Travel Weapons

Island Gun Laws

Island Gun Laws 717 478 Greg Ellifritz

Some very interesting reading about the history of gun control efforts in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.

Island Gun Laws: The History of Gun Control and Crime in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK

Guns in Haiti

Guns in Haiti 1024 663 Greg Ellifritz

Take a look at the guns seen during the ongoing Haitian rebellion.  If you were trapped in a foreign country in a lawless situation like this, would you know how to operate all of these weapons?



An Examination Of The Guns of Haiti


Rule One?

Rule One? 1800 1800 Greg Ellifritz

A couple months ago, Alex Ooley interviewed me on the topic of travel safety for his “Forge of Freedom” podcast.  Alex was an excellent host and I really enjoyed talking with him.  You can watch/listen to the podcast at the link or embedded video below if you are interested, but doing so isn’t necessary to understand the context of this article.


Episode 87. Choose Adventure: Safe Travel in Dangerous Places by Greg Ellifritz


I was looking at the listener comments (I know. Dumb move.) on YouTube and saw this one:


“I highly respect Greg, and agree with almost everything he writes, and without hesitation would ask him to join me in a foxhole. But, every time I read about his travel escapades I think to myself, why does he insist on violating rule #1. The fact that he may be better than 99% of people in doing this safely does not mitigate whatever risk he exposes himself to. Unless he’s doing it to deliberately expose himself to that 1%.”


It was an interesting and respectful comment.  I get this question from gun people a lot and think it might be useful to discuss my thought process.



“Rule #1” for those who don’t know is:”Have a gun.”  It has been attributed to the legendary Col. Jeff Cooper in the quote: “Remember the first rule of gunfighting … have a gun.”



The commenter was remarking on the fact that I often travel to other countries where it is illegal for me to carry a gun.



That baffles a lot of gun owners.  The idea that a full time gun instructor like myself (who carries a gun whenever he leaves his house while in the USA) would voluntarily visit a place where he can’t carry is the very definition of insanity for a lot of the people I teach.  I want to take some time to explain to those folks why I spend a couple months a year violating “Rule One.”



Most of world thinks regularly carrying a firearm is an aberrant behavior.  The Earth has over eight billion inhabitants.  How many of those folks do you think carry a gun every day of their life?



Let’s be honest, even most American gun owners who have legal carry privileges often refrain from carrying guns.  In my cop career, I stopped a lot of people with concealed carry licenses for traffic violations.  It was exceptionally rare for me to encounter someone who was actually carrying their firearm, even when it was legal for them to do so.  Very few Americans carry guns everywhere they go.  Even fewer people in other countries carry on a daily basis.  In most of the world, it is only the cops, the military, and the criminals who carry guns.  Have you ever wondered how all of those eight billion folks manage to survive every day without carrying a gun?  Maybe you should ponder that for a bit.



I’m not saying that carrying a gun is bad.  I carry one constantly when in the United States.  With that said, we gun owners should recognize that our carrying guns is often considered strange and unnecessary by the rest of the world.  If all of those eight billion people on earth manage to survive without carrying guns on a daily basis, why do you think that you will most certainly die if you leave your house without your pistol?  Is it possible that you could survive a vacation without a gun just like all the rest of the residents of the country you are visiting?  It’s something you should consider.



A gun is just a piece of emergency equipment.  I find it odd that the people who won’t leave their houses unarmed don’t have the same level of equipment fetish for other emergency gear.  I have a few fire extinguishers in my house.  I carry a fire extinguisher in my car wherever I drive.  Fire extinguishers are useful to have in an emergency, just like guns are.  I would argue that most of the “never unarmed” folks are probably at a greater risk of experiencing a dangerous fire than a lethal criminal attack.  Why aren’t we seeing the “never unarmed” people sharing “pocket dump” photos on social media that contain EDC fire extinguishers or AED machines?



If it bothers you to go anywhere without your pistol, you might ask yourself why you don’t feel the same anxiety about being deprived of carrying your fire extinguisher.  Interesting thought exercise, huh?



