Can I Fly Alaska Airlines with a Gun?

Flying to Alaska isn’t just a way to visit, but it’s also one of the most common methods for moving. For many people moving with a couple bags and then buying things once up there makes more sense than a long, long road trip on questionable roads with a hauling trailer. Whether going for a visit, a hunting trip, or to move a common question comes up: Can I flay to Alaska on Alaska Airlines with a gun?

The answer is yes, this is possible, but there are obviously precautions that must be taken to travel legally with a firearm. After all, airports aren’t places where you want to see a lot of people coming in with firearms.

Adults 18 years old or older can travel with firearms on Alaska Airlines as long as they have an appropriate locked hard case, any ammunition kept separate, and contact check-in ahead of time to pass the full safety check to travel with a checked firearm.

Under no conditions are firearms ever allowed on person or in carry-on luggage.

Read on for a full list of the rules, regulations, and resources you need to know if you want to travel with a firearm.

Pistol in Gun Case
Hard cases like this are essential for flying Alaska Airlines with a firearm, however since this picture doesn’t show a lock we have no way of knowing if this one would pass TSA inspection or not.

Rules for Flying Alaska Airlines with a Firearm

All firearms need to be in checked baggage. They need to be in a hard case that locks fully, and the firearm will be checked to make sure it’s unloaded during check-in. Make sure the hard case can’t be pried open at all from any side or angle.

I ran into a problem with this with an old case when trying to travel one time. The sides could pry open slightly and that wasn’t allowed. This was the last time I came back to the Lower 48 with firearms and I was lucky – the TSA agent was happy to work with me which involved the quote, “I can jury rig the locks in a way that seals it, but you’re never going to open this again without a saw.”

I didn’t need the case in the future, I just needed to make sure the guns made it home, so I told him to go ahead.

You might not be so lucky if you end up in that situation, so make sure to have a proper hard case ahead of time.

Right now the rules for flying Alaska Airlines with a gun are as follows:

  • The individual must be 18 years old or older
  • The firearm must be checked baggage only
  • The firearm must be unloaded at all times
  • The firearm must be stored in a locked hard-sided container with the owner having the only key (though they may be asked by a TSA agent to open the case at any time for inspection prior to the case being checked
  • Ammunition must be kept in an appropriate hard case or original packaging
  • Ammunition can’t be loose and must also be packed in checked baggage
  • All local and state firearms laws must be followed at the airport from which you are taking off

These rules are also printed on the Alaska Airlines website. Many follow TSA rules and regulations but it is worth noting that each airline might have its own version or additional rules/regulations they apply to the process so make sure you are in compliance with all of those, as well.

The airports must follow all applicable rules so the airports that are in play during a flight matter, and it’s important to keep the rules of the receiving airport in mind, as well, especially if you’ll be flying back home from that airport.

While the following guidelines aren’t put in as hard or fast rules, I’d also recommend the following:

  • Show up at least an additional half an hour early in addition to what you were already planning
  • Call to let them know you are plan on transporting a firearm and ask if there are any precautions you should take, extra steps, need to show up early, etc. This will often result in someone waiting for you to make sure the check can happen and you can make your flight on time which is actually a bonus
  • Ask if there are recommendations or guidelines for how to pack ammunition

These are additional steps but they go a long way to smoothing over the check-in experience and in my personal experiences flying with firearms on Alaska Airlines, every time I’ve taken these additional steps the check-in, pick-up, and flying process has gone much more smoothly.

You can find the Alaska Airlines policies for traveling with firearms HERE.

airport check in
Airport check-in can be a hassle. Trust me, you don’t want to be sprinting to the gates, late, while you have a firearm to check. Even in a proper hardcase.

How to Prepare to Fly Alaska Airlines with a Gun

A little bit of preparation can go a long way to making the check-in process as smooth as possible. If you are going to board an Alaska Airlines flight with a firearm taking the time to prep before even showing up to the airport will be a major part of making sure there are no issues when you are there at the airport.

Because an hour before the flight is not the time to find there’s a potentially unfixable problem.

Most of the preparation is going to be common sense, especially if you are following the rules here. The gun should be properly unloaded and stored at all time, locked in a hard case when you arrive, and you should have the only key.

Arrive early, and call ahead of time so they know to expect you. In an ideal situation, everything should go smoothly, and preparing your trip early by taking all the proper precautions and double checking will smooth out the process.

Also in my experience, I received better service and treatment when calling ahead. Sometimes even having extra people to check me in waving me out of the line for my own check-in just to make sure everything was secure and within regulations, getting me through the check-in process much more quickly and with less hassle.

Get the Right Gun Case for Air Travel

The airlines have very stringent rules and guidelines for traveling with firearms, and one of the major sticking points is to have a proper hard case that meets all the necessary requirements for air travel with firearms.

