When flying with checked-in luggage, if a traveller has a single component (i.e. receiver, scope, barrel), does this need to be declared as a firearm? Assume no ammunition is carried and that only a single part for the question. Assume flying in the United States and no international travel.

Is there a definitive document that answers which components must be declared? One would think that a scope is not to be declared, however, other parts may be. Maybe there is a litmus test to that can be applied to a part / assembly to determine if it is necessary to declare?

  • 2
    The ATF will say the lower is a firearm, but the airline and the TSA may have a different opinion. Nov 19, 2016 at 16:08
  • 3
    If the "piece of metal" itself is considered a weapon or firearm then it triggers the special procedures involved in carrying such items in checked luggage. Nov 19, 2016 at 17:52
  • @motoDrizzt when that piece metal is a weapon and per federal regulations, the lower receiver is.
    – user4188
    Nov 19, 2016 at 18:53
  • 1
    Yes. In most cases all you have to do is declare the firearm. If you can legally carry the firearm for which you have the part, declare it anyway. It's not really that big a deal in most places, NY/NJ being the biggest exceptions. Be prepared to pack it as if it were a full firearm per the airline's rules.
    – DTRT
    Nov 19, 2016 at 21:18

1 Answer 1


TSA quote:

United States Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 44, firearm definitions includes: any weapon (including a starter gun) which will, or is designed to, or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; the frame or receiver of any such weapon; any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; and any destructive device. As defined by 49 CFR 1540.5 a loaded firearm has a live round of ammunition, or any component thereof, in the chamber or cylinder or in a magazine inserted in the firearm.

and show:


  • When traveling, comply with the laws concerning possession of firearms as they vary by local, state and international governments.

  • Declare each firearm each time you present it for transport as checked baggage. Ask your airline about limitations or fees that may

  • Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only. Only the passenger should retain the key or combination to the lock.

  • Firearm parts, including magazines, clips, bolts and firing pins, are prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage.

  • Replica firearms, including firearm replicas that are toys, may be transported in checked baggage only.

  • Rifle scopes are permitted in carry-on and checked baggage.

More than that they do not seem willing to disclose, though they do offer:

Contact the TSA Contact Center with questions you have regarding TSA firearm regulations and for clarification on what you may or may not transport in your carry-on or checked baggage.

Allowing rifle scopes in carry-on luggage implies to me these are not seen as "firearms", despite being under that heading. On the other hand the fourth bullet point implies to me that magazines, clips, bolts and firing pins are seen as "firearms", perhaps either under "may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive" or "the frame or receiver of any such weapon; any firearm muffler or firearm silencer".

  • scopes are listed there because they are explicitly excluded from the rule, probably a clause that was added because of many questions regarding them. They're almost certainly classified as optical equipment, no different from cameras and telescopes.
    – jwenting
    Nov 21, 2016 at 7:53

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