What I Carry When I Fly

By CTD Blogger published on in Safety and Training

A guest article by Jason Hanson

Most people suspect—or know—that airport security isn’t that great, which is why informed travelers want to make sure we are as protected as possible in case something happens and we have to defend ourselves.

Jason Hanson

Jason Hanson’s safety and survival training has helped thwart kidnappings and stop home invasions. Photo courtesy the author.

Last month was incredibly busy for me. I went to Denver, Anaheim, Dallas, Los Angeles, and right now I’m on a plane to New York. When I fly, I try to stay protected, as always, but I’m obviously limited in what I can bring. The thing is, most people don’t realize there are still a lot of self-defense items you can legally carry with you.

For instance, depending on what training I’m doing, I’ll have handcuffs, handcuff keys, pliers, rope, duct tape, lock-pick sets, and zip ties in my carry-on bag. (Yes, the carry-on bag that comes on the plane with me.) I also have my monkey’s fist keychain made of paracord and ball bearings. Of course, my main survival tool on a plane is my tactical pen. I’ve never had a problem flying with my tactical pen, and I’ve been all over the world with it.

I know that you likely don’t have any reason to bring handcuffs or pliers on a plane, but you should at least still have your tactical pen and monkey’s fist keychain. And, if you want to add another protection tool, you can carry a sock full of pennies with you, and I know a few people who do this.

Of course, a couple of the items I do not have with me on the plane are my knife and gun. My knife always goes in my checked baggage. Don’t forget, the credit-card knives that many of us carry are real knives, and they should not be riding in your carry-on bag. However, in my last course, I had a fellow tell me he accidentally carried three of the credit-card knives on a plane.

One of the biggest questions I get about flying with gear is what I do with my gun. In short, flying with a gun is a lot easier than most people think. Before you head to the airport, make sure the gun is unloaded and put it in a hard-side case, such as the case the gun came in when you originally bought it. Next, put the case inside the luggage you plan to check, NOT your carry-on luggage.

Pistol, Knife, Channel Lock Pliers, Ammunition, Flashlight, Duct Tape

You can’t carry a pistol, ammunition, or a knife on board an airplane, but there are other options, such as pliers, a flashlight, and duct tape, along with other non-pointed work tools. Also, the author has flown all over the world with a tactical pen.

When you get to the airport, tell the person at the check-in counter that you need to declare a firearm. They’ll hand you a small card to sign, in which you state that you’re not a convicted felon and that the firearm isn’t loaded. Once you sign the card, you put it inside your luggage and you’re all set to go.

Also, if you have ammunition, just keep it in the regular cardboard box and plastic tray that ammo comes in and throw it inside your luggage like that. I’ve flown out of numerous airports, and, coincidentally, the only one that I won’t fly in or out of with my gun is JFK in New York, which is where I’m flying to right now. Even in Maryland I’ve never had a problem flying out of BWI (Baltimore–Washington International Airport) with my gun.

The bottom line is, since airport security isn’t that great, make sure you’re prepared with all of the items you can legally carry aboard a plane to protect yourself.

And don’t forget to put your knives and guns in your checked baggage.

What do you carry when you fly? Share your tips in the comment section.


About the Author: Jason Hanson is a former CIA officer and security specialist. He’s appeared on numerous television shows, including ABC’s “Shark Tank,” NBC’s “TODAY Show,” and the “Rachael Ray Show.” He has also been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, and Fox News for his security expertise. Jason’s unique safety and survival training has helped people thwart kidnapping, stop home invasions, and prevent a number of other crimes. To get a free credit-card knife from Jason and to see a list of Jason’s training courses, visit www.SpyEscape.com.

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Comments (34)

  • Robert


    Jason Hanson, I just checked out this particular blog, and thought I had commented on it previously, so my question to you is: since I have a Concealed Carry Permit from Tennessee, I can fly to other states that RECOGNIZE my permit, but you stated you fly to Los Angeles with guns in your check in baggage. Is that correct? Are you a California resident? If you are not licensed to carry in California, how do you get away with it upon arrival in LA? I drove all the way there because I couldn’t fly with my EDC. It was alot nicer driving there anyways!!! Thanks for ANYONE who replies…


  • eric


    What brand of tectical pen do you carry?
    Im looking for one.


    • Michael


      @ eric

      I carry a S&W with Window Punch, does that qualify?


  • Les Duncan


    Hi Jason. I just read your article What I Carry When I Fly, and I wanted to let you know, so hopefully you can correct the article, that the gun must be in a locked, hard sided case. It is prohibited from flying unlocked.
    Thank you.


  • Brass


    In ’85 I was flying from NC to Fl on orders from the Marines and I was carrying a briefcase I hadn’t used in a while. Inside it was a pair of handcuffs that I had forgotten about from previous duties. I forget how the airline personnel found out but they found out before loading luggage and I had to put them inside a cardboard hanging clothing box they gave me and check them in as check baggage. The only procedures in place then were left over from the days of highjackings that took place in the late 60s and 70s. I often flew with a pocket knife and a knife pen but they wouldn’t allow the handcuffs in my carry on bags even though I was in uniform and on orders.


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