Annals of airline security III: TSA approved toy soldier

by Greg Mayer

Unlike the Canadian woman Jerry posted about (Annals of airline security: Part  II), I was able to bring a toy soldier into the passenger cabin on a plane, last spring at Washington National airport.

Britains toy soldier, purchased at Fredericksburg National Military Park

I’m not sure why he made it through, but here are some suggestions:

  • His weapons (a sword and probably a Colt Army 1860 revolver) are less deadly than an SA 80 rifle.
  • He’s smaller than the British toy soldier.
  • The security officials didn’t notice it.
  • The security officials were rational.

(Note: Britains is a well known British toy soldier maker. It’s undergone corporate vicissitudes, may now be owned by Americans, and the soldiers are now made in China.)


  1. Posted January 30, 2011 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    The security officials were rational.

    Now now, let’s not jump to conclusions here. Just because the officials made a decision that is the same as the one a rational person would have made, that does not mean they are themselves rational.

    If you are claiming that TSA officials behaved rationally, all I have to say is… Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

  2. MikeM
    Posted January 30, 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    If you have seen toy story, you know how dangerous these little buggers can be.

  3. Posted January 30, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    I suspect the officials were progressive Union sympathizers.

  4. Adam M.
    Posted January 30, 2011 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    I’d vote for #3. Security testers routinely smuggle weapons past security, so I think the only things they’re good at spotting are pairs of safety scissors, 90% empty tubes of toothpaste (still a deadly threat because the number written on the tube is too big), and buckle-less belts.

    They defend the demand that your 0.1 x 150ml = 15ml of toothpaste is a threat despite the 100ml limit because… look at the number! It’s too big! It could be a threat! So I think definitely not option #4.

    • Adam M.
      Posted January 30, 2011 at 7:58 am | Permalink


  5. Posted January 30, 2011 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Additional reason: The other case was a flight originating in Britain, where they have a lower tolerance for guns. In this case, the TSA screener was an NRA member who didn’t want to infringe the 2nd Amendment rights of the little guy.

    (Note: I’m not serious).

  6. sasqwatch
    Posted January 30, 2011 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Somebody could put an eye out with that thing.

  7. Quidam
    Posted January 30, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    One possible reason could be that it’s a toy soldier, not a toy weapon. Toy weapons are prohibited, toy soldiers are not.

    If the gun and sword detached they would become toy weapons and be prohibited.

    Or more likely they didn’t notice it. I took three flights with a small pocket knife in my brief case (I’d forgotten about it) before it was spotted by security.

  8. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted January 30, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    The security officials were rational.

    Or they were irrational. That depends entirely on the rationale for security measures on weapons.

    Why would we be arguing for consistent rationality anyway? It doesn’t seem to apply to animals, what would they (we) know of that and what use would it be?

    If it exists at all, and there is no observational support I believe, it would likely be accidental. To nick a catchy philosophical device in the very area where they flounder more than elsewhere: arguing otherwise would be irrational.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted January 30, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      Oops, somehow I missed Quidam’s comment at first. Well then (and the rest applies).

  9. jay
    Posted January 30, 2011 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    A couple of years ago, I decided to switch jackets just before flying to CA. After going through security with no problem I felt something in my jacket pocket and found a substantial lockback knife (I had been doing yard work when I last used that jacket months earlier).

    Yeah those guys are good.

    {I’m damned lucky they are so ineffective)

  10. daveau
    Posted January 30, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I have one of those little swiss army knives on my keychain. Never been confiscated. Now a swiss army gun…

  11. Posted January 31, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Why were you bringing a toy soldier onto an airplane? I’m not criticizing your act;I’m just curious.

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