Transporting a Firearm: What You Need to Know (Including Video Overviews).

Posted: June 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

You have your permit(s), you have your personal protection firearm, and you’re going on vacation. This post is dedicated to giving you the information you need to know so you can safely (and legally) take that firearm with you as you travel across this great nation, either by car or plane. Also, remember to pick up a copy of the Legal Heat 50 State Gun Law book or app (for iPhone, Kindle and Android) before you leave home!


Federal Transport Rule:

Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console. (18 U.S.C. 926A, 27 CFR 178.38.)

Plain Talk Explanation:

Some states will either recognize your concealed firearm permit, or will simply allow you to carry a loaded firearm while in their state, but some states will do neither. When travelling through restricted states you can still have your firearm in your vehicle, but you need to be aware of a few things. Federal law provides that a person, who is not prohibited by the GCA from receiving or transporting firearms, may transport a firearm under certain conditions, notwithstanding State or local law to the contrary. In order to ensure compliance with the law you must abide by the following 6 steps:

  1. Must be traveling:
    1. FROM a place where you may lawfully possess and/or carry the firearm
    2. TO any other place where you may lawfully possess and/or carry that same firearm
  2. Firearm must be unloaded
  3. Firearm and ammunition must be stored separately  (ie. separate containers)
  4. Firearm and ammunition must BOTH be stored so they are NOT readily or directly accessible from the passenger compartment of the vehicle. (ie. must be in the trunk of your vehicle if possible).
  5. If your vehicle does not have a trunk, the completely unloaded firearm must be LOCKED in a hard sided case. The glove box or center console does NOT satisfy this requirement, the firearm MUST be stored in a separate locked case. Put the case as far away from you in the driver seat as possible.
  6. In order to guarantee federal protection, your transport through the state must be continuous and uninterrupted. This means you are not a tourist at any time (as a general rule you should not spend more than 24 hours inside the jurisdiction).

Whenever you are transporting a firearm through a state that prohibits your right to carry it is HIGHLY recommended that you ALWAYS store your firearm in a separate locked (hard sided) container than the ammunition, and that you store each containers in separate locations in the vehicle, preferably with the firearms in the trunk.

Once these 6 steps have been satisfied you are entitled, under Federal law, to lawfully transport a firearm in your vehicle. Some states do not require you to complete all of the above steps, but some do. Because of the extreme penalties that can accompany inadvertent mistakes, always follow these six steps to avoid any confusion and assure complete compliance to the law.


Transporting a Firearm on an Airplane (KSL News Segment) from Legal Heat on Vimeo.

A passenger on and aircraft may transport a firearm in his or her checked baggage, so long as all TSA regulations are followed. Always abide by the following steps when traveling with a firearm, and check with your particular airline about any other procedures they may have:

  1. All firearms must be declared to the air carrier during the ticket counter check-in process.
  2. The firearm must be unloaded.
  3. The firearm must be carried in a hard-sided container.
  4. The container must be locked.
  5. The passenger must provide the key or combination to the screener if it is necessary to open the container, and then remain present during screening to take back possession of the key after the container is cleared.
  6. Any ammunition transported must be securely packed in fiber (such as cardboard), wood or metal boxes or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition.
  7. Firearm magazines/clips do not satisfy the packaging requirement unless they provide a complete and secure enclosure of the ammunition (e.g., by securely covering the exposed portions of the magazine or by securely placing the magazine in a pouch, holder, holster or lanyard).
  8. The ammunition may also be located in the same hard-sided case as the firearm, as long as it is properly packed as described above.
  9. Black powder and percussion caps used with black-powder type firearms are not permitted in carry-on or checked baggage

Airlines may have their own additional requirements on the carriage of firearms and the amount of ammunition that you may have in your checked baggage. Therefore, travelers should also contact the airline regarding its firearm and ammunition carriage policies.

Relevant Statute: Title 49: Transportation – Part 1540- Civil Aviation Security – §1540.111 Carriage of weapons, explosives, and incendiaries by individuals.

Now that you know, share this article with your friends!



  1. Dennis Williams says:


    • ongoingfreedom says:

      Dennis, do you have a concealed permit? From which state?

    • ongoingfreedom says:

      Checking the maps at handgunlaw dot US your AZ permit gives you the most reciprocity, allowing concealed (and car) carry through every state you’ll pass through except Illinois, which recognizes no other states’ permits, with one exception. From USACarry dot com:

      Non- residents must be legally eligible to possess or acquire firearms and ammunition in their state of residence. It is recommended that, in order to be in compliance with all statutes, non-residents transport all firearms:

      Unloaded, and
      Enclosed in a case, and
      Not immediately accessible or broken down in a nonfunctioning state.


      Illinois allows residents of other states carry a concealed firearm in their vehicle if they are can legally carry a firearm in public under the laws of their state or territory of residence and are not prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under federal law.

