The Most Common Contraband Items Confiscated by the TSA

Confiscated by the TSA

If you’ve never spent time reading the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) blog, which chronicles the contraband items that travelers willfully or ignorantly try to carry on to America’s planes, let us summarize for you: People try to bring a lot of contraband onto planes.

Just what kinds of prohibited items do travelers most frequently try to pass through security?

The TSA breaks it down:

In addition to all of the other prohibited items we find weekly in carry-on bags, our officers also regularly find firearm components, realistic replica firearms, bb and pellet guns, airsoft guns, brass knuckles, ammunition, batons, stun guns, small pocketknives and many other prohibited items too numerous to note.

While all of that might sound alarming, the good news is that very rarely does anything bad come from what are, for the most part, accidental inclusions.

With that spirit of optimism in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most common contraband items confiscated by the TSA.


At the top of the vast majority of the TSA blog’s weekly roundups are photos of the diverse array of contraband firearms confiscated over the course of the last seven days.

Take, for example, the week of Dec. 25 – 31, during which the TSA discovered 46 firearms in carry-on luggage in airports around the country, including DenverSeattle, and Dallas-Fort Worth.


Second only to firearms, knives—from pocketknives to hunting blades and, more rarely, swords—are also common contraband in carry-on luggage.

Take the example of the week of November 20 – 26, in which knives were found in carry-on bags in airports across the country, including Baltimore, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City.

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Many people reading this have no doubt had to toss a perfectly good container of water, yogurt, or shampoo because it exceeded the 3.4-ounce rule mandated by airport security.

The TSA is no doubt just as sick of having to toss liquid items on a daily basis. Wine, liquor, beer, and other beverages are all frequent contraband.

Ammunition and Other Explosives

Think it’s common sense to not pack fireworks, unspent bullets, or grenades in your carry-on? Think again.

The TSA regularly confiscates contraband ammunition and explosives.

For example, ten tubes of black powder (which is not allowed in carry-on or checked baggage) were found in a checked suitcase at Salt Lake City airport. Or consider the firecracker that was confiscated from a carry-on bag at Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport. (Like black powder, firecrackers and fireworks are not permitted in carry-on or checked baggage.)

Straight Razor Blades

Rounding out the list of common airport contraband are the blades for straight razors, which are not permitted in carry-on baggage because they easily unscrew from their razor’s handle. That’s why a straight razor was confiscated from a passenger’s carry-on bag in Oakland, CA.

Truly Random Items

Some confiscated items defy categorization, but they’re worth noting for their sheer bizarreness factor.

Take the grappling hook that was confiscated from a carry-on bag in Oakland, CA, or the batarangs that were taken from a bag at Salt Lake City airport. Or perhaps an ice pick concealed in a cane, throwing stars, or flare guns are more your style.

The point is: If you can dream it, somebody’s probably tried to carry it through airport security.

And there you have it: A brief run-down of the wide world of airport contraband.

The good news? In spite of the apparent human tendency to forget that we’ve packed prohibited items in our carry-ons, for the most part, air travel goes smoothly anyway.

First published by The Hipmunk on The Tailwind Blog on 01/18/2016.