There is a difference between being in a dangerous situation and one where your response options are limited.  I wrote about this concept extensively in an article titled Danger? 



In the article I discuss the fact that you are not in any more danger should you venture out of the house without a gun.  Not having a gun doesn’t change the nature of danger in your everyday activities, it just limits one of your possible responses to that danger.  This is a concept few gun owners have considered.



If I think a situation is too dangerous, I will attempt to avoid it whether I have a gun or not.  Going without a gun doesn’t actually increase my risk for attack.  It only limits my response options once that attack commences.  That is an important difference.



Being unarmed forces us to practice our awareness, avoidance, and de-escalation skills.  While I never want to get in a fight with a criminal, I’m extra careful to avoid those incidents when I’m unarmed.  I think sometimes we get lazy when we have a gun.  If something pops off, we have the ability to handle the problem.  Without that problem solving ability, we have to rely on our skills and instincts to keep us away from danger.



In the last quarter century, I’ve taken over 4500 hours of formal training in firearms skills, intermediate weapons, empty hand fighting, and counter terrorism topics.  Despite all that training, I’ve learned far more from traveling alone in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language.   Being forced to handle unique challenges without assistance in a foreign country provides more training in adaptability, survival, reading social cues, and staying calm than all the tactical training I’ve taken.



Risk versus Reward Calculation.  Traveling without a firearm slightly increases my risk of being hurt or killed should I be attacked.  That’s what most folks in the gun world focus on.  What they don’t consider is that our decisions are made by balancing risk and reward.  What about the “reward” side of the equation?



For me, the reward of solo travel is extensive.  I truly love learning about other places and cultures.  I enjoy interacting with new people and solving unique problems.  I greatly enjoy the confidence and insights on the human condition that I can only get by traveling to countries where I can’t carry my gun.  I suspect for many of my critics, the “reward” side of the equation for foreign travel might not be so valuable.  That’s fine.



For me, the tremendous increase in benefits from travel is worth the small increase in risk I suffer when not carrying my firearms.



I’ve trained extensively to defend my life.  I want to ensure I’m living a life worth defending.  I’d much rather carry a gun in most places I go, but I’m not willing to forego the amazing life experiences I can have by rejecting any location where I can’t legally be armed.  Your mileage may vary.




The Definitive Guide To Flying With Guns

The Definitive Guide To Flying With Guns 620 309 Greg Ellifritz

I travel by air quite a bit.  Last year I took 67 flights.  Fifty-two of those flights were domestic and I traveled with guns on every one of them. I’ve flown with guns on over 50 flights a year for the past three years since my police retirement.  Even though each airline and airport is slightly different, after a lot of trial and error I’ve figured out how to fly with firearms hassle free.



As I was going through the airline firearms check-in procedures on my most recent trip, it struck me that many of my readers might not know that it is legal to carry guns in checked airplane baggage or how to do it.   Here’s what you have to do to be legal:


-Unload the guns.


– Place the unloaded guns into a locked, hard sided case.  The case must be completely sealed.  If a TSA agent can manually pry open a corner of your case enough to slide a finger inside, you likely won’t be allowed to check the gun.


After hearing frequent reports of TSA agents trying to pry open a corner of the gun case (to claim it was unsuitable for properly securing your gun), I also switched to carrying a Travel Armor gun case.  With its unique latching mechanism, there is no way to access the case when properly locked.

Travel Armor double pistol case


Also, a strict interpretation of the law seems to mandate that the lock on your gun case must NOT be TSA-accessible.  In practice, I have not found that to be the case.  The TSA itself has a different interpretation of the law on its website.  They directly state: “You may use any brand or type of lock to secure your firearm case, including TSA-recognized locks.”


No one has ever even mentioned the fact that my gun case is secured with a TSA lock.  In fact, it has sped up the check-in process a few times for me.


