Lessons learned

In January, Herself and I went to Marscon and had a glorious time. Unfortunately on the way home I got TSA’d.

For years I have carried one of Benchmade’s original mini-Griptilian pocket knives with the oval thumbhole — and by “years” I mean 20 or so.

In the past when we’ve flown to conventions, I have been careful to put the mini-Grip in the checked baggage, but this time I had an oopsie — I’m blaming the stress of the trial — and when I was emptying my pockets at the TSA checkpoint in Norfolk, I discovered that I still had the pocket knife clipped to my pocket.

If I’m wearing pants I’ve got a pocketknife clipped to the pocket. It’s a long-standing, and quite unconscious, habit. And this time it bit me on the butt.

When I found the knife, I smiled rather apologetically at the blue-shirted TSA broad staring at me like I was a particularly unpleasant microscope specimen, and said, “I’m sorry, but I still have my pocketknife. May I have a mailer, please?”

Her response? “You can surrender it, or you can exit the secure area.”

Well, there was a bit of back-and-forth regarding what I could do with the knife, vis-a-vis what rules the TSA was supposed to be following, and ended with me saying something incredibly rude to her, as I threw my favourite knife into a nearby garbage bin.

So. Blog fodder!

You are now in a position which requires air-travel. Yay for you! Unfortunately it’s inside the United States, with the attendant Security Theatre of the Transportation Security Administration. Boo!

(For the record: The TSA does not do one single blessed thing to make transportation any more “secure”. It does, however, excel at making transportation as much of a pain in the tuchus as is bureaucratically possible.) 

First — and probably the most important thing you should take away from this — get a dedicated carry-on bag. This bag should ONLY be used for airline travel; and should be completely emptied and stowed away as soon as you have arrived back at your home.

This is entirely due to the horror stories I have heard from friends and fans who have tossed some clothes into their range bag, and gotten busted by the Blue Shirted Goons at the aeroport with stray ammunition rolling around the bottom of the range bag.

Or worse, that pistol you took to the range and forgot was in the bag.

Also fun is when Bowser alerts on the smell of nitrates left over from shooting. Hello, Unwanted Attention!

So, you have a dedicated carry-on bag that you verify is empty before you start packing; and that you verify is completely empty when you stow it away after you are home when the trip is done.

Second, if you are like me and you would sooner venture forth naked than without a pocketknife — get something inexpensive that you won’t mind (too much) if you have a braincramp and wander into the “secure” area and wind up with a TSA goon stealing it have to surrender it to the TSA functionary.

I actually have a little Chinesium locking folder that 5.11 sent me as lagniappe when I made a big order. It has a decent, less than three-inch blade, and I won’t care if I have to bin it. I just forgot the damned thing during my packing.

Second, part 2: if you’re also like me and you habitually carry a flashlight in your pocket, Streamlight has a fantastic little AAA light called the “Microstream” that lists on Amazon for about 17 USD, so if it gets “eaten” by the gremlins in the luggage scanner you’re only out a $20, and not your high-end expensive pocket torch.

Bulletpoint, the Third. Make a checklist. Preferably, make it well before you actually have to start packing. On this checklist, item #1 should be: Make Sure Carry-On Bag Is Empty, And Does Not Have Ammunition Or BangSticks In It. Item #2 should say: Put Good Knife And Light In Safe; Get Burner Knife and Light.

The rest of the checklist should have those things that you need — charger, dopp kit with hygiene and first aid, that sort of thing.

Hope that helps.


postscript: Oh, just to give you the warm fuzzies:


Brownstone Institute
30 days NiceGulag!

20 thoughts on “Lessons learned”

  1. I played a similar game with the clowns that run the big ferris wheel in Vegas, except I had (thankfully) left the EDC senenza at home and was carrying a tiny little Case stockman.

    I had the option of forfeiting the knife or the price of the ticket I’d already paid for. Into the trash went the knife.

    I came back around after the ride and did a little dumpster diving in the trash can while “security” smirked at me. The knife was gone.

  2. The TSA is the sole reason for which I no longer travel and on those rare occasions that I do, I’m stressing the entire time.
    I used to fly at least a half-dozen times a year, sometimes as many as two-dozen. Now? One is usually my limit though I may do Two.
    I don’t like the waiting on lines bullshit.
    I don’t like the take off your shoes your belt, your wallet, and all of that and put it where thieves can steal it.
    I don’t like the mess of putting all your shit together after it gets x-rayed.
    I don’t like the cancer machine they make you stand in (and yes, it causes cancer).
    I don’t like how they EXTORT you to pay money so you don’t have to deal with this bullshit. That’s just criminal.
    I don’t like how I used to be the guy who got frisked and searched all the time (putting on a few extra pounds put an end to that apparently – guess they don’t like feeling up fat guys).
    I also don’t like how women are treated and the very attractive ones always get manhandled.

    None of it serves any purpose other to remind us all of our ‘place’ because the politicians and the very rich don’t go through any of this shit.

  3. Another thing to check is the legality of carrying a knife in the state of city you are visiting.

  4. Good, competent security is inconvenient.
    Good, competent security is expensive.

    So, to save money while providing a government work program for people that failed the entrance exam for 7/11 clerk, TSA makes security inconvenient in the hopes that people will mistake it for good and competent security.

  5. I was in the screening line once when I realized I’d inadvertently left a pocket knife in my carry on. Made the decision to let them find it rather than to volunteer. The scan flagged something, but even an extended search did not turn it up. Who knows how many felonies were committed that day.

