Editor's Note: The following article is a web-exclusive accompaniment to “Road Warrior” by Mel Ward, as seen in the upcoming Issue 33 of our magazine (on sale 8/6/19). In the print article, Mel covers a variety of tips for maintaining safety and security while on a cross-country road trip. Traveling with guns presents its own list of challenges, which Mel examines below.

Recently, I completed my second coast-to-coast crossing. As a parent, I found myself confronted with a plethora of challenges presented by traversing 3,500 miles from Washington State to North Carolina in two vehicles with a wife, five children, two dogs, and everything we owned packed into a 16-foot box truck. The following considerations are based on the lessons my family learned while traveling across the country.

Traveling with Firearms

You may or may not be traveling with a firearm. In our case, we were traveling with every gun we owned as we were moving our household across the country. For me personally, this meant I needed to address two issues:

  1. Legally transporting my daily carry pistol for protecting my family on the trip
  2. Legally storing and transporting the rest of the pistols and rifles in my collection in the back of the moving truck

The consequences of ignoring these issues could be dire — arrest, imprisonment, theft, or even your own guns being used against you and your loved ones.

Carrying for Protection

Obviously, I recommend carrying your preferred firearm for protection. That choice, and how you choose to do it is up to you, but we need to be well aware of the legal considerations since we are crossing into city, county, and state jurisdictions that may have gun laws that differ from what we’re used to.

First off, ensure your CCW license will be valid for the duration of your trip. Next, know the reciprocity of your state’s CCW license. Many CCWs are recognized in multiple states. Interactive reciprocity maps can be a good place to start — for example, the USCCA offers a free and frequently-updated map. However, I also like to consult my state’s official government page for all laws pertaining to licensing, carrying, and transporting firearms as well as those pages of any states I’ll be passing through along my chosen route. This enables you to have the most up-to-date information possible for each specific locality along your journey straight from the source. Double-check everything before you leave — it’s not worth the risk of ending your trip early by getting arrested.

Now, how do we want to carry for optimum protection throughout the trip? It’s hard to beat a good inside-the-waistband holster, but we made this household move in the middle of summer and that called for a steady diet of shorts and T-shirts each day. Depending on your preferred carry position, sitting in the car for hours can also cause IWB carry to become uncomfortable. Without being able to adequately conceal my pistol in a holster, I instead opted to use a single-strap backpack from Vertx called the Commuter Sling.

I was incredibly pleased with the Commuter Sling’s one-shoulder design as it allowed me to skip trying to conceal a full-size pistol on my hip in the summer heat. The sling looks like a high-end messenger bag a college kid might carry, but when you sling it around from back to chest and start unzipping quick-access pockets, the bag goes from urbane to urban combat in nothing-flat. If traditional carry options are unavailable, I strongly recommend a purpose-built bag such as this one. A backpack can do in a pinch, but bags like this are designed with people like us in mind. They feature incredible durability and rapid accessibility in time-is-life situations.

The Vertx Commuter Sling features a purpose-built pocket for CCW weapon storage.

Inside the bag’s Velcro-friendly pistol compartment I carried my full-size Glock 17 held in place by a nylon holster built specifically for this carry configuration. Accessing the pistol by rotating the bag to your chest and yanking open the zipper with oversized lanyard is fast and simple.

Inside the outer-most rip-away compartment I utilized the bag’s built-in MOLLE-compatible loops to weave in a nylon magazine carrier to store five additional magazines hidden from view. In other zippered pouches I stored a light, headlamp, and various other EDC items I wanted close at hand. The Commuter Sling also has compartments to throw your keys and wallet in while you hoof it around on foot. Basically, this bag contained everything I needed to defend my family while looking like nothing more than an ordinary shoulder-slung backpack.

Like so many other suggestions in this article, kit like this is worth the investment. I never had to worry about printing and I was able to one-hand this bag even when carrying one of my young daughters on my hip. Give these bags a look and see if you don’t agree. For more information on carrying concealed, refer to our sister publication CONCEALMENT.

Storing and Transporting Additional Firearms

This is pretty straightforward, but let’s be thorough and cover it anyway. I took every single rifle and pistol I owned on this move. With the exception of my carry gun, I ensured each was unloaded and locked in either their original container or a purpose-built, lockable gun storage box. Next, I ensured all my ammunition was stored in its original packaging (as much as possible) and locked everything away in ammo cans separate from my firearms. Ideally, I would have even gone a step further and transported the ammunition separately, but I had way too much to cram it into the back of my wife’s already overcrowded Suburban. So, I simply made sure weapons and ammo in the back of the rental truck were locked, separate, and physically inaccessible from the passenger compartment.

Next, I purchased an absolute beast of a lock for the back of the rental truck and ensured it was secured at every stop and fill-up along the way. (Refer to “A Look at Locks” in Issue 32 for a guide on selecting a high-security lock.) When we stayed overnight, I opted to leave everything securely locked in the back of the truck. The thought occurred to me to bring the weapons inside, but honestly, I found this to be impractical for several reasons.

For one, I had far too many weapons with me on this cross-country move. They would have needed their own hotel room. I also didn’t want to draw attention to myself by hauling an arsenal inside each night, since hard-sided gun cases look exactly like what they are. I also didn’t want to spook the management, other guests, or alert potential ne’er-do-wells I was sitting on a small fortune in firearms. Finally, I wasn’t fond of the idea of my little ones playing hide-and-go-seek amongst stacks of daddy’s rifles in the hotel room, unloaded and locked though they were.

Ultimately, this decision is up to you, but this was the safest and most practical course of action for my family. Also, the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action recommends you carry printed copies of all your relevant permits and licenses as well as copies of pertinent laws governing the carry and transportation of firearms in each jurisdiction you pass through. This sounds like a lot of work, but it’s really not, and will be well worth the time and effort should you be pulled over.

For more information on transporting your firearm collection across state lines, consult the NRA ILA Interstate Transportation page.

Part 2: Situational Awareness

Now that we’ve discussed what we’re carrying, how to carry and transport it, and how to do so safely and legally, our next part in this series will cover a topic that’s just as important. Check OFFGRIDweb.com next Sunday for Part 2 of our Road Trip Safety series, which addresses ways to maintain situational awareness on the road.

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