Best TSA Approved Gun Cases & Travel Requirements
Recently I wanted to take my new target pistol with me on a trip to the mountains, just to do some plinking and target shooting. But I was going to be flying on one of the airlines. So I did some digging to find out exactly what are the requirements for traveling with a firearm, and specifically what type of gun cases are approved by the TSA.
So what are the best TSA approved gun cases? Turns out, there are many! Basically a gun case just needs to meet a few specific requirements to be approved for air transport by the TSA. For example, the gun case needs to be hard-sided, and it needs to be able to be locked. Cases from well-known manufacturers like Plano, Pelican, Elkton and Blackhawk all will work. Here is the super popular Plano All Weather Watertight case for example:
In today’s tightly controlled and scrutinized airport environments, it’s important to have the right type of pistol and gun case if you plan on traveling with your weapon. It is legal to travel with your gun; however, that gun must be locked in a case that meets the TSA’s requirements. That gun case then needs to be locked and checked as baggage.
Read on to get up to speed on the latest TSA rules and to learn about the best TSA approved gun cases. But if you can't wait, we've compiled the top selling TSA gun cases you can view here:
View The Top Selling TSA Cases!
TSA Approved Gun Case Requirements
Many gun case manufacturer’s today are making cases to fit TSA requirements. While the requirements for TSA approved gun cases are pretty straight forward, let’s rundown what you need to look for in a gun case.
- Firearms must be unloaded
- Hard side container with a combination or key lock
- Case must be locked
- Firearm parts, including magazines, clips, bolts and firing pins, are prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage.
- You must declare your firearm when you check your bag
So you need a hard side handgun or rifle case, that will accommodate a key or combination lock. Pretty simple. Now, because we all know how much investment we have in guns, we might also add the following specifications to actually help further protect your guns:
• Double lock case vs. single
• Ample foam padded interior
• Template cutouts in foam if possible or available to hold weapon securely (you can do this yourself quite easily BTW).
Take for example the Pelican 1170 handgun case. This case is the perfect example of functionality and form, and a 5-star rated item. It combines both watertight design with high impact polymer materials, and features foam inserts for handgun protection. It also has an amazing auto-pressurization valve to release air pressure as needed.
IMPORTANT NOTE: if you are traveling soon, or travel frequently with family members to areas you are unfamiliar with, then reading this article on real self defense techniques is a must. Full of top tips on how to protect yourself. Plus, the #1 move you can use to escape any dangerous situation!
Now, one issue we know that can be a pain is actually finding a good selection of cases. Most gun shops or retailers only carry a limited number of cases, or, they carry cheaper soft sided cases which sell more frequently. Today it’s probably best to buy online from someone with deep inventory, such as Amazon. There you will find a vast selection and you can narrow your search to find the best TSA approved gun cases for yourself.
Gun Case Considerations
For those occasions when you need to travel with your firearms, there are some key considerations you need to address. First, do you need to transport a single firearm, or multiple guns? Are you dealing with handguns or long guns? Also, how valuable are those firearms? While in general all firearms are valuable, some of course are much more valuable than others, particularly collectibles or rate firearms.
When it comes to TSA approved gun cases, a word of advice - don't skimp. It's like buying boots - never skimp on price and quality when it comes to a good pair of reliable boots. Same for gun cases. The TSA requires hard sided cases, so focus your search there. High impact polymer cases are just fine, as are aluminum sided cases. However, in our opinion, polymer might actually be a slightly better choice in terms of impact and overall wear withal.
What About Ammunition at TSA?
According TSA official guidelines, you can transport ammunition, but only in your checked baggage. No ammo in your carry on, please. Again, this is why it is so importatnt to double check your carry on bags, especially if it is the same bag you use during the week. Check for extra mags! Many athletes, celebrities and everyday people have been detained at TSA security checkpoints due to forgotten mags and ammo in their bags.
Check out this official video from the TSA on transporting firearms and ammunition:
To get you started, here are selections of top rated only gun cases laid out by handgun and long gun:
So as you can see, even though air travel today is much more intense and arduous, traveling with you firearm is completely acceptable, as long as you follow a few basic rules.
And for key considerations when it comes to TSA approved gun cases, remember to evaluate the following checklist:
- Compactness and portability - the easier to transport, the better
- Durability - don't skimp on design and construction. You get what you pay for.
- Black vs. stainless steel - black hides everything, but stainless looks great!
- Consider purchasing open alert locks for your gun case
Now, another HUGE point when it comes to going to the airport with your firearm. While you have taken good measures to secure your guns in TSA approved gun cases, you might forget about your carry piece. For conceal carry folks, please remember to be super diligent on not carrying your concealed weapon into the airport. The biggest issues with TSA and guns comes at the security checkpoints, where many people innocently forget they have a firearm in their bag (women), briefcase, duffle bag, etc. It's those carry on bags that can cause trouble. ALWAYS double check your carry ons prior to entering the airport. Otherwise, you will be detained and fined, no questions asked.
*TSA rules for gun cases and firearms are different for law enforcement officers. Read here for those requirements.
Ok, now you know all the basics on TSA approved gun cases, whether for handguns or long guns. Enjoy your new purchase!