TSA Confiscates Bullet-Shaped Ice Cubes, Even Though Unusable Bullets Are TSA-Approved

"These of course are not dangerous," the TSA admits. So why did they seize them?


The Transportation Security Administration's Instagram page is a nightmarish mash-up of national security state propaganda and bad dad jokes. The fact that the TSA has captured more social media awards than it has terrorists says something about what the agency is actually good at.

Sometimes the account serves up a truly maddening cocktail of earnest obedience to nonsensical rules while simultaneously demonstrating just how silly those rules are. That's what happened Wednesday when the TSA Instagram account posted a picture of six bullet-shaped whiskey stones agents had confiscated from an unlucky traveler at Idaho's Lewiston-Nez Perce County Airport:

TSA Instagram, Screenshot by Eric Boehm

As the post explains, whiskey stones are steel objects that can be used instead of ice to chill drinks, and they're very useful if you don't like watered down whiskey. They are also, of course, not weapons—not even when shaped like bullets.

If you read through the awful puns and ignore the ridiculousness of the TSA admitting that it did not, in fact, make the skies any safer by stealing someone's whiskey stones, the post eventually gets around to explaining why the whiskey stones were seized.

As you might expect, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

TSA Instagram, screenshot by Eric Boehm

The TSA doesn't allow bullets and other ammunition in carry-on bags, of course. Even that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, because bullets can't do much on their own—but, given the TSA's awful track record at keeping guns and other weapons from getting through security checkpoints, maybe they're just operating as if a gun might be on the plane.

The story of the seized whiskey stones takes a turn for the absurd when the TSA explains that empty shell casings with the primer removed or discharged—in other words, bullet-shaped objects that cannot be fired—are, in fact, allowed in carry-on bags.

What's the fundamental difference between an empty shotgun shell and these whiskey stones? One will keep your drink cold, and the other won't—but that distinction should not matter to the TSA. What matters is that neither can be fired out of a gun.

This is a little thing, of course, compared to some of the bigger issues facing the TSA. But, like the fact that many TSA employees hate their jobs, and the agency's efforts to make itself the center of attention on anniversaries of 9/11, it's a little thing that points to bigger problems. Nearly two decades after it was created, the TSA is not the last line of defense against terrorism. It's a bloated, wasteful bureaucracy that treats innocent Americans like criminals and then shares those stories for laughs on social media. It kills bunnies, gropes grandmothers, detains kids, and still can't find actual weapons being smuggled onto planes.

The nonsensical explanation for the confiscated whiskey stones is perfectly in keeping with the TSA's legacy. It's telling that when United Airlines told passengers returning from last year's San Diego Comic Con that comic books were banned from checked bags, lots of people thought it was true. It wasn't; the airline had misunderstood a confusing TSA directive.

To recap: It's fine to carry ammunition that cannot be fired in your checked bag—but it's illegal to carry whiskey stones (which, of course, cannot be fired) shaped like ammunition. Otherwise the terrorists win.

NEXT: For a Less Divided America, Let People Pick Their Own Laws

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  1. “Why does anyone *need* ammo-shaped whiskey stones?”

    1. If they THINK that they need them, then they must be mentally ill! So they should just bite the bullet, and OBEY the mindless Government Almighty, mindlessly, like the rest of us do!

    2. Are ammo-shaped whiskey stones phallic talismans for male fragility, a manifestation of America’s toxic gun culture, or merely late-stage capitalism? Read about the heated debate, with balance shown to all sides as usual, in today’s CNN.com.

      1. Well … in my experience, security at the UN Headquarters will let you take a dildo inside the UN building instead of holding it for you.

        1. A dildo, not your dildo.

    3. There are CREDIBLE allegations that ammo-shaped whiskey stones raped a girl in highschool.

  2. Those are likely not ‘whiskey stones’. Looks more like the silver bullion that mints are casting in the shape of .45 cal cartridges, for 1ounce each. A bunch of mints are offering those for $250 worth of silver for 6.

    1. Whatever they are, they aren’t “ice cubes”, which is what the clickbaity headline said. Shame on you for playing that game, Reason.

    2. So that Government Almighty agents can steal them? They should be sold with BIG warnings on the packaging, to NOT take them through airport check points!!!

    3. Indeed. Only a brute would use whiskey stones made of anything less than 24K Black Hills gold.

      *Hands monocle to orphan for polishing*

      1. Thread winner here ^

  3. The TSA notice says they were confiscated from a carry-on bag, and that inactive ammo is only allowed in checked baggage. Silly as the rule may be, TSA hasn’t been inconsistent in this instance.

