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A Look at the Dangerous, Scary, and Downright Unusual Items our Officers Found in 2012

Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Inert Mortar Round (ELP)

Top 5 Airports for Gun Finds: 1 - ATL, 2 - DFW, 3 - PHX, 4 - IAH, 5 - FLAfter screening 637,582,122 passengers in 2012 (around 1,746,800 a day), here are some of the more dangerous, scary, and downright unusual items our officers found in 2012. This post is a reflection of the outstanding work our officers are doing in the field thanks to their vigilance and attention to detail.

1,556* (*Updated 7/3/13) firearms have been discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country. That’s a little over fourfirearms per day! Of those, 1,215 (78.7%) were loaded. Firearms have been found at a total of 199 airports with Atlanta (ATL) on top of the list - 95 in 2012.

A disassembled gun and ammunition concealed in three stuffed animals.Here are a few of the more notable firearm incidents:

A gun in a hollowed out book was discovered at Honolulu (HNL).While the number of firearms discovered this year might shock you, here are some explosively dangerous items that passengers attempted to travel with this year:

Six lbs. of black powder, detonation cords, and timing fuse were discovered at Grand Junction (GJT)

A live blasting cap was discovered in a passenger’s carry-on bag at Redmond (RDM).

In addition to the live explosives items mentioned above, we also find a lot of inert items that look like the real deal. The problem with these types of items is that we don’t know if they are the real deal until we call out the bomb experts, and sometimes even they have a hard time figuring it out. Inert items can lead to closed terminals and checkpoints, which usually result in canceled or delayed flights. Here are some of the more interesting inert items we’ve found so far this year:

An inert IED with a block of simulated SEMTEX-H, and a simulated blasting cap were discovered in checked baggage at Columbus (CSG).
A strange watch resembling an IED component was discovered at Oakland (OAK).
An inert detonator was discovered in a passenger’s pocket during a pat-down search after a Charleston (CHS) passenger alarmed the body scanner.
Eeels found in bag at Miami.

And of course, there are those items that fit into the odd/interesting category. A few examples would be bear mace in a sock, a spear gun, dead venomous snakes, a chastity belt, more cane swords than you could shake a cane sword at, a shocking amount of stun guns, a gassed up chainsaw, an 8oz. bottle of vodka discovered in a passenger's pants, a knife mounted on a walker, eels, prohibited bling, a marijuana filled grenade, another speargun, samurai swords, a stun cane, and jingle bell shotgun shells.

While this doesn’t fall into any of the categories above, it deserves to be mentioned that last August, two Behavior Detection Officers (BDO) at Miami (MIA) thwarted a kidnapping. Read more about it here.

You can check out our archives of TSA Week in Review posts to see pictures and read about many other instances where dangerous, scar, and odd items are found. Our Week in Review posts are published every Friday evening.

Speargun, swords, stun cane, chainsaw, and shotgun shells.

Bear mace, pen gun, gun in book, seal bombs, inert claymore mine.

IED training kits and intert explosives, grenade launcher, black powder, propane, det cord.

Inert bazooka, inert claymore mines, inert bazooka shell.

Powder Horn with black powder, powder flask with black powder, blasck powder primers, intert warheads.

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team

If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact us by clicking here.


Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
If you fly often, you do not have to be a genius to figure out what is permitted and what is not.

Well, the TSA screeners certainly are not geniuses- they can't seem to figure out that video recording is permitted at checkpoints.

They can't seem to figure out that a bottle of water is not a bomb.

They can't seem to figure out that a pair of flip-flops is not a shoe bomb.


Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
I agree that there are a lot of immature TSA employees. I travel often, and I have seen a large majority. But like all career choices, you cannot chracterize an entire work force based on a few people. If thats how people choose to view the world, then: all pilots are drunks, and all flight attendants sleep around. Meanwhile, all office workers are lazy, and every police officer is racist.

...and every passenger is a terrorist, who can't be trusted to keep their shoes on or with a bottle of water.

You see,the TSA already treats US like that, so....

