Beach vacations are nice, but hunting trips are better.
In our previous blog post, we covered what suppressor owners need to think about when making an in-state or out-of-state move. In this post, we'll cover the basics of traveling with a suppressor out of state for a temporary trip. You could be going to a gun match, pursuing a cool hunting opportunity, or just showing off your new suppressor to your cousin.
Suppressor travel basics
No matter how you travel, you need to make sure that it's legal to have a suppressor where you are traveling. If you're headed to any of the following — California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island or D.C. — you'll have to leave your favorite toy at home.
The ATF specifically states that “the registered owner of a destructive device, machine gun, short-barreled shotgun, or short-barreled rifle need authorization to lawfully transport such items interstate.” The ATF’s website goes on to state, “This requirement does not apply to the lawful interstate transportation of silencers.” So, the great news is, you don’t necessarily need paperwork in order to temporarily transport suppressors.
As with any travel, it's important to keep copies of all your important documents with you and in your firearm container (copies are fine — feel free to keep the originals safe at home).
When you travel with an NFA item, be sure to bring a copy of your:
Form 4 approval (tax stamp)
Approved Form 5320.20 (if applicable)
Declaration of Trust (if applicable)
Traveling with a Destructive Device, Machine Gun, SBR, or SBS
While we’re on the topic, though, let’s cover what to do if you decide to travel with any of the other items listed above. You’ll need to fill out an ATF Form 5320.20, which is the application to transfer NFA items. (This is the same form used for interstate moves).
The ATF must approve your form before you go, so submit it as far ahead of time as possible to avoid last minute stress. The form will ask for the date range of your travel. When ready, send it to the ATF's NFA Branch. For extra protection, send your letter via certified mail so you know it was delivered:
ATTN NFA Branch
244 Needy Road
Martinsburg, WV 25401
Flying with a suppressor
Flying with a suppressor is like flying with a firearm in a lot of ways. You should arrive at the airport early (with paperwork copies in tow) because you'll need to check and declare your suppressor. Just as if you were traveling with a firearm, you'll need a container that can be used with TSA-approved locks.
Call or email your airline of choice prior to arriving at the airport. Compliance can change by airline, and there might be specific policies regarding storage and security of your shush stick. Don’t show up and check in only to find out you can’t store it the way you originally intended! The proper luggage is key and your airline will be able to guide you better on this one.
Other factors to consider are your flight connections, as cancellations and major delays can happen. If you get stranded, and you want to leave the airport to stay in a hotel for the night, you won't be able to check in with your NFA items when you return to the airport. The best practice is to just avoid any flights that land in states where having an NFA item isn't legal JUST IN CASE. Avoid those headaches by being strategic with your flights choices, including your connections.
All of the tips above only apply to travel within the United States, not overseas. You can only use your suppressor in the United States states where it’s legal, and where it's fun.
It's always a good idea to reach out to the ATF with questions if you're planning on traveling with your suppressor or NFA item. They can be reached at 304-616-4500 or NFA@atf.gov. Enjoy your trip!