Finally! The plane has landed and is taxiing into the jetway. A well-deserved weekend getaway with your friends is imminent, just as soon as the gate agent opens the aircraft door. You’ve been planning this trip for months, excitedly taking advantage of being able to shoot a few rounds at a world-renowned sporting clays complex. You are on a trip with your shotgun, at last.
Practically skipping to luggage claim, you double check your car rental reservation and accommodations. Your phone begins pinging voraciously with texts from the rest of the group as they arrive, chatting about dinner plans. Standing at luggage claim, mindlessly giggling at everyone’s responses, you realize most of the luggage on the carousel has been claimed. You already grabbed your weekend bag as it shuffled by, but where in the world is your gun case? You grab the first person you see in an airline uniform, but they coldly tell you ALL luggage has been offloaded from the flight. NOW WHAT???
Note: Perhaps this is an airport where you must go to a special area or office in order to receive this checked luggage with a firearm. You should be told that at the first airport, but if you weren’t you need to make sure that your baggage isn’t waiting for you somewhere else in the airport.
This is not how anyone wants to start or even end a trip. So, how do you protect your precious cargo when you travel? We dig into TSA regulations, how to properly pack your Syren shotguns for land, sea and air and chat with some of our Syren pro staff and owners about best practices when traveling with a firearm.
Not All Cases are Created Equally
A soft sleeve is phenomenal. I love being able to just pull my gun out and go right on the course. No muss or fuss with having to put it all together or take it apart at the conclusion of my shooting. Unfortunately, a soft sleeve is woefully insufficient for any type of long-distance travel, not even in the car. Syren pro staffer, Emi Smith loves her Pelican Storm long case, complete with wheels! It makes getting through the airport much easier and she was even able to customize the foam cutouts to secure her exact gun and additional items.
There are several options for hard cases, and all offer varying degrees of protection for your firearm. The most expensive isn’t always the right choice. Are you using your case for car or air travel? Are you packing one gun or multiple? Pricing runs the full gamut of $50 up to $500, and I have no doubt there are some out there totally tricked out and available for $5,000. Go with what works for your budget; however, if you are flying, try to stretch that budget as hard as you can. You will never regret the purchase. Airline workers are in a hurry, and they don’t feel the same about your precious cargo as you do.
One of our Facebook friends (Syren Owners Group) had a great idea about using a hard-sided golf bag. Skeeter boasted being able to pack three guns at once, one being the Elos N2 30-inch intact in its own soft sleeve. Now, that’s some serious next level packing – plus, no one pays attention to golf clubs like they do gun cases. Skeeter also suggested using your shooting vest and extra clothing to help pack around the cases to fill space. Pool noodles also do a great job of taking up space and adding cushion without adding weight.
If most of your travel is by car, then you will be your own “luggage crew” and it’s highly unlikely the case will go through the beating that it would at the airlines. Definitely use a hard case in the car for distance trips, though. It helps disguise what is inside from prying eyes and protects it from shifting against the rest of your luggage. A non-descript hard case will also allow you to slip in and out of hotels and rental houses without announcing that a firearm is on the property.
For those lucky gals that are sailing the open seas and want to take along your Syren to shoot at your destination, you’re better off leaving it at home. Sorry, but most cruise lines do NOT allow any firearms as a safety and security measure. There are a couple of cruise lines that will allow a firearm, but, you must follow extremely strict protocols, such as notifying the cruise line at booking, special packing measures and securing the firearm in the ship’s safe for the duration of the cruise.
Just Gonna Leave This Right Here
Chances are you’re already well aware that you can’t just stroll into the airport with your gun slung over your shoulder and plop it down on the checkout counter. When you make your reservation, you need to make the airline aware that you are traveling with a firearm. Some airlines are MUCH better about the process than others. Shop around and do a little research. Better yet, make it super easy and utilize a travel agent that specializes in this type of travel. Travel With Guns is my “go to” for any arrangements in the friendly skies, particularly when we head to New Zealand every couple of years.
Most airlines require the case to lock at multiple points. If there is a hole for a lock, you’d better have a lock in it, no exceptions. Now, this is where I hope you heed excellent advice. NEVER use a TSA lock that they can access with their own key! Why? Well, not everyone is cut from the same cloth and theft in the airline industry is a very real issue. In my former life, I was a flight attendant for a decade. Not even my stuff, marked “Flight Crew,” was off limits. Just as strong fences make great neighbors, strong locks make honest workers.
The regulations state that you must have a lock for every position on the case that can hold a lock and it can be a combination or key lock. There is zero verbiage about having to allow the airline carte blanche to poke around inside your case unattended whenever they feel. You can read more about TSA firearm and ammunition regulations here.
Nothing to See Here
I love swag. Especially stickers from all the clubs and preserves that I get to visit when teaching and hunting. My truck, laptop, even my butcher shop fridge is adorned with a litany of stickers. Dee Orr, a Syren pro staffer, offers incredible advice about forgoing those stickers and logoed items on your gun case.
While we may want the world to know how proud we are to be a Syren sister, it may not be the best idea to put it out in the world that you are traveling with your precious cargo and it’s just a busted car window away or a quick grab off the luggage carousel. Dee says she refrains from even wearing logo clothing while traveling to maintain a low-key appearance.
Are your windows tinted? My Tacoma has pretty dark tint all around. This is totally by design. I don’t want anyone walking past my truck and being able to quickly assess the contents while I’m sleeping or enjoying a meal in a restaurant. If your windows are more transparent, no big deal, pack smartly. Put the gun case(s) under your other items and keep the boring shoes, beach towels or even groceries sitting on top.
Keep It Moving, Honey
Several years ago, I drove out to Kansas City (I was bouncing between both Kansas and Missouri) to train with one of my mentors, the late Bob Lockett, and to shoot the extreme course offered at Powder Creek. My husband, a major crimes detective and always the legal beagle, insisted I had to route under Illinois, adding two hours to my drive because of my firearms. I was beyond perturbed, but did as he asked and still managed to screw up a turn coming across the river and ended up in Illinois.
I sweated bullets for about 20 minutes until I got re-routed and got across the state-line. If I had only consulted USCCA or even checked a few “travel with guns sites”, it would’ve saved me two hours! Legally, you are allowed to drive through a state with strict gun laws if you don’t hang out. You may stop for fuel or potty, but keep it moving and definitely no overnights.
Syren sister Nikki Montero always consults the USCCA app to check reciprocity and to make sure her firearms are secured in accordance with each state that she’ll be visiting or traveling through. Her fabulous Syren Tempio makes its way across the open road in a secure travel case, and she keeps it locked up separately from her range bag and ammunition.
Ignorance is not an accepted excuse by law enforcement. Know before you go and make the trip a memorable one because of the wonderful experiences – not because you landed in the local pokey while they sorted out your illegal gun running.
We could literally present our readers with page after page detailing every scenario and action plan imaginable. In the interest of keeping your interest, we have highlighted the most important key points and hope that you find this information useful for your next trip. There is a wealth of information out there, especially if you follow our Syren Owners Group on Facebook. We would love to see you with your precious cargo enjoying vacations, destination hunts, and more! Be sure to post and tell us your experiences and adventures with your Syren.
Find a Syren shotgun to travel with you.
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*This article was originally posted in our column on WomensOutdoorNews.com written by Kate Ahnstrom and edited by WON Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird.