Friday, September 17, 2021

TSA Approved Locks

 We're planning a trip in late September to the Reno, NV area for a big shooting competition.

We're flying commercially, the first time since 2009.  It was a horrid experience then, and this time we're flying with firearms, which lends itself to a whole new set of challenges and bureaucratic requirements. I have done my homework and believe that I have what I need.

I bought some "TSA approved locks" and if I had to describe them with one word, that word would be "chickenshit".  I was once responsible for security of weapons, and I know what good padlocks look like.  These are not those.  If the TSA is counting on these little locks to secure my firearms, then we are both delusional.

What am I missing?


markshere2 said...

Best defense is camouflage.

I have a beat up, locking metal toolbox. It looks nothing like a gun case.

The gun goes in it and i declare it. I do NOT let them put a "firearm inside" sticker on it.

I never take a firearm I cannot afford to replace.

Of course that was before Fauci started forcing people to be vaxxed in order to fly.

My flying days are over until the rules change back.

azbigdaddy said...

The TSA lock is for you suitcase. I have a gun safe with a cable that wraps around the metal framework of the suitcase. I have the only key to the gun safe. When you check in declare you are transporting a weapon. They will take you to a secure area. They will open the TSA lock then have you unlock the gun case. Weapon must have slide open, clip empty. After inspection, they will have you lock the gun case, they will lock the suitcase and take your bag to check in. You may transport ammo in the same suitcase as your gun safe locked weapon.

DaveS said...

Check with your airline. I've traveled a fair bit with guns on airlines - I always used two good padlocks on my cases. No TSA lock required on the gun case.

Jonathan H said...

You have to declare guns, use a sturdy case, and real locks.
The casyis supposed to be approved for air travel, but I've never seen them check.

bolomk1 said...

Once you show them what you have and check through you can put any lock on it you want.
TSA has no need to open it once it is checked.

Anonymous said...

Ditto on the above- you don't use TSA locks on a suitcase with firearms.
Check the TSA rules, and also check your airline's rules.
Print out both, and that way if someone disagrees you can pull that out and show you're complying with both sets of rules (they are similar but usually not the same)

I've seen the airlines and TSA do things randomly differently from each other at different airports. Just make sure you're coloring within the lines of the TSA and the airline rules, and other than that, just go with what they tell you to do.
You'll have to declare the firearm when you get to the airline counter, they almost always ask if it's unloaded and have you sign a form that gets taped to the gun container (sometimes they've insisted it goes in the container, usually it gets taped to the outside of the container)
Sometimes they walk you and the bag over to TSA to run it through the scanner, sometimes they instead ask you to hang around somewhere else until after TSA runs it. Whatever.

Mr. Engineering Johnson said...

As others have noted, the TSA locks are for your suitcase, not your firearm case. If you pick through the TSA regs, only YOU are allowed to have the keys to the gun, that means the TSA cannot have them.

I’ve never flown through your airport, so I don’t know what level of stupid to expect, but in theory, when you check in you should wait for the TSA to X-ray your bag and A: tell you OK, go to your flight or B: ask you to unlock the bag so they can chemical swab it in your presence and have you relock it before proceeding as usual.

My preferred method used to be a large, beaten up, hard side briefcase with remnants of tape and some stenciled lettering on it that implied something different as the contents. It was a built in, sturdy combo lock so it wasn’t obvious that it was locked to a casual observer. (Big heavy padlocks on a bag are a giveaway)

I ALWAYS had my cell number on the case by the lock. Made it really obvious. That way if TSA wanted to inspect it at any point they could call me. Do not give anyone the combo. Put it in yourself and afterwards, scramble it and make sure it is latched.

Other reliable approach is a small hard side box inside a larger suitcase. TSA locks outside for casual thieves. Real locks inside. Shackle, cable, or zip tie the small case to your suitcase frame. Anything that requires time or inhibits concealment is your friend.

Reno is a fairly small airport, so low risk, but the last trick to watch for is someone putting your bag on the wrong belt for retrieval by an accomplice. This is the biggest reason to keep your bag looking innocuous.

Reno used to be pretty chill about checked firearms. That was 10 years ago. Don’t know about nowadays.


Jonathan H said...

If you're flying out of Reno soon, beware that they are having fuel problems and cancelling many outgoing flights.
I'll be nearby (relatively). Where is the competition itself?

Unknown # 4B, Jr. said...

Very good advice above; Be aware of where the plane MIGHT land instead of your destination. LA-NV direct is over "America" so there's little chance of a problem, but a divert to a California airport might be a problem. And, a non-direct flight that goes through "not America" especially if there's a layover or plane change, can very easily be a problem.

Also, check how that airline handles "secure luggage;" it's supposed to go to a supervised claim location where it's secured and monitored but it's not unheard of to have such luggage wind up on the carousel with everyone else's luggage.

I follow markshere2's advice and never check-baggage an irreplaceable firearm. For stuff I really need at the other end, I ship it FedEx overnight to myself at a reliable address at the other end a couple days ahead, if there's no "reliable address" but ther eis a FedEx depot there a "hold at depot" status can be used when you initiate the shipment (Pro Tip - establish a FedEx (or UPS) account, it moves you up the "attention ladder" a bit over an average Joe or Jane just shipping stuff occasionally, and package tracking and status texts can be sent to your phone). FYI, if you ever have "package locating" trouble with FedEx (or UPS) don't hesitate to bring BATFE's name into it; getting the feds involved for interstate firearm theft will trigger a much stronger interest in locating your package. FYI, never travel without a small carry-on with 2 days of your needs in it just in case the checked bag with all your clothes gets a side trip to Timbuctu.

I use a bright yellow Pelican case with 3" wide matching yellow reflective tape overlapping all the corners; it doesn't blend in the everyone's black suitcases, it's impossible to hide on a baggage cart, even in the dark a bright flashlight will cause it to show up 100 yards away and "it's a bright yellow hard case" is a description imossible to misunderstand. I have a dummy company name and my cell number stenciled on both sides, and it's been used enough it looks "rather well worn" so it's obvious it travels a lot which helps lower "unauthorized attention" because if it were worth stealing it probably would have been by now.