Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The unfriendly skies.

I don't fly enough to keep a separate "sterile" bag for air travel, but every time I do, I wish I had one.

Two or three times a year I wind up doing the junk-on-the-bunk display with my laptop bag and Maxpedition Gearslinger, emptying everything out and feeling through all the nooks and crannies. The laptop sleeve isn't too bad, actually, but that Sitka has all kinds of compartments and pockets and pouches that are usually stuffed to the gills with things that would make the intrepid guardians of the skies lose continence should I not transfer them to checked baggage.

I don't know if the folding titanium spork will give them the vapors or not, but I'm not taking any chances...


bluesun said...

I wouldn't worry so much about giving them vapors as I would about giving them "vapors," as in, "this is a sweet titanium spork, I think I'm going to 'confiscate' it as a dangerous weapon."

I miraculously just escaped a TSA interview with my flashlight still in my bag, which was mildly amazing...

Tam said...


"I wouldn't worry so much about giving them vapors as I would about giving them "vapors," as in, "this is a sweet titanium spork, I think I'm going to 'confiscate' it as a dangerous weapon.""

That's the sort of vapors I'm worried about.

Erich505 said...

I always carry a 3CR13 spork in my carry-on luggage - have only gotten the hairy eyeball on it once on dozens of trips (including several out of and back into the USSA), and that worked out when I said, "It's a spork! Come on!" I know what you mean about the junk-on-the-bunk deal - gives me agita every time. Maybe I ought to break down and get a dedicated travel carry-on. :(

Mike_C said...

Ashamed to say I gave up. I fly every few weeks and finally just took the knife out of my regular computer bag because I kept forgetting to "clean" the bag the night before. Just wasn't worth the hassle at the airport, though it's really annoying to not have a knife when you need it on the road. (Heard about the new allowance for pocket knives, but not willing to risk them taking away the knife on some made-up pretext.)

So far I've never had TSA trouble with the 2AA aluminum flashlight. Not that you know what will happen with any given agent....

Several years ago the TSA found an oh so dangerous 99-cent nail clipper that a surgeon of my acquaintance had in her overnight bag. The interaction went something like this:
Surgeon: Oh, Forgot I had that, sorry. Go ahead and take it if you want.
TSA: I don't want to take it. We are not thieves. I have to remove the forbidden part though [takes out bolt cutter and snaps off the dangerous crappy nail file]. Here you are.
Surgeon: Now instead of a dull file there's a sharp edge on the broken off part! Just take it. It only cost me a dollar anyway.
TSA: We do not seize property unnecessarily, and that is NOT dangerous.
Surgeon (unwisely exhibiting stereotypical surgeon temper): Look, I'm a surgeon. The clipper was perfectly safe. Now that you've snapped off the file I could take out your appendix with this thing!

Needless to say, she did not make her flight. She did get a nice tour of some secure areas and was treated to a lecture on what it meant to "threaten a federal agent with grievous bodily harm."

Will said...


I'm thinking that it could only take one missed item to cause you some horrendous cost in time/money/legal trouble, that dedicated bags would be a no-brainer.

There must be a corollary to the saying "don't do stupid things with stupid people in stupid places", that would cover this TSA situation.

Erich505 said...

That's a riot, Mike! Thanks for the story.

Scott_K said...

A couple of years ago I went through^Wto the IAD checkpoint with a full .40 magazine in my computer bag.

It's apparently not an uncommon occurrence - I filled out a form, waited a few minutes while a cop called in my info, and was on my way in 15 minutes.

Cost about $30 to replace the magazine, otherwise no consequences.

Geodkyt said...

I like the tale of the airline pilot, who was being shaken down over his Maglight (not a Mini) in his flight bag en route to his assigned (and regular) flight.

He finally said, "I'm the pilot, for Heaven's sake -- if I want to put the plane into the ground, all I have to do is point it down!"

He wasn't permitted to make the flight, spent a couple of hours in an interview room "for making threats".

The Raving Prophet said...

Will, that's what I've been saying.

A forgotten item will at least cost you time and a few bucks to replace it (assuming the TSA person is reasonable). It could cost you way more than that (if that person isn't).

The risk/reward assessment tells me that it's far better to have special travel luggage that never sees anything firearm related than to hope I sanitize it properly.

Everyone makes their own choices, of course, but for me the price of luggage that's better suited to travel to begin with is more agreeable than the potential costs of an error.

Tam said...

Will, The Raving Prophet,

It's not like I'm flying with my frickin' range bag as a carry-on, for Browning's sake!

We're talking about making sure the heater is out of the heater pocket and all the knives and multitools are out. I don't take the Gearslinger to the range specifically for this reason.

