1. DO declare your firearms with US Customs, on Customs Form 4457, each and every
time you travel outside the United States. Do this even if it means you have to fly to
an international gateway city, claim your firearms, take them to US Customs and recheck
them. Do this even if your local US Customs agent is misinformed and tells
you otherwise. Failing to do this may not lead to your being charged with a serious
crime, but some hunters and shooters are being charged. Do you want to take a
2. DO NOT take more than three firearms with you out of the country, and do not
attempt to return with more than that. Three is the allowable limit.
3. DO take the initiative and tell your check-in agent when you arrive at the counter
that you have a firearm and that it is unloaded. Volunteer to sign a declaration to
that effect. Of course, be absolutely sure that your firearm is unloaded, and that
there is no spent cartridge in the chamber. (Don't laugh - careless hunters and those
who use a spent cartridge to protect their firing pin while dry-firing have walked up
to airline counters and signed false declarations that their firearms were unloaded.)
4. DO NOT use the word "gun" (as in "I have a gun") with airline professionals. Use the
term "sporting firearm" or, simply, "firearm" when dealing with airline professionals.
Everyone in airports these days is jumpy. Don't ask for trouble by using a term that
triggers emotions and fears among some people.
5. DO make sure your ammunition is packed in the original manufacturer's carton, or in
some other kind of container that holds each round separate from the other. Be
prepared for all sorts of instructions about where the properly packaged ammunition
should be placed. Most airlines will allow you to carry it in one of your bags, separate
from your gun case.
6. DO NOT attempt to take more than five kilos (just over 11 pounds) of ammunition
on board an aircraft.
7. DO follow all reasonable instructions given to you by airline professionals and be
polite and courteous to them, even if their nervousness, fear or "attitude" about
firearms gets under your skin. An airport is no place to win ideological fights. Join
the NRA to do that. Upgrade your membership. Donate to the organization. In an
airport, your objective is to get your firearm and yourself aboard the plane.
8. DO NOT follow clearly wrong and/or ridiculous firearms-related instructions that will
get you in trouble at the gate, or on arrival. Example: A Hunting Report subscriber
several years ago was ordered to place his ammunition in his carry-on bag and take
it with him into the passenger cabin. Predictably, the x-ray machine picked up the
ammunition and a hullabaloo ensued. This happened pre-September 11. There is no
telling what would happen today to a traveller who attempted to do this.
9. DO put all your firearms and shooting-related equipment in your gun case or in your
checked (and securely locked) bags - including, the bolt of your rifle, your twist-off
scope, your laser rangefinder, etc. All of the items are expensive, or course, and it's
tempting to keep them in your possession. But airport personnel now are jumpy, and
you risk missing a flight, or getting your name entered into a terrorist database, by
trying to carry anything "scary" into the passenger cabin. Example: A Hunting Report
subscriber this past month nearly missed a flight in Europe when British Airways
security personnel found a laser rangefinder in his carry-on bag.
10. DO try to find out if all of the airlines you intend to fly on a given trip have unusual
(or ridiculous) firearms policies. Example: KLM used to require travellers to make an
advance-reservation for their firearms, but it had no system for notifying travellers
of the requirement. The upshot was, over the years, many safaris were ruined.
Another example: Aeroflot just imposed a huge security fee on travellers with
firearms whose trips originate and terminate within the Russian Federation. The fee
is 9 percent of the one-way economy fare for every kilo of firearms and ammunition
a traveller wants to transport.
11. DO NOT assume you can circumvent unusual and/or ridiculous airline firearms
regulations by paying a bribe, flying first class or just showing up and pleading
ignorance. That's a good way to have your guns seized and your trip ruined. It's also
a good way to get in real trouble.
12. DO find out what the firearms entry regulations are in your destination country and
make every effort to abide by those regulations even if anecdotal evidence indicates
that the regulations are being widely ignored by border personnel. Example:
Argentina just pushed through new gun-import permit procedures, and put
consulates around the world in charge of issuing them. It has been slow to tell
consulates about the new procedures. Meanwhile, at least some border agents are
waving firearms through at point of entry. Our advice? Ignore what border agents
are doing and focus on the fact that a new law is in place, and it will be enforced at
some point. Keep trying until you reach someone who will help you be in complete
compliance at port of entry.