I’ve wavered back and forth over the years about using non-TSA locks on my gun case as seems to be required by the law.  After this experience two years ago, I’ve chosen to lock the case up with TS-accessible locks.  My guns are insured.  My gun case is not.  I can’t afford to buy an $80 gun case every time I fly when the TSA decides to break it to gain access.  I put two non-TSA locks in the gun case with the guns in case the agent wants to quibble about details.  I’ve never had to use the extra non-TSA locks I carry.


I also have my phone number taped to the outside of the case along with a copy of my LEOSA retired cop nationwide carry authorization.  In case my flight gets diverted to a less “gun-friendly” city, that law enforcement credential might save me some hassles.




-Place the hard-sided case into your locked (with TSA-approved lock) suitcase.


-When you check your bag, inform the ticket agent that you would like to declare a firearm.  Don’t say “I have a gun” or something equally stupid.  Say something like, “I have an unloaded pistol in my checked bag that I need to declare.”


– The ticket agent will give you a little white or orange form to sign and may ask to inspect the gun to see that it is unloaded.  That depends on the individual airport and airline.  Most ticket agents just want to see a locked, hard sided case, but I would estimate that on 5% of my recent flights, they have asked to physically see the guns inside the case.  Be ready for that if they ask.



If the ticket agent does ask you to show that the gun is unloaded, I place my suitcase on the baggage scale and use my body to block the view of the gun from my fellow passengers in line.  I open the case and tell the ticket agent: “You can see that the guns are unloaded.  I signed a form attesting that the guns are unloaded.  I’m uncomfortable handling the weapons in a public area like this.  If you’d like to call a police officer over to verify the guns are unloaded, I’ll allow him to handle the guns.”


That line has worked every time I’ve used it.  They have never called an officer to verify the unloaded status of the guns.  It may help to insert a chamber flag into the weapon to prove it is unloaded.



People are crazy in airports.  I would hate to be shot by a CCW carrier or local cop because I was waving a gun around at the airline ticket counter, even if it was at the agent’s request.



– Each airline has different procedures for placement of the form.  Southwest will tape it to the outside of your case.   Others will instruct you to place the form into your gun case and lock everything up.  Some other airlines tell you to place the form on top of the case in your luggage.  Just do what the ticketing agent tells you to do.  You are then theoretically are good to go, but in practice, you may have a few more hurdles to clear.


– Every airport has a different procedure after the baggage declaration.  Some don’t require anything more.  In that case, the entire process adds less than five minutes to your check in time.


Other airports will require you to have your luggage inspected by the TSA before loading it onto the plane.  Some will want you to wait in the ticket counter area for 10-15 minutes until the bags are inspected.  Others require your presence during the inspection.  There isn’t much consistency across the country or even between airlines.


With that said, after more than 25 years of flying with guns, I’ve never had any serious issues at all.  I’ve had one gun case broken by TSA, but I’ve never had guns stolen.  Many of my friends are now placing Apple Air Tags into their luggage (or even inside the mag well of the cased pistol) to have an additional tracking option.  I think that’s a good idea and have been doing that for the last couple years.


Air Tag tracking device


A couple of other things you might want to know….


– You are not allowed to check a firearm at the curbside luggage check in counter outside the airport.


– Most airlines limit ammunition to 11 lbs and and require that it must be carried in a box or container that is designed to hold ammunition.  Some airlines allow loaded magazines if the bullets are completely covered by caps or a magazine carrier.   I just unload my mags and carry the ammo in a factory cartridge box.  I keep the ammo box separate from the gun case, but TSA regulations say that it is OK to keep the gun and ammo together.


-Unloaded magazines are supposed to be boxed or locked in the same case as the firearm.  I actually didn’t know this until last year.  When teaching my classes, I regularly fly with a range bag filled with eye and ear protection, boxed ammo, and unloaded magazines in my suitcase.  It’s never been an issue, but if your mags fit in your locked gun case, you should probably transport them there.


Screenshot from TSA website (linked above).


