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Hot Topic: Carrying firearms in an RV

| Updated Sep 16, 2014

It’s certainly one of the most controversial topics there is among RVers.

I’m talking about guns and carrying them in your RV.

I get reader questions on this all the time. In fact, it is so frequently asked, it's time I address in here in the blog.

On the roads and in the campgrounds, chances are you won’t have to look too far to find an RVer who is has a firearm packed away somewhere. Because of varying gun laws between states and very stiff fines and penalties for violating them, getting the owners to talk on the record about challenging.

I’ve wanted to write about this issue for some time. That’s the reporter in me, I guess. But it started in a campground in South Dakota a couple of summers ago when we were just starting out as RVers. It was sunset, and you know how motorhome owners are at that time of the day. I was visiting with a neighbor who was in a Type A. He told me how he had been traveling for many years. I shared how I was just beginning.

Then he asked the question:

“What are you carrying for protection,” he asked.

Truthfully, the subject hadn’t ever come up before and I answered with something like, “Huh?”

He went on to tell me how he never traveled without a handgun. “You are very vulnerable out here,” he said, gesturing to a packed campground that seemed pretty darn safe to me.

I asked him about a permit. “I got one from my home state,” he said. “But with every state so different, I just keep it out of sight. You know, don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Except he was telling me.

And he had some advice. “Pray you’ll never need to use it, but get a gun, son.”

The next time the idea of carrying a gun in my motorhome came up it was 3 AM and we were deep in the Michigan woods, camped on a friend’s 200 acres of fenced and posted private property off an obscure fire trail more than two miles from the nearest paved road.
I jolted awake. I heard a vehicle with a slightly knocking engine, bumping and scraping on the underbrush of the trail. Then I saw its headlights, slowly making its way down the trail towards us.

Jennifer was still asleep. So was my Norweigian Elkhound, Tai. Fine watchdog he was.

There was no reason for the other vehicle to be out there. In fact, whoever was in that vehicle was breaking the law as the property was clearly marked with “No Trespassing” signs.

What do I do? We were extremely vulnerable out there. My cell phone coverage was iffy, at best. There was only one way out, and whoever was in that vehicle was blocking it.

I wished I had a gun.

Think I’m paranoid? Maybe. That’s what decades of being an investigative reporter does to you. For many years, I carried a handgun pretty much everywhere I went. I worked the drug beat in the city of Detroit for many years. Twice, having a gun kept bad guys from getting to me.

But that tense early morning in the Michigan woods this past fall caused me to remember my South Dakota neighbor from months before and got me again thinking about firearms and RVing. As that incident turned out, the vehicle never made it to our spot. It eventually turned around and left. But burglars who break into RVs, meth addicts, marijuana growers and all sorts of other unsavory characters are just as prevalent in rural areas of the U.S. as are the bad guys who endanger urban areas.

Since that scary night in the woods, I’ve asked a other motorhome owners if they travel with a firearm. Some are coy and don’t answer. Some are vehemently opposed to it. Others are very open about it.

But the fact is, in the U.S. bringing a handgun for protection in an RV is pretty common. Many RVers don’t talk about it because the legality of doing so is dependent on where you are. Some states allow it, some recognize another state’s permit, some don’t.

In Canada, it’s different. Canada has very strict gun laws and few people even own, let alone carry, handguns.

I posed the question to readers of my Roadtreking Facebook Page some time back. Here’s a fair sampling of responses I received:

Said a woman named Kiki: “I carry a firearm in my camper, since I am a woman who camps in remote areas alone. I have a license to carry, but only 29 states reciprocate my license. I try to avoid driving through states where legal issues could occur, but if I can’t, then I ship my gun ahead to a UPS office.”

A reader named David wrote: “Used to have a Class A and missed a turn in Greensboro, NC and had to turn around in a gasoline/fast shop station. Before I could get out of there I was stopped twice by people wanting money. Because it was a Class A they thought I had money. Too bad, because of the Class A I didn’t have any money!! I will not let my wife be harmed because of a bunch of bleeding hearts!! And that’s all I have to say!!!!!”

Jude, a Canadian, offered: “I’ve never been pro firearm and 40 years of living in Canada has reinforced that. However, I lived alone very far out in the country at one point where cougars and bears roam and I must admit I really understood why country folk at least want a shotgun handy. My RV is currently parked for the winter but if I do extensive traveling alone I will probably get a big dog. Legal in all states and Canada and keeps your feet warm at night to boot.”

Like I said, it’s a hot topic.

And consider this: As handgun carrying RVers travel from state to state, you can be sure that at some point in their journeys they are violating some state’s gun laws.

Shotguns and rifles are a different matter in most states and usually acceptable. In fact, for Big Type A motorhomes and fifth wheels, experts say a shotgun may be the best choice if the owner has determined to bring a firearm along. In Type Bs, there’s often not enough storage room for a long gun.

Is bringing a gun along a good idea? A lot of RVers believe it is better to have a firearm and not need it than to need a firearm and not have one. A lot of others think it’s not necessary or too dangerous.

