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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm posting this just as informational regarding my recent travel with guns:

Back ground: I'd never flown with firearms. I'm fulltime LEO so this will not apply to everyone. I had to fly United Airlines from Orlando to Newark and the return flight a few days later. This was not a business trip. I also planned to drive into NYC from NJ. The flights were non-stop. I did a bunch of research about flying with firearms and LEOSA (HR218) applies to me which boosted my confidence - but I was still concerned (we are talking about travel to the foreign countries of NJ, NY & NYC). I have a hard case Pelican 1510 carry-on size: 1510 Protector Carry-On Case | Pelican. And purchased a small metal lock case: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08FT1JXCD?ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details&th=1. I also purchased a 4-pack of weak TSA combination cable locks: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MVKFJDD?ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details&th=1. I made a small modification to the cable locks by placing a sheath of 5/16" clear tube over the cables. That visually increases the girth of the lock's cable and reduces their banging and flopping about on the Pelican case. I also have a Samsung SmartTag: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08SXLWXH9?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details. I modified my Pelican with small holes on the wings adjacent to the latches. Those holes allow a zip-tie (a.k.a. cable tie) to secure the latch from opening. I label next to each latch, "Please use replacement ties located inside". So if TSA cuts the zip ties they can also replace them from my on-board inventory. I packed the two additional TSA-cable locks inside the Pelican just in case the ones in use "disappeared". I printed and downloaded to my phone the rules from TSA, United and the states I would be in. The paper rules went into the Pelican.

In my research I found several concerning reports ranging from stolen guns &/or gun cases, to locks (TSA approved and regular) being cut off and travelers being called back to the TSA screening area multiple times. Airline staff unaware of their own company policies and procedures and so on. I experienced no of that, thank God!

In a nutshell (whatever that means exactly) as active LEO under the Law Enforcement Officer's Safety Act (LEOSA) I can carry concealed nationwide with a few federal exceptions - like schools & courthouses.
This was my biggest concern as I won't know when I'm passing within 1,000' of a school. However I know the local authorities won't know I'm packing, unless a really bad situation develops. I can exceed the 10-round magazine limit and can carry hollow points. With factory extended magazines, the Shield in .40S&W and the .380 LCPII both hold 7+1 so the 10-round mag limit is a non-issue for me.

My setup: I placed the SmartTag inside the metal lock box under the bottom foam layer. The SmartTag can be heard beeping if I turn it on from my phone and it tracks on a map whenever it gets near a Samsung device. So if a luggage porter has a Samsung cell or laptop I get a locate and this happens without any notice on the nearby device. This might be helpful if someone walks off with the entire metal lock case but it also gave me piece of mind as I sat on my flight and was able to see the SmartTag was in very close proximity to me before takeoff.

I had the guns (slides locked back), unloaded +1 magazines for backup, and an unloaded 6-round carry magazine for each inside the metal case (just barely fit) and ammo was in an adjacent regular retail box, 14 rounds of 40S&W mixed with 14 rounds of .380ACP. The rounds were in the retail plastic tray inside the cardboard (fiber) box placed inside the Pelican. I also had a ~3.5" blade flipper knife in the metal lock case.

I placed one of my badges (in a belt holder) adjacent to the metal case and ammo box, all items facing up. Anything metal in my regular luggage was on the other end of the Pelican so as not to interfere with the X-ray signature of the guns, ammo & badge. I ran my Pelican case loadout thru an X-ray I have access to and it gave a clear picture of the handguns inside the metal case, ammo and badge. I was confident if TSA had questions they could see the guns were slide locked back, ammo was neatly in trays, and there was my badge.

When I arrived at the departing airports for each trip I went to the "additional services" lane for counter check in and explained I had to declare items. The airline counter staff gave me the orange declaration form to sign, told me to place it in the Pelican and didn't ask to actually see the firearms. After locking the Pelican they had special airline agents walk with me to the TSA X-ray area (I had the Pelican). There the special agent walked the locked Pelican into the TSA screening area and then came back. They took me each time to a waiting area while, I presume, TSA X-rayed the Pelican and both times said I was all set, good to go.

There is some sort of a flag that gets placed on the airline's screens for firearms travelers as the gate agents seemed to know I had them checked. I went once to the gate agent to ask something and she thought it was gun related but my question was about other procedures. After boarding, I checked for the SmartTag on my cell phone and was able to see it was mapped to my location prior to takeoff.

After landing, I went to the Oversize Luggage & HAZMAT claim area (not the regular carousel). I was asked for my luggage claim ticket and given the Pelican. The TSA locks I bought have an indicator pin the extends out if a "TSA key" is used and it then takes the correct combination to re-set the pin. So I was able to immediately see that the locks had not been opened.

As soon as I was at the rental car (outbound) and my car (returning), I loaded mags, strapped on the Shield & LCPII, knife into the pocket.

I had no "events" of any kind and plan to make no changes to my procedures and gear when I fly again. I did not detect any flack from anyone. I was early to the airports, expecting delays that were minimal. My advice would be to know the laws where you will be going and the airline & TSA rules.
 

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I dont believe you are supposed to use TSA locks on the firearm case. I also dont think they are supposed to open the case without you being present.

I have flown several times with a firearm, checked in luggage and on my person ( prisoner transport). Only ever had one issue. When I arrived back to my home state, somehow my luggage didnt make it to back with me. When I questioned them on its whereabouts, they said it would most likely appear, and they would ley me know when I can come pick it up. I then informed them that my luggage contained a firearm, anmo, as well as my badge. This seemed to concern her a little. My luggage was delivered to my home the next day.
 

