The section entitled “Traveling Requirements for Firearms” in QDMA’s 2020 Whitetail Report caught my attention.

Having hunted deer and other animals in 40 states over the years, I know first-hand that “case laws” vary from state to state, and even county to county. This can be confusing, and in a worst-case scenario can get you in one hell of a jam if you don’t know and follow the laws.

7 states* require rifles/shotguns/muzzleloaders to be cased (either hard or soft case) in a vehicle at all times, whether you hunting near home for the day, or driving through one state to get to another. Those states are:

  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota

Another 5 states require guns to be cased at certain times:

  • Mississippi (driving on or through public lands)
  • South Carolina (on wildlife management areas)
  • Virginia (public lands)
  • South Dakota (on an ATV)
  • West Virginia (before or after shooting hours)

In the same survey, I was surprised to find that 15 states allow loaded firearms in vehicles, and another 22 states allowed shells in magazines (not chamber) in vehicles.

SAFETY NOTE HERE: Wherever I hunt, no matter the state, I never get in a vehicle with round in the chamber. For example, if I’m hunting out West or in Texas (where case laws are more lenient) and get out of a truck 10 or 15 times a day to glass or stalk, I chamber a round outside of the vehicle, and unload every time I get back in the truck. Every time! I highly recommend you do the same, regardless of state law.

Referencing their survey, the QDMA has solid advice: “There is no uniform transportation procedure across states… If in doubt, (you) should always carry firearms unloaded.”


*Above lists may not be complete and firearms laws are subject to change. Counties and cities within a state might have additional ordinances. Consult specific state/local laws for transporting firearms.