Former CIA Officer Jason Hanson Reveals...

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How to be prepared when flying

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This week: What items to put in your carry on luggage vs. your checked luggage… My favorite water filter… Should you sell your guns… And, how to carry when in a wheelchair.

Today’s article answers a good and important question asked by Robert S. of Texas. Below is Robert’s question regarding travel…


“I travel quite a bit, and while I’m at the airport or sitting on the plane, I spend quite a bit of time thinking about how well I am prepared if something goes south while I am away from my family. I leave my weapons at home or in a vehicle, I don’t have any of my EDC knives with me.  My travel is usually a Mon-Thu travel so I try hard not to check a bag.  As much as I travel, I have learned it’s better to keep my bag with me, rather than lose it in travel.

I am wondering if you could really take this topic of air travel and expound on it more?  I don’t imagine I’m the only one with these questions.  So here are the two scenarios that I have considered that sort of over-arch the main considerations I see.

Scenario 1:  I get stranded at my client or some point in between and have to make it back home, or to an alternate location, but air travel is not possible, but I can travel by car, so I in my mind, I need at least a 24 hour kit.


Scenario 2:  I get stranded at my client, and I don’t have any self-propelled means of transportation.  I know that could be a far-reaching scenario, but I learned as a soldier it’s best to at least entertain as many scenarios as possible (if afforded the time) to minimize being caught with your pants down.


So is it even possible to create a decent kit that can make it through TSA?  Or should I start checking a bag? I almost feel that is my only viable option.  If I do decide to check a bag – what should that kit look like? I have always been hesitant to check my firearm as luggage because I am concerned it is going to turn up missing. Have you checked a firearm before – more frequently than not?”


Like Robert, I spend a significant amount of time flying around the country teaching training courses and I understand wanting to feel prepared even when you can’t have your usual supplies with you.

I also understand not wanting to check a bag so that flying is as easy as possible and you don’t have to wait for your bag or worry about it getting lost.

So, if you fly and never want to check a bag, here are my recommendations:

First, always have some food and water with you. Since you can’t get a lot of items through airport security, simply buy these in the terminal. You can also bring an empty water bottle and then fill it up at a drinking fountain once you get through security to save money (airport bottles of water aren’t cheap). If you’ve got multiple legs of your trip, just keep filling up the water bottle during your connections.

As far as supplies, there is a lot of gear that you can take on airplanes that is perfectly legal. My favorite item is the Tactical Pen, which I carry with me anytime I’m flying. I also carry paracord (about 20 feet.)


Depending on what training I’m doing and where I’m flying, I’ll also have zip ties, duct tape and rope, which are all legal to carry on a plane and I’ve done it numerous times.

For a unique improvised weapon consider a sock full of pennies. (Have a bag of pennies and a sock and then when you get through security you can go to the bathroom and combine them.) If you ever have to strike anyone with this sock it will not be a good day for them.

The critical thing to remember is that it’s more important to have knowledge and skills so that you can be resourceful in whatever type of situation you end up in. I also encourage taking some hand-to-hand self-defense such as Krav Maga.

So, for a 24-hour type of emergency while flying, a carry on bag with a little food and water and a tactical pen, paracord, and some duct tape, combined with knowledge should be plenty for you to survive if you get stranded.

Now, if a long-term crisis situation is more of a concern to you then you would definitely want to check your luggage.

In your checked luggage you would want to have knives (at least one fixed blade and one folder) and a gun. Checking a gun in your baggage is very easy to do and I’ve never had a problem (even when I fly in and out of the terrible state of Maryland.)

All you have to do is have the gun unloaded in a hard side case that can be locked. When you walk up to the ticket agent you tell them, “I need to declare a firearm and ammunition” and they take care of the rest.

Also, I am not worried about the airline losing my bag with my gun because that’s the last thing in the world they want. They take a checked bag with a gun very seriously and I’ve never had a bag lost that contained one of my guns.

In addition to knives and a gun, you can also throw in some hiking shoes and some MREs, a flashlight, multi-tool, and water filter. (The water filter I like is the Sawyer PointOne.)


