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Old May 21, 2013, 02:56 AM   #1
Rustle in the Bushes
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Gun powder on bags/luggage- airport troubles?

So my range/hunting backpack is my travelling backpack as well. I dont just pile gear in her I actually use it as a bipod/shooting support so shes prolly soaking up some residue. Has anyone had a problem or am I the only one dumb enough to try n fly with it? Dont wanna watch my luggage get blown up on the tarmac

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Old May 21, 2013, 06:06 AM   #2
Double Naught Spy
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I have not had an issue with this. I even told the screener taking a vacuum sample of my bag about it being a range bag and he said it was no problem unless the sensor went off and then he would have to search it. The sensor didn't go off.

If you recently spilled a container of Bullseye in the bag, then you might have an issue, but otherwise, I don't think there will be a problem.
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Old May 21, 2013, 08:40 AM   #3
45_auto
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When they first started using sniffers about 10 years ago, I had a friend who thought it would be funny to sprinkle another friend's luggage with gunpowder. He used Bullseye. The 4 of us flew twice a month for a year through an airport that did the wipe and sniff on every bag. Nothing ever happened.
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Old May 21, 2013, 08:45 AM   #4
deepcreek
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I think a lot of stuff about the "sniffers" is marketing "they detect microns" "minute particles" "traces".

The reality is TSA is a joke.
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Old May 21, 2013, 09:22 AM   #5
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I've read (but cannot confirm) somebody who said that the chemical sniffers are looking for compounds other than regular gunpowder. This could be incorrect, but Semtex is a little different from Unique.

Still, I very much recommend AGAINST that practice of using the same bag for range trips and actual travel. Not for reasons of gunpowder residue, but one stray round of ammo can mean you not only miss your trip, but it can cost huge amounts of money in legal fees and criminal penalties, if not jail time.

Given how much a lawyer's time costs to sort such things out, even an acquittal will cost way more than a complete set of even very good quality luggage. I think you'd do yourself a favor to keep the range bags for range use and get another set of bags for travel.
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Old May 21, 2013, 09:59 AM   #6
Gaerek
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<~~~ Former TSA here.

In most cases, gun powder, in any form (black, smokeless, etc) won't set off any machines. It's something everyone is worried about, but isn't an issue. And even if it did, all it would mean is a more thorough check. You aren't going to get in trouble because a machine with a relatively high false positive rate goes off. It's only if something is found after the machine goes off will there be an issue.

Although I can't really get into specifics, the explosive trace detection machines in use by the TSA are incredibly sensitive and can differentiate between different types of explosives. They know the difference between C4, Semtex, and Alliant Blue Dot.

In other words, it's something gunners and reloaders constantly worry about, but it's absolutely nothing to worry abou. Worst case, they'll do a "dump" search of your bag, and you might get a little "who's your daddy" from your friendly blue shirt.

Having said that, I would HIGHLY recommend against using a range or hunting bag for travel. It's not about gun powder residue. It's about the loose round (or box, or several boxes of ammo you might have forgotten...yes I've seen it MANY times) or the hunting knife or other prohibited items that frequent those types of bags.

Quote:
I think a lot of stuff about the "sniffers" is marketing "they detect microns" "minute particles" "traces".
Usually, if you don't know something, you should probably not talk about it. I can tell you from experience that the machines in use are incredibly sensitive and can detect particles in excess of 1 part per million or better.

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The reality is TSA is a joke.
I can't disagree with this.
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Old May 21, 2013, 10:03 AM   #7
wingman
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I would HIGHLY recommend against using a range or hunting bag for travel.
In hillbilly speak, "that right there is common sense".
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Old May 21, 2013, 10:10 AM   #8
Brian Pfleuger
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<---Also former TSA...

Listen to what Gaerek tell you.
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Old May 21, 2013, 10:22 AM   #9
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Usually, if you don't know something, you should probably not talk about it. I can tell you from experience that the machines in use are incredibly sensitive and can detect particles in excess of 1 part per million or better.
I think I would take the opinion of an expert over a TSA worker

Larry Wansley, the former head of security for American Airlines on the "Puffer machines"

The units rarely worked, though. “With the testing that was done in the labs, they really couldn’t simulate an airport environment, and that was the joker in the deck,”


European and U.S experts comments on explosive detection.

The technology, which is meant to detect trace amounts of explosives, is "not really operationally viable," said Norman Shanks, who once was in charge of security at the British Airports Authority, which rejected such a system a decade ago.

The chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, Rep. John L. Mica, a Florida Republican, called the planned system "semi-ineffective."
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Old May 21, 2013, 10:27 AM   #10
Brian Pfleuger
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1)
Bags don't go through "puffers".