If you’re wrestling with the issue, or if you do carry a weapon in your motorhome, you need to be very aware of the law.

The website offers an excellent guide to the various laws. Same with the site. Perhaps the best resource is put out by the National Rifle Association in a book called the Traveler’s Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States. It’s available through Amazon.

And – this is very important – please realize that guns are not the only way – or even the best way – to protect yourself.

Many motorhome owners say a big, or at least a mean-sounding dog is a good deterrent, as suggested by our Canadian reader above.

One solo-traveling woman motorhome owner I know has a tape recorder she brings along that has a recording of a mean dog barking.

If she hears someone outside her RV at night, she hits play and turns up the volume. She also puts two pair of boots – one of them obviously a man’s – outside on the matt leading to the motorhome so bad guys won’t know she’s all alone.

Others say the only self defense item they have is a can of bear spray or wasp spray.

Like I said, this is a controversial subject.

And I can only add this: If you do decide to bring a firearm with you, please, do not do so unless you have received training and follow all the safety procedures recommended by the experts.

There are many other solutions and ways to be secure besides carrying a firearm.


Mike Wendland

Published on 2014-09-16

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

34 Responses to “Hot Topic: Carrying firearms in an RV”

December 14, 2017at9:26 pm, slade223 said:

Reciprocity laws may be changing

August 07, 2017at6:56 pm, Tamara Scott said:

The lady, Kiki, by mailing a handgun to herself at a UPS store, is committing a felony. Unless she is an FFL and her licensed address is that UPS store (unlikely) that handgun has to be sent by an FFL and received by one. Right or wrong, it’s the current law. Better to lock away firearms while traveling through “those” states. Just saying. I simply avoid those states that do not allow reciprocity.

August 26, 2017at9:55 am, Gary Morgan said:

NOT sent by one, only RECEIVED by one. Anyone can ship a firearm, only dealers can receive one, with a few exceptions having to do with repair work. This isn’t true of the post office, only other carriers.

February 28, 2017at5:58 pm, Warthog said:

Pump-action bullpup shotgun. Conversions available for Mossberg 12 ga. Home defense shot shells (light powder loads)

October 12, 2016at8:01 am, Daniel Craig said:

When my wife and I retire soon and purchase an RV we plan to boondock a lot. I will either have a handgun of a small pistol grip riot shotgun for protection. If one uses one head and carefully conceals it while traveling or in a campground most of us seniors are not exactly the type the police are going to be looking for in carrying a gun. Too many crazies out there not to have protection, the law of averages will catch up with you.

July 03, 2016at10:02 pm, capnjack43 said:

As a cruiser that has traveled as far down as Venezuela and as far north as Newfoundland I had the same problem. Fortunately, But there are ways to get around it even in those countries that forbid the use of a handgun or shotgun. For example there is a flare gun that is used for emergency that has a modification that you can slip into the chamber to carry a shotgun shell. You just have to hide the shells.

April 21, 2016at6:57 pm, gr8simpson said:

I carry a gun because a cop is too heavy.

February 05, 2016at8:20 am, Tincanpuller said:

I travel with a Jack, Fire Extinguisher, Jumper Cables. Never have had to use them on a trip (yet). Let’s just say I like being prepared. 8^)

February 04, 2016at6:42 pm, Len Langevin said:

I’m a Canadian who has been to 8 provinces, two territories and 38 states. I’ve never felt a need to have a gun.

February 02, 2016at1:50 am, Blake Anderson said:

There are different career fields within transportation. These different fields include RV transporters, military auto shippers, tractor-trailer drivers, and military auto shippers.
RV transport

November 07, 2014at10:17 am, Gordon Medley said:

Don’t like guns? Don’t carry one. Myself, will carry one most all the time while I travel on motorcycle (but not in Canada). Proper carry and storage techniques are key. Campground rules against guns? Who cares? When’s the last time they conducted a search of your vehicle or person looking for weapons. Besides, campground rules are just that, they aren’t law.

September 17, 2014at10:09 pm, Ross B Marvin III said:

You think marijuana growers are unsavory?

February 08, 2016at9:19 am, Liz Addison said:

I noticed that too.

September 17, 2014at1:12 am, Stewart Headrick said:

Self defense weapon(s) is a must.

September 16, 2014at10:27 pm, Regina DyJack Koukios said:

Very true Jack Ulrich. The Feds, for the most part, allow you to transport unloaded and locked out of reach but you still have to educate yourself regarding local law.

A provision of the federal law known as the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, or FOPA, protects those who are transporting firearms for lawful purposes from local restrictions which would otherwise prohibit passage.

Under FOPA, notwithstanding any state or local law, a person is entitled to transport a firearm from any place where he or she may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he or she may lawfully possess and carry it, if the firearm is unloaded and locked out of reach. In vehicles without a trunk, the unloaded firearm must be in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console. Ammunition that is either locked out of reach in the trunk or in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console is also covered.

Travelers should be aware that some state and local governments treat this federal provision as an “affirmative defense” that may only be raised after an arrest. All travelers in areas with restrictive laws would be well advised to have copies of any applicable firearm licenses or permits, as well as copies or printouts from the relevant jurisdictions’ official publications or websites documenting pertinent provisions of law (including FOPA itself) or reciprocity information.