So what kind of gun case do I need to fly on Alaska Airlines (or any other major carrier for that matter)?

A proper container is:

  • A hard case (or locked hard-sided container approved for such use)
  • Has a working lock (or multiple)
  • Sealed tightly so it can not be pried loose or open (this doesn’t have to be wide open – if you can pry open a couple centimeters, that’s technically a failure by TSA standards)
  • Only the passenger should have a key to unlock the case

If you test the sides and it feels like you can start prying it open at all, the case almost certainly will not pass inspection. This is obviously a problem, so if the only hard case you own at home is older, don’t assume it’s good enough.

Go the other direction and assume that it will fail inspection and look to get a better hard case for transporting your firearm to Alaska. You want to play it safe to make sure there are no issues once you get to the actual airport.

Should I Bring a Gun to Alaska?

This actually makes a lot of sense, especially if you’re going to be living outside a major city in Alaska or spending a lot of time out in the wild or work camps. Because of the overabundance of bears and moose, the idea of having firearms for protection makes complete sense. Bears and Moose abound in the wild, and depending on where and why you’re traveling to Alaska, there are some areas that are extremely rough and tumble to boot.

There is an extremely high degree of gun ownership in Alaska for obvious reasons. If moving to live in Alaska, taking a firearm isn’t a bad idea and in many areas would even be recommended. It’s important to make sure any firearm you’re taking is appropriate to self-defense from wildlife and is one you’re trained in.

There’s a very limited number of handguns that are considered “bear guns.” One time on the Kenai there was a bear about sixty yards away, minding its own business by the water, i.e. uncomfortably close if you’re not used to it, but Alaska safe distance. A tourist at the campsite pulled a .22. My friend, a lifelong Alaskan, calmly informed him to put the BB gun away or he would beat him with it until he stopped moving.

“The only thing shooting that at a brown bear will do is make you lunch.”

Generally speaking I was told not to get caught without a shotgun, but if I was going handgun it had to be .44 Magnum, .357 Magnum, or .50 Caliber. There are some differing opinions on .45 or .454, but those arguments often come with additional firearm training and special ammo.

Do your research from guides in that part of the country and if you are thinking the kickback on those is too much for you to fire accurately and quickly, then go with a shotgun for your firearm of choice. That will drastically increase your survival chances.

Because the firearm is only part of the solution for defending yourself. Aim, calmness under pressure, and training are absolutely crucial to have any chance of such an unfortunate encounter coming out well for you.

And always take bear spray. That stuff is crazy effective when used right, especially on a windless day.

Grewingk Glacier Park
Because to get shots like this in Alaska, you have to go off the beaten path. Though admittedly…not as much as you might think. It’s a special state.

Common Questions Traveling Alaska Airlines with Firearms

Hopefully this article answered all of your travel questions up to this point, but here are direct answers to a few remaining questions that sometimes pop up with travelers looking to fly Alaska Airlines to Alaska for the first time.

Can the TSA seize your firearms at the airport?

Generally speaking, that’s not how it works. Of course if you do something stupid like have the gun loaded or walk in with the firearm outside of the case, then they may do whatever is necessary for the security of the airport and passengers there.

However, if everything is properly packed and prepared in the hard case then this shouldn’t be an issue in any normal circumstance.

What happens if my hard case isn’t up to TSA standards for air travel?

You will need to find a way to send the firearm home, or re-arrange the flight. There is no situation where you’ll just be allowed to board with an improperly stored firearm.

Can I travel with my firearm as a carry-on in Alaska?

Absolutely not. There is no situation where this is acceptable.

Are there additional fees for taking a gun on Alaska Airlines?

You will be charged for the checked firearm as a carry-on bag, but beyond the additional carry-on bag fee there aren’t additional fees on top and in addition to that.

In Conclusion

Alaska is a state with some of the loosest firearms laws in the United States, and with good reason. In a place where wildlife is distinctly above humans in the food chain not once, but in multiple examples, and when you’re surrounded by true wilderness even when in the largest city, the right to defend oneself is much more important here than in many other places.

Traveling with a firearm to Alaska is something that requires some additional paperwork, some important rules, and particular types of carrying cases and locks. However, by following these rules and making sure to contact the specific airlines you’ll be flying with, you can make any additional arrangements needed to make sure you can travel safely and pick up your firearms when you arrive.

While it’s easy to spend a lot of time even in the wilds of Alaska without a firearm, I fully understand the desire of any trained and responsible firearm owner to want a good bear gun for those worst case scenarios. I consistently carried both bear spray and a firearm so I was covered on both fronts instead of having to make a “one or the other” choice.

It is possible to take guns on Alaska Airlines, just make sure to follow all the necessary rules and guidelines. Do this, always be polite with the helpful TSA agents and attendants, and you should have a smooth process the entire way through.

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