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With leaves falling in some parts of the country and snow piling up in others, the holidays are coming up fast! For most of us that entail buying gifts, decorating the house, and planning trips to see loved ones. Even though it can be stressful, traveling shouldn’t deter anyone from carrying, since crime spikes between Thanksgiving and New Years. Here are some tips for making holiday travel a breeze with your sidearm.

Photo Credit: Moisés Silva Lima

Know the Law

Ignorance of the law isn’t an excuse, period. This is important to keep in mind, especially if you’re driving across state lines. Even if you have a concealed permit for your home state, that permit might not be valid in other states. In some states, like Maryland, you must have your gun unloaded, locked in a case, and put away in the trunk of the car. Here is a great resource from the NRA Institute for Legislative Action for each state’s gun laws. It will show you the states that your permit is valid and where it’s not. If you’re unsure about a state’s gun laws, don’t risk anything. Call their state police for clarification.

Photo Credit: Cory Hatchel

Taking to the Skies & Riding Rails

Flying with a firearm is probably one of the most stressful situations for gun owners. Airlines follow a strict set of guidelines, but state/city laws may also apply here. The first part of flying with a gun is to ensure that you have a hard-side case (the case that the gun came in will suffice). While you’re packing your luggage (at home), make sure that your gun is unloaded, put your gun in the hard-side case and lock it. Ammunition should be in a separate container (the box it came in should work), and somewhere else in your luggage than the gun case. At the ticket counter make sure to declare your firearm & ammo, and from there the agent should give you instructions on what to do. It’s that simple. Traveling by train with a sidearm is pretty much the same as flying, except you should call at least a day in advance to notify the railways that you’ll be checking in a firearm, and you should arrive at least 30 minutes before your train departs to check in your gun.

Photo Credit: Claire Savage

Other Considerations

Apparel might not be a major consideration during the holidays, but being comfortable is crucial while carrying. If you’re uncomfortable, your reaction times can be slowed, and that’s a major drawback. If wearing a belt holster or an inside the waistband holster (IWB), wear pants that expand so that the turkey dinner doesn’t ruin your draw. For women, this is a great time of year to wear a comfy sweater or flowy top, since both are great for concealment.

Remember the training you’ve done, legally and from the range. State laws vary widely with technicalities about self-defense, and shooting someone should be the very last resort. There is certainly a difference knowing how to shoot and when to shoot. Here’s a great video from Guns & Ammo to help train your reflexes.