Make sure your ammo is all boxed, or in an enclosed case.  Check the pockets of your clothes for spare cartridges.


– If you carry pepper spray, it must be in a four-ounce or smaller container and placed in your checked bag.  I usually carry mine inside a Ziploc bag because canisters can leak as a result of the plane’s varying air pressurization.  For what it’s worth, I carry pepper spray in my checked bag on every trip I take.  In hundreds of flights over the last 25 years, I’ve never had a canister explode or leak during a flight.


Southwest Airlines officially prohibits the carry of pepper spray in checked luggage.  With that said, I’ve carried my pepper spray in my checked bag on every Southwest flight I’ve taken.  It’s never been an issue.  The spray has not been seized, nor has my baggage been delayed.


Screenshot from Southwest’s website


– Each airline has different procedures about how you pick up your bag with a checked firearm.  As of January 2024, if you have a handgun case inside another piece of luggage, Southwest and United will just throw your bag on the luggage carousel with all the other bags and there is no special procedure to pick them up.  On those same airlines, if you check a stand alone long gun case, you will have to pick it up at the airline’s baggage claim office.


Both American and Delta now deliver all your luggage that contains guns to the baggage claim office rather than placing it on the conveyor belt.  You’ll have to show your ID to get the bag.  About 10% of the time I flew last year, my gun bag which clearly said “RETURN TO BAGGAGE OFFICE” on the luggage label was placed on the same conveyor with Gen Pop suitcases.


As I’m waiting for my bags,  I usually pick a spot where I can see the baggage conveyor belt and the baggage office door.  That way, if I see the bag was improperly paced on the conveyor, I just grab it and head out.  If it doesn’t come up on the conveyor belt, I can see when the baggage handler delivers my bag to the airline office.


Delta also regularly zip ties the bags closed before releasing them to you.  That processes is done by individual airport policy and/or at the discretion the person working in the baggage claim office.  They don’t want a passenger to immediately open up the bag and begin shooting up the baggage claim area (that happened in Ft. Lauderdale in 2017).


Consequently, when I fly Delta I always pack a small pair of trauma shears (blunt points and under four inch blade length) with the first aid supplies I have in my carry-on luggage.  Those shears are allowed by the TSA and make short work of their zip ties as soon as I take possession of the bag.


Snipping the zip tie used to “secure” my suitcase.


– Be cautious with your batteries for sights, lasers, and flashlights.  Some security screeners freak out if you have loose lithium batteries in either checked bag or carry-on.


-Putting knives in your checked bag is allowed as well.  There are no special declarations required when checking a bag containing a knife (or multiple knives).


– If you encounter any difficulties during the check-in process, calmly ask to speak to a supervisor.  If the supervisor doesn’t remedy the issue, the person to contact is the airport’s “Ground Security Coordinator.”  That person is in charge of all of the security for the entire airport.  He/She has final say about issues involved in transporting your weapons.


Some folks take the time to print out copies of TSA regulations and airline policies in the event that a ticket agent asks the passenger to do something different.  I find that doesn’t help much and just adds time to your check in.  As long as it isn’t dangerous, I’ll do whatever the ticket agent/TSA inspector tells me to do, even if it’s “wrong.”  I’d rather not miss my flight.  I’d rather my bags not be delayed.  In my mind, it’s better to get to my destination on time and with my bags than to argue with mindless bureaucrats and be “right.”


-No matter what your airline app says, if your gun bag is delayed, they will not send it to your location.  You will have to return to the airport to pick up your bag in person.  Don’t expect the airlines to call you and let you know  where your bags are or what you must do to  complete the re-unification process.  The apps will indicate that your bag will be transported to the address you specify.  It will not.  Pick it up at the destination baggage claim office.



I primarily fly the large domestic legacy airline carriers.  I have lots of experience flying Delta, American, United, and Southwest with guns.  I have zero experience flying the budget airlines like Spirit, Breeze, WOW, or Jet Blue.  I understand that their policies are similar, but I have no direct experience with them.  I’ve also not flown with guns to a foreign country.  The advice above applies to flights within the USA only.



