns in the baggage, but arrest them on the way home when they try to properly check their firearms.

  26. willie marshall on March 5, 2023 at 3:02 am

    Most of the time it goes to a separate office when you land and you have to pick it up at the office

  27. Jim Milner on March 5, 2023 at 3:04 am

    As a retired federal criminal investigator, and qualified under LEOSA, can you make some comments regarding local ordinances.

  28. JediMindTricks183 on March 5, 2023 at 3:04 am

    Thank God for LEOSA.

  29. Phil Paige on March 5, 2023 at 3:04 am

    Here I am back again to ask why carrying ammo in checked baggage is not considered a hazardous material as does the postal service. Thanks for the excellent advice.

  30. wayneyd2 on March 5, 2023 at 3:04 am

    Flying fly with firearm is a bad idea. They marked your checked luggage with a tag. Is almost a guaranteed to be stolen.

  31. Perspicator on March 5, 2023 at 3:05 am

    Great info.!

  32. cvcoco on March 5, 2023 at 3:05 am

    There are all kinds of stories about this, people getting ON the plane fine and then getting off in NYC or someplace and having the gun taken and then its to court; or even TSA confiscating the gun at the beginning and then its months of work trying to get it back. They make up rules as they go so I would avoid doing this but thats just me.

  33. Robert Plank on March 5, 2023 at 3:07 am

    What if all the politicians believed the constitution and it was as it should be, and we could just conceal in all 50 states? How easy would that be?

  34. Mr. Jimmy on March 5, 2023 at 3:07 am

    I’ve flown with a firearm. Not a big deal if you travel between normal states (ie not NJ NY they have arrested people for traveling with guns) just have it unloaded, ammo in factory boxes, locked in a hard sided box. AA doesn’t look at the guns United does however AA will add big red tag on your suit case and you need to pick it up at the office.

  35. tingveson on March 5, 2023 at 3:10 am

    If you own the plane, then you skip ALL the bs, car rentals, DRE, MMW radiation, check in check out. If you only go to red states, you are gold…(over simplified, just to drive the hyper-persnikity nuts).

  36. ptrskycam on March 5, 2023 at 3:11 am

    Among the several states I’ve flown to; the airline has never delivered my baggage containing firearms to the carousel: I’ve always had to go baggage claim (larger airports) or the ticket counter (small airports). In all instances they have checked my ID and baggage claim ticket before releasing the bag to me.

  37. The Mossottis on March 5, 2023 at 3:11 am


  38. vox fan on March 5, 2023 at 3:12 am

    Given the NYSRPA decision, TSA can no longer lawfully prohibit carry of a firearm onto a commercial flight.

  39. Ozzie Herrera on March 5, 2023 at 3:12 am

    How can airline responsibly allow you to retrieve your bag via carousel along w normal baggage, versus the baggage service desk after requiring ID? Also a question for the Armed Attirneys…if the bag needs to be transferred to another flight in a non-friendly city, wouldn’t the airport’s baggage handling area be federal jurisdiction and covered by safe passage laws and not subject to local laws?

  40. Jean Luc Petard on March 5, 2023 at 3:15 am

    Eh, think I’ll just stay here in my room. Get on a plane anymore you might get beat to death with a serving tray.

  41. Kim Shaw on March 5, 2023 at 3:15 am

    Even though you are on the same airline each airport check in may be different. Be flexible and patient.

  42. Serpent64 on March 5, 2023 at 3:16 am

    Are the various non 2A friendly states compelled to honor my HR218 Card?

  43. Bernhard Behling on March 5, 2023 at 3:21 am

    Very Important: Do NOT lock the case with a "TSA-approved" lock! Doing so actually violates the federal regulations for transporting the gun because you and ONLY you are supposed to have the key or combination. TSA-approved locks also offer zero security and can easily be opened with keys purchased on eBay.

  44. Crosis of Borg on March 5, 2023 at 3:22 am

    Times have changed. In 1997 I flew in uniform with my gun on my side. Now there’s no way that would happen.

  45. Deryk Robosson on March 5, 2023 at 3:22 am

    Might have also been worth mentioning locks. It is well known that the TSA often violates federal law with regard to arms cases and cutting locks.

  46. Josh Johnson on March 5, 2023 at 3:22 am

    I keep my firearm in a holster in my travel safe. Would that be ok if it is of course unloaded. It doesn’t move around if it is locked with my holster

  47. James Valenti on March 5, 2023 at 3:23 am

    I’ll add another tip….if you live in NJ or NY, and are flying to a gun friendly state and back…just don’t bring your gun. I heard of a case where an NJ resident had a home in Florida. They were legally allowed to own a gun in NJ. They were traveling to NJ. They declared their firearm as they were required in Florida. When they landed in Newark, they were arrested…even despite showing their FID (Firearms ID card). There’s a reason they call our state Nazi Jersey

  48. JJL Tactical Solutions on March 5, 2023 at 3:24 am

    I know one passenger who made it to New York and had a connecting flight. It got canceled and he had to lay over in New York. He made the fatal mistake and took his bags to the hotel with the handgun. While he was checking back in at the airport the next day he was arrested for having the gun.

  49. Thomas Shively on March 5, 2023 at 3:26 am

    I was told by a ticket agent that I should have TSA approved locks for my handgun case. When I told her that wasn’t true, she simply said OK. I talked to a TSA agent after going through security and told him what happened just to verify I was right. He wasn’t happy with what I was told by the ticket agent and apologized. I’m guessing it was probably due to poor training or no training by the airlines.

  50. Ultrafuel 2 on March 5, 2023 at 3:27 am

    As far as check-in, I have never had it work like what you said anywhere. In Denver, the ticket agent escorts you to the TSA area. The TSA agent puts your entire suitcase in an xray machine and they say you’re good to go. They place your suitcase where it needs to be. In Cincinnati, the ticket agent takes your bag and tells you to wait. After a few minutes they come back and tell you you’re good to go. As for magazines, the TSA agent I spoke to in Denver said the ammo can be in a magazine. I always have the empty factory ammo box in the case just in case anyway.

Leave a Comment