Flare guns for bluewater signalling...and defence
Those plastic Orion guns aren't going to cut it offshore...so I'm looking for a more solid flare gun that perhaps could be used as a deterrent as well as a sturdy signalling device.
Carrying actual guns is problematic in most places, but this little idea, when combined with a flare gun, seems like a way to fire mace over 100 feet.
Yes, it's a 12 gauge spice rack. "Cajun" or "mustard" might make quite an impression in certain less law-abiding parts of the world, with the added benefit that unlike firing a real flare into a boat full of machete-wielding bad guys, it won't blow up their boat.
Before you laugh, consider that this might make an ideal non-lethal weapon on deck. That and Slocum's tacks.
And I am not accessing my inner cowboy here. I have a wife and child and we want to circumnavigate and to go a little off the beaten track. I'm looking for something beyond a boat knife if confronted with unpleasant and ill-intentioned locals, not a counter to a bunch of AK-47s.
Anyway, what's a good flare gun that could conceivably take a 12 ga. shell without flying to pieces?
(I believe Pains-Wessex is likely the best choice for parachute flares and the like, but I'll hear opinions on those, too). Thanks.
I wouldn't get a 12 gauge flare gun for going off shore... I would get a 25mm flare gun instead. Don't bother getting USCG-approved flares, as the SOLAS-approved flares are significantly better.
Hamilton Marine, up in Maine has some of the best prices on flare kits that I've seen. For instance, this ORC/USSA approved kit is only $277.99 at HM, and is $339.99 at defender.
BTW, I don't think there is a single flare gun that could fire a 12 ga. shotgun shell without extreme danger to the user. Most are predominantly plastic...
Its my understanding that the problematic aspects of carrying a real weapon are not so difficult or onerous, and that is is common for cruisers to have one or more weapons on board. Although having a child onboard would be a wild card.
Perhaps some of the members who are cruising out there can comment from actual experience.
12 ga.shotshells are an excellent defensive round at close range, whether loaded with salt, birdshot, buckshot, or a slug.
A gunfight is no picnic, and showing a gun should be absolutely a last resort, as when you face certain death or worse. The big problem is that if gunplay starts, you'd better be able to sustain the requisite amount of fire to settle things in your favor. (Probably nothing so adversely affects the good humor of bad guys as firing a round their way.) That says a repeating gun and a fair quantity of ammo, same as Captain Slocum. You also need enough practice to be proficient.
If t'were me on that cruise to out of the way places, I'd choose a stainless "defender" shotgun.
I would NOT load a shotshell in any 12 ga flare gun, at least any I've seen.
Ballistics and firearms are my bailiwick (my company is a member of SAAMI and I instruct); so here goes:
the The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute specs specify maximum of pressures in PSI (pounds per square inch) or CUP (copper units of pressure); a typical chamber pressure for a 2 3/4" 1oz load at 1400 feet per second (that's at the fast end of the scale) will generate 11,500 PSI; and if the load is compressed and the barrel oiled then pressures will get even higher.
Self-defense or hunting rounds use a combination of factors to push the pressure curve even higher.
Much of the velocity comes from the length of the barrel, the load actually accelerates the whole lengthe of the barrel and only stops speeding up once it leaves the higher pressure of the barrel.
I looked at the flare specs and they are fired with no powder, the primers alone provide enough energy to propel the charge out of a 3" barrel with a velocity of about ~200fps. Just looking at the construction of the Orion flare you can see that the design is for low weight and small size and not for higher breech pressures. If higher powered flares are used the Orion even needs an additional breech safety holder.
Even if a 2 3/4" shell could fit into a flare gun, firing one will probably result in what shooters technically call a "KB" (KaBoom) and the risk of damage from flying pieces of the breech is quite high. Say goodbye to your hand.
Also, it seems that from the flare makeup it will probably also be bad to fire it from a normal shotgun since the the magnesium flare might ignite while the charge is still travelling down the barrel, either exceeding pressures or melting the barrel of your Purdey or Holland & Holland.
Shooting a shotgun shell out of a plastic or polymer flare gun chamber is a sure-fire way of injuring yourself.
On the subject of using a shotgun for self-defense onboard - belowdecks any long-gun (rifle or shotgun) is quite unwieldy but no matter where used a shotgun (with as short a barrel as possible) is a formidable firearm. No matter what you load the shotgun with, be it rock-salt or birdshot or Cayenne pepper seasoning, the round will be lethal at close range. At muzzle contact even an empty shell with just a primer will do the deed. This is due not to the firearm's projectile but to the effect of expanding gases. There is no such thing as "shooting to wound" with any firearm. The common legal approach in the US for justifying lethal self defense is if you, or a reasonable person in your position, is "in fear for their life" by an attacker. If the answer is not "yes" then you don't use lethal force. Someone stealing my dinghy or boarding to rifle the cockpit area doesn't merit a "yes" - but being armed while doing so certainly would merit a warm response. And I won't have permanent sleep problems thereafter, either.