Scott J said...

Back when I flew semi-often (once a quarter on average) I had let my reloading hobby go idle.

Now that I'm a highly active loader I think I'd have to have dedicated travel-only clothing if I were to fly regularly because I've found spent primers in my cubicle that got caught in my shoe treads while processing brass and fell out here at work.

mikee said...

I recently emptied out a shaving kit (a shoe-box sized, zippered leather container for men's toiletries) that has spent its entire life in my bedroom closet (where there are no guns) or in my suitcase (where there are no guns).

I was surprised to find a fired .22LR case drop out along with dust from my travels all over.

How? No idea. Why? Because I'm going on a flight with my overnight bag and shaving kit.

While a single fired .22LR might not set off the explosives detector, or be noticed by the x-ray tech, it would cause a delay at best and a commotion at worst if it were noticed.

Apparently Murphy is still out there, and he is still out to get me.

Cargosquid said...

Start at 1:14

You may have seen this. Mythbuster Adam and his TSA experience.

azmountaintroll said...

You never know when the Bullet Fairy might decide to expand operations to include carry on luggage.

Matt G said...

We, uh, learned our lesson about nooks and crannies in bags, this summer, with a large Jansport soft pack.


Old NFO said...

Leatherman here... sigh...

B said...

Had one of these in my wallet when encountering TSA on a RETURN flight....Chicago either missed it or didn't care, but Phoenix had a hissy fit:

TSA agent: you could be dangerous with this, I can't let you take it on the plane...

Me: Then you'd better not let me fly....If I am dangerous *with* that, then I am dangerous without it too.

Almost missed my flight....No logic in their though process.

Kristophr said...


That single spent .22 shell can get you a prison sentence abroad.

Experienced travelers try to keep their luggage sterile, as Tam noted.

Anonymous said...

After they instituted the swipe for splodey check I always assumed I would end up in the back room.

I used to work with explosives and the miniscule residue gets everywhere, so when checked I was usually positive.

"Here's this, here's this, yes you can print me. Yes, you can strip search me if you think you need to." Which, my mother never warned me about the need for clean underwear and that possibility.

I still don't fly much.


PhilaBOR said...

Preflight I go thru my backpack murse and removing knife and lighter. I was horrified to find the bottle of live .357 sig is removed to free up 2 mags for MAG-40 last month. I dumped out every pocket and crannie checked.

Matt G said...

Given that TSA is still on the job, I would suppose that the White House interior decorator is un-furloughed, as the nation apparently cannot do without window dressing.

staghounds said...


All sorts of travel bags are available at thrift stores for almost nothing. Dedicate one and leave it zipped.

I say this ex cathedra as the person who forgot he had a pocket full of ammunition once. At the airport. Atlanta airport. On October 12, 2001.

MeatAxe said...

If you are in Mass, in posession of a spent shell (even an empty .22lr, and you have no Mass Firearms ID card, or whatever they call it, you can be charged with possession of 'ammunition components' without a permit, which is a crime.,-or,-the-danger-of-spent-shell-casings

A Reader said...

How is suggesting an appendectomy threatening serious bodily harm? The appendix is a vestigial organ, like a liberal's brain. Real harm involving a Fed's appendix would the the surgeon looking at the stooge, diagnosing imminent acute appendicitis, and getting on the plane without saying anything.

Mike_C said...

@Erich505: I've always been a little nervous around that particular surgeon.

@Geodkyt: the fatal sin of attempting to inject logic into the interaction.

@staghounds: I have a thrift-store travel bag or two that I picked up on trips when I was dragging home more crap than I started out with. I have no way of "sniffing" the bags for verboten residue (and no problems yet, thankfully) but sometimes I worry about what the prior owner was up to.

In November or December 2001 the spouse flew from Boston to meet me in Michigan. Due to working 12-16hr days at the time she didn't really have time or energy to pack properly and just heaved a bunch of clothes, etc into a green canvas duffel, the biggest she could bring as a carry aboard. On arrival we unloaded the bag and headed for the washing machine. Me, holding the putatively empty duffel: "What's this lump in the front pocket?" Her: "Lump? I don't know. Haven't used the bag in years. Gimme." She unzips and roots around in the tiny front compartment. Blanches then starts laughing as she produces a full-sized box cutter. The kind where you can slide the blade out with a thumbstud. Sailed right through Boston Logan security.

I on the other hand was once taken to the back room by a couple of carbine-toting police in Osaka airport for having a 2.75-inch blade in my carry-on. After a very stressful 15 minutes or so (compounded by my utter lack of Japanese and the interrogator's minimal English) I was released in time to catch my flight. And they found a little box and checked the knife for me!