Your firearms must travel unloaded, in hard-sided and locked gun cases to meet with international and domestic commercial airline regulations.
Some airlines describe gun cases as having to be 'airline approved'. This notification will be on certain brands of gun cases so check with your dealer.
Always keep the keys or key combination handy for any security checks en route.
Make sure it is clearly labelled with your name, cellphone number and flight numbers.
It is a good idea for you to select an appropriately sized rifle case for possible travel in a small charter aircraft. In most countries in Africa, most taxicabs are regular sedan vehicles so may not fit a very large size case.
Strength, durability and high security locks are vital features for a hard gun case as they may be treated very roughly by aircraft loaders. Not only do cases suspected to be carrying hunting rifles get picked out by baggage handlers for deliberate rough treatment, there are instances where firearms have been actually tampered with, such as the breaking of iron sights.
In addition, always bring a soft gun case for use in the hunting truck if you don't want the rifle to sit in the rifle rack without the extra protection.
Soft gun cases are also useful when, for example, in Tanzania, you could leave the hard rifle case in your hotel storage room or charter company office and just take the rifle in a soft case on the charter aircraft. (This only works if your hunt starts and finishes in the same place).
In checked baggage. A passenger may not transport or offer for transport in checked baggage or in baggage carried in an inaccessible cargo hold:
(1) Any loaded firearm(s).
(2) Any unloaded firearm(s) unless -
(i) The passenger declares to the aircraft operator, either orally or in writing, before checking the baggage, that the passenger has a firearm in his or her bag and that it is unloaded;
(ii) The firearm is unloaded;
(iii) The firearm is carried in a hard-sided container; and
(iv) The container in which it is carried is locked, and only the passenger retains the key or combination.
(3) Any unauthorized explosive or incendiary.
So do not use a TSA approved lock on your gun case even though the TSA usually allows the use of TSA locks. In reality they are not legal as they are designed to be opened by a TSA master key, which is expressly prohibited by the above regulation.
The TSA will ask you to unlock the case or provide them a key. Do not give them the combination if a combination lock is used. They will then visually inspect the packing of your gun, after which they will either have you re-lock your case or they will re-lock it and return your key.
TSA agents are not trained or allowed to handle firearm, so no contact should me made in that manner. If an agent feels the firearm requires in-depth inspection, they must have a law enforcement officer present to perform that function. If re-inspection is deemed necessary after the bag is checked, they will locate the owner and have them open the case again, so it is wise to remain in the area or on the aircraft after checking the firearm.
If the owner does not come forward when requested, the gun case will not be loaded on the aircraft. If the locks have to be cut, the gun case will be deemed as 'unlocked' and will also not be allowed on the aircraft.
Non-TSA Approved Locks
It's not easy to find high security non-TSA locks in a suitable size for gun cases. Most brands of luggage key and combination padlocks are TSA approved.
For air travel, use the best quality non-TSA approved locks on your gun case.
It best to use padlocks on your gun case rather than only rely on any built-in locks. Before choosing your padlocks, check the size and fit of the holes on your case as these vary between gun case makes - for instance Pelican cases may have smaller padlock holes than some other brands.
Check the length of the shackle of the padlocks to be used. If the case itself does get opened but held by the padlocks, there must not be a large enough gap for stuff to be taken out or put in (drugs, for example).
All locks are technically 'pickable' but quality locks will deter most thieves if they look too complicated or hard to bust open.
Look for a padlock with high security features which include shackle ball-bearings, a shrouded shackle and made of a thick metal alloy which makes it hard to cut or drill.
Use a selection of dissimilar padlocks on your gun case. Inconvenient for you perhaps when unlocking the case with various keys/combinations but super-inconvenient for a thief with limited time.
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Hard-Sided Gun Cases For Air Travel
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