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I fly armed when I fly... I also check a decent size pelican case with my own locks on it containing ammunition usually a carbine and some other essentials. I have never had any requests to open or unlock the checked case. Just my experience.. Another option I use from time to time is shipping gear FEDEX overnight when I know dudes at the final destination. Takes away the chance of any Airline/TSA related "mistakes". I have had luggage opened and misc items pilfered.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I dont believe you are supposed to use TSA locks on the firearm case. I also dont think they are supposed to open the case without you being present...
There was conflicting info on if the locks were to be TSA-accessible type or not. Recently TSA's website: "Only the passenger should retain the key or combination to the lock unless TSA personnel request the key to open the firearm container to ensure compliance with TSA regulations. You may use any brand or type of lock to secure your firearm case, including TSA-recognized locks." I could not find definitions of "TSA-approved" vs. "TSA-recognized" vs. "TSA-accessible". I took that to mean TSA was okay with either traditional locks or ones they have the masters for. And it might save my locks from being cut if I used TSA-accessible for the exterior Pelican. I used the metal safe for the actual firearms and it was then placed inside my regular luggage - which happens to be a hard Pelican case. So the lock on the metal safe is a weak traditional key (which I kept both keys on my person) but the locks on the Pelican are the TSA-accessible combo ones. TSA also allows locked hard gun cases to be placed inside soft & unlocked luggage. A lot of this TSA stuff reads like the recent ATFE stuff with more confusion added than needed.
 

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Flying out of Atlanta the TSA agent said to use TSA locks as he put on security tape on my cases and said they will check them for residue .
At the same time I was looking for my one and only sister that was flying with me had vanished once we where in the airport and I said I need to check my guns and ammunition .
 

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I have traveled with guns for over twenty years. Before the Ft. Lauderdale shooting they didn't always send your bag to the baggage office/Hazmat/oversized office. Back then it would just come out on the bag carrousel like all the other checked bags. As it stands right now you should put big locks on your bag that you, and you alone, have the key. Do not use TSA locks. If they have questions they will ask you to open your case. Also, do not load the mags. Obviously, the gun must also be unloaded. Leave the ammo in boxes not in mags. That will freak out some of them. At times I will lock the slide open as well but that is not required.

Since I am not LEO I must be very careful where I take my guns and also where I connect on flights when checking guns. Also, I have to watch the mag limit in certain states. As mentioned you must know the laws in the destination and connecting states before you fly.

Why connecting flights? If you get hung up in a connecting flight you will be required to claim you checked bags. If it is an unfriendly state you could have your case/guns confiscated and also arrested. No joke. Especially watch out for NJ and NY on the flying issue.

 

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Flying out of Atlanta the TSA agent said to use TSA locks as he put on security tape on my cases and said they will check them for residue .
Not just no… but hell no!

TSA should not have access to your firearms AT ALL! You should be the only one with access to them. And why would they swab? It’s a gun… it’s going to come back as explosive residue.

I trained at FLETC with TSA. For an agency that deals with lines, none of them could figure out the lines for the cafeteria at all. Their formations were blobs, carried their flags like eight year olds that were forced to do their chores, and while they are a Federal job… I’ve seen quite a few that I’d be shocked if they past a background check. That being said, I’m not allowing people, who do two weeks of “training,” access to one of my firearms. And having prior TSA as coworkers that attest to it… I wouldn’t recommend anyone to do so, either.

The one benefit of Federal L/E is the ability to fly armed anytime we fly. I do it mainly to not have to deal with TSA at all, mainly from almost getting thrown out of an airport when I was told I have to go into a body scanner with my insulin pump. Very clear with them, cannot be exposed to X-rays. One guy actually tried to tell me the body scanners are not X-ray machines. Then another said it was safe for all medical devices. By the time a supervisor got there with someone with half a brain… I was patted down, swabbed for explosive residue, and allowed to proceed. In case it isn’t clear, I hate TSA!

When you have flying armed training, at least mine did, it should go over on how to secure a firearm for being checked with luggage. CBP gave us lock boxes that were approved by the agency and TSA rules for luggage. It is a single handgun box, which has a dial lock (we set the combo in the class). No TSA keyhole. They did those, mainly so we couldn’t lose the key.
 

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Dealt with that insulin pump TSA crap with out (at the time) 12 yr old son…never again, we’ll drive.

As a regular old civilian, I definitely would have to avoid certain states. When I go to Colorado, I ship my rifle
 

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I have a good friend who is one of those folks who for years ran state authorized qualifying courses for retired LEO's who wished to take advantage of HR 218 to be able to carry concealed in all 50 states. He was the only person who I knew who was certified to qualify New Jersey retired LEO's in Florida as he met all the NJ State requirements for Firearms Instructors.

His advice was to not carry hollow points or high capacity magazines that exceed NJ or any other state laws. He also was pretty adamant about not letting your concealed firearm show at all in New Jersey.

The states north of Virginia on the eastern seaboard are pretty strict when it comes to weapons and magazines. His advice was to follow the rules very carefully and then some. It appears that having HR 218 gives you certain rights in respect to carrying concealed as a retired LEO, but it does not protect you from getting arrested by any locality if the LEO you run into is not aware of all of the niceties of HR 218. You can be arrested, and then it will be up to you to get a lawyer and defend yourself. Will you win in court? Will the charges be dismissed? Most likely, but it will cost you time and money.

One state, Rhode Island, has even implied that they will not honor HR 218. You have to understand that caution is the rule when travelling through or in these states. I travel through these states quite a bit and make sure that I carry no prohibited items with me.

Yes I know we are all protected by Federal Statutes concerning travelling with firearms, secured or otherwise, but that does not preclude something happening on a local level.
 
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