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November 25, 2008

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Bourjaily: Flying with Guns

Many years ago, my dad flew to Wisconsin on a hunting trip and carried his O/U onto the plane in a takedown case. He and the stewardess had the following exchange:

Her: “Is that a gun?”
Him: “Yes.”
Her: “It’s not loaded, is it?”
Him: “It’s not even put together.”

Then, because it was the 60s and air travel was way better then, she probably brought him a martini. I can promise Dad was wearing a tie, too, because flying was a big deal and people dressed for the occasion.

Today, flying is as glamorous as riding the bus and you can’t even talk about carrying a gun onto a plane. Surprisingly, I have no personal airline horror stories about checked guns. In part, that’s because I fly out of Cedar Rapids, a small airport where people are used to seeing guns among the checked baggage.
One day last year I came home late from somewhere in a downpour. At the carousel, all the bags, including my duffel, came off the plane dripping wet. Everything arrived except my gun case. I waited. The other passengers took their bags and left until it was just me standing there. The carousel stopped. I was looking around for the lost luggage agent when a very wet baggage handler walked in with my gun case tucked under the skirt of his plastic poncho. “I figured there was a gun or camera in there so I wanted to bring it in to you instead of throwing it on the carousel where it might get wet,” he said.

I love the Cedar Rapids airport.

I will have to rely on all of you for airline horror stories. I don’t have any . . .yet.


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Scott in Southern Illinois

Here's one for you...I was on an AFE Tour with a country music group called Hometown News back in 2004 and we did what is called the Far East tour. It includes Alaska for some reason. In Alaska, my SKB guitar case (which looks identical to their nice rifle cases) was set aside by the TSA to be searched. The guys told me that was usual and not to worry. When it was determined that no weapons were in the case it was returned to me. We were humping about 1500 lbs. of gear every day for 34 days straight. Anchorage, Alaska was the only place we were even questioned on our gear. Japan, Guam, Singapore, Diego Garcia, Kwajalein and Sai Pan were not concerned with our gear as we were all carrying military orders. For those unfamiliar with AFE it stands for Armed Forces Entertainment. It goes where the USO won't go. Remote places and small troop concentrations that the big boys miss. We had a great time but did more fishing than anything else!


hey eldon, i randomly pick my boy (10yrs old) up a couple hours early for hunting. If i wait for school to get out weve only got a hour of light. I have never had a issue.
one of these days im going to win powerball and take a trip to alaska. Once i get back, im sure ill have a airline horror story to share.


Never had a bad experience flying with firearms (knock wood) but I have had a few entertaining moments. One memorable occasion occurred on the return leg of a South Texas Turkey Hunt (pre TSA). Our group was flying out of the Harlingen Texas airport on Southwest. One of the guys (retired Chief Master Sgt.) left his 870 together in battery with a snap cap in the chamber. The gal behind the counter who was apparently quite accustomed to finding loaded arms coming into the terminal (King Ranch Deer Hunters)took hold of the shotgun and with authority ejected the snap cap across the counter at Sarg. He was wearing an old fatigue jacket with his strips still on the sleeves and upon seeing them she said, "Drop and give me 20!"



I remember my dad flying out of the Cedar Rapids airport every week back in the 60's....worked for Collins Radio. We were up that way last summer and he made me drive through the terminal unloading area....still as small as ever, he says. Great little city.


Even before 9/11, I reckon airports still had a mixture of uncommon sense. At Baltimore in 1983, I was held up for a keyring with a 9mm shell on it. It was the kind with the ring-post sticking out from the primer hole. I finally just threw it (not the keys) in the trash.

Although Atlanta didn't say anything, at Piedmont Triad Int. (flying back to Atlanta), someone got bent royally out of shape because of a tiny Victornox 1-inch knife/fingernail file. You'd have thought I was plotting the overthrow of democracy listening to her.

I remember deploying to Saudi, worried a bit because I knew everybody on the plane with me was armed to the teeth.

Tom Obuhanych

I hunted in Namibia this last June. When my gun case was unloaded & visible at the Windhoek Airport, I got some kidding about the big heavily built gun case from other Wyoming hunters.When I left coming back, one of the hunters was also returning...and told me he'd never kid me about my super strength gun case. His scope tube was bent from the travel! Luckily, he could use his wife's rifle who was hunting with him. Then wanted to know where I got my gun case from.
Best Regards, Tom from Cody

VaTx Hunter

I moved to TX from VA about 4 yeas ago and knowing that I would be flying back to VA every year to hunt on my brother’s property I purchased a steel double gun case. It had a lifetime warranty and it was not cheap $$$.
Over the last 4 years the only problems I have had is with the Ramp Apes. After every flight it is evident by looking at my Gun case with Scared sides that look like a 4 year olds crayon writings on the wall and Corners of the case dented as if someone took a 8 pond hammer and gave it good whack and bent latches, that the Ramp Apes must have wagered contests to see who can do the most damage. In the past I have never had damage to my guns that I noticed until my return trip this year. Upon opening my case I noticed right away that the front steal site of my pistol was resting right up against the wood stock of my Rifle where it had cut a groove from rubbing back and forth or from one deadly throw /drop of my gun case.
If the same amount of punishment were given to a regular suitcase it will just spill open with your clothes as it came around the carousel.

