I recently wrote a piece for the Lucky Gunner Lounge about air travel with firearms. It was a general article, mostly concerning the legalities of transporting firearms by air. In it I mentioned a couple different ways to secure your stuff: a big, locked case holding everything, or a small pistol case inside a regular suitcase. I use both methods, depending on where I’m traveling and what and how much stuff I’m bringing. Today I do want to go into detail about my secure suitcase setup for a smaller handgun case.
Secure Suitcase Setup: Installation
In the Lucky Gunner article I mentioned that you could use a cable to secure a small handgun case inside a larger suitcase. This was recommended to me by someone else. To be honest I had never thought of it. It seemed like a great idea, so I decided to give it a try. First, I emptied out my suitcase (which is always half packed for the next trip, or from the last). In most all suitcases there is a silky lining, and in many the liner is zippered. I unzipped the lining to reveal the structure that supports the telescoping handle.
Needing a cable to secure my case with, I searched around on Amazon. I came up with the “Planet Bike Seat Leash” security cable. It comes in several sizes, so I opted for the 24″ version, the shortest one offered. I was impressed with the quality of this cable, especially considering the price.
I looped the cable around both of the aluminum supports. If you need more length, looping the cable around one of the frame stays will probably be sufficient. My suitcase is hard-sided, but this should work for just about any suitcase with an extendable handle. I made sure to put this at the bottom of the suitcase, where I would want the handgun case to be when I am actually traveling with it.
Fortunately, this suitcase has some holes pre-cut into the liner. If not, it would be pretty easy to cut a small hole and burn it to prevent unravelling. I pushed the smaller loop of the Planet Bike Seat Leash through one of the holes.
That’s it. I zipped the liner back up. Now I can attach the cable to my Pelican 1170 case using the padlock that’s already on it.
The locks I use on this setup are the Abus Titalium 640TI/30s. Though they don’t have ball-bearing retainers, these are fine little padlocks for the money. The practicality of getting a shim onto both sides of the shackle when this is on the case is pretty remote anyway. I would take these over the Master #7 any time.
Secure Suitcase Setup: Threat Model
So what exactly does this protect me from? First, by putting a small case inside a larger suitcase I get to travel with a lower profile. Granted, if I pack everything up in a large case and lock it, all my things are protected from a search without my knowledge, and from theft (I’ll talk about this setup in a future post). However, a case with non-TSA padlocks on it almost certainly contains firearms. With this technique no one at baggage claim is going to look at my old, beat up Tumi and think “that dude has guns.”
All the cable really does is prevent a baggage handler or TSA agent from seeing the smaller case and quickly grabbing it out of my suitcase. The cable, or the locks, could be cut, but at this point I’m no longer the easy target. Additionally, if my suitcase arrives at my destination with a missing handgun and a cut cable, I have a little more evidence in my favor. And…should my suitcase burst open, the handgun case will stay with the larger (and more trackable) suitcase. Installing a cable like this isn’t required by law or airline regulations, but I take security seriously and I take it upon myself. Plus…this was a fun little project.
If anyone else has ideas for making luggage more secure, I’d love to hear them!