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A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Airport

Fun Fact: A couple of forgotten loose rounds of pistol ammo in your carry-on bags will cause the TSA to lose. Their. Minds.

I suppose a little backstory is in order, so, in the parlance of my assault patients, “See, whut had happen wuz…”

I bought a tactical man purse at the NRA annual meeting to carry my camera, pistol, business cards and schwag in. It’s a neat little messenger bag with oodles of pockets, molle webbing, and a hidden handgun pocket. Over the past few months it has morphed into my EDC gear bag. Whenever I’m hauling around more stuff than my pockets can hold, I usually have it slung over one shoulder.

So, headed to the airport this morning, en route to an EMS conference in West Virginia, I not so carefully sanitized my bag. My knife and multi-tool came out, and got stashed in my truck.

What got missed was the round of .45 ACP hardball rattling around in the bottom of the pistol pocket.

I swear, it rattled them so bad they totally forgot the de rigueur swabbing of my CPAP for explosive residue.

I was pulled out of line and questioned.

Stern and disapproving looks were cast my way.

Supervisors and sheriff’s deputies were summoned.

My bag was emptied, the offending round removed, and carefully catalogued for posterity.

Then they scanned my other bag, and found another round, this one a 9mm JHP.


By this time, they were all convinced I was a cleverly disguised Al Qaeda agent, or even worse, a libertarian who thinks their agency should be abolished and all their asses shipped to the Wal Mart Greeter Academy or Jiffy Lube University for re-education and re-integration into the workforce.

The whole ordeal lasted 45 minutes, during which they all moved at the blistering pace of a geriatric sloth on Quaaludes mired in a molasses bog, and the deputy ran a computer check for outstanding warrants, apparently on a 28.8 modem over the last extant AOL dialup connection in North America.

Were it not for a sympathetic United Airlines gate agent, I’d have missed my flight. I literally boarded the plane at eight minutes until scheduled takeoff, and a full two minutes after they were supposed to have closed and locked the cabin doors.

Police your carry-on bags, people. Apparently, pistol ammo (without a pistol) is more dangerous than, say… a box cutter.

Comments - Add Yours

  • Sean Murphy

    The amazing thing, really, is that they managed to FIND the ammo in the first place. I’ve heard, and tend to believe, something like 60% of their test agents can bring firearms past them.

    • Ambulance_Driver

      I’ve made it through security several times with knife I had forgotten either in my pocket or a carry-on.

      • Jim (firefighter4884)

        and yet, if they do manage to catch it, obviously, it’s a crime… even though you didn’t realize you had it there in the first plate, right AD? Please don’t get me started on the TSA…

  • Edd

    Be glad you werent in NJ that could 9mm HP could have gotten you three years in prison

  • Matt G

    Yeah, I’ve been there, and done that, unintentionally.

  • S woods

    At least you didn’t have my 50 9mm rounds! That would have earned you a cavity search!

  • pediem

    I’ve lost count of the times a knife has gone past TSA in a forgotten pocket of a carry-on bag because it’s the bag I usually take to work or to the range. I’m also no longer astounded when their swabbing of my bag and/or person fails to pick up the residue of the trip to the range from the day before. Or that the dog fails to sniff out that I spent the entire weekend turning money into smoke and noise.

  • julied

    I have been so close to the same situation – except I found the round in my pocket while waiting in line at the security gate – AWKWARD. What is worse is that I was standing under the sign that announced any firearms past this point was a $10,000 fine. (Yes, that probably means ammo too ..).

    • Ambulance_Driver

      I did the same thing at Boston Logan airport a few years back. I was about to go through the security checkpoint when I discovered I had three rounds of .303 Enfield in my pocket. I just dropped em on the floor when I knelt down to take off my shoes, and kicked ‘em under a table.

      • julied

        Ah now there’s a solution I didn’t think of – mine involved a sneezing fit, tissue and waste disposal receptacle.

      • RoCr

        They must not have found those yet, because when they do there’ll probably be a freak out worse than when they found those ATHF lightbrights…

      • Comrade Misfit

        You were lucky that you found them. The TSA would have called over a Boston op and had you arrested. Possessing a single round ammo in MA without a state firearms card is a felony.

        • Ambulance_Driver

          Yeah, I know. Even spent brass is considered “ammo.”

          In fact, at that range trip, I snapped a pic of a piece of .22 LR brass lodged in the tread of one of the non-MA resident’s shoe, and blogged about how that errant piece of brass made him a felon in the eyes of the law in that state.
          I’m just glad I live in free America, where such silliness would never pass muster.

  • Old_NFO

    Oopsie… And now you ‘know’ why I don’t use ANY range stuff for my carry-on, other than that one time… And for Pedi, they are NOT scanning for cordite residue, if they were, well…

  • Ray Forte

    What kind of bag is the man purse?

  • Don Gwinn

    Yikes. I did the full flip-out-every-pocket-look-for-hidden-corners sanitization last week on my carry-on, too. I *think* it was all clear; it made it through security at LAX. I did not want to be the guy with a couple of rounds of .45 at LAX at midnight.

  • Phil

    Separate bags, dude.

    At least this time it was just inconvenience. Miss a flight or end up with an actual legal issue (the aforementioned Boston stuff or even maybe forgetting an actual pistol in the bags) and you’re out real money at the very least… and that amount of money will more than cover the cost of bags that are set aside for air travel and never once see a firearm contained therein.

    Our set of good quality travel luggage (Victorinox) wasn’t cheap, but it is less expensive than three or four hours of time from an actual lawyer.

  • cbyrneiv

    The funny thing is… 3 times since 9/11 I have traveled with firearms accidentally in my carryons, and nobody noticed, including me, until after I got home.

    Once was in a semi concealed pocket in the high end camera bag I was using as a laptop/gear bag. I normally carried my P3AT in that pocket, I thought I had taken it out, but I hadn’t. At the time I habitually carried 25lbs of gear in that bag, which was stuffed to near bursting. There must’ve been four different layers of tech crap in there… honestly, there was no way they were going to see anything on x-ray in that bag.That time it was all me.

    The other two times were my wife, packing my 3 day rolling carryon bag for a flight, without completely emptying it from the car trip the week before… and leaving my KelTec P3AT in the bag.

    In all three cases, I found the gun either unpacking from the trip, or packing for the next trip a couple weeks later.

    See, once I bought an S&W 340pd, it became my primary daily carry pocket gun, and I no longer used the P3AT on a daily basis. It became my “bag” gun, because I didn’t much care if it got lost or stolen.

    After the second time it happened, we both started always checking the bag for guns before packing for the next trip.

    Then, this past September, when I went to Florida, she left a fully loaded 1911 mag in the bag, which was in it from the car trip before. We both knew we had taken all the guns out of the bag and so didn’t think about it. No-one noticed on the flight out. I found it while I was in florida, emptied the mag, and packed it back empty, checking my bag.

  • cbyrneiv

    Oh and I should be clear… all three times were trips to and from anti-gun states (California, Massachusetts, and New York) and one of them passed through Chicago twice, including having to go back through security once.

    Security missed a loaded firearm and spare mag, 3 times at 3 different airports on one of those trips; and twice at two different airports the other two times.

  • Jake

    “Their agency should be abolished and all their asses shipped to the Wal
    Mart Greeter Academy or Jiffy Lube University for re-education and
    re-integration into the workforce”

    Now, now, be fair. Most TSA molesters… er, employees, probably wouldn’t qualify for Jiffy Lube University – Jiffy Lube techs actually have to be able to achieve *some* level of technical competency, after all.

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