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Travelling with guns – here’s what you need to know

Now life is opening up a bit you may be making plans to travel with your gun. So what's the law on transporting your firearms? Edward Wills offers some tips.

Vintage suitcase

Whilst shooting locally is companionable and familiar, from time to time keen Shots will be keen to get travelling with guns. Whether to investigate shooting in a different type of landscape or a different quarry during a different season. Whatever the reason, all responsible gun owners need to know the legalities. Read on and find out what they are.

opening gun action

You’ll need a robust gunslip

What you need to know about travelling with guns

If you are travelling by plane…

The thing to do is check what the individual airline’s policy is on firearms as some companies do not allow any firearms on the plane. Local policies at the destination may also come into effect. With regard to any international flight it is therefore worth looking at the Transport Security Administration (TSA) rules.

Always allow extra time before the flight departs as there is usually a security staff member dedicated to firearms so you will have to wait until one becomes available. A hard-outer case is advised as leather cases are more susceptible to damage and also look extremely valuable which causes unwanted attention. When packing your gun away I usually bubble wrap each individual section of the gun separately for added protection. Make sure that the case has sufficient locking systems either a coded padlock, keyed or coded locks, or all of the above.

Always keep your shotgun certificate (or firearms licence if you are travelling with a rifle) on your person at all times. It’s also a good idea to have a copy as back up. Take a picture of it on your phone too.

Travelling with guns by air

Check with the airline carrier for the latest rules on travelling with guns

If you are sending your gun abroad…

If you don’t fancy the hassle of seeing your gun onto a plane the next best thing to do is send it via a Registered Firearms Dealer (RFD). This is a relatively stress-free way of ensuring your gun travels from A to B in a secure way.

Firstly, you will need to check the nearest RFDs at home and at your destination and check whether they are able to send it back and forth. Once this is confirmed, the two RFDs in question should be able to pass their details to another so that they can set up the order. All you have to do then is provide your shotgun or firearm licence and your gun packed in a secure hard-backed case and pay a sum to cover the mailing process. Leave enough time for the gun to arrive at the destination as you don’t want to arrive without it being there. Keep in contact with both RFDs ensuring that the order is running smoothly and checking the arrival date.

Q: Can I insure my guns under my car insurance when I am travelling with them?

A: Most gun owners utilise cover provided by their household insurance policies to insure their guns against risks such as damage or theft. Household policies will often have a schedule of named items covered for “all risks” while the items are away from the named property. Sporting equipment can usually be included on such a schedule, and insuring your guns in this way would provide cover for damage while travelling or when the guns are in use.

Discuss the matter with your household insurance provided or your broker. Alternatively, several insurers provide a specific insurance policy that is designed for sporting guns and rifles, and you may wish to investigate this avenue.

Q: Can I take gun cartridges on a plane?

You can take ammunition for sporting firearms in passenger checked-in bagged under IATA regulations, however this is limited to 5kg, which is around 115 standard 12-bore shotgun cartridges. You must pack the ammunition in its original carton, not loosely in a cartridge bag. In addition the cartridges must be packed separately to the firearm, so not in the gun case.

You must declare ammunition and firearms at check-in and before you go check the airline’s rules on carrying dangerous items, as different airlines have different criteria.

Q: Will my firearms and shotgun certificates be valid abroad?

A: The laws on this are frequently changing, particularly with the situation with Brexit, so the best move is to contact the embassy of the consulate or country you are visiting. If you have booked through an agent they will also have up-to-date information. BASC has a useful page with contacts here. Remember that you will also need shooting insurance. 

Q: What about European Firearms Passes?

GB residents who want to travel to the EU with their firearms or shotguns can no longer apply for a European Firearms Pass (EFP). Government advice says: “You can also no longer use an existing EFP to travel to the EU with your firearm or shotgun.

“Instead, you should check the firearms licensing requirements of the EU country you’re travelling to or through, ahead of travelling. You need to apply for consent in line with these requirements and applicable import/export controls. These requirements also apply if you will be in an EU country with your firearm covered by an EFP.”

travelling with guns

You must take reasonable precautions for your gun’s safe custody

Q: Can I leave my shotgun in my car when it’s locked?

A: If you’re travelling up and down the country and staying at hotels you need to break your gun down into at least two parts, so that the whole gun can’t be stolen. Keep the fore-end on your person, leave the barrel in one place and the action in another. If your hotel has a gun safe then make sure you use it.

Q: Can I travel with my guns on the train in Scotland?

A: At the time of writing, ScotRail says: “we have taken the position of not allowing the carriage of licensed firearms on our services.”