Traveling with firearms can be easy and inexpensive. Have the weapon unloaded (duh), use a hard lockable case, and store your ammo in its original carton in a separate bag. These three precautions will handle most airline requirements. Selecting a protective case can be just as simple and can save you money in the long run. I’m a cheapskate and take every precaution to avoid extra baggage fees, so if you’re filthy rich, you won’t like my advice. Otherwise, keep these variables in mind as you choose:
Weight: Airlines allow 50 lbs. per bag. If your case weights 25 lbs., you may have leeway for two rifles, but little else. Personally, I want a case that weighs 15 lbs. or less and only want a protective shell and a good locking system.
Space: Your case should be long enough to handle your rifle without breaking it down unless it’s an over/under or a model designed to do so. I always carry a rifle in a soft case inside of a hard case. This way I have a soft case for vehicle travel and extra padding in flight. Use a double-gun case and you and a buddy can share the baggage fee.
Material: Aluminum is stronger, but plastic weighs less. On my first flight to Africa, in 1994, I transported a fiberglass case containing two bows, a Remington rifle, and two muzzleloaders. The weight limit back then was 70 lbs., yet today I routinely carry one or two rifles and a bow in one case, using my hunting clothes as padding and to save weight. I’ll put a hunting boot over the butt and muzzle of the rifle inside the hard case.
Consider a Bow Case or Hard Golf Bag: Some airlines are known for their rough handling of gun cases, often purposefully, but baggage handlers may be less aggressive toward a bow case or locked golf box. Avoid putting “Eat more Bambi” stickers on the outside.
Here are three excellent choices for your next hunting vacation:
Plano Protector Double Gun with protective pillars | Americase AT5216LW 2-rifles w/scope & wheels | Pelican iM3300 Dry Box (water tight and guaranteed for life)