Flying to a multigun match with all of your gear can be really intimidating for a newbie. It’s not that bad! Start by reading Julianna’s article on Flying with Firearms, and be prepared and be ready to be flexible. Here are some tips from my experiences traveling to matches with firearms over the last two years.
NUMBER ONE RULE: BEFORE YOU LEAVE TO THE AIRPORT, MAKE SURE ALL OF YOUR FIREARMS ARE UNLOADED.
Ammunition: The general weight limit for ammo is 11 lbs. When you’re heading to a 3-Gun or Multigun match, your ammo gets heavy really quickly. Consider shipping your ammo to the range. Most matches will allow that. It ships by UPS Ground – so make sure you give it at least a week to get there. Also, it’s your responsibility to pick it up. Remember there might be 30 brown boxes to weed through. So, mark your box with some crazy duct tape or something to make it stand out.
If you buy bulk ammo, make sure it’s secure. TSA hates loose ammo, so consider buying plastic ammo cases or save old boxes to put it in. If it’s still loose stuff a range towel in there or some socks. Coming back home is easy; I just use some dirty clothes.
Gun Case: You need a lock for every hole in your case. Sometimes you can get away with missing a lock, but don’t take that chance. Do not use TSA locks on your gun case no matter what the ticket agent says. Do put a TSA lock on your suitcase, especially if you are carrying ammunition in it.
When you get to the match you don’t want to have to lug around the heavy hard case, but you need something to transport your guns. Take out the foam in your case and see if your rifle case fits. It’s a “two birds with one stone” kind of thing.
Also, make sure you have two (YES — 2) sets of keys. I might know this from experience. I’m now the proud owner of a high-end bolt cutter!
Packing: Make a list! Again, make a list. You won’t regret it. Know the weight you’re allowed and buy a luggage scale, which is not expensive. Overweight fees are expensive, and you don’t want to be rummaging through your stuff at the airport when you’re already a bit stressed.
Besides your guns see what else you can squeeze into your gun case: mag pouches, magazines, range finder, gloves, etc.
When you’re packing, remember we are all family at AG & AG Multigun, so you don’t need to bring everything you own. I like to depend on the kindness of drivers. However, if it’s something you can’t live without – BRING IT!
One more thing about packing your guns: My shotgun magazine tube is too long to fit in any case, so I have to break it down. I also now break down my AR, too. I’m hoping it makes TSA happier, but I have no idea if it works or not! LOL
REITERATING: WHEN PACKING YOUR FIREARMS AT HOME, MAKE SURE THEY ARE UNLOADED!
Dealing with TSA & Check In: Overall, I haven’t had many issues. Most of it comes from the fact that they are not aware of the rules. SO, YOU BE AWARE! Print them out. Remember every airline can have their own rules and there are rules written by the TSA. Just be ready to adapt. Every airport can be different, and they can change from day to day.
Approach the ticket agent with a smile. Be flexible. Just like you don’t start making ready until instructed by the RO, do not do anything until instructed by the ticket agent. Tell them you need a declaration form because you are traveling with firearms. Don’t say, “I have a gun” or your day will not go well. Ask them how they want you to proceed. I always ask, “Do you want me to unlock the case?” or something similar.
If you are asked to show that your gun is unloaded. STOP! Do not touch your guns! You will be a signing a document declaring that they are unloaded. That is all that you need to do. If they insist ask for a supervisor. AGAIN, NEVER TOUCH YOUR FIREARMS WHILE AT THE AIRPORT!
After you check in let the get agent know that you will be waiting over there (wherever that is). Plan to sit there for at least 30 minutes, so get the airport early. You don’t want to be paged right before your flight.
TSA Inspection: So according to TSA guidelines you are supposed to be allowed to go back and watch the inspection of your case. This rarely is allowed. I’m just being honest. One of the ways that they get you is that you are not allowed to bring other bags back with you. So, what are you going to do with your carry-on baggage? Ask if you can go back, but realize you will probably be told no. It’s frustrating that they don’t follow the rules, but that is a reality. I take a photo of the ID of the person to whom I give the keys. They will return the keys to you usually in about 15-30 minutes.
Navigating the airport: Don’t be insulted by this, but DON’T BE CHEAP! Pay for the cart. Suitcases, carry on bags, and gun cases get very heavy. It’s worth the ridiculous $5 for the convenience.
I bring a bungee cord to keep my suitcases on the cart. It has been a lifesaver in some airports. It’s always a lot of fun crossing a road and having a case fall off the cart. Ask me how I know!
Carry On: Take advantage of free carry-on luggage, and remember not to pack anything in it that could be prohibited. I try to keep it to just clothing.
AGAIN: NUMBER ONE THING WHEN PACKING YOUR FIREARMS – MAKE SURE THEY ARE UNLOADED WHILE YOU ARE AT HOME!
Picking Up: Your gun case is supposed to come to the oversized baggage claim. You will claim your other luggage and then head to the airline specific office. But always keep your eyes on the carousel just in case. Make sure you have your baggage tags & ID. Sometimes they want one, or both, or maybe none, so be ready.
Flying with your multigun gear really isn’t that difficult. Once you check in you are good to go! Relax and enjoy the flight! Have a great time at your match! I will see you at Fall Fest!