Flying With a Rifle (2022 UPDATED) All You Need to Know

Flying With A Rifle
Alfred Mendoza

Traveling with your firearms isn’t really that complicated. However, there are certain precautions to take note of and some rules to observe when flying with a rifle. 

To avoid any hassle when flying with your rifle, our team came up with this ultimate guide you need to do before booking that flight.

You need to know that you are required to submit your unloaded firearm and locked inside a hard-sided case. Basing it on 49 CFR 1540.5, firearm definitions include any type of weapons that contains or a component thereof a live ammunition. It can also be a starter gun or any type which is designed or can also be converted into:

  • perform as an explosive device or projectile
  • any firearm muffler or can also be a firearm silencer
  • the frame or can also be the receiver of any such weapon
buying a gun in iowa

Anything inside the chamber, the cylinder, or the magazine inserted in the firearm must be inside the gun case, including ammunition clips. The firearms must be unloaded with TSA locks and not just inside a duffel bag.

Things To Consider

Things To Consider

TSA & Airline Requirements

Declare your firearms to baggage handlers or TSA personnel upon reaching the airline as checked baggage. Ensure that your firearms are unloaded at all times. All firearm parts or any component thereof, including magazines, bolts, firearm magazines, clips, and firing pins, should not be in carry-on baggage.

Replica firearms, this includes firearm replicas that are toys, can be transported in checked baggage only. If you are traveling outside of the country, check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website to gather information and the requirements prior to the date of departure. 

State Restrictions

Laws regarding firearm possession differ in every city, state, or country, and you must take time to get to know what you need to do to comply with these laws. Federal law mandates a gun owner to have it duly registered. The acquisition of the firearm also has a couple of requirements before a permit is issued. 

If you are traveling outside of the country, you need to check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website to get the United States Code. You also need to make sure you have all the required papers and instructions before you travel. 


Days before your departure, make sure that your requirements are met, and everything is ready. If there are new changes to the TSA regulations [1], you have ample time to comply with the requirements before your departure. 

When checking your firearms in, make sure you abide by the airline’s rules to get to your final destination. To ensure everything is followed, find time to ask ahead to prepare for your safe and hassle-free departure.

Appropriate Gun Case

An unloaded firearm should always be inside a locked, hard-sided container. It would be best if you transported both firearms and ammunition in checked baggage inside completely secure gun cases. Remove magazine inserted ammunition clips and shotgun shells and place them inside a case. 

It can also be with the rifle inside a locked gun case that only the passenger can access. Once the firearm and the rest are inside a locked case, proceed to the ticket counter and present your baggage to authorized personnel before it can be transported in checked baggage.

Pass The Background Check

Proper Lock

The Transportation Security Administration requires gun owners to secure a hard-sided container when transporting firearms. The firearm case should have TSA-recognized locks where only the gun owner has access to the key locks. 

Only the passenger will have access to the lock keys and will only be opened upon TSA personnel request, as per TSA regulations, checked baggage including ammunition and shotgun shells or small arms ammunition (up to .75 caliber) should be securely boxed in a locked case made of fiber, wood or metal box.

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5 Things You Need To Do Before Boarding Your Flight

5 Things You Need To Do Before Boarding Your Flight

1. Pack for an Easy Flight

Depending on the purpose and your length of stay, pack everything you need but pack lightly. Rifle scopes, binoculars, and spotting scopes can be placed in your carry-on bag as this will not be a problem with a security checkpoint. 

This will be much safer, considering that these items are somehow expensive. 

2. Declare Your Firearm

Once you reach the airline, search for a TSA agent to declare your firearms. Remember that you do not present a loaded firearm inside the gun case. Your firearm can be inside the same case as your ammunition. 

However, ensure that the latter is kept in a separate box or case and secured with TSA-approved locks. There should be an assisting agent by the ticket counter to help you with your firearm declaration.

3. Weigh Your Baggage

Weigh your carry-on luggage along with your firearms and ammunition inside adequately secure locked cases.

It is wise to inquire ahead with the luggage limitation to avoid paying extra charges because of excess weight. 

Since you can take the scopes and sights along with you in your carry-on bag, that would be the best place to put it.

It does not need to be inside a gun case since it is not part of the special items listed in the Checked Bag Policy.

Weigh Your Baggage

4. Go Through The Airline’s Security Check

Only TSA agents will be checking your baggage in a separate room. Do not touch your case after you place the rifle case down. It is advisable to separate your ammunition from your firearm container. 

Find a metal box specifically designed to carry ammunition. TSA firearm regulations will most likely confiscate firearm magazines, small ammunition, and other types if these are kept in zip locks only. Once everything is checked, you are ready to go. 

5. Pick Up Your Gun From Baggage Claim

Do not expect that your firearms will be among your luggage in the baggage carousel. Normally, you will have to retrieve it from the “Baggage Service Office.” Make sure to present a valid, government-issued ID upon retrieving your firearm.

Cost You’ll Need to Spend When Flying With a Rifle

Apart from the regular plane fare, you would have to prepare the money to transport unloaded firearms. There is a separate fee for the firearms transported in checked baggage. If you are bringing along a cooler and extra suitcase, that would be another fee as well. 

Different airlines have different fees for this type of transport. If you are traveling in foreign countries, there are extra fees for firearms and codeshares. It is wise to check on the fees policies of the airline you will be using to be in the “know-how” when flying with firearms.

Are There Penalties If You Fail to Follow TSA Rules?

Are There Penalties If You Fail to Follow TSA Rules?

Yes, there are civil penalties to a person violating the TSA rules imposed and may be fined up to $13,910 per violation. Various violations and regulations need to be followed, and repeat violations will result in higher penalties. 

Violations against regulations for firearms transported in checked baggage are classified into three categories:

  • Security Violations by Individuals for Prohibited Items Discovered at Checkpoint/Sterile Area/Onboard Aircraft
  • Security Violations for Prohibited Items Discovered in Checked Baggage
  • Other Security Violations by Individuals or Persons


Yes, law enforcers can carry a firearm on a flight. Still, they have to meet specific requirements set by the Federal law unless TSA authorizes them.

No, flying firearms must be inside locked hard-sided containers only and as checked baggage, unless they are law-enforcement in special assignment or a specified task appointed by TSA themselves.

No, most of the time, you will have to pick your firearm up at the “Baggage Service Office.” That is why you need to bring a valid ID when claiming your firearms as part of TSA’s Rules.

Yes, you can also bring ammunition when flying with a rifle. However, it should be inside a hard-sided case. You need to check with the TSA regarding limitations on how much ammunition you can bring with you.

In Summary

Traveling with a firearm can be a bit challenging if this is your first time doing it. However, not all circumstances can be the same since every destination has a different set of rules. Keep in mind that you cannot bring a loaded firearm when flying with firearms in Alaska Airlines or anywhere else. 

A loaded firearm is not allowed in both carry-on baggage and checked baggage. Before presenting your firearm to TSA agents, firearms must be unloaded and kept inside a secure firearm case. That is just a start, but the rest will fall into its proper place if you start it right.



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