flare gun

Do people still carry flare guns in their boats?

I was looking at something like this: http://www.westmarine.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/producte/10001/-1/10001/270109/377%20710/0/flare%20gun%2012/Primary%20Search/mode%20matchallpartial/0/0?N=377%20710&Ne=0&Ntt=flare%20gun%2012&Ntk=Primary%20Search&Ntx=mode%20matchallpartial&Nao=0&Ns=0&keyword=flare%20gun%2012&isLTokenURL=true&storeNum=8&subdeptNum=50&classNum=11401

Aside from emergency signalling, would this be good for averting bear attacks and for survival firestarting (under controlled conditions).

Can also be used
to discourage Lake Lice (Jet Skis)!!!

Most kayakers carry self-contained flares. They are compact, and don’t require a gun (which would render them all useless if the gun was lost overboard). I usually carry four of the small skyblazer-type flares, dye markers, smoke canister, signal mirror, PFD strobe, and often a large parachute flare (on remote trips). I also carry a PLB and satellite phone on remote trips.

If you ever get a chance to see flares demonstrated, you will probably be quite underwhelmed at the performance of the skyblazer-type flares.

I’m a fan of the Greatland Laser Flare, it’s a laser that is modified to beam a line of light rather than a point and is essentially used like a signaling mirror. Unlike a flare you have to point it at a potential rescuer, but it is very bright at last for hours. You can also bring it with you should you need to fly to your destination, unlike the pyrotechnic flares.

BTW, I wouldn’t count on a flare to deter a bear attack. While it might scare of a tentative bear (as might shouting, banging pots, etc), if a bear was really intent on attacking it would probably just piss him off more…

Greg Stamer

+1 (NM)

I like the pistol flares

– Last Updated: Dec-11-07 3:10 PM EST –

I was at a a symposioum last Summer, and they had an event where we could shoot off our own flares for practice, and to see how different ones performed. I was amazed at the failure rate of the hand-held flares. Probably more than half of the smaller flares did not work. I tried my pistol flares, and shot off two that had exprired more than 5 years ago, and they both worked. I then shot off a new one, and it worked as well, and it was a little brighter than the older ones. These were flares that I carry with me, and not flares that are stored in a nice, dry environement.

I was also in a situation once where we really needed to shoot off our flares in an emergency. We shot off three hand-held flares, and all three were duds.

I carry the pistol with me, in a small dry bag, along with 5-6 flares. I keep the flares in a double zip-lock bag, for extra protection. It's a pretty small package, and I can easily attach it to my PFD.

I also like the laser flare, and I'm thinking of buying one for next season. We did some tests with it, and it was easily seen from a distance of more than 3 miles, granted the weather was calm and clear.

So do I
I carry a 12 gauge pistol with 6 shells (The new higher-performance ones) in a small drybag that’s in the zippered pouch on my sprayskirt. This way, if I have an out of boat experience, my flares come with me.

I’ve seen the tubes fail at demos, too. However, I did once shoot one off way inland on July 4th one time that had been expired for 5 years, and it worked beautifully (Even set my buddy’s lawn on fire after it came down). Problem is, you never know if they will work or not when you need them.

Changed formula
Orion, probably the preminent manufacturer of marine flairs, changed how they make flairs about 4-5 years ago. This is their areal pencil flairs. They didn’t really make a big fuss about it, they just did it. Previous flairs did have a horrible failure rate. I’ve never seen a new one fail and I’ve seen probably a 100 fired off.

pencils and parachutes…
Several years ago I participated in a flare demo and we shot off about 10 pencil flares that had recently reached their expiration date. As I recall only 2 out of the 10 worked properly. Several of the firing chains were badly corroded within the O-ring sealed cap (from keeping them in a PFD). I now keep them in a ziplock.

I hope that the new Orion flares are indeed better.

The most impressive flare of the bunch (including gun-fired flares) was the self-contained Pains-Wessex parachute flare. Very impressive! Bulky, but extremely effective.