Submitted by Anonymous on

To January 22, 2013 at 7:04 AM:

I point you to this 1985 article --

The lowly checkpoints of metal detectors and bag x-rays were finding close to 1,500 guns per half-year.

That's right: twice the amount of 2012, and with probably fewer total passengers.

Oh, but that's right: the pre-TSA screeners were low-paid and inept.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I'm always amazed at people complaining about privacy when it comes to safety. I've logged over 2,000,000 miles in air travel. I know by today's standatrds it's not that remarkable but, to me it's a lot of travel. I welcome xray, scanners and anything else that applies to everybody getting on the plane. There is no room for error at 40,000 feet. We should take some lessons from our European friends who've been battling terrorism for 100 years longer than us. Turn security over to the military where it belongs. Travel to or through an international European airport and notice the military patrols through the concourses armed with automatic weapons. I wouldn't care if we were strip searched and made to identify and travel with all of our baggage. I recently changed planes in the busiest airport in the US. I had a long layover and was able to get on an earlier flight. Once airborne I realized my checked bag was not on the same flight as I. This is unsettling. Keep your civil liberties, privacy, and please travel on your own private plane. We need even better security than we have today!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said... cannot chracterize an entire work force based on a few people.

Ah, the old '1% of cops give them all a bad name' argument.

Unfortunately, it's not true.

You see, if most cops were good, they wouldn't stand for the bad cops to exist among them, would arrest them, testify against them, and get them kicked out and thrown in jail. But this doesn't really happen. When it does happen, it's so unusual they make a movie about it (See 'Serpico' for example).

The same is true of the TSA screeners. There have been many, many, many cases (many mentioned right here on this blog!) where screeners have broken the rules or even the law... only to be 'put under review' or be 'retrained'. Only to have another screener do the same thing next week. It's not merely an issue with one screener here or there- there is a Systemic problem.

It's partly a problem with lack of training- how hard is it to train some one that it is legal and allowed for people to record video of a TSA checkpoint? Evidently VERY hard- there are numerous examples over the years of screeners telling people they can't record video. If the training worked, this would have happened, at most, ONCE, not month after month after month for over a decade.

That is just ONE simple example of something the TSA screeners should know, but evidently do not. Other examples include (but are not limited to):

-making mom pump breast milk in airport bathroom
-strip-searching elderly women
-spilling the cremated ashes of a passengers father
-confiscating a pregnant woman's insulin and ice packs

All these and more can be found by Googling for 'TSA Apologizes'.

So, in the end, you are right- you cannot chracterize an entire work force based on a few people. But the thing is- it's not just a few people- it's the few people who get caught, AND the ones who didn't, AND the ones who let them get away with it by not reporting them, AND the ones who aren't supervising/managing them, AND the ones who made the dumb rules to begin with.

...and that's practically ALL of them.

Submitted by S on

To Anonymous at January 22, 2013 at 10:15 AM:

Pray tell, where in Europe do you have to walk through scanners and remove your shoes? No place that I know of.

Screen shot

Submitted by Herbert Ben Ballard on

I was wondering the same thing. Was it being used at the time of discovery and male or female device?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I'm curious. How often have you found knives disguised as sex toys? I'm sure it's happened more than once. You guys are doing a good job keeping us safe. What happens to the antique guns you find?

Submitted by Anonymous on

RB, thea biggest reason for removing shoes is to keep the line moving. Most shoes contain metal. Metal heels. metal zippers. Metal buckles. These all set off the metal detectors and then that person has to double check their pockets, take off their shoes, and walk through again. Can you imagine if every third person had to go through this process? We'd all have to show up at the airport 4 hours before a flight!

Submitted by Got To Stand Fo... on

Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither.
Benjamin Franklin

That is all I got to say about it.

Submitted by TSORon on

Wintermute said...
[[Anonymous, please cite your source that pre-9/11 private screeners were poorly trained, and, if so, how the TSA screeners are any better trained.]]

