I’ve flown with firearms over 60 times in the last few decades. Let me start by telling you this: It’s OK. Airports are accustomed to it and ready for you. Although some terminals are easier to work with than others and policies vary among airlines, it’s actually pretty simple. Here’s what you need to know about flying with guns.
Guns are only allowed as checked baggage. Up to 11 pounds of ammunition are acceptable. Ammunition must be in the original packaging or packaging specifically made to carry ammo. They don’t want it loose, banging around, and possibly going off if the primer is punched.
You can have one, hard-sided case with up to four rifles, shotguns, shooting materials, and tools. The case must be completely secure so no one can access it. All areas on the case designed to be locked must be locked, meaning you may need more than one padlock. Locked cases that can be easily opened are not permitted, so the regular ol’ plastic gun hauler Dad gave you might not suffice. A handgun must also be packed in a secure, hard-sided case, but they’re able to go inside of an unlocked piece of soft-sided luggage after that (a conditional acceptance tag must be used in this instance).
You must declare your firearms to the attendant at the main ticket counter. It’s smart to arrive earlier than normal when checking guns. When you arrive at your final destination, you can claim your guns at your airline’s baggage services office.
It’s crucial to pack with a plan. Since your gun case is counted as a piece of luggage, make the most of it. Use a double-gun case even if you’re flying with just one, but keep it under 50 pounds to avoid overage charges. In a sizeable case, you can fit ammo, binos, rangefinders, knives, flashlights, and more.
All in all, I’d say buying a gun is a more rigorous process than flying with one. With a bit of planning, it’s relatively painless.
For more info on flying with firearms, check out TSA’s page on gun policies.