I personally check with the concerned airline(s) prior to flight, preferably in some form that I can print out and carry to the airport with me to show as "proof" of airline policy. There are a lot of "near truths" out there and these will/can cause some problems if you don't do a little preparation. Many baggage screeners and other officials don't know the rules/law, in many cases they have adopted word-of-mouth myths, rumors and fallicies as truth.
I'd check with the airline you're going to use, get a printed copy of their policy as a verbal reply is pretty much useless is any misunderstanding or dispute. Get the phone number of a "supervisor" or other senior type airline (baggage restrictions) representative so you have some method to resolve a dispute (while at the airport) in just a few momments with a cell phone call or two.
Also get a printed copy of the TSA information.
Here's what NorthWest Airlines has posted on thier website.
"Firearms, Handguns, and Ammunition
Passengers should check with Northwest for current policies, requirements, and restrictions on traveling with firearms and related items.
Northwest Airlines does not accept guns or firearms of any kind in carry-on luggage.
Northwest accepts handguns, BB guns, rifles, and shotguns as checked luggage, with certain limitations and requirements.
Northwest accepts one of the following in lieu of one piece of luggage included in the free luggage allowance:
One (1) rifle case containing no more than two (2) rifles
, one (1)shooting mat, one (1) noise suppressor and tools.
Two (2) shotguns in two (2) cases considered as one (1) item.
One (1) pistol case containing no more than five (5) handguns, one (1) scope, one (1) noise supressor and tools.
In addition to one (1) of the above items, Northwest accepts small arms ammunition up to a maximum of 11 pounds (5 kg). Guns and ammunition may be in the same piece of luggage. However, ammunition must be within its own packaging.
Northwest accepts firearm, handguns, and ammunition under the following conditions:
All firearms must be packed in a crush-proof container manufactured specifically for firearms or in a hard-sided suitcase.
Hard-shell gun cases can be purchased at domestic airports.
Ammunition must be in the manufacturer's original packaging or a container specifically designed for ammunition. Ammunition with explosive or incendiary projectiles will not be accepted.
Passengers must verbally declare the firearm is unloaded. Northwest requires a passenger to sign a firearm unloaded tag and include it inside of luggage containing a firearm. No exterior tag or notice of firearm may appear on the case.
Luggage containing firearms must be locked and only the passenger may retain the key or combination.
Airline personnel will not unload or handle firearms.
Northwest does not accept liability for loss, damage, or delay of firearms, handguns, and ammunition. Excess valuation insurance may not be purchased for transport of firearms, handguns, and ammunition.
Here is a clip directly from the Transportation Safety Administration site about Firearms and Ammunition.
TSA - Transporting Special Items
"Transporting Special Items
Transporting Firearms and Ammunition
Firearms, ammunition and firearm parts may only be transported in checked baggage.
Firearms, ammunition and firearm parts are prohibited from carry-on baggage.
There are certain limited exceptions for law enforcement officers (LEOs) who are authorized to fly armed by meeting the requirements of 49 CFR § 1544.219.
Following is a summary of key regulatory requirements
to transport firearms, firearm parts or ammunition in checked baggage:
All firearms must be declared to the air carrier during the ticket counter check-in process.
The firearm must be unloaded.
The firearm must be carried in a hard-sided container.
The container must be locked.
It is preferred that the passenger provide the key or combination to the screener if it is necessary to open the container, and then remain present during screening to take back possession of the key after the container is cleared. If you are not present and the screener must open the container, the TSA and/or airline will make a reasonable attempt to contact the passenger. If this is unsuccessful, the container will not be placed on the plane since unlocked gun cases (or cases with broken locks) are not permitted on aircraft due to Federal regulations.
Any ammunition transported must be securely packed in fiber (such as cardboard), wood or metal boxes or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition.
Firearm magazines/clips do not satisfy the packaging requirement unless they provide a complete and secure enclosure of 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).
The ammunition may also be located in the same hard-sided case as the firearm, as long as it is properly packed as described above.
Black powder and percussion caps used with black-powder type firearms are not permitted in carry-on or checked baggage.
The regulations are strictly enforced. Violations can result in criminal prosecution and the imposition of civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.
Air carriers may have their own additional requirements on the carriage of firearms and the amount of ammunition an individual may place in checked baggage. Therefore, travelers should also contact the air carrier regarding its firearm and ammunition carriage policies."
Here's some from 49 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) section 1544.203
"§ 1544.203 Acceptance and screening of checked baggage.
(a) Preventing or deterring the carriage of any explosive or incendiary. Each aircraft operator must use the procedures, facilities, and equipment described in its security program to prevent or deter the carriage of any unauthorized explosive or incendiary onboard aircraft in checked baggage.
(b) Acceptance. Each aircraft operator must ensure that checked baggage carried in the aircraft is received by its authorized aircraft operator representative.
(c) Screening of checked baggage. Except as provided in its security program, each aircraft operator must ensure that all checked baggage is inspected for explosives and incendiaries before loading it on its aircraft, in accordance with §1544.207.
(d) Control. Each aircraft operator must use the procedures in its security program to control checked baggage that it accepts for transport on an aircraft, in a manner that:
(1) Prevents the unauthorized carriage of any explosive or incendiary aboard the aircraft.
(2) Prevents access by persons other than an aircraft operator employee or its agent.
(e) Refusal to transport. Each aircraft operator must refuse to transport any individual's checked baggage or property if the individual does not consent to a search or inspection of that checked baggage or property in accordance with the system prescribed by this part.
(f) Firearms in checked baggage. No aircraft operator may knowingly permit any person to transport in checked baggage:
(1) Any loaded firearm(s).
(2) Any unloaded firearm(s) unless—
(i) The passenger declares to the aircraft operator, either orally or in writing before checking the baggage that any firearm carried in the baggage is unloaded;
(ii) The firearm is carried in a hard-sided container;
(iii) The container in which it is carried is locked, and only the individual checking the baggage retains the key or combination; and
(iv) The checked baggage containing the firearm is carried in an area that is inaccessible to passengers, and is not carried in the flightcrew compartment,.
(3) Any unauthorized explosive or incendiary.
(g) Ammunition. This section does not prohibit the carriage of ammunition in checked baggage or in the same container as a firearm. Title 49 CFR part 175 provides additional requirements governing carriage of ammunition on aircraft."
More to come....
Here's a link to the
49 CFR PART 175--CARRIAGE BY AIRCRAFT
49 CFR §175.10 Exceptions.
49 CFR Part 175--CARRIAGE BY AIRCRAFT
"(5) Small-arms ammunition for personal use carried by a crewmember or passenger in his baggage (excluding carry-on baggage) if securely packed in fiber, wood or metal boxes, or other packagings specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition. This paragraph does not apply to persons traveling under the provisions of 49 CFR 1544.219."