Page Updated: Jan 2020
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.
For American hunters, check out the TSA regulations for gun cases and travelling with firearms.
Non-TSA Approved Locks On Gun Cases
There has always been conflicting advice when it comes to the use of TSA approved locks on a gun case. As the law 49 CFR 1540.111 - Carriage of weapons, explosives, and incendiaries by individuals currently states...
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 be 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.
Please note, this page contains affiliate links, which means Shakari Connection receives a commission if you make a purchase using these links.
(Click on images for full details & size options)
The Abus 85 series brass padlocks have a body which is made from solid brass with a hardened steel shackle. The inner components are made from non-corrosive materials. The precision pin cylinder has mushroom counter pins with the paracentric key-way offering greater protection against manipulation. The 85/50 & 85/70 padlocks are suitable to secure valuables/goods of greater value or at a high risk of theft. The padlock locking does not require a key. Buy Now
BEST Access Systems padlocks have a body machined from solid extruded brass. Standard finish is satin chromium plated. The shackle locks at both heel and toe. Buy Now
Squire Tough Lock Series recodeable combination padlocks have no keys to lose. These padlocks have die cast lock bodies with solid steel shackles. These locks can be coded alike so one code can open several locks. Buy Now
Hard-Sided Gun Cases For Air Travel
(Click on images for full details, dimensions & colour options)
Pelican V770 Single Rifle Case
- Made of crushproof high-impact polymer
- Heavy duty handle
- Push button latches
- Stainless steel lock hasps
- Sealed against moisture and dust
- Buy Now
And for 2 rifles, the Pelican - V800 Double Rifle Case
Pelican 1720 Long Case with Foam
- Pelican cases are kept watertight through the use of a tongue and groove fit and a polymer o-ring.
- Comes standard with an Automatic Pressure Equalization Valve which releases built up air pressure while keeping water out.
- Stainless steel reinforced padlock protectors
- Interior Dimensions (inches): 42.00 x 13.50 x 5.25
- Watertight, Crushproof & Dust Proof
- Open Cell Core With Solid Wall Design
- Easy Open Double Throw Latches
- Buy Now
Plano Single Scoped or Double Non-Scoped Rifle Case
- Rifle/shotgun case stores up to two guns up to 50-inch long.
- Heavy-duty latches and comfortable molded-in handle.
- Made of high-density foam inserts.
- Lockable case; airline approved.
- Buy Now
Pelican Storm iM3300 Scoped Rifle Case
- Constructed of robust resin as a barrier against weather, water and rough handling.
- 6 easy-open press & pull latches.
- Customizable foam padding.
- 2 folding soft grip handles.
- In-line wheels.
- Vortex pressure release valve and two lockable hasps.
- TSA approved for air transportation of firearms.
- Buy Now
Pelican 1750 Scoped Rifle Case
- 3 piece foam set.
- Watertight through the use of a tongue and groove fit and a polymer o-ring.
- Automatic Pressure Equalization Valve which releases built up air pressure while keeping water out.
- Stainless steel reinforced padlock protectors.
- Single folding front handle.
- Stainless steel ball-bearing wheels.
- Lifetime guarantee.
- Buy Now
SKB Single Rifle Case
- Ultra High-Strength Polypropylene Copolymer resin.
- UV, solvent, corrosion and fungus resistant.
- Complete Gasket Seal makes these cases absolutely watertight.
- Automatic ambient pressure equalization value.
- Resistant to corrosion and impact damage.
- Buy Now
Soft Gun Cases
- In addition to your hard travel case, always bring a soft case or slip for a scoped rifle for use in the hunting truck if you don't want the rifle to bump around in the metal rifle rack without the extra protection.
- It is important to have a soft rifle case when hunting in southern African countries where you may need to travel on a public road with your rifles in the hunting truck. Legally you must conceal your firearms so make sure they are zipped in the soft case beforehand.
- By the way, if your hunting truck rifle rack hooks are bare metal, ask your PH to wrap them with a strip of rubber tyre inner tube or similar 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).
- Soft rifle cases for Africa do need not have a lot of accessories, straps or pockets. You will not be hunting with it - it's just for protection in the truck or hunting camp. The rifle needs to be accessible quickly and easily so many hunters leave the zip open on the truck.
(Click on images for full details)
Bulldog Scoped Rifle Case
- Full-length zipper with pull
- Zippered accessory pocket
- Soft, fur inner lining for maximum protection
- Fits guns up to 42"
- Buy Now
Allen Daytona Gun Case
- Made from rugged endura fabric with an easy clean lining
- 4 accessory pockets
- Adjustable sling.
- Buy Now
Gunmate Deluxe Scoped Rifle Case
- Rugged padded case
- Full-length zipper opens case flat
- Wrap around web handles
- Buy Now
Boyt Harness Scoped Rifle Case
- Canvas construction
- Cotton batting padding
- Solid brass hardware
- Brass zipper
- Features Italian Harness Leather
- Padded exterior pocket
- Buy Now
More On Travel With Firearms
Back to Top
Travel With Firearms