Travelling with your gun can be a hassle but, as Dominic Griffith says, it’s not what you pack but the way that you pack it that reduces stress

Travelling with your gun can make for a stressful journey, with various legal requirements and airline rules to adhere to. Dominic Griffith gives his advice on how to avoid stress while travelling with your gun.

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TRAVELLING WITH YOUR GUN

Anyone who has travelled with shotguns or rifles will have an implausible story to tell of inefficiency or inconsistency. With any luck they will also have enjoyed the odd hassle-free encounter with knowledgeable airport security staff that eased what could otherwise have been a stressful journey while travelling with your gun.

Travelling with your gun. Padlock

The key to travelling with your gun is preparation and knowing the rules.

A detailed understanding of the law is a prerequisite to travelling with your gun but, in addition to the fundamental international and national legal requirements, individual airlines and airports will have their own rules and guidelines which must be satisfied, and the pilots themselves may even have the power of veto on the carriage of firearms. Local rules at the destination may also apply. With regard to any international flight it is therefore worth looking at the Transport Security Administration (TSA) rules as well as national or local guidelines.

The key to a relatively stress-free flight while travelling with your gun most certainly lies in the preparation. Even though each airline’s policy on travelling with your gun is usually available on its website, common to all is the advice to “notify before you fly”. The airline will then request information on the type of firearms and ammunition to be transported and remind you of the required documentation. All also suggest you allow extra time at check-in, because security staff either have to be specially assigned at the smaller airports or because only a few of the larger airport security staff are dedicated to firearms and may be delayed travelling between airport terminals and the various airlines that are requiring their services.

TRAVELLING WITH YOUR GUN: THE FLIGHT CASE

A flight case is essential to satisfy security when travelling with your gun but also to protect a valuable and vulnerable piece of kit, be it a work of art or a “working implement”. It should be hard-shelled and lockable and this does not necessarily discount traditional old leather motor cases, although I am informed that Southampton will now reject these. Another compelling reason never use an original leather case when travelling with your gun is the damage that the case itself may receive. On a flight from Ireland a friend’s modern aluminium hard case was subjected to what can only have been a prolonged and deliberate attempt to damage it and, in that, it was largely successful – the shotgun contained within only just avoiding serious harm while the case itself was rendered unusable. Similar stresses might occur on a bush plane, so the case must match up to the environment it is likely to meet.

Travelling with your gun. Bottle

You can use your gun case to transport other breakable goods.

A modern flight case will therefore almost certainly be constructed from either plastic or aluminium and will be lightweight. It will have integral combination and/or key locks, separate shutting clasps and possibly a number of holes for heavy-duty padlocks. Of all the various considerations that you will have to weigh up, length is probably the first. Owning a rifle that can be “taken down” (barrel removed from the stock with a single nut/screw with no risk of loss of zero), such as a Blaser, is vital for travelling with your gun. Not only can you walk through an international terminal without advertising the fact that you are carrying a firearm, but you can use the same case for either rifle or shotgun.

I will never forget travelling economy from Frankfurt with a BSA 7×57 in a long case, only to endure the gasps of anguish from the queuing crowds as the case was run through the security scanner which was broadcast via large screens throughout the departure lounge. Discretion is everything when travelling with a gun and one broken down to its composite pieces is much less identifiable than the assembled whole. On the other hand, a long rifle case will usually twin as a suitable double case for a pair of assembled shotguns, though short alternatives are available for a pair of disassembled shotguns.

Travelling with your gun. Plane

Generally, the smaller the airport the better the treatment when you are travelling with your gun.

The great thing about most modern flight cases is that they are by no means prohibitively expensive, ranging from under £100 to usually no more than £300. As long as you avoid weight restrictions, the case can also be used to transport other valuable or breakable goods when travelling with your gun.

The interior of the case will probably be of dense corrugated, ribbed or “egg” foam which will ensure that the gun or loose components are clamped within the case and cannot slide around, and will provide protection against aggressive or hostile handling. A step up in price will buy you a custom-made case where the foam is pre-formed to accommodate your particular rifle and associated equipment.

TRAVELLING WITH YOUR GUN: CASES ON THE MARKET

From the wide range of products on the market, a good start would be the range of Buffalo River rifle and shotgun cases from Highland Outdoors, of black and aluminium construction and with a double-locking system of two keys and two combination locks.

