Reading in the December issue of Forbes, they recommend a foolproof way to make sure your checked bag arrives safe and secure that is apparently used by professional photographers all the time.
Put a starter pistol in your checked bag and declare it as a firearm at check-in. Starter pistols are non-lethal guns that use blanks or caps to make a sound to start a race. By declaring a firearm in your checked bag, the airline and TSA will ensure that your bag arrives safe and secure because the last thing they want is a lost “weapon” during transit. When you declare a firearm, you are given a card to fill out and then the the card is put into your bag and handed to a TSA agent who then transports your bag.
An example from Alaska Airlines:
A “firearm” is any weapon that will or is designed to or may be readily converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive, or the frame or receiver of any such weapon. This includes:
Sporting rifles, shotguns, and handguns
Handguns of authorized law enforcement officers while traveling on official duty
Starter pistols, compressed air or BB guns, and flare pistols
All firearms must be unloaded and carried in a locked, hard-sided container where only the customer retains the key or combination.
The hard-sided case must be secured in such a way that it does not allow for accidental or unauthorized opening. Multiple locks may be required on some cases to ensure the case cannot be opened. Customers are not required to place locks in every available area on the case, as long as the case is secure.
Alaska Airlines does not allow customers under age 18 to carry on or check a firearm.
I doubt the wisdom of trying this on an international flight but it does make for an interesting loophole for domestic flights of luggage with very valuable items. Personally, I don’t check anything valuable in my luggage ever since my film camera was stolen coming back from Tahiti in 2003 but for some of you, this technique may prove useful.