    1. About 20 years ago in the early days of the TSA, everything seized at PDX would be sold by the state of Oregon under the ebay dealer name of oregontrail2000. Knives generally got sorted into lots of similar types. I bought a lot containing 35 Leathermans of various models for $40.

  6. I flatly refuse to fly again until my CHL is good on the plane.

    In this day and age of online video communication, there’s almost zero reason for me to ever travel again, so I’m not going to do so unless its on my terms.

  7. It’s funny, I used to travel a lot, and still travel a fair amount. Thirty years ago, I would fly if the travel was more than 3 hours by car, which was a 1 hour flight.. Back then, you could arrive at the airport 10 minutes before takeoff, run like a crazy man, and slip on the plane just as the doors were closing. Then, TSA started its gig, and that 1 hour flight became 4 hours. Then everybody started using hubs with 2 hour layovers, and that 1 hour flight became an 8 hour ordeal. If you add parking and commute time to the terminal and, God help you, if you have baggage, then that 1 hour flight is now 12-14 hours. All of it uncomfortable and inconvenient.

    In 2021, my wife and I flew to Las Vegas from Eastern Tennessee. We had a layover at an airport that didn’t provide transportation for people with mobility problems unless you scheduled it before the flight, so my wife basically had to crawl across three terminals. Plus, she had to wear a mask all that time and ended up having an asthma attack.

    Rather than face that torture on return, we rented a car and drove back to TN. Happily, we had enough time to do it. It was a very pleasant drive, and we stopped a bunch of historic places along the way.

    I won’t fly now unless it’s more than a 12 hour drive and I’m short of time, or more than a 3 day drive if I have the time.

  8. When the TSA was created, and I saw how they were doing it, I knew it would be useless. Before 9/11 airport screening was done by the absolute bottom tier of security guars/companies. These were the security jobs that paid minimum wage and that is it. Then the feds come along, hire them all and give them a giant pay raise.
    I have another tip for people when flying: Get yourself pants that have absolutely no metal (I’ve had a metal zipper set off the scanners) and a belt with a plastic buckle. I actually have specific clothes I fly in that never see any activity that might make any of the TSA’s scanners go off.

  9. My security horror story isn’t TSA, but the local gumbos at the Arena Cross Motorcycle races. My knitting couldn’t make it past the scan. Now, this is a kit with pretty blunt, hollow aluminum needles, hat sized (ie too short to be a garotte) and I’m a fat grandmother type. They would have been (have been) totally fine on any domestic airplane. Nope. Binned.

    I don’t deal well with long waits without some type of hand work – my grandson’s race was 3/4 of the way through the race program. It was a miserable night.

  10. I once made the knife mistake with TSA. I was going home for a break in college. The SLC airport actually let me do the mailer then. Current airport likely wouldn’t, but I could maybe run back to the car.

  11. Damn man.

    If only we could all agree to boycott the airlines until TSA went away. Wouldn’t take long at all. Of course if we were that cohesive of a nation we wouldn’t be in the current mess. One can dream.

  12. In the aftermath of 9/11 there was a general outcry that ‘something must be done’ about airport security. President Bush – nobody’s idea of a genius, although the current occupant makes him look like Einstein – knew goddamned well that it was pointless political theatre, had much more pressing matters on hand, and left it to the drones, who promptly screwed the pooch and created the pinnacle of uselessness we know today.

    Anyone with half a brain would have known that after the planes were flown into the towers and the puzzle palace the next attempt to take over a plane load of Americans would end with the would-be terrorists stuffed in the overhead luggage compartment in somewhat used condition.

  13. Funny thing is, SFO does not have TSA, they have ‘private’ security, who cater to the elites… Grrr… And I’ve thrown away more knives than I want to think about due to their BS rules.

  14. In the pre 9/11 world I was an almost weekly flyer. Once had to explain in detail to a roommate why using his range bag as carry on luggage was a really bad idea.

  15. The real reason we have the TSA is that the airlines demanded it. They were getting too much pushback when they treated their customers like cattle, especially after Jimmy Carter deregulated the industry. Now, everything goes their way. And I don’t fly.

  16. > I threw my favourite knife into a nearby garbage bin.

    A friend ran into that at airport security. He broke the blades off on the counter before dropping his knife in the trash, much to the displeasure of the security goons, who apparently planned to fish it out and take it home later.

  17. 2011, having been in Orlando, FL for two reasons.

    Helping my (now, late) Step Mom with some house repairs, and: shooting a local Three Gun Match with her highly competent, across the street neighbor.

    Shoot Saturday, and Sunday Morning. Lunch, then rankings, announcements, small trophies (was registered, but minor city match, not a “biggie”.)

    To the Airport immediately after, did the TSA check firearms waltz, and on to Gate Security. Where, I get tapped for the Explosives Swab.

    *wipe wipe wipe*, and into the machine it goes. Thirty seconds later, BEEP! Not what you or I would’ve expected. GREEN LIGHT. (slack jawed are you fkn kidding me reaction?)

    On through Security I go, and I dare not speak a WORD of what’d just happened there. I’m head to toe gunpowder residue, and just get waved on through?

    If I’d have squeaked a word, I’d have missed my flight, of course. Continue on, I did, and arrived safely in Houston, with all my cased guns to meet me from the Luggage Stasi at the Glassed In Booth.

    What, I’d have had to walked through a fresh cloud of Semtex smoke to make the sensor squawk in the negative?

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

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