Ensure safe and secure delivery of your checked bag

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.

Ready, set, check your bag

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:

Transporting Firearms

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
Antique firearms
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.


  1. This is an outrageous idea. Make the TSA expend extra resources (literally an agent specifically carrying your bag) because you think your bag’s valuables are important enough for the federal government to burn its resources on?

    If the contents are that important you should carry them with you or courier ship.

  2. @Nick – what type of productivity would they be doing otherwise?

    Don’t worry, I’ll wait for your reply…

  3. not to mention the time waste for everyone else in the queue trying to check a bag. Aviation is so highly taxed because of these one-off situations that require disproportionate resources for no discriminated revenue.

    I admit, it’s an interesting idea, and I doubt that anyone would actually buy a weapon for this purpose (and I don’t think many people have starter pistols lying around), but I think a disclaimer or some sort of “sanity check” statement would have been nice.

  4. I don’t know, a quick Google search shows starter pistols starting at around $25. At that price point I could see quite a few people jumping on something like this.

  5. I’m from Texas. I just check an actual handgun when I travel to other states that recognize my concealed carry permit. My bag is almost always the first one to come down the conveyor belt upon arrival and has never been lost. 🙂

  6. Not true! Federal law prohibits anyone from knowing a firearm is in the bag once the firearm (in a locked container) and firearm declaration card are placed in the bag. Federal law prohibits the airline or anyone else for that matter, to make the bag identifiable as containing a firearm from the outside of the bag (again, Federal law). Your bag is handled just like any other bag after it goes through TSA’s thievery process. Three last things: Starter pistols don’t expel anything (maybe hot gas when fired), starter pistols will get you arrested in some NE states, and PLENTY of handguns are stolen from checked luggage and I know because I have entered dozens of handguns stolen at the airport into NCIC. Great idea, but just not true.

  7. To the folks that find this to be an irresponsible act: The fact is, with all of the restrictions on liquids, etc., there must be an alternative, considering very safe things such as sunscreen are apparently too dangerous for the cabin. I’ve lost bags (in some cases, never to be found), if having a starter pistol is enough to increase the odds that my sunscreen and aloe arrive safely, then I’m more than willing to make the investment. IF you think that is wrong, then talk to your government representatives and get them to fix the flawed system that restricts liquids (and internationally, you can’t even take 3oz vials without labels e.g. UK), small utility knives, and other things that one would normally require on a trip.

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