The last time you traveled by air, was it possible you were seated beside someone who had a pistol hidden somewhere beneath their jacket, other than an air marshal?

Before you burn away too many brains cells pondering the question, I’ll answer it for you. Yes, it is indeed possible that a passenger on your flight, in spite of the tough safety checks implemented by security, was carrying a loaded firearm.

This is so because the law permits certain law enforcement officers, other than air marshals, to carry their fully-loaded sidearms even while on typical, everyday flights.

Writers Want to Know

Are cops allowed to carry their weapons on airplanes? I’ve seen this question asked by writers, time and time again on various sites and Q&A groups, and I often see tons of those questions go unanswered, or worse still, answered incorrectly. So let’s set the record straight, today.

First of all, simply carrying a badge and police ID does not automatically grant an officer permission to “carry” while onboard a passenger aircraft. Certain conditions must be met before getting to that stage, and those conditions, set by the TSA, are extremely strict.

The mandatory conditions are spelled out in black and white in a document called the Law Enforcement Officers Flying Armed initiative. Of course, the document being official government paperwork, comes with an acronym all its own—LEOFA.

To receive approval to fly armed, the individual must:

  1. Be a government agency employee whose duties require and authorize them to carry a weapon.
  2. Be a sworn officer whose duties are to enforce criminal or immigration laws.
  3. Be a full-time and sworn, federal, state, county, municipal, or tribal officer. The officer must be a direct agency employee, not a volunteer, etc.
  4. Satisfactorily complete the LEOFA training course offered by the TSA.
  5. The officer’s agency must show a need for the officer to fly armed, such as transporting a prisoner, conducting dangerous surveillance (the person being surveilled is traveling on the plane, etc.), or that the officer must be ready for action the moment the plane lands.

Like everyone else who’s legally allowed to possess firearms, officers traveling for pleasure may transport firearms on airplanes simply by storing them (unloaded) in locked, hard-sided containers, and then declare those weapons at the ticket counter. Firearms may NOT be transported in carry-on luggage.

Travel Across State Lines with Concealed Firearms

The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (yes, another acronym—LEOSA) states that qualified active-duty and retired officers may carry concealed weapons, without special permit, in any U.S. state. This is regardless of any state law.

There are restrictions, though, and they are:

  1. The officer must be authorized by their agency to carry a firearm.
  2. The officer must not be under the influence of alcohol or any type of drug at any time while in possession of the firearm.
  3. Officers must qualify (at the range) to carry the weapon in their possession.
  4. Must not be involved in any disciplinary conditions that could result in the loss of their police powers.
  5. Must not be prohibited by federal law to carry a firearm.

Special Requirements for Retired Officers 

  1. Must have served at least 10 years of service prior to retirement.
  2. Must have left their department in good standing.
  3. Must not have been deemed unfit to carry a firearm (mental health issues/diagnosis).
  4. Must qualify with the firearm at the firing range within the past 12 months. Qualifying = meets the minimum standards set by their home state and/or agency.

In addition to the above, each officer, or retired officer, must carry a special photo ID with them at all times when possessing a firearm. The ID must certify that they’ve met all minimum standards set above.

*Source – National Sheriffs’ Association

Using a .38 to shoot a gun from the hand of a bank robber from a distance of eight miles away is not realistic. For that matter, neither is shooting anything from a bad guy’s hand at practically any distance, but that’s for another blog article. This one is designed to help improve the shooting skills of the heroes you develop so carefully in other ways—they’re the best interrogators on the planet and they run faster, punch harder, and jump higher than any human anywhere. But their shooting abilities are a bit lacking.

Oh sure, you have them easily take aim and pick off the wings of a gnat in the next county over. But we, the readers, all know what we’re seeing is a load of hogwash. We know this because we see how the characters hold their guns. We see how they pull those triggers.

That’s right, we’re privy to to a writer’s lack of knowledge when it comes to things such as:

  1. Weapon Selection – Choosing the weapon that’s right for you and your character is important. Shooting is not a one size fits all activity. So shop around until you find the firearm that fits your/their hand, is comfortable in the hand, and one that is easy to handle.

As you can see here, the options are many. By the way, the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy features a workshop on Weapons Selection (Explore gun types to match the personalities of various characters of different eras).


