Flying With Valuables? Keep Them Safe And Carry A Gun!

In this day and age, with heightened airport security and insane flying fears, it may seem like an odd piece of advice. But that is just what has resurfaced in the internet recently, and for at least one guy, it's working. Put a gun in your checked bags and keep your valuables safe.

Boing Boing reported this back in 2006, and I suspect it caught on back then, too. But it appeared on's radar last week, and I thought it was an interesting idea to say the least.

Since that terrible day back in 2001, flying with locked cases has been impossible. If you do lock them, the TSA is perfectly within their rights to break the lock to check your case. This means either a broken $10 lock, or a broken suitcase. Usually, most people just leave them unlocked and hope for the best. Well, hoping is all well and good, but for the thousands of travelers who "lose" valuables every year, it's not good enough.

Enter Bruce Schneier, who heard of someone using a gun in every case he flies with.

A "weapon" is defined as a rifle, shotgun, pistol, airgun, and STARTER PISTOL. Yes, starter pistols — those little guns that fire blanks at track and swim meets — are considered weapons...and do NOT have to be registered in any state in the United States.


I have a starter pistol for all my cases. All I have to do upon check-in is tell the airline ticket agent that I have a weapon to declare...I'm given a little card to sign, the card is put in the case, the case is given to a TSA official who takes my key and locks the case, and gives my key back to me. That's the procedure. The case is extra-tracked...TSA does not want to lose a weapons case. This reduces the chance of the case being lost to virtually zero.


It's a great way to travel with camera gear...I've been doing this since Dec 2001 and have had no problems whatsoever.

Now, that was in 2006 as I stated earlier. So, I wanted to do some digging. With the recent incident over Christmas, who knows what the rules are regarding firearms. What I found was that the rules are the same as Bruce describes. The complete list can be found here, but the main point is this: the case has to be LOCKED.

  • The container must be locked. A locked container is defined as one that completely secures the firearm from access by anyone other than you. Cases that can be pulled open with little effort do not meet this criterion. The pictures provided here illustrate the difference between a properly packaged and an improperly packaged firearm.

  • We recommend that you provide the key or combination to the security officer if he or she needs to open the container. You should remain present during screening to take the key back after the container is cleared. If you are not present and the security officer must open the container, we or the airline will make a reasonable attempt to contact you. If we can't contact you, the container will not be placed on the plane. Federal regulations prohibit unlocked gun cases (or cases with broken locks) on aircraft.

There are, of course, special circumstances for Law Enforcement Officers traveling with guns, which can be found here. But that's not what you really need to know about. In your case (no pun intended) you want the gun in your case. In that way, your case flies locked and secure, along with anything else that's in there. It's a great "flying hack" that helps you travel with valuables without worrying about losing them for the duration of your flight.

But what about the gun? Those are hard to come by, right? And there's hassle, too. Well, not if you go for the lowest common denominator and buy a starter pistol. I found a starter pistol at for just $53.95 plus shipping. Not only is that way cheaper than a "real" gun, it's also safer. After all, I know I wouldn't trust myself with a 9mm automatic. Not without training anyway.

You don't need to go as far as Bruce and buy one for each case. Just put the gun in the case with your valuables. You'll get special treatment for the case, and you'll also be the owner of something which may even act as a deterrent when you're not flying.

So, what do you think? Is the extra cost of a starter pistol worth it for a locked case? Do you think there is still a big risk of your property being stolen? Has Bruce just lost the plot completely? Or do you have a better way to travel with your valuables that you have to check, rather than carry on? Let us know.

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Guest's picture

keep one thing in mind.

this doesn't guarantee your bags won't get lost. it merely guarantees no one will be rifling through them once it leaves your hands.

Guest's picture

You would think these days that in the US they would have some controls to stop luggage theft, but not so.

I recently traveled from SFO and locked a new boxed netbook using a TSA approved lock. At my destination the lock was missing and the laptop (a Christmas present) had been removed. I had a lot of stuff already and couldn't fit everything that was worth more than $50 in my carry on.

You would think in days of heightened security that it would be difficult for luggage staff to take something from baggage and just walk out with it, but apparently not. The airlines deny any liability and no one seems to care that this is going on.