When evaluating this, remember that many foreign countries regard the "pistol" type flare guns as firearms and are subject to the same regulations. For example, when you go to Bermuda you have to leave them with the customs people when you check in and collect them when you leave. The penalties for not doing so are pretty severe.
You can get a 26.5mm flare gun like this which will fire solas flares and then get an adapter insert that lets you fire 12G shotgun shells from it.
This may let you get around the firearms regulations in MOST countries you might travel to if the adapter/shells are kept separate from the flares and flare gun.
I have no probem carrying a firearm or using it in the appropriate circumstances BUT there is a HUGE downside to carrying guns on board when cruising.
1. Virtually all countries make you declare firearms aboard when checking in.
2. If you say you have one...most confiscate them and hold them in bond till you check out....defeating the purpose of having one aboard.
3. If you don't declare it and they find it...you risk losing your boat/big fines/jail depending on the country and sometimes all three.
4. The biggest drawback for me is that you have to return to your port of entry to reclaim your firearm which is REALLY inconvenient if you want to visit a few places then move on. Imagine checking in to the Abagos and working your way down to Gerogetown and needing to go back to the Abacos to get your shotgun.
For me...the inconvenience has led me to the M&M defense....Mace and Machete's! Won't cover every possible situation but the incidence of fire-arm bearing boarders in most places is extremely small and I stay away from places that have any reputation for violent crime.
Here is what I have:
Since I just took it out of the canister and stored it close to my berth SUnday, I can tell you right now the gun is not plastic. I also have a secondary set with the plastic gun (which seems a little squirelly to me). The 25M is the way to go for defense, in my opinion. I "understand" that in most countries it is not considered a firearm, but is in some (so check your rules). I have no doubt a slug in a 12 Ga shotgun shell would be more effective, but I sure would not want to be on the receiving end of that thing. It is only for close encounters anyways (ie, someone breaking on board while you are there). It would be pretty tough to miss them in 40 feet.
I am NOT for firearms (traditional) on boats outside the US. MOST counties have rules against them - with some just flat ugly (A foreign firearms license is not valid in Mexico; if you own a gun don't take it to Mexico with you. The only exception is a firearm used for hunting purposes; but you will need to apply for a special permit - contact your local Mexican consulate. Caught in possession of illegal firearms can land you in serious trouble - even if you have a license for it that was issued in your home country). As I recall, someone correct me if I am wrong, but isn't that 5 years in a Mexican Prison (whether you brought it in intentionally or not)??! Other countries are not that different.
If you are that concerned about it, go buy a dog (which can have their own entry perculiarities, incidentally). Most people are not going to want to tangle with a dog on a boat. Some countries are stict on pets... so check ahead.
For me personally, here is my attack fiend. SHe is vicious, so don't let you children see this:
If that does not work, consider hanging this picture with the warning sign: WATCH OUT!! SHE IS INSIDE!
Hope that helps (with a little humor).
I like the "M&M" acronym :) Nowadays the various pepper sprays available are quite efficient and work wonders on just about everybody. But use of any aerosol on your boat will guarantee that you will get some as well. If you, or anyone on the boat that you cherish, has any asthmatic conditions including hay-fever type reactions then OC/Mace/Pepper Spray might be as bad for you as for your opponent. Anyone with asthma should avoid this type of self defense and when I sell this for self-defense purposes what I usually do (when possible on windstill or calm days) is to go outside, spray a small spurt in the air, wait 5-10 seconds and then I and the customer walk through the remains. This is about the amount you will get from backsplatter if you use it inside and immediately get out of the area. If you have to use it against the wind or need to stay in the enclosed space you will get even more. Anyone showing strong adverse reactions should best stay away. Note that these materials all have an oily base and WILL adhere to inside surfaces; it is easily washed off wooden surfaces but you might have to launder your cushions.
Aerosols are still the best LTL defense out there! Fire extinguishers can also be used to good effect (although they have even more cleanup), plus you can always chuck the empty canister as well.
Quite often, even during the day, the effect of a powerful flashlight is overlooked. Particularly a lithium-battery powered flashlight like those made by Surefire; I have one of these in the stateroom both for normal use and for the shock effect.
I also found that a strategically placed, well-sized and sharpened dive knife is a great help in finding deep sleep in troubled places. The positioning should be somewhere where it is directly grippable by the strong hand when leaving the bedroom or cabin. That, and a piece of string tied across the companionway or ladderway and attached to a small bell is an alarm that never runs out of batteries.
Firearms on board really are a tough subject. If one complies with the laws of most countries one visits they are a nuisance at best since you never have them aboard. If one doesn't comply with the firearm laws one becomes a criminal and potential cellmate to "Bubba" (plus risks losing the boat). Plus a handgun round doesn't compare well to a 7.62x39mm round.
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