Traveling with firearms is something I do on a daily basis. That includes everything from concealed carry on my person, to transporting very expensive firearms and optics to a competitive shooting events. Traveling with valuable firearms and gear necessitate a little more forethought and your travel plans. Here are a few easy tips to help you streamline the process.
1. Know the laws.
In some states, a Castle Doctrine also encompasses your vehicle. So "Stand Your Ground" laws and Castle Doctrine laws might apply to your vehicle as your “dwelling.” Understanding how such laws can potentially impact you while you travel is an important in your travel planning.
A great place to look up the laws as they apply to you is on a web site with a map showing reciprocity. It is also a good idea to do an online search for specific terms, such as “Does the state of _____ Castle Doctrine include my vehicle?” The more you know ahead of time, the better you can organize your travel—not just the contents of your vehicle, but what states through which you decide to drive. Give your tourism dollars to freedom-honoring states!
2. Pack your firearms accordingly.
If the state to which you are traveling falls into a different legal framework than what you have at home, you need to plan for that. Do you travel through states that require firearms and ammunition to be inaccessible (i.e. locked in a trunk)? Do you fall into one of the states with Castle Doctrine laws? These two categories mean that you must/can pack your firearms and ammunition differently.
3. Pack your vehicle according to your travel plans.
If you need to stop for the night and bring your firearms into your hotel room with you, don’t want to bury them under tons of luggae and gear. Load the items that you don’t mind leaving in your vehicle first, and add your firearms last. For me this often looks like a cooler, tripod, spare shoes, cleaning kit, and maybe my personal clothing can be left in the car. I bring in to the hotel my firearms, backpack with essentials and my computer and other valuables.
Depending on where you’re driving, you also might not want your gear or guns visible if you were to stop and sleep at a rest stop or anywhere someone can see inside your vehicle. I usually pack a couple of beach towels or a small blanket that I can use to cover up what’s in my car. I also use these or jackets to toss over a luggage cart as I enter the hotel to again, keep a low profile and not make myself a target.
Even if you are operating perfectly legally in what and how you are transporting your belongings, inviting someone to target you for theft or for someone ignorant of the law to report or suspect you of anything nefarious because they “see a gun” isn’t going to make for a smooth trip. The less others know about your private business, the better.
If my travel is only through places where I know that I can carry or utilize my firearm, I will leave it packed in its case in the back and generally have some magazines with ammunition packed as per the law so that if I needed to use it, I could.
It is helpful to have two awake and alert adults in your vehicle at all times. When my family and I take very long trips, I tend to make sure that whenever we stop for gas or any other pitstop, two people are awake and aware of what’s going on. Nobody is outside of the car without others aware of where they are and what they are doing.