Can You Travel With Firearms In Your RV?
Are you at risk of fines or jail time when RVing with firearms? Guns can be a tricky topic; however, it’s essential to talk about so you are informed on the safety and laws of traveling with firearms in a camper.
People have mixed opinions about guns and who and where they should be allowed. We are not going to debate these topics. Instead, let’s discuss RVing with firearms for those who choose to do so.
Firearm ownership and transport come with laws and regulations to ensure the safety of the owners and the general public. For RVers and the context of this article, we will be looking at transport within an RV. Traveling by air with firearms has its own set of laws and regulations we won’t be discussing.
Due to the legal obligations and seriousness of firearm ownership, it must be noted that laws and regulations specific to you, your firearms, and your location must be adhered to. Priority number one for anyone legally traveling with a firearm should be training, certification, and competency in handling and using their firearms.
Why carry firearms in your RV?
In short, anyone who can legally do so and chooses to do so can RV travel with firearms. In this community, it is not a widely discussed topic; however, RVers do carry firearms for multiple reasons. As with homeowners who keep a firearm in their home for protection, some RVers feel more comfortable having a firearm in their motorhome or trailer. Reasons include:
- RVers often move around from location to location and may feel safer in unfamiliar places as well as in remote locations.
- Solo RVers in particular may choose to travel with firearms for this reason.
- RVing and the outdoors go hand in hand. It’s no surprise many RVers are also hunters and general outdoor enthusiasts. Heading out for a hunting trip or weekend of backwoods hiking is another common scenario in which someone would pack firearms in their RV.
As we will talk about next, the reasons people are traveling with their firearm is not as important as how they go about doing so.
Can I travel to another state with firearms?
Traveling with firearms in an RV falls under the same laws and regulations as with other vehicles. There are no special rules specifically for RVs, and as with many laws, there are differences from state to state.
You need to be aware of the laws in your state as well as any states you plan to travel through. If you travel through multiple states regularly or have a big road trip planned, there are guides available. Review the Travelers Guide To The Firearm Laws Of The Fifty States to learn about each state’s gun laws.
The Firearms Owners Protection Act is something firearms owners should also be familiar with. The FOPA, as it is commonly referred to, is federally regulated and allows persons who are legally allowed to possess that firearm and are licensed in their home state to travel through other states that recognize their state’s gun ownership regulations.
There are some states that do not recognize other states’ regulations and have more restrictive laws. In these cases, you may still be able to transport the firearms but under more strict laws and additional requirements.
Federal firearms laws vs state firearms laws
There are many laws and regulations for firearms owners to know. To make things even trickier, there are federal laws that encompass the entire United States as well as state laws that vary from state to state.
We can’t dissect all these laws here. Just know that as a firearms owner, you are responsible to know the laws that apply to you. A particular firearm that you legally possess in your state and federally are allowed to own may be restricted in certain states regardless of what another law says. The same goes for concealed carry laws. They vary from state to state, and you must comply with state-specific gun laws while traveling.
Firearms laws are serious business, as they should be. You don’t want to be caught in a position where you could face fines or even jail time. The ATF website has a list of federal laws. It also has the laws of each state that you can view before carrying firearms in your RV.
Tips for traveling with firearms in an RV
There are two things that really matter when it comes to traveling with firearms in your RV.
- You have to carry firearms safely.
- And you have to do it legally.
There are some things that are not up to you to decide. For example, you can’t decide how the firearm is stored or what gun documents you need to carry.
There are some things, however, that are good practices you can do to have trouble-free travel. For firearms owners, these will be common practice and common sense. If you own a firearm but haven’t traveled with it or are just thinking about purchasing one, think about the following before traveling with firearms.
- Keep your documents together and easy to access.
- Be open and transparent.
- Have a checklist to look at prior to travel so you have everything and are not in breach of any laws.
Where to store your guns (in the RV or tow vehicle?)
When traveling with a towable RV like a fifth wheel or travel trailer, storage of firearms is best in the tow vehicle. Your tow vehicle, in most cases, will be more secure than your RV. Cheap locks, many windows, and a lack of alarms make RVs an easy target for theft.
