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Flying to a Match

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I will be flying to a match for the first time this year. The thought of reducing all my 3-Gun match logistics to something that can survive the TSA and a cameo appearance in a 1970's American Tourister commercial is, well, daunting...

I have the Pelican case. I will pre-ship as much of my ammo as possible and buy the rest (probably birdshot) at a local sporting goods mega-mart, I suppose. What else do I need to do to have this go as smoothly as possible? How do folks sort and pack their stuff to minimize travel difficulties?

Two specific questions:

(1) Has anybody checked a big long gun case with Delta? Did they charge the oversize bag fee even though it is a special "sporting goods" item? (Golf clubs apparently get around the oversize charge, but it is not clear if other sporting goods do.)

(2) Anybody out there used and have opinions on the various luggage tracking devices (like TrakDot)?

Thanks!

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I flew Delta across the pond going to the Nordic Rifle Championship in Finland last August. The only charged me the extra bag fee for the rifle case (one extra bag = $100). Since I could not ship ammo, I took my allowed 11 lbs. with me in a separate case (Air France would not allow ammo in with personal belongings, people here would not allow ammo in with the gun). The second extra bag (ammo case) cost an extra $285. Good news was that I put the little Pelican case that I carried ammo in into my suitcase for the ride home, I used all of the ammo that I took over in the match. Checking the gun with Delta was easy, you just need to notify them after you buy your ticket that you will be travelling with a firearm (before you arrive at the airport). I printed their rules and had them in my backpack, but I didn't need them on this trip. It pays to know the rules and be patient, because I don't think most airline workers know the rules. Allow plenty of time for them to call a supervisor or look things up in a manual. All of that said, I didn't experience any real delays and everyone that I encountered was courteous.

Hurley

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I have flown several times to majors. As Hurley stated be ready to have someone working there that knows nothing about firearms rules. Be patient and pleasant with them, no need to paint a negative attitude towards people flying with guns.

I have been charged the oversized fee once. It seems that it may vary on who is working the counter/what airport you are at. I've had to pull everything out for inspection before and sometimes they don't seem to care much at all.

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I fly Southwest for matches. No fees on 2 checked bags. I do use a SKB hard golf bag case with a Brownell's 3 gun case inside. Have never had a problem with flying Southwest.

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3200 Storm is oversize, 3100 Storm is ok size. Seen more guys gigged for overweight than L+W+D issues. I fly matches a lot. 3100 works, break down the long guns. Take pistol ammo and box of rifle ammo, in suitcase. Ship shotgun ammo to yourself at the hotel you will be staying. Have plan B and C for shotgun ammo. Get there early to check in. Southwest if you can. They don't go everywhere. If you don't have a UPS account, make one. Really makes shipping ammo a breeze.

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3200 Storm is oversize, 3100 Storm is ok size. Seen more guys gigged for overweight than L+W+D issues. I fly matches a lot. 3100 works, break down the long guns. Take pistol ammo and box of rifle ammo, in suitcase. Ship shotgun ammo to yourself at the hotel you will be staying. Have plan B and C for shotgun ammo. Get there early to check in. Southwest if you can. They don't go everywhere. If you don't have a UPS account, make one. Really makes shipping ammo a breeze.

Ive flown quite a bit with a few different airlines with my 3300 and never been dinged for overweight or oversize, guess Ive been lucky.

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3200 Storm is oversize, 3100 Storm is ok size. Seen more guys gigged for overweight than L+W+D issues. I fly matches a lot. 3100 works, break down the long guns. Take pistol ammo and box of rifle ammo, in suitcase. Ship shotgun ammo to yourself at the hotel you will be staying. Have plan B and C for shotgun ammo. Get there early to check in. Southwest if you can. They don't go everywhere. If you don't have a UPS account, make one. Really makes shipping ammo a breeze.

Ive flown quite a bit with a few different airlines with my 3300 and never been dinged for overweight or oversize, guess Ive been lucky.

Yup. Me, Bennie Cooley, Rob Romero, Jansen Jones, TNTC One time it was 100.00 per segment, Delta. 400.00 total. So I just learned to pack real light.

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3200 Storm is oversize, 3100 Storm is ok size. Seen more guys gigged for overweight than L+W+D issues. I fly matches a lot. 3100 works, break down the long guns. Take pistol ammo and box of rifle ammo, in suitcase. Ship shotgun ammo to yourself at the hotel you will be staying. Have plan B and C for shotgun ammo. Get there early to check in. Southwest if you can. They don't go everywhere. If you don't have a UPS account, make one. Really makes shipping ammo a breeze.

Ive flown quite a bit with a few different airlines with my 3300 and never been dinged for overweight or oversize, guess Ive been lucky.

Yup. Me, Bennie Cooley, Rob Romero, Jansen Jones, TNTC One time it was 100.00 per segment, Delta. 400.00 total. So I just learned to pack real light.

Ive seen them weigh it several times without dinging me for it, 75lbs I think is the record so far :)

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I think its' because you're scary looking and look operator. My local airport was the worst. The major airports seem to do this less than the local. Although Phoenix was a real ball buster one time leaving. Like 10 shooters flying out in same line and 6 or 7 got dinged. Once was enough for me.