Obviously, you and I can’t predict the future and we don’t know when a crisis situation is going to occur when you’re flying. If you’re flying somewhere relatively close to home you may feel comfortable enough to only bring a carry on.

But, if you’re flying from Washington state to Florida you may want to check your luggage because that’s a long haul from home.

The Mailbag

From Laurent C: Before I sign up for the DC course, could you tell me where the training will be? Also, will you offer the DVD version of this course at a discount if we attend? Thank you.

A: The course takes place near Dulles International Airport. (Once you sign up, you’ll get the exact location.) I do not offer a DVD version, which is why I encourage you to bring something to take notes with and there’s plenty of time for you to ask me questions during the course. (Click here to get one of the last spots in the Washington, DC Spy course.)

From Trevon T: I wanted to ask you a question regarding a firearm purchase and sell. I currently have a SW MP 9c. These are the things I had done to it:

Compact M&P 9 – $460

Apex trigger job to shorten and smooth trigger – $160

new night sights installed – $100

smooth out under trigger guard- $10

polish barrel feed ramp – $10

Total came to just over $800 out the door. I tried selling it on Utah Gun Exchange but not very many interests and low-ball offers. What would you suggest is a fair price for this pistol for it’s minimal use and the upgrades it has where it is a good deal for me and the buyer? Or would you just recommend to keep the gun and purchase another?

A: Unfortunately, I don’t think you’re going to get your money back on the upgrades. You’ll probably be able to get about $550-$600 for this. However, if I were you I would not sell this gun, I would keep it. It seems that everyone I know who sells a gun eventually regrets it and maybe you’ll be able to pass this along to a family member one day.

From Chris L: I have read that the average home invasion involves 3 men, at least one of whom is armed, who attempt to gain access to your home while you are asleep and will head directly to the master bedroom in an attempt to overwhelm and overpower.

I know you have a diverse audience who have different security needs, but I am always most interested when you write about home defense strategies and defending a home against invasion (flood lights, hardening the perimeter, video monitoring, early warning systems, etc). Thank you for all you do.

A: Next Tuesday, I’ll do an in-depth article on home defense so make sure and keep an eye out for it.

From Thori N: I’m very into guns, shooting, and marksmanship since I was in 8th grade. I’ve also been in a wheelchair for 25 years since I was 16. I’m trying to find out the best way to get a holster to mount under my wheelchair seat but have not had much success in figuring out how to do it.

A: What comes to my mind is using some type of vehicle mount. If you do a Google search for Vehicle Gun Mounts you’ll see all sorts of contraptions that you can probably rig up underneath your wheel chair. Some of these are as simple as using lots of Velcro. (If you’re going to carry a smaller gun you could also get one of those holsters that looks like a cell phone case and mount that under your wheelchair.)

Stay safe,

Jason Hanson

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  • Darrell says:

    I would be concerned about having a handgun mounted underneath the wheelchair because it makes it possible for someone to reach it without you knowing it. There are ways to attach holsters to seatbelts, so I would think there would be a way to attach one to a part of the chair that is not only in reach, but in view of the wheelchair user to prevent misuse.

  • Scott G. says:

    I recently took a trip from San Antonio, Texas to the U.K. and I took along 2 tactical pens, one that I got off of your website, and another by Smith and Wesson. I had no problems getting through security in Texas, nor on the plane from London to Dublin. However, returning home from Dublin, the security officers in Dublin took issue with the tactical pens saying that they looked like they could be used as kubatons. I insisted that they were just ink pens and they let me keep them but told me next time to put them in a carry-on. Has anyone else ever had this problem?

    • Jason Hanson says:

      Hi Scott,

      Thanks for your question. Here is a link to the TSA website.
      I travel frequently with my tactical pen and I have never had an issue.
      Stay Safe!

      • Scott G. says:

        Thanks for the reply and the link Jason. The TSA site does list Kubatons as a prohibited item, and that is what the Dublin security officers said the pens looked like. The tactical pen is technically designed as a self defense tool, if I should have this issue again do I just stick to the argument of “it’s just a pen”? I don’t fly often, and usually when I do I take a cane along, being handicapped, so I do have another weapon, but the pen is much more convenient. Thanks for all the great info!

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