Traveling with Firearms

by david on April 19, 2012

Today I want to talk a little about traveling with firearms.  Most of us who have been to Africa before are familiar with most or all of the rules and regulations of traveling with firearms.  I recently learned of a new bump in the road and I wanted to pass this along.  There is a transit permit that is being suggested for travel to hunting destinations through Frankfurt Germany.  It is my understanding that this form is not currently required but it is suggested to possibly avoid confusion and potential problems.  It would be a shame to be held up because some official is mistaken about the requirements and miss your flight or worse yet have your guns temporarily impounded.  The form is basically four sections; one for your name and address, one each for your outbound and return legs of your trip, and one for firearm information.  It looks pretty straight forward and I’ll be sure and report back if I have any problems.

I also should reiterate what I said in my book about the value of using a Travel Agency specializing in hunting while planning hunting trip.  I would have never heard of this form until it was perhaps too late if it were not for the good folks at Gracy Travel.  Kudos to Debbie and her team for once again keeping me out of a mess that I never know was there.

Traveling with firearms is not difficult if you are informed and obey the rules.  For the rest of today’s entry I want to give you a brief description of what I do to travel with firearms. First off as I am loading my gun case into my vehicle to head to the airport I confirm that my bolts are out of the rifles and my case is unlocked.  One suggestion here is if you have a few of the drawstring cloth bags that once contained a bottle of your favorite beverage, place them in the gun case as well.  I’ll explain what for in a minute.  As soon as I step up to the check-in counter at the airport I declare that I have firearms and wish to check them through to my final destination.  The ticket agent will hand you a declaration form for you to sign.  This form simply states that the firearms are unloaded and safe.  They will ask you to open the case for a visual inspection and to place the declaration form inside.  If you do not have TSA locks on your case, ask if a TSA agent can come inspect the case before it leaves your possession.  I have had to return to the counter (yes back through security) to unlock the case for the TSA to inspect after the bag was checked and processed at the ticket counter.  They may not accommodate you but at least you have made the effort.  Now I’ll explain about the little bags.  Once I am done with the check in / TSA processes; I will take the rifle bolts, drop them in their own little bag (socks work too), pull the string to close the top, place them back into the gun case, and lock the whole thing up.  This helps to keep them from vibrating up against the rifle and wearing the finish off during the trip.  Once your gun case is on the conveyer belt with the appropriate destination baggage labels it you should be done until you get your destination.

Each country is a little different but the procedure should be something along these lines.  You will either claim your guns at the baggage claim or the airline will deliver them directly to the police / security checkpoint.  At this point they will ask you to unlock the case, show them your passport / ID and more than likely want to look at US Customs form 4457.
With this form they will check the serial numbers on the firearms to make sure you are claiming the right guns and officially record who brought what into the country.  MAKE sure all of
the paperwork that is supposed to be filled out is filled out and what is supposed to be blank is blank.  Again Gracy Travel keeps me out of trouble before I have a chance to get into trouble by letting me know how to fill out all forms.  The whole check in process should take less than 5 minutes once you get to the front of the line.

Going back is as every bit as easy.  The personnel at the police / security station will make sure the guns you came in with are going back with you and sign off on the paperwork.  Take the paperwork to the check in counter check your bag through and get on the plane.  When you arrive back in the US you claim your bags and head off to Customs and Immigrations.  Once there show them your form 4457, your passport and you should be good to go.  One little piece of advice here about dealing with the Customs and Immigrations staff on both sides of the Atlantic.  BE POLITE.  I don’t care how tired you are, they may be just as tired and having a rotten day.  A smile, good manners, and no bad attitude will go an amazingly long way to making your experience with them a pleasant and hassle free one.

One little side note here about your ammunition.  As you know it must travel in your other checked bag separate from the firearms.  What you may not know is it may have to be in a locked box inside your locked luggage.  You are also limited to 11 pounds of ammunition in total.  I use a plastic pistol storage box with one or both pieces of foam rubber removed.  Add a cheap TSA lock and you have a cheap lightweight lockbox that you can return to a pistol box when you get back.

See you across the big pond,

David B.


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