2. Stance and grip – Accuracy begins with a proper and solid stance.

  • Your stance should be firm and unwavering.
  • Feet approximately shoulder-width apart.
  • Your body weight – well-distributed.
  • Lean slightly into the gun.
  • Grip on the weapon should be firm and strong, but not so tight that your hands shake.

3. Sight Alignment – align the front sight between the rear posts in the rear notch with an equal amount of light on each side.

4. Sight Picture – hold the sight alignment on the target, at the spot in which you wish to strike the object with the bullet.

5. Trigger Control – This step is extremely important! The trigger is the key to accuracy. Poor trigger control leads to poorly-fired shots. The trigger should rest on the pad of the index finger, approximately half-way between the fingertip and the first joint. NOT in the fold/crease of the knuckle! To fire, squeeze the trigger/apply a slow, steady pressure.

6. Practice, Practice, Practice!!

Spend as much time on the range as humanly possible. Well, that’s if you want to improve your shooting. If not, good luck during the next foot pursuit of a crazed and heavily-armed escaped convict/masked murderer/robber/rapist/known cop-killer.

2018 Writers’ Police Academy Offers Live-Fire Workshops!

By the way, you can enjoy time at the rifle and pistol range at the Writers’ Police Academy. Click the link for details. Registration for this one-of-a-kind thrilling event opens at noon (EST) February 18, 2018. This is our 10th anniversary so expect over the top excitement!

Range time – Writers’ Police Academy


“The second I opened the door I knew she was dead. Her body was easy to find, too. The smell of cordite led me to her like the combined scents of fried chicken and potato salad lead a southerner to a summertime church picnic.”

Cordite. Just say NO!

Yes, it’s happened yet again. I read a book last week by one of my favorite authors. It was one of those books you just don’t want to put down, not even to eat or sleep. Well, I had plowed my way almost to the end when I saw the dreaded “C” word. I know, disgusting, right?

Yep. The modern day hero smelled CORDITE. Right there on page so and so. And for all the world to see.

ARGGHHH!!!! If I read that more time I think I’ll shoot myself just before hurling my wounded body in front of a speeding train.

Cordite. What is it, and why do so many writers use the stuff in their books? I can’t answer the second part of the question. It’s still a mystery to me.

Goodness knows, I’ve tried to steer everyone in the right direction. Authors don’t write about cops using sharpened sticks as weapons. They don’t have their heroes carrying a pocket full of rocks to throw at bad guys. Why not? Because times have changed. We aren’t living with the Flintstones. Fred and Barney aren’t our neighbors. We have modern weapons, vehicles, and modern ammunition.

Cordite is gone, folks. Finished. Over. Done. They just don’t make the stuff anymore. It is G.O.N.E.

Actually …

Cordite was developed by the British in the 1800’s. Their scientists blended a concoction of acetone, nitrocellulose, nitroglycerin, and petroleum jelly to form a colloid (a substance is dispersed evenly throughout another). The acetone was then evaporated which allowed the goop to be extruded into long, sort of slippery, spaghetti-like cords (see image below). These rods were packed into rounds, standing on their ends, topped with a round piece of cardboard. Depending on the size of the weapon and caliber of ammunition, the cords could be manufactured in thicker or thinner sizes, as well as longer or shorter lengths. In other words, the bigger the round the fatter and longer the strands of cordite.

This stuff is not a powder! It’s basically sticks of nitroglycerin and guncotton lathered up with Vaseline.

Cordite rods and a piece of round cardboard.

Left to right – casing, cordite rods, cardboard disc on top, and bullet.

Cordite was manufactured in sticks. Therefore, it could not be used in tapered rounds. The shell tube had to remain straight until it reached the point where the bullet fit into the neck. A series of dies were used to make that transformation. The cordite had to be packed tightly into each round. If not, air space caused the cordite to burn at an improper rate.

Now, the most important fact in this entire piece.

Cordite manufacturing CEASED somewhere around the end of WWII. I’ll say that again in case you weren’t listening, or in the event the radio was playing too loudly and caused you to miss it.

They don’t make the stuff anymore. It’s not used in modern ammunition. Nope. Not there. Don’t have it.

So no, your cops can’t smell it! That’s not what’s hitting their noses when they enter a crime scene.

What's that smell? It's not cordite!

When writing these scenes think 4th of July fireworks, after they’ve exploded. That’s pretty close to the odor floating about in the air after modern ammunition has been recently discharged.