How to Survive Flying in the Not-So-Friendly Skies

Like previous hunts, this hunt also came down to the final hours. Running behind schedule, I found myself racing toward Denver International Airport in hopes I would have just enough time to check a bag and bow case, clear security and grab a sandwich before boarding the plane.

SKB four-gun case
SKB makes tough cases for golfers, firearm enthusiasts, archers, musical instruments and more—but it only makes one key. It will pass TSA, but is not much security beyond that point.
My hopes were quickly dashed at the baggage check counter when it became apparent the ticket agent was having a really bad day. Plus, she had no clue what a bow and arrow was, nor did she have the desire to find out either. In her eyes, I was a threat. Before I could utter the word “bow,” she abruptly shushed me as she phoned her supervisor.

Chances are if you have ever traveled by plane with firearms or archery tackle you have probably encountered similar issues. It can be stressful and even a bit chaotic. However, it does not have to be if you keep a few things in mind.

Use Airline-Approved Cases

First, be sure you are using the proper airline-approved cases for your gear. When shopping for an airline-approved case there are several key features to consider:

Sale ends July 21, 2019

Sale ends July 21, 2019

  • Does it state it is airline approved?
  • Does it have locking capabilities?
  • For long guns and bows, does the case have feet so it can stand or sit freely without tipping over?
  • Is it lightweight?
  • Is the outer shell durable enough to withstand trauma from baggage handlers?
  • Does it have wheels or an adjustable handle? (If you do a lot of traveling, a case with these features might make more sense.)

Aluma rifle and bow case with two long guns.
Remember, a bow case will normally work just fine for rifles, but the opposite is not alway true. Look for creative ways to use a single case to support multiple hobbies.
Regardless of the airline you are flying, it is your job to meet the airlines’ requirements for traveling with such equipment.

Thanks to the Denver incident, now the day before I fly anywhere I go online and PRINT off the latest guidelines for flying with a firearm, archery and other hunting equipment such as knives. I keep a copy with my ID, so I can quickly refer to it if I run into issues.

Do’s and Don’ts for Flying with Firearms

A few other do’s and don’ts to help you survive flying with firearms:

  • Ammunition—ammunition must be carried in a case separate from your firearms.
  • Pick your words carefully; refer to guns as firearms instead of weapons.
  • Dress appropriately and do not wear offensive graphic tees. Sporting such clothing at an airport is probably not a good idea at anytime.
  • Use a locking device on the firearm or remove the bolt so the TSA can quickly see the gun is not capable of firing.
  • TSA has been known to cut off locks. Carry a set of replacement locks and know what the airline requirements are for locking cases.
  • Take inventory of the firearms in the case and anything else you have packed in it, also any ammo you have packet in another piece of luggage. A cell phone photo is a quick way to snap a visual inventory of your gear and the condition it was in before you turn it over to the TSA.
  • Keep on your person a copy of the requirements plus serial numbers of the firearms and all check-in documents.
  • Allow yourself extra check-in time in case you run into issues.
  • Be respectful, polite and patient.

Aluma case stacked on top of SKB case
There are several cases to choose from that are tough enough to ensure your gear arrives safely, but watch the weight. With extra security comes extra weight.
Despite the fact I followed the rules, I still found myself in a sticky situation in Denver, which caused me to miss my flight. However, I chose to remain calm and polite with the supervisor. Instead of being angry, I used it as an opportunity to show hunters in a positive light.

Thankfully, the airlines apologized for their unprofessional behavior and booked myself and my gear another flight home.

The lesson when flying with firearms or archery equipment is simple:

Know the rules and keep a copy of them on hand. Stay calm and remain polite, even if they treat you poorly. You never know what preconceived ideas on firearms or hunting the person behind the ticket counter may have, which was the case in Denver. Although it maybe difficult to remain calm, you maybe someone’s first impression of a hunter or shooter.

And wouldn’t it be nice if we left them with a positive first impression towards shooters and hunters?

Do you have any tips for flying the friendly skies? Share them with us in the comment section.


The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog. "The Shooter's Log", is to provide information - not opinions - to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decicions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (13)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit exceeded. Please click the reload button and complete the captcha once again.

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.