If you are traveling to a state that has reciprocity with your CCW, why not take your guns?  Even if you don’t think you’ll need them at your destination, it doesn’t hurt to have them along.  Imagine vacationing in Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina hit.  Wouldn’t you like to have a gun if you were subjected to that chaos?  What if you get stranded in your travels after another 9/11- style terror attack stops all airline travel for a few days?  If you have to rent a car and drive across the country to get home, wouldn’t you want your pistol?



Some things are out of our control.  It’s smart to be prepared, even if you are visiting an area where you don’t think you’ll “need” your gun.



Mexican Gun Laws

Mexican Gun Laws 777 437 Greg Ellifritz

The gun laws in Mexico are not quite as restrictive as you imagine.  While in general, Latin American gun laws are more strict than those in the USA, fewer guns does not equal less crime.


Here is a great analysis of Mexican gun laws from an American ex-pat living in Mexico.  The author is a retired police officer from Florida.


Answers to Common Questions About Gun Laws in Mexico



How I Almost Got Arrested in Turkey

How I Almost Got Arrested in Turkey 1024 768 Greg Ellifritz

I got back a few days ago from a 10-day trip to Turkey.  I’ll have a full article about my trip posted next week, but until then I need to share some critical information for you shooters who travel by air.


On my flight home leaving Turkey, I had to go through Turkey’s dual airport security system.  Since the famous airport bombing and active killer attack in the ticketing area before security, Turkish airports have placed metal detectors and baggage x-ray systems just inside the each airport’s door.  In order to make it to the ticket counter, you must place your bags in an X-ray scanner and walk through a metal detector.


After getting your boarding passes and checking your luggage, you must again go through a traditional airport screening system.  On international flights, the Turkish equivalent of the TSA also hand searches each passengers carry-on bags and physically pats each passenger down before they get on the plane.  It’s quite a process.


The 2016 Istanbul attackers


I fly a lot.  I’ve taken a total of 53 flights already this calendar year.  I also flew two previous domestic flights in Turkey earlier in my trip, so I was familiar with their special  security procedures and had optimized my packing to get through smoothly.


I put my carry-on and checked bags on the screening machine’s conveyor belt.  I had no metal on my person, so I walked through the metal detector without an alarm.  I waited on the other side of the detector for my bags to come out the other side of the X-ray machine.  My carry-on came through with no problem, but my checked bag was flagged for extra screening.  Security asked me to open the suitcase.  When I did, the security guard removed my large medical kit and a bag of liquids, separating them from the rest of the suitcase contents.


That didn’t seem unusual and I patiently waited when they ran the med kit, the liquids, and the suitcase all through the X-ray machine separately.


The screener started yelling in Turkish and suddenly two Turkish National Police officers appeared and greeted me in a friendly manner.


The screeners seemed a bit excited but the cops seemed relaxed and were smiling.  The problem was that none of them spoke any English (maybe more accurately described as the problem was that I didn’t speak any Turkish).  They were all repeating a single word when talking to me.  I tried to explain that I didn’t understand what they were saying.


One of the cops removed the magazine from his pistol and pointed to a cartridge (Turkish cops carry ball ammo in their guns, by the way) and then pointed to my bag.  The other cop pulled up Google translate on his phone and typed a single word.  It was “bullet.”  Apparently they had seen a bullet in my checked bag on the X-ray image.


Shit.  That wasn’t good.


What the Turkish cop showed me.  He was pointing to the top round in the magazine and then at my bag.


I shook my head “no.”  I was absolutely certain that I didn’t have any ammunition in my bag.


As I wrote about in my book, I have a very specific procedure to ensure that I don’t take firearms or ammunition into other countries.  I use a separate set of luggage for traveling in foreign countries.  I NEVER use those bags for traveling domestically or for hauling guns/ammo to the range.  Additionally, before I pack for each trip, I start with completely empty bags so I know nothing could possibly be left over from any previous trips. I had followed my protocol meticulously when packing for this trip.



