FLYING TO CAS MATCHES
Assuming you dont have the time to drive all over the country to matches and want to go to Winter Range or End of Trail or another distant match, youll want to fly sooner or later. It can be done, even in Post 9-11 airport paranoia.
I did some checking on their web sites about baggage restrictions.
Checked3 bags, 62" combined dimensions (width + height + length), 70-lb. max. weight, each. 1 guncase in addition, not required to meet the 62" but still the 70-lb. max.
Carry on 10 x 16 x 24" max, 40 lb. (But I was once forced to check a Zero Halliburton camera case that was 12 x 21 x 7.5.)
Sounds reasonable, and youd assume the other airlines would be the same. Dont count on it. For example:
Checked2 bags, 62" combined dimensions, 70-lb. max. weight, each. 1 guncase in lieu of one, not required to meet the 62" but still the 70-lb. max.
Carry on22 x 14 x 9 (45" max combined dimensions.)
So someone used to flying Southwest and taking a carefully measured wheeled bag measuring 30 x 15 x 16.5, a gun case, and a hat case (as cowboy action shooters are used to doing), and a carry-on camera bag can be hit for $50-80 per segment for the third bag. If your carry on bag has expanded to 23" x 14 x 9 you could be forced to check it for another $50-80.
It pays to browse the airline web sites. I also print out their gun regulations. Some ticket agents are a little slow. Others dont understand the regulations but think they do. The airline will back their wrong decision. Try not to get on the wrong side of a little Hitler. You wont win. Politeness and an air of competence will get you further.
Some of the airline regulations are seriously confusing. Example, from Continentals website:
Continental accepts one item of shooting equipment per customer in lieu of one piece of free baggage. All items must be properly encased in a suitable container. One item of shooting equipment, whether presented in a single container or not, is defined as one of the following:
Rifles - 1 rifle case containing not more than 2 rifles (with or without scopes), 11 pounds of ammunition, 1 shooting mat, noise suppressor and small rifle tools.
Shotguns - 1 shotgun case containing not more than 2 shotguns and 11 pounds of ammunition.
Pistols - 1 pistol case containing not more than 5 pistols, 1 pistol telescope, noise suppresser and small pistol tools.
Continentals Firearms section also includes the following (portions not considered applicable have been omitted):
Curbside check-in of a firearm is not permitted.
Customer must demonstrate in an isolated area that the firearm is unloaded.
The firearm must be packaged in a hard-sided container capable of being locked. The container must be locked and the key or combination must remain in the customer's possession. If a hard-sided container is needed (rates are pretty serious:
Double Rifle Case 52" x 11" x 4" = 75.00 USD
Two Pistol Case 14" x 9" x 4" = 110.00 USD
Four Pistol Case 18" x 14" x 4" = 1110.00 USD
Lock for Gun Cases = 5.00 USD)
The firearm will be transported in a section of the aircraft that is inaccessible to the customer. Proof of registration is not required.
Firearms carried in addition to the free baggage allowance will be assessed at the current excess baggage charge.
You do not want to carry a case carrying 2 long guns and 2 pistols. You want to wheel it along. So you need a good gun case with wheels. These start at $100 or so for acceptable ones, but, like many other things, it pays to go first class the first time. You will in a couple of years. Its better to spend $300-400 for a case now than $100 now and $400 2 years from now, leaving you with a 2 year old $100 case you no longer have a use for. Even worse, you could travel with a cheap case and wind up with damaged or destroyed guns. Your case should be able to carry your match guns and a couple of side match guns. A 3 or 4 gun "Safari" case is not out of the question (but, in Southwests "contract of carriage" it says, "Gun boxes designed to hold no more than two (2) sporting rifles or shotguns are exempt from oversize charges ") In fact, a case designed for 2 scoped modern rifles will be crowded with two SASS long guns and two 7-1/2" barreled revolvers. If youre going to enter all of the side matches and will be taking your match guns plus 2 side match long guns, expect to pay for excess baggage charges and smile secretly if you dont.
Getting a gun case that doesnt look like a gun case is difficult but helpful. Tuffpak has one that looks like a travel golf club case but meets ATA 300 regulations. It also has the flexibility to handle 4 long guns when you need them and on the next trip take 2 long guns, 2 pistols, and some excess "gear" to fill the rest of the space, such as clothing or boots. It also weights 17 lb.