I don’t know about Anon, but I can point it out for you Wintermute. Start here: ( Go to section 9.1 and 9.2 of the report. Read.

Then go to section 13.5 of the report. Read. That should provide you with the information you request.

Or don’t. It’s easier to ignore the facts if you don’t even know what they are.

Submitted by David on

TSA is doing fine job even if they have to do a complete search of any your possessions to keep everyone safe and out of harms way. Great information on this blog.

Submitted by Wintermute on

TSORon said...

"I don’t know about Anon, but I can point it out for you Wintermute. Start here: ( Go to section 9.1 and 9.2 of the report. Read.

"Then go to section 13.5 of the report. Read. That should provide you with the information you request."

Or, how about I read the whole thing instead of cherry-picking parts of it ;)

"Or don’t. It’s easier to ignore the facts if you don’t even know what they are."

I asked for sources. You provided them. I will fact-check. The insults are not required, and hurt whatever little credibility you have.

Submitted by Wintermute on

TSORon told me to read the 9/11 commission report - specifically sections 9.1, 9.2, and 13.5 - for proof that the pre-9/11 screeners were poorly trained that the TSA is any better. These sections are irrelevant to the discussion, as they do not cover screening. Well... a brief paragraph at the end of 13.5 mentions it, sorta, kinda. But it doesn't speak to how poorly trained pre-9/11 screeners were nor how the TSA is any better. Want to try again?

Submitted by Wintermute on

TSORon said...


OK. So I did. I want to make sure we are arguing the same point. Granted, I only skimmed the parts TSORon didn't specifically site, but thus far I can find no evidence that this report supports the original argument, which was "pre-9/11 screeners were poorly trained." I asked for evidence of two things. First, sources showing this to be the case. Second, evidence that TSA screeners were doing any better.

Submitted by Wintermute on

No response, TSORon? Or were you arguing a different point entirely?

Submitted by TSORon on
“We asked a screening expert to review the videotape of the hand-wanding, and he found the quality of the screener's work to have been "marginal at best." The screener should have "resolved" what set off the alarm; and in the case of both Moqed and Hazmi, it was clear that he did not.”
“The hijackers quickly gained control and sprayed Mace, pepper spray, or some other irritant in the first-class cabin, in order to force the passengers and flight attendants toward the rear of the plane. They claimed they had a bomb.”
“The hijackers attacked sometime between 8:42 and 8:46.They used knives (as reported by two passengers and a flight attendant), Mace (reported by one passenger), and the threat of a bomb (reported by the same passenger). They stabbed members of the flight crew (reported by a flight attendant and one passenger). Both pilots had been killed (reported by one flight attendant).The eyewitness accounts came from calls made from the rear of the plane, from passengers originally seated further forward in the cabin, a sign that passengers and perhaps crew had been moved to the back of the aircraft.”

You also might want to read the document at the link below. It is a document presented to the 9/11 Commission by the National Commission On Terrorist Actions which clearly states that Box Cutters and Mace were prohibited items according to FAA regulations active on 9/11/2001, yet were missed by the screeners at the various airports in question.

Submitted by Wintermute on

TSAgent Ron said...


Hmmm... You said 9.1, 19.2, and 13.5. This is none of those. And what you quoted BARELY addresses screening, and does NOT speak to how TSA is any better at it. We have reports of a 70% failure rate indicating that they are not.

Submitted by TSORon on

Wintermute said...

[[TSA is any better at it. We have reports of a 70% failure rate indicating that they are not.]]

A report from 2004, about screening during 2003 and 2002. Just a bit outdated most people would think. TSA stood up as an agency in 2002, and it takes time to not only train people but time for them to gain experience. Either bring data to the discussion that is relevant or admit that what you DO have is no longer relevant.

Submitted by Wintermute on

TSORon said...

"A report from 2004, about screening during 2003 and 2002. Just a bit outdated most people would think. TSA stood up as an agency in 2002, and it takes time to not only train people but time for them to gain experience. Either bring data to the discussion that is relevant or admit that what you DO have is no longer relevant."