Happy Myles

I remember those days, back when the Danube was blue. Hand the stewardess your firearm, she handed you a cocktail. The firearm traveled in the cockpit, and was passed to you with a smile upon arrival.

Now I start my trips in L.A.. If I leave with my sanity and my firearms, I consider myself lucky, knowing the rest of my trip will be all downhill. L.A. easily the worst airport to leave from, easy to return. Air France in L.A. has a firm and continued hold on worst firearm service, although in recent years British Air has pluckily attempted to give Air Chance a run for their money.

Some airline employee one liners I've experienced:

"How do I know it's unloaded?" Referring to a taken down side by side.

"I've never checked a rifle before, what do I do?"

I see you have copies of state, federal, and International regulations, but how do I know they are the right ones?"

After sagging into my seat with relief, a head stewardess whispering ominously in my ear "I understand you have something in the belly of the plane>"

Most of the time, absolutely no problems. In fact, real acts of helpfulness. However, the occasional hitch can begin a special trip like a nightmare. Be prepared.

Mike Maslow

On a trip back home last June out of JFK, flying American, I had to step aside and wait for a special airline agent who then summoned the police. A weathered NYC Port Authority sargent with a ton of commendation bars under his badge showed up and gave a cursory glance to the shotguns in the case, remarked admiringly about the wood on one of them, and proceeded to engage me in a wide ranging 15 minute conversation regarding his upcoming retirement and job opportunities in the tactical training and firearms industries. His partner and the airline agent listened attentively as we exchanged contact information. The sargent & his partner proceeded on their way and the agent walked my gun case over to a special baggage ramp and that was that. Moral: Leave plenty of time to check in.

Jim in Mo

No doubt he was using a rifle with a push-feed action. With a blind magazine you must extract each cartridge by opening and closing the bolt, but you must do a complete extraction and re-chambering motion as if your going to shoot again. That is, lift bolt handle, pull back, close bolt, and the most important part, push bolt handle back down in place. You must do that with each round so the extractor grabs the cartridge. Otherwise it stays in the chamber. I'm speaking from experience.


Following a pheasant and sharptail grouse hunting trip in Montana a few years ago, my friend and I checked our shotguns and lugggage without any problems at the Great Falls Airport. While waiting for our flight we were paged by Security. My friend had packed about 20 shotgun shells loose in a ziplock bag in his luggage and I had 10 shotgun shells in the shell holders of my hunting coat in my suit case. We were told that the ammo in checked luggage had to be the original box. We did not have any boxes so our shotgun shells were confiscated. It seems to me that our shells were much more secure the way we packed them than they would have been bouncing around in a less than full box.


I never have any problems traveling with guns, just case them and load them in the back of the truck and go!



Jim in MO.

Thanks for the information.

Rocky Mtn Hunter

I just returned from Missoula Montana from a l6 day hunt. Never will I flyinto Missoula, MT again, even if have to drive l00 miles out of my way. They treated 2 dogs in cages better than they did me. Not only was TSA a bunch of wet backs, but the un-acked out carry on bags and stripped search me. I have 2 storer bought hips. The plane was 5 hrs delayed, (no plane), then 3 hous lay over in MN , was suppose to arrive in Charlotte, N.C. at 4 ;l7 PM on Nov. 8th, arrived at l;45 Am on Sunday Nov. 9th. No meals, only coffee and l/2 a cp of Coke. So choose your airlines carefully. Better yet, not that they charge l5.oo for l piece, 35,00 for 2ne and l00.00 thereafter. So cheaper bot ship by UPS. I take a lot of liquid Medicine, I had to ship it by UPS a week early, as 2 oz of RX is all you can take on a plane, Stupid as they X=ray and up=pack each luggage. Guns, better insure then before you leave for the trip as they will not be liable for contents inside a gun case. I'm like teh guy above, for now on, will only hunt wher I can drive my truck to. With the economy is the dumps, not even sure can afford the gas for that now. The Rocky Mtns have about priced their licenses and the Airfare out of the reach of all but the very wealthy. So secure hunting rights near home ( pay what ever) and hunt cloe by. Its not teh distance you rvel, its the enjoyment of the hunting party and being out in the woods. Never knew Beans and Franks taste so well, along with black coffee ( forgot the cream , sugar). Had planned to eat a steak in Charlotte, N.C. but at l;45 Am all good resturans closed, even Wendys. But afer a 2 hr drive, o tied to eat then. Me, I will stay home now, unless win a freebie.


