Account of Flying with Firearms

Deviant Ollam
Missoula remains a stand-out in terms of best airports where you may be flying with firearms.
LEX --> MSO
2016-08-27


MSO --> SFO
2017-09-07


SFO--> LAS
2016-09-09


Luggage & Gear
I had been at Lockmasters in Kentucky to be a part of some training courses that they run there. It was time to bounce through Montana then head to Las Vegas to run another class at SANS. I had my carry pistol in one case and a bare AR receiver in my kit of training supplies, all locked with Abloy PL330s.

 

First Leg
G checked me in at the Delta counter in Lexington and within 8 minutes my bags were on the belt to the TSA. I noticed moments later that the luggage belt had stopped but before my bags made it to the end and through the flaps. Fifteen minutes later, Paul was down at the far end, trying to manally hand my gun cases through to the TSA on the other side.

He noticed that one of the Pelicna cases actually had a cracked hasp so it wasn't actually likely to pass the "finger test" if they tried to check it. Thankfully, no one came out with a frown, so ultimately I was cleared to fly.

 

Second Leg
Missoula has never been a difficult airport for me. The TSA screening station is right there in the check-in hall and everyone knows their role. When one case of training gear alerted, the TSO on duty called their supervisor who helped them open it and check the bags of locks. They talked with me about the fact that I had a bare AR receiver as the firearm in that case. We all smiled.

 

Third Leg
Janette T in San Francisco gave me a little pushback regarding how close all my bags were to Delta's weight limit, but as a Diamond flier I get 70lbs for each case and that means I was ok. Henry from Prime Flight came by and carted my cases down to the overisze door where the CAS screener opted to immediately perform a hand scan of everything. "If there's ammo in here it's going to alert anyway," he said, erroneously. He performed some swab tests and pulled out all my possessions, opening every single inner bag. "I always wanted to take a course on picking locks," he remarked, no doubt wanting to learn more ways to get into locked luggage if necessary. The whole process took 17 minutes which was longer than I could recall from my recent travels.

 

Final Details & Thoughts
Why doesn't everywhere just have an in-line CTX machine for luggage on the first pass? That or chemical residue swab testing? Opening cases and hand-screening everything takes so much goddamn time and fouls up the orderliness of packed items.

 

Air Travel Ratings
If you don't have the time or the desire to read the full text of someone's account of air travel, you can simply refer to the rating shown at the conclusion of each portion of that person's journey. The following criteria are used in assigning these ratings...


Four Stars
  

wheels up - luggage screened directly in front of you; you were certain the firearms cleared
wheels down - luggage arrived promptly and undisturbed


Three Stars
  
wheels up - luggage screened relatively near you you; you were fairly sure the firearms cleared
wheels down - luggage arrived with little delay but possibly bearing zip ties or other nonsense

Two Stars
  
wheels up - luggage screened somewhere totally removed from you; only indirect assurances that your firearms cleared
wheels down - luggage was very slow to arrive and/or you had some difficult interactions with airline staff

One Star
  
wheels up - luggage screened somewhere totally removed from you; no one could assure you that your firearms cleared
wheels down - luggage was misrouted or mishandled and had to be delivered to you later

Zero Stars
  
This is a special category for irreparable damage to luggage, locks, or your firearms... or outright theft or loss of them.
half-star results are possible... naturally, they involve partial or mitigated problems that somehow fall in-between the above categories