Carrying of Inert Ammunition on domestic airlines

I was forwarded an e-mail from an employee at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. (it would follow that they do quite a bit of business in and out of Newark (NJ) International Airport, thus the reference to that TSA)

The body of e-mail read as follows…

According to the TSA Web site, the carrying of realistic replicas of firearms and ammunition is prohibited.

The Newark New Jersey Airport TSA Inspectors have indicated anything over .50 caliber (ammunition) is prohibited in checked as well as carry-on luggage, however, there is no reference to this in the law.


Interesting info Pepper! I have been told by TSA that it is forbidden to carry a dummy round in handcarry. The rational is that the dummies look like ammunition and disrupt the screening process-besides being difficult to prove some of the items are really dummies. Anything that looks like it might be a loaded round on the X-Ray is forbidden. If they find it they turn it and you over to the local police and then it depends on what you can work out, but there is a high probability that yhou will loose the item.

Frankly, I wouldn’t try to carry loose bullets or cases on an aircraft as handcarry. Too easy to get into an arguement on definations which you probably can’t win and still catch your aircraft!!!

Lew is giving good advice. A discreet inquiry to a friend indicated that at least in our local airport, while they would probably make no arrest, that even an empty unprimed cartridge case, although it is nothing more than a solid brass object no different from a brass key in sense, would be confiscated if detected in carry on luggage. The same for any bullet/projectile. Many toy guns have been seized after kids stuffed them in their bags without their parents knowledge. They are confiscated as well, and the parents, I suppose, don’t complain because they don’t want a delay or worse over a toy. Even though its legal, I don’t even carry ammunition in my check-in baggage anymore when I go to St. Louis. I send it ahead. All it takes is one anti-gun baggage inspector who sees it on x-ray and then tries to make a thing out of it - too much, not properly packed, “what is this funny looking round with the 15 colored stripes on the bullet and case,” etc. to hold you up, make you miss your plane, and otherwise spoil what should be a fun, terrific trip. Makes no difference if you prove him wrong and get to go on your way three hours later, or the next day. It ain’t worth it!

When they made Cal Bothin put his beautiful Single Action Colt tie pin in checked luggage, when he came out to our CCCA show in La Palma California one year, that proved to me that it drifts beyond necessary security into total paranoia. Rules are rules, but insanity is insanity also!

I don’t want to get caught with anything resembling ammo on planes! My brother-in-law was shooting .22’s on a trip… had his pocket loaded with them… before leaving for home, he emptied his pockets (or so he thought)… the screener found a .22 in his pocket… he had all his luggage hand-searched as well as the rest of the family because they were traveling with him! They did get away w/o a strip search!

My experience flying with ammunition in my checked baggage in the USAis that it is easier now that we have TSA than it was before. Once returning from an early SLICS I was told that my ammunition wasn’t in accordance with the airline regulations, but the agent wouldn’t tell me what the regulations were. Another time in Ohio a gate agent just insisted that it was not legal to have guns and/or ammunition in checked baggage (this was a few weeks after 9/11). In both cases a call to the regional supervisor solved the problem, but it was a real pain.

With TSA, the rules are clear and flying with ammunition in checked baggage has been trouble free for me. The KEY is to follow the rules!!!

  1. Always ask your airline if they accept ammunition in checked baggage.
  2. Tell the airlines that you will be flying with ammunition and ask them to annotate your record so there are no surprises.
  3. No ammunition above .50 caliber-Period!!!
  4. Only 11 pounds (5 Kilos) or less of ammo. Weigh it and I mark the weight on each box so they know I have weighed it.
  5. Every round packed in the original box, or in a plastic ammo box
  6. Tell both the gate agent and TSA that you are carrying ammo, give them the weight and tell them it is all properly packed.

If you are in an airport where the TSA screening line is not on the ticketting floor, the agent will normally send you to a location for oversize baggage where you will see a TSA agent face to face.

Always be pleasent!!!

I have found both the gate agents and TSA are easier to deal with now. I have also found Delta to be the easiest airline to deal with on ammo.

Flying from Europe has also proven to be easy. There is no TSA, but the Police have to look at your luggage before it can be checked-so allow extra time because it takes some time to get the police to the counter sometimes. ALWAYS HAVE A VALID PERMIT FOR BOTH THE COUNTRY YOU ARE FLYING FROM AND FLYING TO! I put copies of my permits in the bag with the ammo even this isn’t required. My experience is that once they see the permits, and realize there is no gun, they may or may not be interested in seeing the ammo. They will put a seal on your case and make a note, and when the screening sees your ammo (and it will) the seal tells the scanner that the police have already cleared it.

Bottom line: Always follow the rules, Always be polite, and in Europe, Always have your permits!

Just my experience, but ammo in checked baggage has not been a problem in quite a few years now.

Lew, You are right,

My experience with the TSA is also very positive.
I think the skill from the TSA officers is much higher than it was shortly after 9-11.

Also important is your rule #2; Tell the airlines that you will be flying with ammunition and ask them to annotate your record so there are no surprises.


Here is some very good stuff to quote-
make sure you always declare your ammunition as
Quite often as soon as they realise that you know what you are talking about, they will leave you alone :)

Just a clarification on the last post - I believe the correct designation is:

“Sporting Cartridges (UN 0012 Class 14S - Inert Projectile), Packed according to IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations, clause”.

I stick this on the box of ammo which is always inside my checked luggage.

Most airlines and the TSA haven’t a clue what this means but, as Craig says, it does demonstrate that you seem to know what you are doing and it avoids the accusation that you are trying to hide ammo in your suitcase.

Chris is right in changing that word on the warning from “ammunition” to “cartridges.” Years ago, it was called “safety cartridges, small arms.” Chris undoubtedly has the current correct designation. It has been years since I carried ammo on a plane. The first time I did, I declared I had ammunition in my bag for checking, and after looking in her book, the ticket taker had a fit and called security. Seems the “term” ammunition, then at least, refered to artillery projectiles, explosive devices, etc., and not to “safety cartridges, small arms.” It took me almost an hour to get it straightened out - partially my fault for declaring it wrong, and partially their fault for, once that was said, closing their ears to any further explanation of what I had. Of course, being in San Francisco, they were predisposed to having a fit over ammunition. On a historical (or is that “hysterical”) note, I was on my way to St. Louis to see Lew Curtis, our current IAA President, before he went away for several years to a station in England. I think he was a captain or a major then! When I declared “safety cartridges, small arms” at the Dallas airport on a change of planes to St. Louis, the girl there asked if I meant “bullets” and I said yes, like for hunting guns. Her basic answer to that was something like, “Well, o.k., so what?” she seemed mildly amused that I was bothering her with what she felt was something of no consequence. What a difference in attitudes between the two airports, or the two counter people anyway.