Tom from Cody: Maybe I missed it but where did you get you rifle case and what brand and model is it? Thanks

Rocky Mtn Hunter

Ishawooa in Cody, WY: O I envy where you live. Could spend a lot oftime in and around Cody. Only had a couple days to spend there, but the Ranches going from Cody to the E-Gate of Yellowstone, I'd sure love to own one. Those Log homes are picture perfect. Now sure youreferring to my Gun Case or now, but her goes; Its a Mtn Ridge #0779: 53 x 14 x 4 l/2 with a extral" of foam inside in adition to the 2 egg shape foam pads. Bought it at a Sporting store heer at home, forgot the name now as they went belly up. Case is Alum,with 2 locking by key locks and 3 combo locks. Has reinforced corners and 2 hinges to keep open when placing material and guns inside. Regardless of type case, do believe the baggage handlers try their best or "WORST" to destroy them. Airlines will not insure the contents, so you best take special ins. on the guns, etc. prior to your trip. I got another case, plastic,came from Bass, not as large, holds l scoped gun and one not. I wanted this case as would hold 2 scoped guns and Bincs, finder, and knives. As stated above by someone, best way to transport firearms is to put behind you truck seat, or if have a camper shell, put back there with all the goodies we MUST have.Now the Airlines charging for your luggage: 15.00 for l piece, 35 for 2 pieces and 100.00 therafter, plus if wt is 51 lbs another l00.00. Unless i cange my mind I will drive from now on if the economy improves so I can make a $5K trip to the Rockies.Did well here at home, got a 9 pointer with the B/P and a 6: Son got a 8 pointer and a 7, and a deformed spotted white deer.O, also go a huge in body size Mulie in Montana, but only a 3 x 3. By his age, should have been 5 or larger, but a old boy going straight up a Mtn. Wife saw a Mtn Lion, not over l0 to 20 yds away from her. Saw few W-tails o Mulies, not Elk. I want to go to NE Wy for Mulies and Antelopes, gotany suggestions for that area. I;m a member of Outdoor Buddies,a handicapped group, and they trying to work outa hunt in SE C0 for the same, i will take what I can get if the DOW will only go upwards for a while. We got 2 l/2 weeks of Rifle Deer season here and 50 miles to my Daughters, B/P comes in on Dec. 20th and last till first Satin Jan. I pla to hunt a few days up there if able after all this 5 weeks herer plus the 2 weeks in MT. For a 73 yr old guy, getting worn out. Shoot-um-straight and often. The Old Southern Gun Slinger

Rocky Mtn Hunter

Ishawooa: Toldmy friends in Missoula,MT, they as soonas regular season is over, they need to add a few bair places and try tokill some Mtn lion and Wolves. Game is scarce, regardless of what the Outfitters and experts say. The Rocky Mtn States are stating, lots of game, not so.As hunted l4 days and saw oly l small spile W-tail amdonly 2 Mule Deer Bucks ( I got one), no Elk period. Areas where we've seen lots of Mule Deer and W-tails few Does seen. I'm told that a Mtn Lion kills 2 l/2Deer/elk fawns weekly. Don;t take long to kill all them out in a given Ranch. Had i saw one of the Cats orWolves,I would have shot him, legal or not. I believe the guys I hunt with are beginning to see the situation same as I. I'd never go back to that area with out a good side arm, scoped.The Mtn Lion scared my wife to death, she stayed close to the truck or with me the remaider of our hunt. Plus,the Licenses for the Rockies are way over priced.Tags for Elk and Deer cost me 635.00 , but can hunt for 5 weeks or tagsfilled. As with C0, they divide their season into 4 different hunts 7 and 9 days. They say they got more Elk than they need/??? but with a 70% kill off this past winter,doubt thats the case now. Going to bed, as 4 Am comes early. Take care.

Rocky Mtn Hunter

Ishawooa:Asyou live near Cody, sure you know great places to hunt.Any suggestions on a Elk Hunt for a dISABLED/hANDICAPPED GUY. i CAN WALKWITH CANES A SHORT DISTACE, BUT NOT UP A 100 YD mtN.aNY INFO you could send me I'd appreciate.Also interested in Antelops and Mulies, )earlyseason) in the NE section of WY.Are all licenses for Wy on draw bases?If teh economy improves and my DOW hunt stock comes back I would like to return to the West this fall, if not, will just hunt herein N>C>. Had a good season+ l0 days to go,Son and I got our tags filled so far and a Spotted one.

Rocky Mtn Hunter

With tags filled, we can get 2 extra tags, one of each. Cold here was l8 this Amand very Widy,more of sae fr tomorrow. Need some of your snow now. Take care.


I rememer flying small bush airlines in Alaska in the early 1980's with a rifle and uncrated dog in the cabin. Rifle was not loaded and dog was calm and well trained.

Sigh. Those were the days.

Oh, and Cedar Rapids ROCKS!

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