Maybe travelling with a gun is the way to go.

Paul Michael's picture

which it shouldn't be. But I've seen countless articles and undercover investigations that show just how much stuff goes missing when people fly. Such a shame.

I think it also makes a difference what kind of case you fly with. If it's a $700 Samsonite in wonderful condition, it may be a like having a steal me sign on top. Travel with a piece of junk like I do ($35 from Ross). It always gets there and so far I've never had anything stolen. Touch wood.


Guest's picture

I think its more likely they'll steal the entire bag with the gun in it.

Our airport had less than 1 in 100,000 rate of theft of baggage. Thats pretty low. If you've got valuable items then carry them on your person. Buying guns to act as insurance against a 1 in 100,000 occurrence doesn't seem too practical.

Guest's picture

I would also think that a locked case is a clear sign to a potential baggage thief that there is a valuable gun inside the case for them to steal.

Guest's picture

When you travel with a gun you have to go to the security officials and ask for your luggage, with identification. This is why your bags won't get lost.

Guest's picture

It's a unique idea, that's for sure.

What about keeping belongings safe within your carry-ons?

One time in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport I went with a friend to grab a sandwich. Not wanting to lug our bags around with us, we left them with friends. Unfortunately these friends fell asleep and the lovely MSP police security deemed that our bags were "unclaimed baggage." When we returned to find our bags missing (of course, dangerously close to when we were leaving) we tracked down the nearest security officer to figure out where we were to go. Once we finally reached the necessary office, we actually had the pleasure of speaking with the officers who took our bags. They claimed "we stayed there for like 5 minutes looking through your bags, but your friends didn't wake up." Uhh...did you ever think of tapping the FRIENDS, not the bags??? Additionally, they claimed we were paged over the intercom after they found identification in one bag...but we did not hear ANYTHING over the intercom in the time we were gone, and neither did anyone else we asked.

oh, I forgot to mention...we had to exit the security-cleared part of the terminal to get our bags so we had to go through that process YET AGAIN. We got to our gate 5 minutes before the flight left. It wasn't until we were on the plane that I discovered ALL of the cash from my wallet missing. (Saw an article on Yahoo's reel the next day about increased theft of cash by airport employees. Irony?)

Definitely my most frustrating day of flying ever.

Guest's picture

That's interesting, though it seems to me that it would ultimately slow down screening if a lot of people were doing this. Might be a good idea though if you are traveling with something that is both expensive and not easily replaceable by insurance.

Although this sentence is probably REALLY not a good idea and unnerves me.

"and you'll also be the owner of something which may even act as a deterrent when you're not flying."

Having a gun that can't actually shoot someone and pulling it on them (or carrying a gun and not knowing what you are doing) is probably the worst thing you can be doing. If someone were to pull a gun on me I would believe they had EVERY INTENTION of shooting me, and if I were to pull a gun on someone, it would be because I had every intention of defending myself by shooting and killing them. There have been multiple cases where kids with toy guns of some sort have been shot by police who could not distinguish if it was real.

Buying a 53.00 starter pistol as a 'deterrent' from anything but false starts at a swim meet in other words, is a mistake.

Guest's picture

"Buying a 53.00 starter pistol as a 'deterrent' from anything but false starts at a swim meet in other words, is a mistake."

That just shows your own ignorance.

Every year, people in the United States use guns to defend themselves against criminals an estimated 2,500,000 times – more than 6,500 people a day, or once every 13 seconds. Of the
2,500,000 times citizens use guns to defend themselves, 92% merely brandish their gun or fire a warning shot to scare off their attackers.(source: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Fall 1995)

A 1995 study not good enough?

When using guns in self-defense, 91.1% of the time not a single shot is fired. (source: National Crime Victimization Survey, 2000)

Don't be led around by fear and ignorance.

Guest's picture

I have key for gun..................///////////but what a nice gme
I like very much

Guest's picture

If you're traveling with super valuable items, like wedding rings or fine jewelry sets, or even just worried about their safety at home, you could consider opting for a personal articles floater insurance policy to protect them. Check out Linda Rey's article on the Equifax Personal Finance Blog for more information on what types of valuables you could insure.