    1. I did also think this an oddly mild bit of silliness to pay attention to. From what I can tell, the rule is that only empty casings are allowed in carry-on. It may make a certain amount of sense that, if live, intact cartridges are banned in carry-on, they have banned lookalikes as well–that they consider telling an empty casing from a live cartridge to be idiotproof enough for their agents, but do not wish to task them with the subtlety of discerning a live cartridge (remember, they may have to examine dozens) from even a single-piece molded replica. Not the best rule, but not super duper stupid as they go either.

      1. I (think) I agree.
        An empty casing looks like a brass cylinder, thin walled, that is open on one end, (closed on the other, the end with the primer), with NO BULLET STICKING OUT OF IT.
        A “spent cartridge” is quite clearly not a working bullet.

        …Although, I SUPPOSE you could manufacture primers that look like they’d been fired once already. They’d have a higher chance of misfire, however, as the pin might not dent them deeply enough, (a “second” time) to set off the fulminating mix.
        Probably easier with rimfire, which is less statistically likely to try to use the same spot to fire the charge that is already indented.

        In short, a spent cartridge doesn’t look like a live cartridge. It’s the thing you pick up off the ground at the firing range, not the thing you buy at Wal-Mart.

        Frankly, the TSA should offer padded mailers, for a nominal fee, to drop these little things in.
        Or maybe it should just be a “best practice” to ensure you have a padded SASE mailer in your carry on luggage, just in case.

    2. Except that they’re not ammo – inactive or otherwise.

      They’re solid metal billets cut to look like bullets.

      1. And are considered ‘replicas’ and are thus not allowed in carry-on bags.

  4. These fools carried these things on board in 2018 and did not have the brains to say they were gay sex toys?

  5. I have seen empty rusty grenade casings from WW2 that were confiscated from checked bags. Totally inert lumps of iron. Nobody is allowed to think at the TSA

    1. Having a functional brain is an automatic disqualification from TSA employment.

      But kiddie humpers are A-OK.

      1. I think you are right in that regard. I have seen totally idiotic, lazy TSA thugs at airports, three or four standing around (remember TSA=Thousands Standing Around) shooting the breeze while ONE checkpoint is operating with ah huge line of sheeple waiting. I have friends who are TSA agents, sweet people, I really like them, but they are most certainly not the brightest bulbs in the fixtures.

        1. I suspect, to stay in the TSA, you have to be stupid enough not to catch on that Everybody Hates You.
          Probably not the best way to achieve job satisfaction.

  6. TSA delenda est

  7. Just like cops and school administrators, when TSA drones are wrong the job of their supervisors is to defend them. Even if you can point to the rules and prove they are wrong, they are still right because FYTW.

  8. They’re not even consistent in their own post.

    One paragraph says that bullets are allowed as long as the power and primer are removed as long as the ‘projectile’ is ‘no longer intact’.

    The next paragraph says that bullets with projectiles attached are not allowed.

    And that’s still ignoring the fact that these ‘whiskey bullets’ are not bullets (with a casing and separate projectile in it) but solid metal objects.

  9. Oh please. This is the worst possible example.

    Put these stupid things in your checked bag.

    Obviously they weren’t worth the baggage fee.

    1. “Just do what you’re told, peon. It’s not that hard. A little tyranny never hurt anyone.”

      Fuck off.

    2. A lot of people don’t check bags these days because many airlines will charge you for a checked bag but not a carry-on.

  10. I’ll never forget, when I was a kid in the early 80’s, barely six years old, I had a small translucent dime-store squirt gun in my backpack (shaped like an old tommy gun, but without the round magazine, whole thing barely nine inches long). You could see right through it. Airport security (before TSA was a thing) at Miami airport took it from me.

    That exact moment was my indoctrination into libertarianism. I just didn’t know it at the time. I remember thinking, wow these fucking morons think a translucent plastic toy is dangerous and used that dumb logic to steal my property. I’ll never forget the anger and disappointment I felt in that moment.

    On a related note, I just flew out of a small airport in western Michigan recently. Just two puddle-jumper flights a day out of this place, no more than sixty passengers total daily. They had one security checkpoint staffed with seven TSA agents. Clearly the TSA is just a government-sponsored employment program. Nothing more.