Other brands are more traditional. They weigh more, 37 lb. or so for a 4 gun case, and they look like gun cases. This doesnt mean they dont work. Evil Roy uses KK Air cases, while Tequila uses Americase. They both work very well. Tequila mentioned he put a NASA sticker on his guncase, and harassment by the baggage losers stopped. No one has run over his gun case with a baggage truck since he started doing that. Personally I want to know what the Mafia put on their gun cases.
Most airlines allow 11 lb. of ammunition. They also have specific limitations as to the number of rounds. From Southwest Airlines site:
Each Southwest Customer is allowed to carry ammunition in checked luggage, up to the maximum amounts shown below:
* Pistol or rimfire 300 rounds
* Rifle 120 rounds
* Shotshell 150 rounds
The total quantity of ammunition cannot exceed 11 lbs. per customer.
* Ammunition must be contained in the manufacturer's original container or an equivalent that is sturdy and durable and provides for sufficient cartridge separation. Southwest prohibits ammunition from being carried, in any amount, in the aircraft cabin.
Continentals ammunition regulations:
* No more than 11 pounds of ammunition may be carried. Ammunition must be packed in the manufacturer's original package or securely packed in fiber, wood, or metal containers. The ammunition inside the container must be protected against shock and secured against movement. The ammunition may be packed in the same container as the firearm or in a separate container.
Some airlines require the ammunition to be in a separate container from the firearm.
The best ammo boxes are factory, but Midways boxes, with Styrofoam cartridge blocks, are acceptable. The blue/green plastic ones might not be. (Plastic isnt listed as an acceptable material.)
For us CAS shooters, its the 11 lbs. thats usually the problem. Checking Winter Ranges requirements, I find they suggest 200 pistol, 200 rifle, 100 shotshell, plus side matches and pot shoots for all guns. Assume that youre shooting the same caliber for pistols and rifle, then the 300 pistol plus 120 rifle means you can carry 420 rounds. This leaves you 20 rounds to spare, and youre under on shotgun ammunition according to Southwests rules. But its the weight. Even if you shoot .38 Specials and 20 gauge shotguns, youll be over the weight limit. I weighed my match ammunition. 12 gauge100 rounds = 11 lb. .45 Colt 200 rounds = 10 lb.
Solution? Mail it to someone on the event committee who will accept it for you and take it to the match. Cowboys are always helpful to each other. Be prepared to do the same for them when they fly to your match.
More of a problem is black powder for cap and ball shooters. You sure cant carry a pound of black powder in your checked luggage, and shipping it is difficult. Ditto percussion caps. Powder requires a HAZMAT fee when shipped UPS or FedEx (GROUND only). Places not set up to ship HAZMAT wont do it for you. Solutions are:
1. Arrange to buy the powder at the range. Ten-X has Clean Shot powder for sale at Winter Range and End of Trail. As I dont use other black powder or substitutes, I dont know who sells what.
2. Arrange to buy some from a black powder-shooting friend. Black powder shooters, ignoring some of the SASS Wire pundits, are a great group, and most of them will bend over backwards to help another shooter. Just do the same for them when they come to your match.
3. Send some with a friend who is driving to the event.
Percussion caps can be shipped UPS ground or FedEx ground without HAZMAT, but you might get disagreement on that from a clerk. Yes, some companies charge a HAZMAT fee, but others, like Dixie Gun Works, tell me its not necessary.
Cactus Cris rents guncarts at End of Trail and Winter Range. Its the way to go. Hes cheap. At other matches, Id ask the organizers to rent one. At Range War the organizers rented out carts and donated the money to the SASS Scholarship fund. Ill bet someone on the committee has more than one cart and will rent or loan. There is a cart that you can get folded into a maximum-sized checked bag, useful only if you fly Southwest, assuming youre putting your gear and clothes into one "62" overall bag. Its the Hooligan Cart, advertised in The Cowboy Chronicle, sold by Papa Dave, SASS #17266, 561-747-7588, email@example.com.
Cal Graf Design, P.O. Box 306, Big Timber, MT 59011, http://www.cal-graf.com, 1-800-367-5203, have produced the suitcase cart, a 20 pound mahogany unit that folds into a suitcase 14" x 9" x 21 1/2". This is carry-on size.
In your maximum sized, wheeled duffel bag youll want to put the bulk of your stuff. Use a pre-prepared checklist of all of your necessary clothing, gear, and personal items to make sure you left nothing at home. (I have. How do you think we came up with the checklist?) If youre doing a carry-on bag, needless to say it gets nothing but clothing, nothing relating to guns, even holsters. Never underestimate the ire of anti-gunners.