Letter: Flying Commercial Airlines With a Weapon

JWR, Hugh, and SurvivalBlog Readers,

As an avid proponent and practitioner of concealed carry, I responded with mixed emotions when my wife informed me that her latest business trip would require us to travel to one of the most progressive-liberal enclaves in the state of Florida: South Beach, Miami, second home of the Kardashians. Unable to procure a last-minute and long-term kennel to board our dogs for an extended road trip, flying was the only choice. The airline provided by her company for our trip: the NRA-bashing Delta Airlines.

Unable to remember the last time I was without my concealed carry pistol, or at the very least one in my vehicle, you can imagine my concern. After watching some videos on YouTube and reading several articles on the Internet, I decided to take the plunge and carry one of my pistols with me. I know people fly with firearms all the time, but this would be my first time and being me, I automatically assumed the worst.

Despite my paranoia and fear, I’m happy to report that the whole process was amazingly simple. Upon arrival at my local regional airport, I told the nice lady that I had a firearm to declare. I signed the provided form and performed a simple press check to show that my Ruger LC9s was clear. I packed all the magazines empty and included one box of factory-fresh, sealed ammo, then I tossed the card inside the hard case, locked it with a TSA approved lock, returned it to my suitcase, zip-tied the zippers and away I went.

Upon arrival at Miami International airport, the Delta baggage agent placed several large zip ties around the length of my suitcase. Once I provided my driver’s license and carry permit, I was on my way. The return flight was just as easy. Due to a line at the ticket counter that was some sixty people in length, the agent had me sign the “Firearms Unloaded” form and toss it into my large suitcase; no “show clear” required.

“A Right not exercised is soon lost…” If flying is the only way you can travel, please don’t be intimidated into going unarmed if you feel the need to do so. Be aware of the laws in the area of your destination and by all means exercise your 2nd amendment rights without fear.



  1. Whenever I just have to go by airline I use one of the wheeled suitcases that have the exposed bars inside. Using a hard case that has a cable looped around the bars and back in to the case keeps it from being lifted by any of the baggage handlers. I have had my zipped tied zippers cut by security so now I place a large card with extra zip ties taped to it on top of my clothes and a note asking them to redo it after inspection, that actually worked. You can download the requirements, and they are different for each airline, from their website to show to the counter people. Not all of them are knowledgeable of their own rules.

    1. That’s a good idea. For what it’s worth, a piece of advice I got was sometimes extra locks and cables make it look even more attractive to baggage thieves. I guess if they want it bad enough, they will get it. Other than the small profile of the LC9 when wearing summer clothing, my thought was it would also be the least expensive to replace if it was stolen compared to my Glocks or M&P’s. I just discovered that the NRA offers up to $2500 theft insurance with membership, but it must be activated. “NRA theft insurance” Google search took me to the form.

    2. Be aware that SouthWest will _not_ allow ammunition to be in the same innermost case as a handgun, despite what the TSA says on their web site WRT transport of ammunition.

      This zip tie stupidity is pure BS, most of the people doing the zip tying just want to get you out of there ASAP. As far as I know this is only a Delta Airlines issue, for the other airlines, you firearms containing luggage will go to the same place as your other baggage.

      The way Delta gets around the federal prohibition of no ‘Steal Me’ identifiers on luggage is that all of those bags are coded for ‘special handling’ just as if you had insured your bag, or it was a oversized item.

      No airline checks for CHL/CCW/any-other permit, just that you are the legitimate owner of the bag.

      About 20% of the time I’m asked to show the weapon(s) are clear, the rest of the time they just want the firearms declaration signed and tossed in the bag/case.

      1. You’re absolutely right CL. I carried a large toenail clipper in my carry on bag and clipped those zip ties as soon as I crossed the threshold of the doors outside. Waste of good zip ties if you ask me. The huge zip tie was the “steal me” or “I have a gun” indentifier and I wanted it gone ASAP.

  2. DD, I too had a very similar experience last year when traveling to FL as well although my flight was into Tampa. My flight was due to a relative being sick and me being needed to help drive a vehicle home. I was pleasantly surprised on the Syracuse , NY end of things as I was given a “firearms” unloaded tag to put in my bag and then it was checked in. Upon arrival in Tampa, I heard my name over the loudspeaker for me to report to the Baggage service office , showed my drivers license and away I went. No check of my FL carry license whatsoever. I wonder how different it would have been if I was returning to Syracuse ? I had only carry on luggage and i was the first out of the terminal for our flight as the bags for the flight had not even made it to the carousel yet.

