Hunting season is once more approaching, and some of us will have to undergo the horrors of travel by air in order to go afield. Going up in the unfriendly skies is, by itself, a loathsome experience, but flying with guns is special. As a customer (Why no longer a passenger?) the airlines consider you an annoyance. As a customer flying with a gun, you are considered an armed, probably psychopathic annoyance. This is to distinguish you from the unarmed psychopaths who freak out because the seatback in front of them gets shoved into their spleens.
It is no secret that the airlines detest their customers. Back in the 1970s, the late Harry Reasoner did a very funny TV commentary on this subject, and presented a list of all the things the airlines could do to make our lives more miserable. He was kidding, but every one of them has since come to pass. And this was long, long before the TSA.
Recently, there’s been much ado about airline seats causing customers to freak out. Airline seats are patterned on a device called “The Little Ease,” which was a torture device used in the Tower of London at the time of Henry VIII. It was a steel cage into which you were jammed, and there was room to neither stand nor sit. You were squashed into place and left to go mad, which usually took a couple of days. Airline seats work on the same principle. There’s not much you can do unless you can afford business or first class, or have your legs amputated above the knees.
But to flying with guns.
First, don’t fly with guns. Ship your gun ahead, weeks in advance. Many UPS and FedEx depots will look you right in the face and tell you it’s illegal for them to ship guns, so find a dealer who’ll do it for you. Ship either to your outfitter, or if that’s not an option, find an FFL dealer to whom you can ship and who can hang onto the gun until you get there. They’ll charge you, but so will the airline, and will probably lose your gun in the process.
If you do have to fly with guns, get to the airport early. I don’t mean an hour before flight time, I mean a couple of hours. This is because there’s no standardization of the rules and regulations from airport to airport, and you may have to prove that you’re not a member of ISIS, or that you’ve never traveled to Papua, New Guinea, before you can check in. This takes time.
Never make jokes. Humor at airports is taken as a sign of mental instability or terrorist affiliation. The last time I flew, I asked the person behind the ticket counter if there would be a charge for the use of overhead emergency oxygen masks if they should be used. She did not smile. Instead, she scuttled off to find her supervisor. I took the opportunity to go elsewhere, quickly.
If you make jokes about guns, you’ll get the chance to make new friends at the local jail.
Never lose your temper, no matter what. See the above.
Triple check for ammo, or shells, in your carry-on bag. It gets in there surprisingly often, and will get you both a $250 fine and a permanent place on the TSA s**tlist. Do not pack empty shells for your return trip. They can show up on the X-ray as loose rounds.
Know all regulations pertaining to firearms and be ready to quote them. This is because airline employees and security people often have no idea what the regs are.
Flying with firearms in the U.S. is more of a pain in the ass than flying anywhere else I’ve been to, except England. If you’re going abroad and your papers are in order, it will probably be a lot easier.
And, finally, have hope. The time you spend in an airplane is deducted from your time in hell.