5 min read

Navigating Air Travel: Can You Board with Airsoft Guns?

Think your airsoft gun's just a toy? Airport security won't. Before your next flight, let's unpack the do's and don'ts of traveling with replica weapons—your stress-free journey depends on it.

Tobi Miles
April 23, 2019

Calling all Airsoft Enthusiasts, What are the Security Guidelines for flying with your airsoft weapons/firearms? Also toy guns, replica weapons and even war memorabilia ..what exactly are the airline rules for flying with these.

After a recent trip from the United States to the Jamaica via Delta airlines with a simple Airsoft gun,  i ran into a few issues which wasn't fun! Upon returning to the U.K, I was discussing my issues with a friend who had during the recent 100th anniversary of world war one attempted to bring back to the U.K, war memorabilia and deactivated weapons.

So after much deliberation I decided to investigate the clear rules for flying & imported with these types of weapons as they are not real at the end of the day! So as you might of guessed the rules differ per airline and each country has variations!

Airsoft Weapons vs TSA Security?

Airport security | By Ralf Roletschek via Wikimedia Commons

According to NJ news,

"Federal authorities found a fake grenade, pellets and other items that a passenger attempted to bring through a security checkpoint at Newark Liberty International Airport on Saturday.

The man, bound for Heathrow Airport in London, voluntarily abandoned the Airsoft grenade and accessories around 5 p.m. when Transportation Security Administration agents discovered them.

He was allowed to board his flight because it is not illegal to possess a replica grenade, the spokeswoman said. "

So he's luckily he didn't get fined, however he lost his expensive kit! So follow our tips below to avoid this happening to you!

United States Airline Rules: Airsoft, toy guns or replicas:

If traveling to or from the United States or flying domestically TSA (Transport and Security Administration) is your go to guide! A federal agency created after the September 11th attacks, there main goal is to govern the Security of the united states.

So what do they have to say about Airsoft Guns & Replicas?

Bob Burns from the TSA Explains:

For those of you not familiar with Airsoft, it’s an activity similar to paintball, but the guns shoot plastic pellets. While the guns don’t fire real bullets, they look alarmingly realistic.

Most of the guns have orange tips on the muzzles, but on the X-ray screen, they look like the real deal and will cause an incident and delay you and your fellow passengers!

They’re also prohibited from the aircraft because they’re considered a realistic replica and would likely cause panic and commotion if seen on a plane.

Like paintball guns, Airsoft guns are perfectly fine to transport in your checked baggage, and as with BB and pellet guns, there is no need to declare them as you would a real firearm.

There are also Airsoft grenades and mortars that look realistic! These are not OK in carry-on or checked baggage. Keep in mind that if your gun uses compressed gas cartridges, those are prohibited as well. CO2 cartridges are only permitted with life vests and mechanical limbs.

TSA are there to assist you and keep you safe by watching for weapons | By DHS via Wikimedia Commons

Related Read: Can You Bring A Taser On A Plane?

So if your traveling in the United States you may only transport firearms, ammunition and firearm parts in your checked baggage. Firearms, ammunition and firearm parts are prohibited from carry-on baggage.

TSA Requirements for Airsoft Firearms:

There are also a series of additional requirements the TSA States should be followed:

Airport Declaration of Airsoft Weapon:

  • You must declare all firearms to the airline during the ticket counter check-in process.
  • The firearm must be unloaded.

Airsoft Container Requirements:

  • The firearm must be in a hard-sided container.
  • The container must be locked.
  • Provide the key or combination to the security officer if he or she needs to open the container.

Closeup back view of single man in coat carrying rubbed metallic security suitcase with digital lock in his hand on the handle over airport terminal floor tile background, horizontal picture

Screening of replica firearms:

  • Remain present during screening to take the key back after the container is cleared.  "If you are not present and the security officer must open the container, we or the airline will make a reasonable attempt to contact you. If we can’t contact you, the container will not be placed on the plane. Federal regulations prohibit unlocked gun cases (or cases with broken locks) on aircraft."