Sadly these are no longer carried by West Marine in my area. They now carry the Orion SOLAS parachute flares, and these are slightly cheaper (under $60.00), but I haven’t heard much about them (or seen one demonstrated).

Greg Stamer

I thought this had something to so with the movie Office Space. Flare gun would have a completely different meaning there. Moving on…


Flare guns
I carry a 12 ga flare gun in a homemade neoprene holster on my front deck. I paddle in the (great lakes)in an area congested with power boats and jet skiis. On two occasions, I have come very close to being run down. The flares are wax encased at the business end (at the factory). I coat the primer with a couple coats of nail polish to enhance the seal. I use one flare all season, then fire it off and replace it. I have never had one fail. When someone looks they intend to “Buzz” me, I can just reach for the red flare gun and it seems to get the point across. I carry a couple of spare flares in my PFD.

now that would be intersting to cotemplate.,I’d rather have a rolled up piece of newspaper soaked in wax.

Echo the laser flare
While I carry three flares in my PFD at all times, the Laser Flare would be my first choice for pinpointing exactly where I am, and having more than 3-4 chances at being seen.

I carry one in my PFD all the time, and also test using it in various conditions with paddling partners or on land in controlled situations – something you can really do with a traditional flare without attracting unwanted attention.

Full disclosure – we sell them in our online shop (http://virginiaseakayakcenter.com/catalog.php?item=35&catid=Safety%20Gear), so I’m a bit biased. Having said that, we started carrying it after testing it ourselves first.


Virginia Sea Kayak Center

The firestarting idea is just a distant secondary advantage of having the flare gun. Obviously lots of other ways to start a fire, but have you ever tried starting a fire with a match or lighter…not as easy as you would imagine especially if fire material is moist or wet. The incendiary power of the flare is more likely to get a large mass of twigs and deadfall going fast in an emergency situation than anything else short of a pint of lighter fluid.

That is the one I have
But… The flares are so old I don’t know if they are still good.

So do I shoot one into the lake to see if they work or toss them and buy new flares? And how do you dispose of a possibly good flare?

Regardless, my flare gun is safe under the couch in my living room. I’m afraid I’ll burn the desert down if I use it.

laser flare
looks neat but my laser pointer is invisible unless i na smoky room or maybe dense fog. How does that laser actually show up?

Pyrotechnic Disposal

You have two choices when considering disposal of flares and other pyrotechnical equipment.

  1. (Preferred method): Contact your local fire department, sanitation department or environmental protection department and determine your local hazardous waste material disposal rules. Then follow the rules.

  2. Contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary and/or United States Power Squadron unit and see if they would like to have some old flares for training purposes. The Auxiliary and the Power Squadron teach boating courses year-round, and many of them sponsor (after receiving permission from the Coast Guard) pyrotechnic training days for the public.

    By Wayne Spivak / Branch Chief – National Training Department

    United States Coast Guard Auxiliary


    Some folks launch their old flares on the 4th of July, figuring that the chance of someone reporting it are slim. I found another article which claimed that “Half of all false emergency calls to the Coast Guard are from flares being set off.”

I’ll do the coast guard route. they have an office next to the Air Force Base side gate. At least I’ll know that are being used for a good purpose… and besides, it they don’t work getting rid of them is their problem.

Vs laser pointer
The laser flare is significantly more powerful, and instead of putting out a small beam of light, it actually emits a “bar” or line of light that gets larger the farther away you are – At 16 miles, you have a 6,000 ft. long fan of light with which to hit your target. It’s also quite bright – one military supply company tested it extensively and found it still caught the naked eye at 22 miles away.

Hope this helps.


Water intrusion of laser flares
Know an acquaintence that’s had at least two of these quit working. They were kept in PFD in marine environment. Great idea, but try to find a way to protect it so it work when you need it, like nearly anything else.

Why ya wunna shoot flares?
Flares is purdy.

Flares smell gud.

An ya kin make dat purdy gurl down de holler like yins ifin ya give hur a bookay of nice flares.


(with apologies to Fat Elmo)