    1. Jeff,
      Glad to hear you had a good experience. As with many things in life, the anticipation and fear of the unknown were far worse than the actual event. To be clear, there was no request for my carry permit at MIA when retrieving my bag. I offered it, along with my DL as further proof of my identity.

  3. Honestly, I don’t think a single day goes by without Florida making it in the media in some form.. From wandering gators to airline stories It’s as if Americans cant function without knowing what Florida is doing.

    1. I live in Florida and the issue is thousands of liberals from the Northeast moving here every month. At this rate, Florida will become a blue state pretty quick. Liberals are like cockroaches. They ruin their homes, then move to yours and ruin it. Bringing their lack of common sense and inability to accept reality and you get the numerous ‘news’ stories coming out of Florida.

  4. I’m just an average fellow that has to fly for work. I fly once or twice a month with a weapons case that includes an AR and pistol. I don’t have any problems, just some odd looks from the airline agent when I open the case to put the orange “unloaded firearm” ticket into the case. I actually get more questions about my first aid kit (IFAK) in my carry on backpack.

    Sadly, I worry more about driving in northern Virginia with my gear, than I do flying to Florida. America is a changed place!

    1. Horse,
      I feel you on the northern Virginia thing. I travel there to see my parents and those blue and silver patrol cars seem to pop out everywhere on RT 29. Even worse are the very few times I venture into Maryland to see family. It always feels like crossing into East Berlin.

  5. I fly between CO and TX every year with my Pelican and 3 firearms (trip to my parents farm in TX). It does add an hour to the trip overall, but well worth it. TSA for me has been professional and courteous. I fly United, and although I am not happy with their NRA stance they are professional with firearms transport.

    1. Agreed. Despite their stance on NRA member discounts, Delta was very professional. It could have been my “Prepper Paranoia”, but it did seem like there was always more TSA and sheriff deputies than normal when I went to retrieve my bag. It would be interesting to know if there are internal notifications when luggage containing firearms are being picked up.

  6. I hope when you said you threw the card inside the hard case, you didn’t mean the gun case. After my son almost missed a flight because the ticket agent at the counter insisted he do that. TSA and a police officer pulled him out,questioned him. Like they said, if we don’t see the paperwork, how do we know you declared it. We can’t open the gun case. I checked with the airline(Alaska) and was told their agent was wrong. Their training manual says clearly that the slip has to be in the suitcase, not the gun case. I once had a ticket agent try to get me to put the slip in the gun case. I asked for a supervisor and she corrected the agent.

    1. Butch,
      That’s good info. Thank you. The agent specifically instructed me to put it inside of the locked gun case after showing clear. I used a TSA lock which supposedly has a universal key port, in addition to the combination lock, that allows them to open it if necessary. This was my first time and I will remember your words of advice.

  7. One other important thing – you should NOT be using a TSA lock to secure the gun case. This should be a sturdy lock that only YOU have the key to. Never give the key to anyone at the airport – only you should open the case in their presence if asked.

    I’ve traveled several times with a firearm and I’ve been asked on more than one occasion to give the key to the agent who would check my bags back in the secured area. I refused and told them I would be happy to open it, but it had to be in person. They decided it wasn’t necessary and sent my bags through.

  8. Some years ago there were two people flying at different times from So Dak to New York city, they had no problems legally flying into NYC on the airlnes, but when they went to leave NYC to come back to SD, they were arrested and spent the night in jail and had to go to court and now are concidered to be felons in NYC and state? Who are or were these so called felons in NYC, one is or was a president of a large university in this area and the other is or was a well known heart doctor. They ere legal going into NYC, but not coming back out by airplane. Go figure

  9. Thank you for reminding us all of that. Don’t seem to remember that making the headlines. Probably due to type of firearm used and ethnicity of shooter. Didn’t fit the narrative.

  10. Declaring your firearm in compliance to law works as long as your airplane arrives at the airport you intend to arrive at. IF the aircraft is diverted into a slave state, the authorities will arrest you for illegal possession. It doesn’t matter to them that you had no intention of being in their airport.



  11. We need a constitutional convention. Most of us own and carry daily…legally by our US Constitution. It is a shame that “common sense” of our constitution is pushed away to “enlightened minds”. Our country is fading right in front of our lives. Please pray for our country and our brothers in arms protecting us world wide. Why does an honorable citizen not allowed to carry anywhere? It goes to show that the large populated cities…NY, Baltimore, LA,Chicago, etc make the laws for the rest of the states and country. One reason is that urban folks don’t get out to real america, and the other is the people that they are electing are lawyers and they have never served in our military! Look back in the 1940’s and 50’s and 60’s and see who served and were elected to office.

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