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I too have a pelican case but I bought a patriot case from Brack Wilson that has pre cut high density foam in it. It will hold a soft case in the lid, all 3 guns and a few accessories. I used to use the pelican with no foam and my gubs kinda loose inside my soft case and like the security of the precut foam way more. Get a set of 3-4 similarly keyed master locks for your gun case. No TSA locks. Carry two sets of keys on you. You'll want to keep all of your bags under 50lbs. Overweight is more expensive then another whole bag. I join the airline miles programs as they often allow an extra checked bag for being a member. Depending on how much you plan to travel even the $3-400 elite airline credit card/programs may actually save you money. I know they do for me. I carry a descent sized carry on and put my belt, shell caddy's and mag pouches in it to make room for the weight of my clothing, rain gear, boots, shoes, etc. Ship ammo or buy local upon arrival. When you walk up to check in at the airline desk inform them that you're flying with firearms. They will always give you an info card to fill out and sign. Some uneducated personnel may ask you to show them your guns are empty. The educated ones just ask. Allow an extra 15-30 minutes to unlock, fill out card, and relics all 3-4 locks. I think that about covers it.

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I think its' because you're scary looking and look operator. My local airport was the worst. The major airports seem to do this less than the local. Although Phoenix was a real ball buster one time leaving. Like 10 shooters flying out in same line and 6 or 7 got dinged. Once was enough for me.

Im a thin and pale computer geek, pretty much as far from operator as you can get :)

Ive had good experiences at PHX, so I guess it's more depending on the airline you fly with than the airport.

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I live in Phoenix and work in Atlanta. I fly back home at least twice a month, ferrying various firearms back and forth while doing so, including flying back home for my old local 3 gun matches. I can get all 3 guns, all mags and pistol/rifle ammo in my pelican 3300 and be right at 50 lbs, without the locks on. I have been over before with other guns in there, but southwest has never charged me. I've only been up to 62 lbs though(I did get charged an extra bag fee for a fly rod case once, never did understand that one). I actually have a stack of the cards that need filled out, and show up with them already filled out. Makes things go extremely smoothe. Anyways, here are a few things to remember:

  • Print out 3 copies of both the airline's & TSA's rules/laws regarding flying with firearms and ammunition. Keep one with the guns/ammo and the other two in your carry on. It helps when dealing with people who have never checked one in, or are anti-gun.
  • Do not check in your firearms at the curbside check in. It may be allowed by your airline, but I know for several it is not. Again, check their rules.
  • Do NOT use TSA locks on your hard case with firearms inside. The law clearly states that you, and only you, are allowed to control access into the container. Twice I've had to open the case when it failed the wipe down, and both times I have had to enter the screening area and open the case for them. Again, read the rules adn laws.
  • Your hard sided case and manner of locking must be up to par. When locked, if the case can be opened and a wedge be inserted to slide a gun or ammo out, it likely will not pass.
  • If transporting a hard sided pistol case inside your soft shell luggage, I highly suggest an additional cable bike lock. Wrap it through the case handle and around the frame of the luggage's extending handle. Remember, the hard shell case gets the padlocks, the softshell luggage gets the TSA locks.
  • Once you approach the ticketing agent, it is highly suggested that you use the phrase "I'd like to declare a firearm for check in" rather than "I have a gun". Having a stack of the cards required in the case pre filled out and handing them the card along with your ID helps speed up the process.
  • Triple check your range bag, holsters and other gear for a loose round. Once again, the law clearly stipulates the approved containers that ammunition must be transported in. Having a loose round in your luggage or gun case will keep it from being put on the plane. And if you are running a tight schedule, there will liekly not be sufficient time for you to be contacted, exit the secure area, remedy the situation and then clear back through security.
  • Do not mark the case in anyway as containing firearms. The airlines and TSA are not allowed to do. If they do, show them the laws you have printed out.
  • Once you have locked your case back up with the paperwork inside, you will either be directed or escorted to the TSA screening area for large items. DO NOT leave until the TSA agent has tested your case, attached the little orange sticker and given you verbal confirmation that your case has passed and you are free to proceed to go.
  • Do not freak out if your large case does not hit the conveyor belt with your main luggage. I have been told by employees that the airlines tend to not put them on there due to the large locks cutting up the conveyor belts, and that if they even suspect that the case may contain firearms, it has to remain under their direct control(seperate holding area or in baggage claim office) until a valid calim ticket is presented.

As a side note, I highly suggest verifying your airlines lost luggage policy. Though I have never had an issue with my firearms(did with the above mentioned fly rod case), the standard limit on coverage may not cover the contents of the case. I've met enough good folks in this game that I am sure I would have no issues borrowing guns for a match should my case get lost, but the thought of having to replace several thousand dollars worth of gear above the covered amount is not a nice thought to have. I highly recommend asking your ticketing agent about adding excess valuation to your checked bags. It cost me less than a meal in the airport and I know I'm fully covered. If I was running open class race guns, I would suggest additional insurance coverages.

Hope this helps.

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I won't be flying commercial airlines again with my camera gear or firearms.  If it doesn't fit in my airplane, I drive the Yukon XL.

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