    1. We fly from the regional airport whenever we can instead of the city airport. Better in many ways.

  11. I expect the “Reverend” to crawl out of his hole and accuse whiskey-stone users of being goober-clingers.

  12. Tony will articulate a very progressive rationale for a comprehensive ban on whiskey-stone production.

  13. Cathy will demonstrate how much more knowledgeable about whiskey-stones she is than the rest of us.

  14. The TSA changed their policy to allow empty shell casings after bad PR over an incident of forcing someone to surrender the empty (spent) casings they had in their pocket from a relative’s military funeral 21-gun salute. It’s much easier to distinguish an empty casing as being inert versus a “dummy cartridge” like the whiskey stones (or snap-caps, etc). Gunsplaining: Casing, primer, propellant and bullet are components of a cartridge. If it looks like a complete cartridge, you can’t carry it on an airplane.

  15. “Do as I say, not as I do……Peasants!”

  16. Let’s see; maybe 6 to 8 oz of metal in a cloth bag with a drawstring closure. Two shoelaces 12 to 18 inches long. Tie shoelaces together and then to the bag’s drawstring. Whirl around in a full circle twice and deliver to target’s head.
    Yep, reads like a weapon to me.
    Something about mass and velocity – – – – – – –

  17. Okay, but were they .45 caliber whiskey rocks? They look like it and EVERYONE knows, 9mm whiskey rocks are a more efficient way to cool whiskey.

    There is no such thing as cooling power in anything that is not a rifle whiskey rock….or some .454 linebaugh whiskey rocks.

  18. Ah, this brings back a fond memory of an airport in Amman, Jordan involving a bullet shaped object that I wanted to bring in my carry-on bag, a vibrating cock ring, and a rainbow flag. Mmmm, 5778 was a very good year.

    Oh, that reminds me. I should call that homeland security detective on Monday. I promised her that I would call her back after the holidays were over.

    1. Spoken well.

      I was patted up and down in a Hawaiian airport having been selected for special attention. I winked at the guy and said that I had paid extra for this kind of attention back at the hotel and please continue. He turned red. Got on the plane.

  19. With all the BS with the TSA and the people coming unhinged in the planes why bother to fly? Unless you have to for work ( I don’t) the TSA was instrumental in my decision never to fly again. Soon you will have to give your biometric info to continue being abused. Go on, not for this kid.

  20. These guys don’t have an IQ above room temperature inside their overheated offices. The guy who started this ball rolling and then everyone who backed him up as it escalated up the feeding chain, need to have their heads examined. What they gots fer braynes? And we PAY these louts to rip us off and insult us?

    1. Well, you get another chance to fire at least some of them this coming November.
      Damage is done, though.

  21. The story of the seized whiskey stones takes a turn for the absurd when the TSA explains that empty shell casings with the primer removed or discharged?in other words, bullet-shaped objects that cannot be fired?are, in fact, allowed in carry-on bags.

    Empty shell casing are certainly not “bullet shaped objects”, but even beyond that, they aren’t even “cartridge shaped objects”. The “bullet” is the bit of heavy metal on the end of the cartridge that actually comes out the barrel of the gun. The shell casing is the brass bit that holds the powder and is left over on the user’s end after firing.

    So, the TSA is (evidently) allowing something that does not resemble live ammo onto the plane in the passenger cabin, while not allowing objects that do, in fact, strongly resemble live ammo. Now, as you say, given that the policy is no firearms in the cabin, that may be a stupid rule, but it’s not inconsistent. I have seen ammo that had the bullets jacketed in very shiny silvery metal, or very shiny golden metal, and it wouldn’t be anything like impossible to give the casings a similar finish. It would, in fact, be perfect possible to construct actual live ammo that resembled this. So instead of trying to force the checkpoint drones to distinguish between these things and actual live ammo that just looks fake, they decided to ban all of it. And again, that may be BS in it’s own regard, but it’s not inconsistent.

    1. Sure would. Just zinc-plate the ammo to make the whole thing seamless while leaving it functional. Might even neutralize any color differences, but I wouldn’t try it; the different metal, indicated by the different color, might take the zinc in visibly distinct ways.
      …Of course, the bullet and the brass might STILL be different enough to take the zinc differently, even looking the same at first glance. This would be a case of trial and error until you found an ammo brand that worked for this.

  22. The ridiculous thing here is making these stones shaped like bullets in the first place. America is gun-crazyt.

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