2)
If you read the articles, it's clear that the "ineffective" part is the process as a whole, not the Explosives Trace Detector machines.
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Old May 21, 2013, 10:37 AM   #11
deepcreek
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If you read the articles, it's clear that the "ineffective" part is the process as a whole, not the Explosives Trace Detector machines.
The marketing states the Explosives Trace Detector machines will "detect" explosive traces even little traces= if you find them and rub it on them.

That's like saying my bloodhound can find any coon. if you bring it to him and stick it in his face.
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Old May 21, 2013, 10:51 AM   #12
Gaerek
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I think I would take the opinion of an expert over a TSA worker
And with all due respect, you're an armchair expert who's "read an article" so you know how it works, correct? I have 9 years experience in TSA. Although I agree that the methods used by TSA are ineffective, the machines, with some notable exceptions (failures in current full body scanners, the old ETP machines), the equipment in use by the TSA is actually very good, and very effective.

Quote:
Larry Wansley, the former head of security for American Airlines on the "Puffer machines"
Please explain to me what a puffer machine is? If you're talking about the ETP machines also known as puffers, they haven't been in used in the US for 5 or 6 years now (EDIT: they began to remove them in 2008, and the last were removed in 2010)...and at their peak, there were less than 100 in use. Why? They were ineffective, maintenance was difficult, and they were expensive.

Quote:
The technology, which is meant to detect trace amounts of explosives, is "not really operationally viable," said Norman Shanks, who once was in charge of security at the British Airports Authority, which rejected such a system a decade ago.
Since you're the expert, please tell me what "operationally viable" means. He is not saying "They don't work!!!" He's saying that for some reason, they could be inefficient, there could be a better option, they are a pain for maintenance purposes (this is VERY true of these machines...very maintenance heavy, and if they get contaminated, you have to send them back to the manufacturer) or any number of things.

Since I actually have the experience, allow me to relate an anecdote. We had an EOD tech from the Air Force come in once and do a demonstration. He had brought real samples of explosives. Our trainer wanted to do a demonstration, so he asked for a wrapper from a block of C4. The EOD tech gave it to him, and he wiped it on his shoe. He had a screener test is, and of course, it went off. It showed the exact correct type of explosive that make up C-4 (it's RDX, actually). No one was surprised by this. But here's the interesting part. About once a month, this trainer would come in and have someone test his shoes. For the next two years, his shoes set the machine off, without fail. Last I saw, he had tested his shoes about 2 weeks before I left, and it went off that time as well.

The machines are incredibly accurate, and incredibly sensitive. They are a bear for maintenance, and as a result of the extreme sensitivity have a relatively high false positive rate. Contamination of equipment, search tables, and even screeners hands all have a contribution to this. You have to be meticulous about cleaning up the equipment to ensure contamination doesn't occur. Screeners change their gloves, 8-10 times an hour to prevent contamination. This is most likely what was meant by "not operationally viable." If they didn't work, he'd have just said that. Instead, he was intentionally vague because he wants to discredit the TSA.

Quote:
The chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, Rep. John L. Mica, a Florida Republican, called the planned system "semi-ineffective."
What planned system? Are we talking about the ETPs I mentioned above? If so, yeah...that's why they aren't used anymore.

So like I said, if you don't know what you're talking about, you should probably not say anything at all.

I agree, the process and procedures used by the TSA are ineffective. But most of the equipment works very well for their intended purposes.

EDIT: Since you didn't add a link to your source, I found it. You are talking about the defunct ETP machines. These are the tall portals that would puff air on you and supposedly detect trace explosives. See my note in my second paragraph.

The machines used today are called ETD (for Explosive Trace Detection) machines. They use a swab to collect a sample that is analyzed. They are extremely effective. I can't really talk about why they actually do work (pesky NDA I had to sign on my last day, with scary things that talked about fines and possible jail time), why you don't actually have to swab an explosive for it to work, and why sampling in certain areas is nearly 100% sufficient to get an alarm on a bag that has an IED in it. If you can find an article that debunks the ETD machine, I'd love to see it. But showing articles about machines that aren't in service anymore as proof as to why ALL explosive detection machines don't work proves my initial reply to your first comment.

Last edited by Gaerek; May 21, 2013 at 11:22 AM.
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Old May 21, 2013, 11:29 AM   #13
fireboat
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Well said Gaerek. I learned a long time ago to keep my mouth shut when I don't know about something as I was usually wrong. Truth is, people like to credit or discredit groups or organizations with one blanket statement when we all know that are pros and cons to almost anything.
When traveling, I have seen some very conscientious TSA workers and some total idiots, but seems like a lot of them are just plain burned out. The work must suck.
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Old May 21, 2013, 11:32 AM   #14
Drizzt
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I've done the same myself. A few years ago, I was flying somewhere (not by choice I'm sure) and I was watching my bag get inspected after I had already gone through the checkpoint. About the time I saw the fellow start to swab my bag was when I realized that this was the same backpack I had been using as a range bag. Something a bit more profound than "Oh crap!" went through my mind, but nothing came of it. I agree that the greater risk is not the residue, but accidentally leaving a stray round or component in the bag without knowing.
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Old May 21, 2013, 11:34 AM   #15
Gaerek
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Quote:
The work must suck.
You don't know the half of it.