For value for money, the aluminium long flight case from Cases and Enclosures, suitable for rifle or shotgun and with combination locks only, must be a contender.

Travelling with your gun. Cases

Cases and Enclosures flight case.

Uttings offers the range of Napier aluminium-framed travel cases with key locks. Two versions for travelling with your gun are available: the short case will take a pair of shotguns with up to 32in barrels or a take-down rifle, and the long version will take a standard rifle or single assembled shotgun.

Those who own really valuable rifles or shotguns might want to adopt the belt-and-braces approach and invest in Holland & Holland’s specially designed aluminium travel case. By no means cheap but offering “the absolute protecting of your treasured shotguns and rifles”, the foam inner is individually cut to the form of your own gun or guns. The cases are available in five sizes covering single shotgun, double shotgun, double rifle, take-down rifle or full-length rifle. Worth considering, too, are its three combination lock plastic travel cases in single shotgun, double shotgun or full-length rifle. They’re rugged, tough, and competitively priced.

Worth a mention is the new version of John Hammond’s quadpod, which I reviewed last year. It’s simply the best stick I have ever used for stable standing shots and is now available as the “Journey” model. Constructed of carbon fibre and aluminium, 200g lighter than the original and breaking down into three pieces with an overall length of 65cm, it will fit into most full-length and take-down gun cases and make travelling with a stalking stick easy.

Travelling with your gun. Holland and Holland

Holland & Holland aluminium case.

A case that caught my eye, and suitable for either rifle or shotgun, was the Peli 1750, mostly because of the additional protection offered. Constructed from ultra-high-impact copolymer, it is sold as unbreakable, watertight, airtight, dustproof, chemical resistant and corrosion proof, designed to withstand impact, vibration, shock and water. Could this make it ideal for a bush plane? More expensive than a standard case but well worth consideration, and available in black, green or tan.

Whatever case you buy, it will never entirely remove the stress of travelling with a gun. Generally, the smaller the airport the better the treatment and I was particularly encouraged by the almost VIP treatment, with interest and enthusiasm, that I received at Southampton. Heathrow can be difficult and Russia intimidating when travelling with your gun, but think of it as a privilege rather than a right and you will be better prepared for the challenge.

TRAVELLING WITH YOUR GUN: BEST CASE SCENARIO

BUFFALO RIVER HARD CASES
from Highland Outdoors  
Single Rifle Case: RRP £72
Take-Down Rifle Case: RRP £57
Shotgun Case: RRP £65
www.highlandoutdoors.co.uk

ALUMINIUM FLIGHT CASE
from Cases and Enclosures  
Rifle/Shotgun Case: RRP £42
www.cases-and-enclosures.co.uk

NAPIER ALUMINIUM-FRAMED TRAVEL CASES
from Uttings    
Double Shotgun/ Take-down Rifle Case: RRP £110
Single Rifle/Shotgun Case: RRP £135
www.uttings.co.uk

HOLLAND & HOLLAND TRAVEL CASES
Plastic Travel Case: RRP £190
Aluminium Travel Case: RRP £600
www.hollandandholland.com

THE VIPER-FLEX “JOURNEY” QUADPOD 
RRP £250
www.hammondsporting.co.uk

THE PELI 1750 WATERPROOF CASE
RRP £260
www.waterproof-cases.co.uk

  • Matthew O’Sullivan
  • Debbie Phillips

    I cannot find anything that answers to whether Britrail will accept a locked gun case on their trains in Brittain and Scotland.
    Would you have any knowledge of their policy ? I have even contacted them directly and they do not have a clue. At least that was for Britrail in the US.
    thanks

  • John Shinn

    I have travelled to South Africa every year for the last five years with sporting rifles and never had any problems. The first time was the longest delay, caused by my luggage being last on the carousel so I was behind six American visitors at the firearms desk and one had incorrect paperwork. Also, the RSA firearms law had just changed and the police were unsure of the procedure. Delay was two hours. I was processed in fifteen minutes. Since then, NO problems. Twenty minutes from collecting luggage to meeting my host at Cape Town, and this April about ten minutes to clear firearms at Jo’berg. Airline was SAA each time.
    Many thanks for an interesting, well researched article.