If you plan on leaving the country and driving between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, this open ups a much larger array of laws and requirements. Mexico has strict laws about bringing firearms into the country and for the most part is a no-go.
For American citizens, traveling to Canada with firearms is more common and can be done. There are, of course, laws and regulations to follow. If you plan on crossing the Canadian border in an RV, you should preplan your trip. Be prepared for the Canadian border crossing and dealing with Canadian firearms law enforcement during your trip.
Get tips from other RVers
If you are thinking about traveling with firearms while RVing, talk to other RVers who do so. Reaching out to instructors at firearms training centers is also helpful to learn about safe gun transportation practices.
One of the best parts about RVing is engaging with the community of traveling enthusiasts. iRV2 forums allow folks to chat with other RVers online, and get other perspectives on everything RVing, including products, destinations, RV mods, and more.
Kendall lives with his wife and their two cocker spaniels full-time in their RV currently in Mexico. He is one half of DashboardDrifters.com and the co-founder of RVSpotDrop, a web service for full-time RVers.
Dennis Mitchell says
I would like to know how to legally cross the Canadian border with a firearm. Save me a lot of trouble & expense to know how.
Jim Drewe says
Hi Dennis. I have looked into the matter of crossing into Canada with a firearm. While I have not done so, I have found out what I think are the applicable Canadian laws. I will list what I have found here. Basically, US citizens can only bring certain types of rifles, shotguns, and ammunition into Canada, and only if they have secure a permit first with the RCMP. You cannot be stating either orally or in writing that the intention of having firearms is for personal protection from humans. About the only consideration is that you are bringing in the firearm to protect yourself against animals.
• The shotgun or rifle must be encased while travelling (on all six sides).
• It cannot be loaded, meaning an unfired shell in the chamber or magazine.
• A shotgun must be plugged so that it cannot hold more than a total of three shells in the chamber and magazine combined. A magazine plug, usually made of plastic or wood, is inserted in the tubular magazine and limits the number of shells a shotgun may hold. U.S. federal law requires that a shotgun be limited to a capacity of three (3) shells in total (one in the chamber and two in the magazine) when hunting any type of migratory birds, including doves and waterfowl. There are universal shotgun plugs that can be purchased. One can be purchased from at Cabela’s or a similar store.
• There are times when you cannot use larger than #2 shot in a shotgun.
• There are laws about how close to a highway you can have a loaded shotgun. So basically, for personal protection inside an RV, keep it unloaded unless you are threatened.
• A bore size of 20mm is the maximum. A typical 12 gauge shotgun is 18.5.
• Shotgun magazine (including tubular) must be limited to five rounds.
• On May 1, 2020, the Canadian government added restrictions to their criminal code for firearms.
• The overall length of a legal/nonrestricted firearm (rifle or shotgun) must not be less than 660 mm (about 26”). This length would be for a folded stock.
• The barrel length of a legal/nonrestricted firearm (rifle or shotgun) must not be less than 470 mm (18.5”).
• They can only be possessed for the express purpose of:
• target practice or target shooting competitions
• as part of a collection
• in limited circumstances, use in connection with one’s lawful profession or occupation, or to protect life.
• New restrictions are supposed to come into effect on December 31, 2023.
• For non-residents bringing a legal firearm into Canada, you should fill out the Non-Residents Firearm Declaration form. It is valid for 60 days. You can specify that it is for personal protection against animals.
• You might be able to bring the shotgun into Canada without a permit, but it will be at the discretion of the Canadian border services officer. Even still, make sure you declare it when entering.
• Keep in mind that pepper spray is illegal in Canada. Bear spray is legal. Contact them about any questions.
If you have questions, you can contact the following Canadian authorities:
• Mary-Liz Power
Office of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Public Safety Canada
Here are some additional links:
• The Canada Border Services Agency at https://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/contact/bis-sif-eng.html . The Canadian Border Services Agency handles the import/export of weapons into and out of Canada.
