We talked about travel with firearms a few posts back......what sort of gun case is best, how to lock them, and some of the big items you need to know. This post is about the small things and ways to make it easier to travel with firearms.
Think Before you Fly:
First, look at your destination with a realistic set of eyes. Does your trip hinge on you having your firearms and gear? Do you have extra travel days on either end? Do you truly need to fly, or can you drive? Sometimes flying, while faster and fewer hours in a vehicle, can still make for a long trip – plus, its adds much more risk than driving. Will your gun cases fit in the rental? Will you make your connecting flights? Can you car-pool with friends? All of these considerations might seem pretty small, but the ways a trip can run amok from a flight cancellation or uncontrollable travel issue can be the thing that undoes months of preparation and planning.
As a rule of thumb, our family drives. There are generally four or five of us attending an event and that alone makes flying expensive. But even if two of us travel, sometimes the extra time saved is not worth the amount of work that comes with flying. My son and I flew to Georgia a few years back, and by the time we had our rental car, it would have taken just four more hours to have driven our own vehicle. It was a lesson in cost in dollars versus cost in time. If the timeline merits flight, we fly direct. We book through a carrier we have had good experiences with, and we rent a large enough vehicle to work from. But for the most part, traveling to an event that we’ve paid an entry fee to (for hunters, that would be purchasing a license and/or paying a guide), and we’ve allotted ammo and training and travel money towards, we want to achieve the best outcome. That means having every piece of gear we want and all the ammo we need, and the ability to control our own destination.
Hitting the Pavement:
A few of the things that we do to make travel in a car less stressful, and our competitions happen with as little chaos as possible have been trial-and-error. But when five people are working out of one vehicle, you learn things! We want to share them with you.
One thing we do when we drive that makes the trip easier is keep to a schedule of stops and rotation of drivers. This keeps drivers fresh, and everyone has a chance to get work done or rest, and move their bodies and stretch. I’m the worst at seeing fuel tank run low and missing it. So again, fresh eyes can save you from being far from help and needing it. Road trips are much longer when dealing with a preventable problem
Next, we organize weight in our vehicle. Shooting one or two matches means a lot of weight in ammunition. Our van has a forward compartment that we get much of this into, but otherwise we try to balance the weight of the load to save wear and tear on our vehicle and improve how it handles. We often unload our van before we drive off-road and preview stages at events just to decrease the likelihood of problems from a low-riding minivan.
When organizing, we sort gear into what needs to come out of the vehicle first. We try not to set heavy bags on our long shotgun tubes, or bury ammo when we check out of a hotel, but still have to compete for the day before driving home. So, small bins and bags we can move are important. We love shotgun ammo case boxes that are sturdy enough to hold things, and can fit under/behind our feet for the day so we can work out of a single space.
The same need to organize for the drive is also there during a competition. When you share a vehicle with someone whether hunting, fishing or shooting, knowing what gear is yours and where you put it can get tricky. Nobody wants to rip a car apart in the dark trying to find a lost piece of gear. So we use the same ammo boxes for a personal box for the event to help us keep our own gear and ammo contained. They fit on our lap and are small enough to carry onto a stage with our gear bag.
Last, bring spare shoes and snacks. Every time we fail to pack the extra shoes, we inevitably have rain. And every time we think we’ll just stop and grab small meals, we find exits closed or run into storms that necessitate pushing further on down the road. So organize gear, feed yourself and your passengers, and keep their feet dry, and odds are you will survive even a couple weeks on the road with your family!