Besides, my luggage had already been screened on each of the three separate flights I took earlier in the trip and no one noticed anything alarming.  There was no way I had a bullet in my bag.


The screeners and cops ran my bag through the machine several more times.  They tore everything apart and couldn’t find what they were looking for.  The process was taking a long time.  They had been tearing my bag apart for about 15 minutes when the cop with Google translate on his phone started typing.


He typed: “Bullets are prohibited.”


I replied: “I don’t have any bullets.”


Trying to personalize the interaction and ensure that the cop knew he wasn’t dealing with a criminal, I typed: “I am a police officer in the United States.”


His reply was: “This isn’t America.  Bullets are prohibited, even for USA police.”


Ouch.  This interaction wasn’t going well at all.


The screeners continued going through my bags until they found what they were looking for.  In the pocket of a pair of shorts I hadn’t worn on the trip, they found a speed strip loaded with six rounds of .22 magnum ammo.


Similar to what I had in the pocket of a pair of shorts


A couple weeks previously, I had gone hiking and had carried my Smith and Wesson 351C .22 magnum revolver.  I tossed a speed strip full of extra ammo in my pocket.  I had forgotten to remove the speed strip.  It had been through the washer and dryer.  The ammo was so light that I packed the pair of shorts without noticing that there was a loaded speed strip in the pocket.  I didn’t wear the shorts on my trip and didn’t have a chance to notice the pocket contained ammunition.


The cop was looking at the strip and appearing very confused.  He clearly didn’t know what it was.  There probably aren’t many folks carrying spare rounds for a .22 magnum in Turkey.  I quickly started typing on my phone.



The cop nodded his head, trashed the speed strip and walked away without saying anything more.


I have no idea if I had received some international “professional courtesy” or if that was their normal response to idiot Americans who bring ammo into their country.  Either way, I’m grateful the cop chose not to make an arrest for what was clearly a criminal violation in his country.


I never thought to check my clothing for contraband before packing for an international trip.  I will be sure to check every piece of clothing I throw in the suitcase before my next vacation.  If you are a shooter who regularly carries spare ammo in clothing pockets, you should too.






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Transporting Guns Out of the Country

Transporting Guns Out of the Country 1021 660 Greg Ellifritz

I’ve spent most of my life dealing with people who hate guns.  I’ve spent significant time in the last two decades navigating third world bureaucracies.   Because I couldn’t imagine the hassle of combining the two, I’ve never traveled outside the USA with a firearm.


For those of you more adventurous than I am, here is a guide to taking your guns to other countries.


Tips for Transporting Firearms In And Out Of Country




Swedish Gun Laws

Swedish Gun Laws 176 176 Greg Ellifritz

I love to travel.  I also love guns.  This is a neat series that talks about the legalities of owning and carrying weapons in other countries.  In this case, the foreign country is Sweden.  While many people think that European countries have an outright ban on guns, that isn’t entirely true.  Watch the short video to see what kind of legal obstacles the Swedes have to hurdle in order to own a firearm.



Overview of Swedish Gun Laws


Guns in Thailand

Guns in Thailand 1274 611 Greg Ellifritz

I really enjoy traveling.  I also really enjoy guns.  That means I really like learning about the gun laws and shooting cultures in different countries.  Here is a neat video about guns and shooting in Thailand.  I’m going to have to visit some of those markets when I go back to Bangkok next time.


The Bangkok Gun District in Thailand



French Gun Laws

French Gun Laws 275 183 Greg Ellifritz

With my passion for foreign travel, I’m always curious about the gun laws in other countries.  Here is a lot of information about how things work in France.  Many Americans assume that it is impossible to own a gun in European, African, or South American countries.  It is not.  While there are usually far more hoops to jump through to get a gun than in the USA, gun ownership is certainly possible in most foreign countries.



Overview of French Gun Laws