      From Handgunlaw dot US:

      (e) Nothing in this Act shall prohibit a non-resident from transporting a concealed firearm within his or her vehicle in Illinois, if the concealed firearm remains within his or her vehicle and the non-resident:

      (1) is not prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under federal law;

      (2) is eligible to carry a firearm in public under the laws of his or her state or territory of residence, as evidenced by the possession of a concealed carry license or permit issued by his or her state of
      residence, if applicable; and

      (3) is not in possession of a license under this Act. If the non-resident leaves his or her vehicle unattended, he or she shall store the firearm within a locked vehicle or locked container within the vehicle in accordance with subsection (b) of Section 65 of this Act. (Source: P.A. 98-63, eff. 7-9-13.)

      More from Handgunlaw dot US:

      If you stop you can store the loaded handgun in the vehicle in a closed compartment in a locked vehicle or in a locked case out of view in the vehicle. You can’t leave your vehicle with a loaded handgun. You must unload and secure it in a closed container to transfer it to your trunk or to enter your motel room etc. You can store it as specified in the law above.


      You are traveling from OH to CO, and possess a CO license. Assuming CO is your state of residence (the car-carry exception in IL only applies if you possess a license from your state of residence) then you may have a concealed firearm in your vehicle as you pass through IL, and if you leave your vehicle for physiological reasons then choose one of the above options.

  2. ongoingfreedom says:

    Good recap. Some notes on transporting on airlines:

    (1) some airlines in the U.S. allow proper transport of ammo in magazines but most don’t. Two who do allow are Frontier and Southwest (big surprise, right?). I carry the airlines rules printed out in case I need reinforcement of their own policies, but I also carry empty ammo carriers in case an agent gets a bug up their butt about it.

    (2) the TSA doesn’t care how much ammo you carry but almost all the airlines do, following international (but not national) guidelines. No more than 5 kg/11 lb per traveler. Also the TSA doesn’t care how many arms travel with you but every airline has their own policy. Check the website!

    (3) the airlines seem to echo the TSA’s rules about ammo packaging, specifically, “Travelers must securely pack any ammunition in fiber (such as cardboard), wood or metal boxes OR OTHER PACKAGING specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition.” When I declare I have firearms I usually also add that the ammo is “properly packaged.” I travel so much that the original cardboard boxes for my carry ammo have long since disintegrated. I went to Bass Pro and got plastic ammo carriers. Once in a while I’ll have a ticketing agent ask me if the ammo is in its original packaging, to which I declare no, but it is “properly packaged.” That seems to satisfy their curiosity.

    (3) if you use a small, hard-sided and lockable case to transport your pistol inside a piece of luggage I highly recommend using that cable that came with the case to secure the case to internal structure of the luggage. I partially unzip the liner and wrap the cable around the channel that holds the extendable handle. That way if someone tries to steal it by unzipping the bag (locked your bag with an approved TSA lock? Easy to bypass: (YouTube it) but they can’t remove the case without proper tools

    (4) use a TSA-approved lock on the outside of your luggage. It keeps the honest honest and somewhat slows down someone who really wants inside your bag (again, see the YouTube link above). Do NOT use TSA-approved locks on your firearm case! Only you are allowed to control the key/combination although you may briefly give the key to a TSA agent so they can open it, if they want to. You are supposed to go with the key but the agents don’t always follow that rule

    (5) do NOT put a laptop in the same suitcase. Every time I have the TSA wanted to open the bag to check for explosives, and rarely do when I don’t put a laptop in there

    (6) do NOT use a skycap to check your firearm(s)-laden bags. You must go to the counter

    (7) after checking your bag(s) WAIT in near the area in case the TSA wants to open the luggage up. 5-10 minutes should suffice. Budget the time going to the counter and waiting for the bag into your plans

    (8) you must declare your firearm that is in your checked bags to the airline. I simply start out by telling the airline agent, “I am declaring an unloaded firearm and a small amount of ammunition.” The agent will hand you a small card to sign, and will then tell you where to put it, usually either inside the gun case or immediately outside it. Some agents want to observe the firearm(s) is/are unloaded, the rest don’t care. After all, that’s what you are declaring by signing that card

    (9) I usually don’t break down the firearm nor do I put a gun lock on it. Do whatever makes you feel more comfortable

    (10) for some great additional recommendations about airline travel check out a locksmith by the handle of Deviant Ollum either at his website (deviating dot net), or search for him on YouTube

    • Andy says:

      SW does allow load mags ,as long as they are secured (such as a cutout in your hard case firearm carrier). check their website .

      • OngoingFreedom says:


        They do indeed and thank you for reinforcing my first point. SWA is a true American carrier!

  3. Doc says:

    Note Pennsylvania NO LONGER accepts Utah concealed carry!!

  4. IL travel says:

    […] meant to add the Legal Heat website for transporting across State lines. Transporting a Firearm: What You Need to Know (Including Video Overviews). | Legal Heat Reply With […]

  5. C. Cox says:

    I have a black power .44 “primitive weapon” ! Do I have to go by the laws of a Fire Arm for as transporting them ?

    • ongoingfreedom says:

      I’ve never done it, but I believe the TSA considers even a flare gun or starter pistol a firearm and must be declared. Note that you may not carry percussion caps nor black powder in any of your baggage.