Nice misinformation there. I've already pointed out why this data, though dated, is still relevant, countless times on this very blog. To whit, we have a November 2011 report which states (paraphrasing) that, while the actual failure rate is SSI, it has changed very little over time. Combining these two data points (at one point in time, the failure rate was 70%, and that failure rate changed very little over time), we can logically conclude that the failure rate is still approximately 70%, at least up to November 2011. If you have a different data point you'd like to share, that would be more than welcome.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I'm just tired of the blue gloved finger getting inserted into my....purse?

Submitted by Anonymous on

It is amazing that people still do not appreciate TSA. Anytime you reach your destination should be considered a good day! Whether the item was inert or not enough bullets or the size of the bullets or items that could make a bum should make it any less of a threat because some numbnut was testing the system. I considered that once any of these items were discovered in your carryon or checked baggage that you definitely had intent on being stupid and dangerous! Those of you who complain about taking shoes off should be reminded that this procedure is a small inconvenience compared to being on a plane with some numbnut whose intent is to cause great destruction. So think again when you get on a plane that if TSA misses (human error factor) a dangerous item you just might not make it to your destination. Maybe a little Russian policy is what some Americans need in that once they know who you are you may never be seen or found again in this life for doing such a stupid dangerous thing! By the way, I am an American and not a TSA employee but had notice the usual American sanctimonous remarks and arrogant attitudes in a country where you are given the benefit of the doubt for your intent of flying with dangerous items. These people should be immediately executed!!!

Submitted by Anonymous on

I fly regularly from the UK to the US. If you think TSA is tough, try procedures at Heathrow in London! Solution to TSA? Simple. When was the last time you heard about an EL AL aircraft hijacking? We should all abide by Israeli/El Al security measures. Endless queues (lines)? Tough!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Would you have known it was "inert" if someone pulled it out on your flight?

Submitted by Anonymous on

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Submitted by Anonymous on

Annoymous states....."Anonymous said...
What is the big deal about finding these items? Isn't that your job? I don't see the point of announcing all of the guns. If you can't find a gun, what else would you be missing.

I have noticed that almost everything found is discovered by the metal detector and baggage x-ray. The body scanners seem to only find items that aren't a threat to aviation, like toothpaste or bottles of vodka. I don't see the benefit of the scanners when they have many health and privacy issues, along with how expensive they are.

How many of the people who had the prohibited items were charged with terrorism?

To the Idiot who posted this comment and all the others who comment the same way ! you really think that if we weren't personally being x-rayed along with our baggage, that these idiot who try to sneak these dangerous items past security, that they wouldn't then conceal them on thier person!
Next I have to ask ! ...why are all these idiots not arrested , fined and their guns confiscated ?... then slapped upside the head and ask them "why are you that stupid?" ....

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why aren't these people (Idiots) who, are trying to sneak these dangerous items past Security, .... being put on a "No Fy List"????

Submitted by Anonymous on

I had a pretty humiliating search , in private this summer but I totally appreciated the thoroughness & the agents explained everything before & after they searched. I didn't care for the pat down of my 6 mo old boy a decade ago but if that's the price for safety who cares. Weapons on a plane? How could any of that seem ok? How could they only get a citation? oops! I packed my gun, ammo. and spare bomb parts????

Submitted by Anonymous on

why are some of these people posting on here calling bob a liar and giving such a hard time ? the tsa has a job to do.. anyone that hides a gun in a plant or a teddybear is just up to no good in my eyes.. and for the person that said does the tsa know what inert means ? yes im sure they do.. but the law says if it looks like a gun or a bomb or a bullet or anything that we know use to expload its against the law to bring it.... do ya get it now ?? oh one more thing.. posting without your name doesent really work.. its our government.. im sure they can just ping your IP address... are you seriousley forgetting what the nsa can do ? The tsa aganets dont have an easy job and its people like you that hold the lines up and make it worse..

Submitted by Anon111122223333 on

Someone tried to bring a grenade launcher on a plane... In their carry-on... How did they think that they would make it through?