Traveling with an Air Rifle Tips

(Keith Knoblach started this based on his experiences in traveling to Italy for the 2011 Worlds.  Other content has been added as suggested.  If you have thoughts or suggestions, please feel free to contribute.)

  1. If travelling internationally, get all necessary forms from the host country early. Also back that up with a call to the host county embassy here in the US and make sure you're not missing anything. Event organizers can often provide most of the required information for getting a rifle into their country. Avoid any but direct routings if flying if your itinerary takes to other countries where gun laws may require processes or permissions for which you are not prepared.

  2. You'll need to get a US Customs form 4457 signed in-person by a Customs officer prior to leaving. This is so that you can get your gun back into the US without paying duty (especially applicable to guns made outside of the US; ditto for cameras and other foreign-made items). Once you have this form, hang on to it as it can be reused. This is a 5 minute deal and can be done on departure day, BUT MAKE SURE you have a Customs Office available at your departure airport. Call the office directly, and DO NOT DEPEND on information from your airline regarding availability.

  3. Get the best gun case you can. Get the best locks that are TSA-approved. Sometimes, your gun can be inspected after you have locked the case and the TSA inspector may be challenged in re-latching the case. The locks and case locking tabs may be the only things keeping your equipment from spilling out.

  4. When checking an air rifle (in the US, at least), simply declare, "I have a rifle to check."  Do not say the word "air." 

  5. PCP guns with attached tanks pass inspection with relative ease (again, this is a "rifle" not an "airgun"). Extra tanks will cause problems in the US so either live with a single, attached tank or ship extra tanks. The regulations say that any tank must be inspectable -- in practice, attached tanks are part of the gun and are not inspected. In any case, if possible carry the tools to allow for TSA inspection.

  6. The gun is going to slow you down. It can take an hour just to find out where you need to pick a gun up at an international airport. If the airline tells you it's no problem, don't believe them and grab a tight connection. Try to find out ahead of time if the ammo can be carried with the gun in it's case. The gun may not arrive where you have been told -- while they may tell you to go to the "special handling" area (think skis or oversize luggage), it may just as likely arrive in baggage.

  7. Make sure you understand the host country's gun carrying responsibilities. Some will require that you book a hotel with a gun safe.

  8. Know how to say "Air Rifle", in the host county language (unless the host country is the US, then just "rifle").

  9. Some countries have strict rules on the power of airguns.  For instance, those guns with less than 12FPE may be legal, but guns over that limit may require (very) special handling. Check before you travel!  Similar, but far lower FPE values, may apply to air pistols.