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Recently I was visiting my grandfather and we went gun shooting, I shot a barret .50 caliber rifle and some other automatics and were able to keep a few of the casings as a keepsake. Is it legal to fly home with it in a carryon or must I put it in a bag on the top of my luggage?

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This answer to a different question seems relevant nonetheless. It does not get into the legality and it's not clear whether this applies to the US as well but it's apparently not a problem at all in Europe. –  Relaxed Jun 13 at 10:58

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There is no bullet, powder or primer, therefore you are not carrying ammunition. Tapered brass cylinders are not on the prohibited list. Baggage x-ray won't care in the slightest - you can put 20 live 50BMG rounds (and the rifle) in your checked baggage and they won't care (assuming the USA).

(If you really check an M-82 they might care a lot, but in the "can we try it?" sense)

They have a legitimate case against novelty keychains that appear to be a fully-loaded round, but anyone can tell that a spent case is ok. For comparison, I have taken an empty 500ml thermos on plenty of flights. Liquids are not allowed, aluminum flasks are.

I would just arrive extra-early, don't check your bags (yet), and carry them to security. If they refuse, you can go back to your suitcase. Bit more complicated if you are traveling alone.

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You can put the live stuff in your bag if it's declared. If they see firearms on a bag not declared to contain them that's another matter. Anyway, I wouldn't carry on spent ammo--while it's nothing but brass cylinders it's going to have residue. –  Loren Pechtel Jun 14 at 0:09
    
@LorenPechtel wouldn't they swab the brass casings and search a little more in your bag? Its not illegal to have that residue on you, they will just check you more throughly right? –  John Jun 16 at 20:32
    
@John: AFIAK legal but we've been at security itself (not merely standing in line) ~20 minutes when a sloppy TSA agent triggered a positive swab. (I think the source was contamination on their side, not anything we were carrying as no culprit was ever found.) We were on a very long connect that time, no big deal, but if time were tight it could be a problem. (And I think the agent was unhappy we didn't give a hoot how long it took.) –  Loren Pechtel Jun 17 at 4:59

Even if it is legal (which I don't know, and would likely depend on both the state you're flying from, the state you're flying to, possibly any state you're making stopovers as well), I'd not put it in my carryon because of the way the TSA is almost guaranteed to overreact.
Putting it in your hold luggage is less likely to cause them to go ape, but you still run the risk of having them break open your luggage and going through it.

Best you can probably do is send it home as a small parcel using something like FedEx or UPS (and be sure to comply with whatever rules they have for sending munitions through them).

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Even before 9/11, just having set of steak knives in my luggage (not even in carry-on) made them to ask me to open it. If it was logical, TSA would do it differently. –  Peter Masiar Jun 13 at 16:53
    
@PeterMasiar yes, and these days they no longer ask. They just get out a crowbar and pry open the suitcase (or a knife if it's soft skinned). –  jwenting Jun 14 at 10:09

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