My trip was from Houston to Phoenix, on Continental Airlines. Before doing anything, I read Continental's instructions on firearms declarations. I secured by firearm according to Continentals rules and went to the airport. Standing in line at the check-in counter, I was a little nervous, hoping that I could tell the gate agent what I had without sounding nervous. The gate agent initiated conversation. "Hello, sir. Can I help you check in?" "Yes," I replied. "I need some special assistance today. I'd like to declare a firearm." "Just a moment," said the gate agent. "I'll get a form." He returned with a white multi-part form that looked like it could be used for credit card purchases. He wrote something on the form and said, "Please sign here." I signed the form and he said, "May I see your badge?" I froze for a moment, then realized that we had missed something in communication. "I'm not law enforcement," I said. "Oh!" he said. "I thought you wanted to carry your firearm on-board." I nearly fainted at the thought. I could imagine the news headlines. "No," I replied. "I'm checking it." "I'll get the other form," he said, and stepped away. He returned, with a single orange form that looked like it might be used for a department store red tag sale. "Sign here," he said. I signed the form. He pointed to a desk in a corner of the area and said, "Wait at that desk, and I'll ask a TSA officer to inspect your luggage." He went to find a TSA officer while I went to the desk and waited. A couple of minutes alter, he joined me at the desk and said, "Someone is coming, but it may be a few minutes because they are very busy." "We got plenty of time," I said. He looked at me as if he wanted to say something. I smiled at him to encourage him to speak. "I've been thinking of buying a gun for self defense," he said. "What kind of gun do you have?". While waiting for the TSA officer, we had a pleasant conversation that covered kinds of guns, caliber, self defense, and training. The TSA officer appeared and asked me to open my luggage. He the asked me to open the gun case. He saw that the gun was properly stored. I pointed out the ammo and magazines. The inspection took about one minute. When we were finished, he asked me to lock it and thanked me. The gate agent and I walked to the gate counter where he placed my luggage on the conveyor. The return trip was similar, except that at the Phoenix check-in counter, no one inspected my luggage. The gate agent put an orange declaration card into my luggage, but did not want me to open the gun case. He asked me to stand by for 10 or 15 minutes, while the bag made its way to the screening area, in case TSA wanted to make an inspection. After 15 minutes, TSA didn't call me, so I went on my way. I'm glad to say that it all went smoothly. I am no longer nervous about declaring a firearm.