How Should Firearms Be Transported In a Boat?

How Should Firearms Be Transported In a Boat?

Some hunters prefer to use their boat to reach their hunting destination or to target specific game, like ducks in the water.

There’s a lot to learn about taking guns on a boat though, and several rules that dictate what is and isn’t allowed in the United States.

How should firearms be transported in a boat?

Taking firearms on a boat still requires you to follow safety advice and local laws, including those that pertain to boating and firearms.

You should ensure all guns are unloaded, the ammunition is stored separately, and that the boat is being operated carefully so that it doesn’t capsize or rock.

To ensure your safety and the safety of those around you, you’ll need to equip yourself with the basics of firearms and boats.

Outdoor Hunting In a Boat

boat hunting

A boat is not the first thing that comes to mind when people think of hunting, but there is a special group of hunters that like to do things on the water.

Using a vessel, you can hunt duck, fish or waterfowl, and even travel to a secret hunting spot that’s not accessible by foot.

Hunting is a unique activity that can take place just about anywhere, but if you plan on hunting in the water, there’s a lot more that can go wrong.

According to the National Rifle Association, more hunters have died from water accidents than gunshot wounds, and a large percentage of those were not wearing a life jacket.

However, there are still plenty of accidents that can occur when your weapon isn’t stored properly or it’s used irresponsibly.

Specifically, learning where and how to store the firearms on the vessel is crucial for keeping everyone on board safe.

What Licenses Are Required?

How Should Firearms Be Transported In a Boat?

Any time you travel on a boat, there are state, federal, and international laws to consider. For those hunting in their local area, you’ll need to make sure you have a concealed carry permit for your weapon so that you can legally carry it on a boat, just as you would in a vehicle.

Keep in mind, if you travel to another state or live somewhere that water is shared between two states, you’ll need to make sure you have a permit for there as well.

Some states have an agreement to transfer a carry permit over, but it doesn’t apply to all states. A boating license may also be required, depending on where you live.

Most states in the US require a boating license to be able to operate a vessel safely and responsible on the water, and the onus is on you the driver to understand your requirements.

Finally, you might also require a permit for hunting, depending on where you live and the game you are targeting. This includes a valid hunting license, any permits, and tags needed, which must be with you at all times on board.

The Correct Storage of Firearms on a Boat

boat with firearms storage

Where you store the firearms on the vessel is the most important part, and you should always think about them as if you were about to travel in a car.

The same rules apply in both situations, so any time you’re going to transport firearms on a vessel, you’ll need to unload them completely and make sure the ammunition is stored separately.

Before you board the boat, store the gun away in the bow and make sure the muzzle is pointing to the front of the vessel, in case it goes off at any time.

If you’re traveling with another person and they also have a firearm, you’ll want to place it in the stern with the muzzle pointing towards the back. This process should be repeated for any additional people and firearms for absolute safety.

Tips for Carrying Guns on Board

gun holder on boat

It can be easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer number of rules in place surrounding boating in itself, and when you add firearms to that, it gets even more confusing. Follow these tips to ensure safety when carrying guns on board so that everyone is protected.

  • The type of boat you travel in will impact how safe it is to transport a firearm with. Choose something with adequate size and weight capacity, and try to avoid a flat bottom vessel as these are more prone to capsizing.
  • Pack the gear on the boat carefully so that the weight has been evenly distributed. Try to keep the weight onboard as light as possible and don’t have too many people on board.
  • Take responsibility for adhering to the local, state, and federal rules surrounding boating and firearms.
  • Always wait for the vessel to be stopped completely before firing the firearm. The vessel should be anchored and secured so that it can’t move before shooting.
  • Avoid taking a dog on-board if possible, unless they are mature and expertly trained. If a dog became too excited after seeing an animal, it could easily capsize the boat and put everyone at risk.
  • Keep your guns stored in a gun case designed for the water, and waterproofed is possible. The guns should be unloaded with the safety kept on at all times while traveling.

Gun Safety on the Water

firearms inside storage box

There’s a whole new set of rules that apply when dealing with gun safety on a boat and transporting firearms in a vessel, and you need to know what they are if you plan on hunting this way.

To ensure you’re doing it correctly and responsibly, make sure you follow the rules and have a safe approach to gun safety on the water.

Combining firearms with the water adds a whole new level of safety to be concerned about, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

If you like to hunt with firearms and need to travel by boat with them, these questions might give you some better insight into the rules surrounding them.


Any time you are in a boat and within 24 miles of the coast, you must follow the laws of the state or county you are in. However, if you are at least 24 miles away and in international waters while flying the American flag on your boat, you must follow federal laws surrounding firearms.


If you have to travel on the sea with a firearm, you’ll need to take extra care to clean it regularly. The salt in the air surrounding salt water can be damaging and the water itself will corrode the steel of the firearm up to five arms sooner than freshwater.


Submerging a gun in the water can do serious damage to it and may render it completely useless so you must make every effort to keep them dry. The water can disrupt the action of the firearm so you won’t be able to eject spent casings or reload the gun as usual once it gets wet.


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