I, as a hobby, do a fair amount of historical weaponry, particular a focus on firearms. As a result I have a number of black powder rifles and pistols and often times get gunpowder absolutely everywhere. This is normally fine but recently I was traveling international and got pulled aside for a swab check (see Why did airport security swab my hands with wet paper? )

Luckily they didn't detect anything but it makes me wonder, what if they had? What happens if explosive compounds are found and how can I help prevent/minmize any misunderstandings?

  • Hm. I was once in a similar boat because I worked with explosives. But since it was official and not a hobby, I had a bunch of documentation I could bring with me. Jun 16, 2018 at 21:25
  • There's a lot of guesswork in this, so just a comment: Even though you say that you get gunpowder everywhere, I guess that's not the case when you go to the airport (I guess you know how to clean), so they'll probably only find tiny amounts that are not really dangerous (under your nails and similar places) if they really look, and I guess they'll believe you and accept it if you just tell them the that you like working with historical weapons. Jun 16, 2018 at 21:57
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    Maybe you could make sure to leave sufficient time between working with your hobby and going to an airport to be sure that you’ve removed all residue from your person and clothes?
    – Traveller
    Jun 16, 2018 at 22:34
  • The fact that a swab didn’t detect anything makes think either of these is true: you clean up very well, but that would seem to defeat the whole purpose of the detectors; or the detectors are really bad (or the way they are used is incorrect), and they’re just part of the security theatre and have no real use; or, and that was my first instinct, they are targeted at specific types of explosives, like C4 and other “terrorist-friendly” explosives. Also, I suspect there are procedures in place to deal with the result: it might just be a more thorough search and/or interview.
    – jcaron
    Jun 16, 2018 at 22:45
  • I suspect the reason it didn't get detected was because I was coming back after being in Europe for three weeks. I don't fly that often, and I'd never been tested before, so honestly it had never occurred to me that it might be a problem.
    – user79265
    Jun 16, 2018 at 23:29

1 Answer 1


You have to be certain to compartmentalize your hobby and your regular life.

Have a really clean hobby environment, I assume that is most important if working with firearms and gun powder.

Clean yourself (that's a given), use nail brush for your fingers.

Make certain you use different pieces of clothing when working on your hobbies.

Make certain you properly wash both hobby stuff and non-hobby stuff in different batches.

Maybe you could get a certification with your local police that attest that you are working with gun powder ?