Travelling With A Firearm: Safety Do’s And Don’ts

Love to pack up your vehicle and head out to explore the great outdoors? Whether you choose to hit the road or take a quick flight to your favorite destination, you need to take the time to research the laws within each state you plan on visiting if you plan on bringing along your firearms.

Basic knowledge of how you are allowed to carry your weapon, what licenses are accepted, and what is defined as a “secure” firearm often differ from state to state. You don’t want to assume reciprocity and end up in trouble due to your ignorance- especially since part of responsible gun ownership is knowing the laws. Luckily, checking up on this information isn’t too difficult!

Hitting The Road

car on the road

Your bags are packed, your vacation is planned, and your vehicle is ready to roll. All you have left to do is secure your firearm and head out, but do you know how your destination state will view your preferred method of carry? Checking out informational sights, such as Project Gunner, can help you quickly determine which gun laws state by state may affect you during your travels. Once you have this knowledge in hand, you will be good to go, and be secure in the knowledge of your legal rights no matter where you land. 

To simplify some basics, take a look at some of our favorite tips for travelling with your guns to help kick you off as you start planning your trip!

Map Your Route

Person's hand holding a map

If you are going to be in more than one state, you need to not only know the laws of your destination, but everything in between. More than one person has made assumptions concerning their firearms and ended up in a legal bind over a simple traffic stop, and that is the last thing you want to have to worry about. 

If you map your driving route in advance, and any possible deviations you may consider, you can easily cross-reference the specific rules on how you may carry your weapon through the state. This way you can be prepared to store, lock, or carry your weapon as allowed. Do pay close attention to any states that may have incredibly restrictive laws, such as New Jersey, that make transportation of a firearm illegal without a special permit. Although this may go against Federal 2A rulings, states are legally allowed to adjust their laws accordingly. Luckily, this is incredibly rare. 

Conceal Carry Reciprocity VS Open Carry

If you are a conceal carry weapon license holder, one of the first things you may learn is that not all states recognize your license. Be sure to stay up to date on licensing reciprocity, and if you plan far enough in advance, you may even be able to license in more than one state for further coverage. 

A handgun with a full magazine and scattered bullets on an American flag.

Open carry states allow legal gun owners to carry their firearms openly. This does not mean you can have it concealed unless licensed as they are two separate allowances. Even if you are within an open carry state, some restrictions may apply. For example, some counties or cities may not allow it and require you have it in a case, and certain recreation sites, such as state parks may also have rules concerning how you may proceed. Be sure to include these types of places on your may if you plan on stopping off while passing through. 

Legal Recognition Of A Secured Weapon

If you are passing through an area that requires that you secure your weapon, be sure you know what they define as “secure”. Some states, such as New Mexico, recognize your vehicle as an extension of your home and you may have an open and loaded firearm within the car without any permit or license. But these rules change when you step out of the vehicle with the gun. 

Other states require you simply to have your weapon unloaded and in a case, while others may require you have it in a locked, hard case with ammunition stored in a separate area. 

Cropped image of security guard standing with gun isolated on grey

Although this may sound complicated, there are fewer restrictions than you may think, and most states are easy to travel through with your firearms. Just be prepared and know how to find the information you need in advance so you are always in compliance to avoid any problems. 

Airline Travel

If airline travel is a part of your plan, you’ll need to know what the laws are in your destination state (or country), as well as what TSA rules you will need to follow. Luckily individual airlines do not set the legal ramifications of travelling with a firearm, and the information you need is consistent no matter who you fly. This information is best learned through the website, and is pretty straightforward in what your responsibility is. 

What an individual airline may require is a limitation of the amount of firearms and ammunition you are allowed to transport, and what fees may apply. So be sure to check with them on these details as well. 

Man in the airport

In short, keep in mind these general rules, and you won’t have any issues:

  • Always unload and lock your firearm in a TSA hard sided case as checked baggage only.
  • You must declare each firearm when presented for check-in within a locked and secure case. Only you retain the key or combination unless requested by a TSA agent ONLY for compliance.  
  • Ammunition must be checked and either securely boxed or included in the hard-sided case as an unloaded firearm. 
  • All firearm parts, such as magazines, must also be checked-in baggage and must be properly boxed or locked in the hard sided case if they include ammunition.  
Gunpoint or pistol inlaid with wood and gold and bullet holder in a blue box
  • Replica firearms, including toys, must be included in a checked bag. 
  • Scopes may be carried in a carry-on or checked bag. 

In Conclusion

If you have been concerned about travelling with a firearm, you shouldn’t be! All you need is some basic information to get you on the road no matter where your final destination may be. Just remember, plan your route in advance, know the state laws (and in some special cases, county or city laws), and have a few handy items ready in order to safely comply.

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