In most states, firearms may be transported legally if they are unloaded, cased, and locked in the automobile trunk or otherwise inaccessible to the driver or any passenger.The exceptions to this rule apply mainly to transportation of handguns and so-called “assault weapons.” The myriad and conflicting legal requirements for firearm transportation through the states make caution the key for travelers.

If you travel with a trailer or camper that is hauled by an automobile, it is advisable to transport the firearms unloaded, cased and locked in the trunk of the car. If your vehicle is of the type in which driving and living spaces are not separated, the problem becomes one of access. If the firearm is carried on or about the person, or placed in the camper where it is readily accessible to the driver or any passenger, state and local laws regarding concealed carrying of firearms may apply. It is recommended, therefore, that the firearm be transported unloaded, cased, and placed in a locked rear compartment of the camper or mobile home, where it is inaccessible to the driver or any passenger.

Once you reach your destination, state and local law will govern the ownership, possession, and transportation of your firearms.

September 16, 2014at7:21 pm, Jeremy Barber said:

Wow! How things are different here in Canada! So lucky to live in a society that does not feel threatened by the fact I do not carry a gun at all times. And yes, I do own firearms of all types and have the Canadian P A L–Possession Acquisition Licence. There is no reason to carry a gun in an RV unless you are on a hunting trip!

September 20, 2014at12:35 pm, Chris Johnston said:

Well you don’t live in a place where the murder rate is 57.6 per 100,000 (in 2011 in my hometown, New Orleans)

September 16, 2014at6:04 pm, Albert Powers said:

Haha still laughing in florida.a gun isnt the besy way to protect yourself.a recording of a dog .or fake mens boots thats funny.

September 16, 2014at5:08 pm, J. Dawg said:

I have an LTC with no restrictions. Every state is different. If you’re carrying a handgun (rifles are different in many states) in a state that doesn’t have reciprocity with the state you’re licensed in, you could be in big trouble if you get caught. You only carry if you’re prepared use it. If you use it or show it in a state you’re not licensed in, you’re probably going to do some time.

September 16, 2014at1:25 pm, Brandon Hughson said:

I carry in my rv, kept out of sight. Never had a problem. I pray i will never have to use it.

September 16, 2014at1:12 pm, Chris Nyberg said:

I always carry!

September 16, 2014at12:39 pm, Sabrina McLaughlin said:

NEVER leave home without them!

September 16, 2014at12:34 pm, Tommy Vinson said:

Toujour Pret! …USA

September 16, 2014at11:20 am, Henry Holley said:


September 16, 2014at10:25 am, Joe Price said:

Always and forever!!!!!!!!

September 16, 2014at9:55 am, Duane Metz said:

I would consider a gun but, I think could regret that decision. I do however have a can of wasp spray above the side door that can easily be grabbed when opening the door. I think this will get anyone, man or bears attention. A shoot if the face should slow down the offender.

September 16, 2014at9:52 am, Roberto Balderas said:

Great points Regina.

September 16, 2014at9:27 am, Regina DyJack Koukios said:

Because guns laws are constantly being updated consider the app CCW – Concealed Carry 50 State Guide. And remember that gun transport laws are governed by the Feds, not states. And when your RV is moving, it is a vehicle and when it parked, it is your domicile. These are important distinctions when interpreting gun laws. Also if your gun is loaded vs unloaded changes everything. I believe in protecting yourself but it is YOUR responsibility to educate yourself.

September 16, 2014at8:52 pm, Jack Ulrich said:

No matter where you are driving, you must follow State law on how you transport your weapon while in that particular State, driving or parked.

September 17, 2014at12:54 am, Elliot Grapentine said:

do not carry shells when going into canada

September 17, 2014at3:13 am, Elise Lonsdale said:

or guns of any kind

September 16, 2014at9:22 am, Rick Ornberg said:

Excellent article on an always hot topic. Many of us have had a similar “ah-hah” moment and sudden realization of how vulnerable we are sometimes, especially as some of us get older and just can’t run away from danger as fast as we could in our younger days.

In the US, every state now has some form of concealed carry law in place, Illinois being the last and most reluctant. Laws vary widely from what some would consider too lax to those that place enough restrictions and requirements in the way so as to discourage even attempting to obtain a permit. Reciprocity is still spotty too.

Once at a campsite or overnight location, of course, my firearm is out and loaded in an appropriate and accessible “just in case” position with a round in the chamber. When on the road, however, I try to keep my firearm unloaded and locked in a lockbox in the rear of whatever vehicle I’m traveling in. Then, if ever pulled over — near the Mexican border, for example — I can honestly answer the inquiring officer and refer to my safely stowed firearm.

September 16, 2014at9:02 am, Jennifer Fawcett said:

Waiting for this thread to blow up lol. I carry concealed here in AZ anyways. I bring along a shotgun when boondocking. And two big dogs. “An armed society is a polite society.” Robert Heinlein

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