Airsoft Ammunition:

  • Ammunition - Should be securely packed in fiber (such as cardboard), wood or metal boxes or other packaging that is specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition.
  • You can’t use firearm magazines/clips for packing ammunition unless they completely and securely enclose the ammunition (e.g., by securely covering the exposed portions of the magazine or by securely placing the magazine in a pouch, holder, holster or lanyard).
  • You may carry the ammunition in the same hard-sided case as the firearm, as long as you pack it as described above.

Black Powder or Percussion Caps in Carry on luggage?

  • You can’t bring black powder or percussion caps used with black-powder type firearms in either your carry-on or checked baggage.

If you forget to follow the rules? Civil Penalties & Prosecution:

The TSA and other authorities strictly enforce these regulations. Violations can result in criminal prosecution and civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

Related Read: Can You Bring A Flashlight On A Plane?

Airline Rules for Airsoft, Toy guns and Replicas:

To play it safe before Traveling you should contact your airline as may have their own additional policies regarding replica firearms and amount of ammunition etc.

If you are traveling internationally, please check with the authorities at your destination about their requirements.

By Formulanone via Wikimedia Commons

Exceptions to the Airline Rules:Rout

There are certain limited exceptions for law enforcement officers who may fly armed by meeting the requirements of Title 49 CFR § 1544.219. Law enforcement officers should check with their superiors and read further into policies before traveling with guns.

Source: For further info please see the TSA website.

Delta Airlines Case Study (Airsoft Weapons at Airport)  Route: JFK Airport to Dominican Republic

An Airsoft hobbyist named Freddie, who flew from the US (JFK) to the Dominican Republic (SDQ) via Delta Airlines, in 2016. Here is his story:

Firstly what he took with him while flying:

Hard Plastic case for Airsoft weapon:

  • This is a must as all rifles must be transported in here, it goes without saying it must have the orange tip, the plastic case must have a 4 seal minimum, must have a regular non-tsa lock, and not easily priable.
  • ICS Transform4 rifle, orange tip, unloaded and no batteries in the gun.
  • About 5 M4 mags, 3 of these were Hi Cap mags, and I left them full as I wouldn't want to lead TSA to think they were real.
  • 1 Clear AK mag, for a buddy
  • a 1 kg BB bag
  • P226 Frame, for buddy of mine, along with an extra mag
  • 2 NiMH batteries, I use lipos, but I got a spare one so I can show what the gun is powered by.

In checked luggage:

  • I got a notice of inspection in here, so tsa opened it up and checked my stuff, but everything was put right back. So beware of this
  • JPC with Molle Attachments
  • 2 1kg BB bags
  • 3 spare M4 mid caps
  • 2 spare KWA ATP mags
  • Extra Stock, few motors and few gearbox upgrade parts

In my carry-on baggage.

  • Please note, carry on airsoft items are extremely limited as TSA has strict rules about this
  • I took a Micro T1 and a Rifle scope in a hard plastic side arm case inside my carry on bag, and a Battle Belt with some molle attachments too.

"That's about it for the gear I took. I know it's a lot, but in the DR shipping rates are exorbitant, and it's a lot cheaper to buy in the US and just take it with me. I was forced to distribute items across certain bags because of weight restrictions." - Says Freddie.

Related Read: How to Choose an 18x 14x8 Bag

What happened at the Airport?

" I arrived at the airport and at Baggage Drop, I told the lady I'd be checking in an airsoft gun. She did not know what it was so I just said it's a replica firearm. She seemed not to mind, and even surprised that I wouldn't be taking it Carry-on, but I knew the rules and I had her ask someone else. And yup, local Port Authority police had to inspect it and it would have to be cleared for flight and checked as a firearm. Had I listened to the first lady, my gun would probably have been confiscated.

She then prompted me to the Delta Kiosk assistance area, where a much nicer lady explained what I had to do. A Port authority police officer would have to clear it for flight, I'd have to fill out a firearm unloaded tag, and I'd have to pay the 2nd checked luggage fee ($40 dollars) and I'd be all good.

