Muzzleloaders on a Plane

Not as catchy as “Snakes on a Plane,” but even more dangerous?

If you take a muzzleloader on an airplane, that airplane will blow up. This was the thrust of the information I gathered online the night before packing up my muzzleloader to head to Kansas for an early-season whitetail hunt.

It was 9 p.m. on Sunday night, and I was just getting started packing for a flight that left at 8 a.m. the next day. I was employing the packing system that has served me so miserably for so long that it feels disloyal to abandon it. What I do is open a big duffle bag and run around the house throwing crap into it that I might possibly need, such as clothing or shoes. When the bag is full, I’m done. This, incidentally, is how you can go on a 10-day trip with a single pair of socks.

But I digress. I have traveled with firearms before and know the drill. Firearm goes in a locked case, no more than 20 rounds of ammo go in your checked luggage, either in the original box or in something that looks like it was designed to hold bullets. But I wanted to be sure, so I Googled “take a muzzleloader on an airplane.” What I got were about 60 sites telling me, frantically in most cases, not to. It wasn’t worth the risk. Apparently, you aren’t allowed to take “gunpowder” on planes  (despite the fact that many modern bullets contain it). In some cases you aren’t allowed to be in possession of “bullets,” despite the fact that many modern firearms fire things known as “bullets.”  (You’ll have to allow me some latitude here, since I’m in a farmhouse that is unacquainted with the internet. But I swear I read that gunpowder and bullets are prohibited.)

Several sites and forums told stories of guys being charged with felony possession of gunpowder and/or bullets and being arrested on the spot. Even primers are taboo, since they, too, contain gunpowder. The propellants most modern muzzleloading hunters use—White Hots, Triple Se7en, etc.—are not true gunpowder but may be deemed so by the TSA. (Even though Triple Se7en’s label says “Not smokeless powder, but approved to ship (DOT) and store (NFPA) as such.”

Even the inert pieces of metal, like the .50-caliber PowerBelt copper hollow points I’m shooting in my CVA Accura V2, may be banned, since the packaging says “bullets.”

“It all depends on the individual TSA officer you get,” wrote one guy. Bottom line, nearly everyone agreed, you might well get away with it. (When I checked my rifle in, the ticket agent looked at it, asked me if it was loaded, then took me to have the bag put on the plane without further questions.) But those are dice you might not want to roll.

Since, I’m away from the web, I can’t quote chapter and verse. No doubt, some of you will write in to point out any and all errors I’m making here. That’s fine. Have at it.

My larger purpose is to warn anyone thinking about traveling with a muzzleloader to do your homework before you get to the airport. After that, it may be too late.