I find myself traveling with guns quite a bit. Mostly locally to my businesses and to my gun classes for the most part.
California is a “may issue” state. Depending upon the county, the chief of police or sheriff can set his or her own rules as to who is worthy of possessing legal self-defense. As I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is near impossible to get a concealed carry permit. My county, for instance, typically only issues them to political friends.
I can legally carry a gun in my home, or in my business without the grace of the local politicians. In between those destinations, however, I’ve got to follow very strict laws on how the guns are transported.
In short, the gun must be unloaded, and it must be in a locked case. There are all kinds of rules and exceptions for what the state considers a locked case and an unloaded gun – and our gun laws change more quickly than maggots change into flies – so I’m not going to get into the weeds here.
I primarily use these locked cases –
They’ve worked well enough. In fact, I use them to keep a gun in my car while complying with CA law. They’re small, secure and legal.
I need to have multiple handguns at the introductory gun safety classes. I want to show the students – at a minimum – one semi-auto and one revolver. Since these are introductory classes, many of the students don’t yet own a gun. I need to be able to show them as many variations of each type of handgun as is possible.
So, I needed a way of carrying more guns while still staying legal. I figured that since I was looking for a new gun case, I might as well make it compatible for traveling via air.
I checked out the TSA site, and the sites of a number of airlines. I had read a few stories about travelers showing up to check in their guns, and the airline not allowing the guns to be checked in. Their standards were more stringent than those of the TSA.
After much research, I believe I have found a solution. It is a case by Pelican Case. It meets all of my requirements: CA legal, TSA legal, airline compliant, and holds at least 4 handguns.
I went with the Pelican Case model 1495.
It’s made of some special polymer and are tough as hell (check out this test, which includes a shotgun test), has got plenty of space on the inside, with interior dimensions of 18.8″ x 13.1″ x 3.8″. The case comes with four latches, a shoulder strap and a 3-digit combination lock.
The interior is lined with 3 different layers of foam. There is a bottom layer that just adds some padding. The upper layer on the bottom section is this stuff called “pick and pluck”. It’s a series of mini-blocks of foam about 1/8″ x 1/8″ and as deep as the bottom section (less the very bottom layer of foam). The lid of the case has this egg carton-like foam.
If you want, you can “pluck” the middle foam to the size of a particular gun so that it is form-fitting. I initially did this for my S&W .357 Magnum. It fit very well, but then I realized I had a problem. It dawned on me that I will never know which of my guns I’ll be bringing to a class. So, I just stuck the foam “block” back into the hole.
I did a test, and filled the case with 4 guns, and stood it up on its edge to see if the guns would slump down. Over a 24 hour period, there was absolutely no movement.
As I said, one of the main concerns was that it met all of the TSA/Airline/California laws.
If you look at the case, you’ll see two silver holes near the handle. These are stainless steel reinforced holes for padlocks.
One of the horror stories I read – happening to multiple people – was where the flyer was just fine at the check-in counter, but some TSA yahoo got a hair up his ass and wanted to do a secondary search of the contents.
Since you were now sitting in your plane seat, the TSA goons would cut the locks off to do their secondary search. Since the case would no longer be TSA legal – because of the actions of the TSA – your guns would get left at your departure airport.
To address this, they have come up with a TSA-approved locking system. The padlocks have a keyhole that is used for TSA-only keys. In this way, if they need to look in your case, they can unlock the padlock without destroying it and confiscating your property.
Here’s what the padlock looks like when it’s in action.
I know, I know. I don’t feel warm and fuzzy with the TSA accessing my stuff without my knowledge, but what are you going to do if you MUST fly? At least if something is taken, you know that it was because of the TSA – they either did it themselves or they let a security key out of their possession.
BTW, the case comes standard with a 3-digit combination lock built in right near the handle. It operates another latch that needs to be closed when the case is in transport. I have set that combination to 0-0-0. If I need to travel by air, I will tape a note on the case with the combination, so that the TSA can open the latch even if the combination wheels get jostled and the lock set.