So this nice gentleman came up after she called the cops, opened my case and examined everything. He was an airsoft player himself (awesome) and knew what he was dealing with. He had me open the case right then and there, (I got tons of looks from the people who were in line), he then deemed it safe for flying, and walked with me to TSA, at TSA they took his badge number and name, and sent me on my way.

Everything went as smooth as silk from there, arrived at DR and everything went normal, and I'm now currently unpacking everything. "

The source of this case study is from an Airsoft hobbyist named Freddie (all credit to him) on a Reddit forum.

Flying Into the U.K with a BB gun/Airsoft, toy,Replica gun.

As most commonly thought the U.K has a few more policies than the U.S.A where people try to transport real guns on occasion. To bring the bb gun/Airsoft into the UK as it is, will require you, the owner, to have a valid defence as prescribed under the VCRA (Violent Crime Reduction Act) to demonstrate that you will use the Replica Imitation RIF in a safe manner.

UK Flag | By Brayden A via Wikimedia Commons

Related Read: How Many Fluid Ounces Can You Carry On A Plane?

Legal Part (Airsoft/BB guns)

1) a UKARA REGISTRATION is the easiest way to obtain a defence.

2) There are other defences, which might be worth looking into, you can read the particular part of the VCRA HERE and the amendment HERE. On the second link, search for the word Airsoft and you will find what you need.

3) Paint the Gun - If you can paint the gun so that it appears unrealistic you can import it as an IF provided that you are 18 or older. Paint something which isn't covered when you hold the replica, and use a bright eye catching colour which doesn't incorporate any camouflage!

As for the Airline, they may well be a little nervous about allowing an imitation firearm onto an aircraft, but after explaining what you intend to do well ahead of time, and transporting the RIF safely should sort all that out.

Practicalities of Travel with Airsoft:

Following similar rules to TSA explained previously should help you to avoid any issues.

Contact the Airline:

Detail what you would like in your checked luggage and hand luggage. (better to put all in checked to be on the safe side.

Declaration of Airsoft Firearm:

  • You must declare all firearms to the airline during the ticket counter check-in process.
  • The firearm must be unloaded.

Airsoft Container Requirements:

  • The firearm must be in a hard-sided container.
  • The container must be locked.
  • Provide the key or combination to the security officer if he or she needs to open the container. (Or use a TSA approved Padlock which they can open)
  • A Info Note or data sheet inside the Container -

Keep a note in the case that explains exactly what , that it is incapable of handling or discharging any form of ammunition other than lightweight BBs. Put your UKARA details in there as well, including Name, Full Address, UKARA number.

Word of caution when flying with an Airsoft firearm:

Don't use the word "Gun" "Firearm" or "Weapon" at the airport, whilst you're carrying a gun bag or gun case. Also DO NOT remove it from the case. If the check in clerk or security ask to see it, explain that it is an RIF and that you should take it to a private room first.

Flying internationally with Airsoft or Replica weapons?

Your best bet is to follow the above guidelines for the U.S.A and U.K, Locked case, Declare and Check in etc. Then you shouldn't go far wrong. But make sure you check with the airline before hand to clairfy any differences. State that you are following U.S. , T.S.A rules and U.K rules and that are there any differences.

If possible, try to pack everything in your checked in bag and you shouldn't have any worries.

Flying with Airsoft, Replica Firearms or even War Memorabilia:

Common Sense is the key when traveling with airsoft guns it isn’t usually difficult. Just follow the above rules, Declare, check with airport check in staff without causing alarm and you should be fine! The same rules apply for war memorabilia as long as deactivated (With evidence), Movie Prop Weapons and any other imitation firearm.

Our Town and Tourist, five golden tips are:

  1. Declare,
  2. Label,
  3. Lock,
  4. Secure,
  5. Check in.

(Courtesy of our Town and Tourist Airsoft Enthusiasts) .

For imports and shipping from other countries and places like China the same procedure should be followed with clear import documentation and any data sheets stating exactly what it is, the fact its inactive its purpose (Antique) , Safety Clearance and contact number, address for yourself to answer any further questions.

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