The reality is, most TSA workers are good, hard working people. When you have a very visible, public workforce of 45,000, there will be some bad eggs in there. Don't hate on the workers. It's very likely they hate doing what they're doing more than you hate them doing it to you. The real problem is that it's just become a bloated bureaucracy, that's ineffective because all of the procedures are politically motivated. It would be possible to have just as secure screening, with half as many workers, and less invasive procedures. But for whatever reason, those in charge want to push the limits of the 4th Amendment, and make air travel as difficult and uncomfortable as possible.

Don't blame the workers...they're just trying to feed their families in this terrible economy.
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Old May 21, 2013, 12:16 PM   #16
FrankenMauser
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I used to travel with my 'universal' bag, all the time. It was a range bag, over-night bag, flying bag, and work bag. It was covered in gun power, gun shot residue, hydraulic fluid, jet fuel, engine oils, gearbox oils, urine, blood, food, and anything else you can think of.

It ALWAYS failed swab tests. I always assumed it was the GSR and gunpowder residue, but had a military security consultant once tell me it was the hydraulic fluid. He also brought up a good point, though - my helicopters had exposed Strontium-90 on the rotor heads. If there was any hint of radioactivity on my bag, TSA would be unlikely to talk about it in public.
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Old May 21, 2013, 12:38 PM   #17
Gaerek
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I can't talk specifics, really, but there are a number of commercial products that contain substances used in high explosives, and will set the machines off. Probably the most common (and most obvious) would be heart pills, or Nitroglycerin pills. Golf shoes are almost always a guaranteed alarm (I can't tell you why...but if you know anything about different types of explosives, this might make more sense). When the machine alarms, there's really no way to tell if something good or bad set it off without actually looking inside the bag. But, it does a good job of narrowing down what actually needs to get searched.
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Old May 21, 2013, 12:49 PM   #18
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I know why the machines are set off by golf shoes, in part for the same reason that golfers who lick their golf balls get oral cancer and liver damage.
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Old May 21, 2013, 01:18 PM   #19
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Gaerek, thanks for the clarification. A few months ago, I had to fly out of Atlanta. I'd shot the previous evening, and I went through the scanner without issue. The lady behind me was stopped and had her hands swapped for "residue."

At first, I thought it grimly ironic, but now it makes a bit more sense.
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Old May 21, 2013, 01:56 PM   #20
Topher127
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How are you using it?

<---- airline employee and ground security coordinator

OP, how are you using it? Carry on or checked?

The TSA guys have it right about what happens when it alarms. But, in my expierence, the round or two of loose ammo isn't going to get you jail time. When it's found in checked baggage, it's turned over to the airline, mostly because it's a hazardous material. Ammo is allowed in a checked bag, up to 11 pounds, in proper packaging.

Of course, no ammo in a carry on bag. If they find a loose round, it will get confiscated, but I doubt you'll be thrown against the wall and read your rights.

At our airport, an elderly gentleman tried to go through security with several antique revolvers. He was stopped, naturally. He missed his flight, and was interviewed by the FBI. He was found to not be a threat and released. Poor guy was in early altzhimers and wasn't all there. We rebooked him and he flew out the next day.

Mandatory YMMV, TSA should be the same at every airport, but it can be very inconsistent from airport to airport. (no offense TSA folks )
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Old May 21, 2013, 02:19 PM   #21
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A client of ours sold 'puffer' machines for Siemens. (That was several years ago.) A number of household and common use items set them off. ie: some women's cosmetics, and shoes in particular. Fertilizer on sneakers from walking on lawns and golf shoes (again, fertilized golf courses) have a tendency to absorb the ammonium nitrates in the fertilizer (think T. McVeigh) and set off the machines.

But, like stated above, they do a search or some swabs and there's no further issue unless they find something more positive. I've found stray ammo in my range bag but don't use it for travel anyway because there's things in there I never take out, like misc tools, ear muffs & plugs, safety glasses, etc.
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Old May 21, 2013, 03:14 PM   #22
deepcreek
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Quote:
And with all due respect, you're an armchair expert who's "read an article" so you know how it works, correct? I have 9 years experience in TSA.
With all due respect you put on blue gloves and patted down old women and kids for 9 years what makes you think you are an engineer or an expert on these machines?

How many bombs has TSA found with these machines? 2? 0? Have the machines proven themselves as effective? They have detected cosmetics, dildos, lotion, and....?
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Old May 21, 2013, 03:16 PM   #23
Brian Pfleuger
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Let's called this one "Asked and Answered"...
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