Jay Golladay says
I hope that all gun enthusias and patriotic believers know one thing it’s called the 2nd amendment so go figure when some one says you can’t and tries to tell you it’s illegal remember the for father’s that founded this country
You should expand this article to include travel through the various Indian Nations. Each tribe has its own very restrictive laws, and most do not recognize Federal or the state laws that their territory resides in.
Finding the laws for each territory can be a real challenge.
This has been a concern of mine. The specific type of gun poses severe consequences in Liberal locales. Crossing into Liberal states such as CA, NJ, NY, CT, etc can make one a felon-in-waiting. Modern Sporting Rifles (MSR/AR), termed “assault rifles” by Liberals, .50BMG caliber firearms, and other types are especially a threat to one’s freedom in many non-free locales. Traveling west, I enjoy extreme long range/high angle shooting, carrying those arms with me, often easily valued over $150,000. However, crossing into CA is verboten. Can’t find suitable strategy…..leave RV with guns in free land RV park travel in toad into non-free territory…not smart, high risk, liability. Leave guns in rental locker…again, not smart. Leave with a friend in free territory, seldom convenient, feasible. Leave at a gun shop/shooting range in free land. Maybe, but I haven’t found any to do this. Storing guns in free land, means one has to return from occupied land at same entry point to retrieve guns, rather than exiting elsewhere….maybe 1000+ miles inconvenience. Don’t risk thinking you can hide the naughty thingys in your RV. An accident, sickness, theft, et el could put the law into your RV finding your contraband items, featuring severe jail time/fines. Certainly a conundrum. Only certainty: Politicians with laws never stop bad guys with guns. They only control the good guys, which is their true agenda.
David AZ says
With ever changing nonsense gun laws in some states, it is important to check the most accurate sources. Handgunlaw.us and USCCA are good resources. There are also apps available in for you smartphone. I generally just avoid states that insist on infringing on 2nd Amendment rights.
Jim Drewe says
It can be worse than what you stated in those particular states you have listed.
Even if you are complying with the FOPA when passing through one of those states, there are substantiated reports of state highway police pulling over cars having a vehicle license from a firearm-friendly state. The pullover might be for going two miles an hour over the speed limit. After you show your drivers license and registration, the driver in these cases was asked by the LEO (law enforcement officer) if he can search the trunk. When they politely declined (on Constitutional grounds), he he told them he can keep them detained until he gets a court ordered search warrant. Or, he just might call for drug sniffing dog to come, and the dog handler can say the dog acted “funny”. Now that constitutes probable cause for a search. The LEO in these cases threw everything out of the trunk, didn’t find anything but the legally stored firearm. The LEO then told the drivers he was free to go. Basically, it was an illegal shakedown of a law abiding citizen. The LEO did it to make a statement: “We don’t want your kind here”. The watchword is the following: fuel up before going into those states, strictly follow the speed limit on the Interstate, don’t stop eat or anything else like this, and abide by the FOPA. If you are travelling frequently through these states, you could look into the organization called USCCA. For legal concealed weapons permit holders, they can get legal insurance to protect you and even file lawsuits against LEO agencies when such harassment occurs.
Never consent to a vehicle search! If the officer threatens to obtain a search warrant, tell him to go for it. Your refusal to a consensual search is not probable cause to obtain a search warrant. A K9 is free to search the outside of your vehicle, but they are not allowed inside. Ammunition visible inside your RV may give PC for a warrant. Pro-gun stickers on your windows will heighten the curiosity of any officer if he’s focused on finding a weapon. If you are asked to exit the vehicle while the K9 is working, but sure to close your doors and windows. Use your phone to video the search. Drug dogs alert on drugs…not on anything else. “Acting funny” is not an alert. An RV is your domicile.
Rhonda Jo says
DON’T KEEP ALL YOUR SHELLS IN ONE CAMPER!!!🤭🤟😋
martin wheeler says
Take time to understand the Second Amendment. Get involved with a organization who will take a stand against the removal of any part of the Second Amendment🇺🇸
jill thomas says
if you are new to firearms, and concealed carry in particular – there are some licenses that meet the requirements for multiple states in addition to the state that granted the original permit. Utah and Florida come to mind. You can do the class out of the state and send in your paperwork and a check.