As a new Boarding Officer with the U.S. Coast Guard, I lived for the announcement over the 1MC (ship’s speaker for land lovers) ordering the Boarding Team to the boat deck. A target had been sighted and the boredom of drilling holes in the ocean was about to be interrupted by a short period of excitement. This was why I enlisted to begin with, and I loved every minute of it except for one important part – getting aboard the target vessel.
For those who have never boarded a potential threat vessel, uninvited I might add, the idea of racing across the open water to the unknown might sound exciting. But it is also the one period in time during which you have almost no control and are, literally, a sitting duck. Furthermore, every vessel you approach has at least one potential firearm onboard because it is mandated by safety regulations. Every single one of them has a flare gun onboard, and nothing terrified me as much as the thought of a desperate suspect capping me with a 12 gauge shotgun shell from one of these handheld cannons, or even a .22 long rifle from a pencil launcher as I climbed over the gunwale. Sure, my other team members would probably light him up like the Fourth of July, but that would probably not do me any good.
Of course, I was not the only one who thought of this threat. Manufacturers recognized it as well and took steps to limit the possibility that attempts to convert a flare gun to a one shot firearm would be successful. Launchers were made of plastic, rather than metal, making them less likely to withstand the stress of a real round being fired. Criminals reacted and developed metal barrel inserts, allowing a variety of handgun rounds to be fired from the plastic receivers, so barrel lengths were shortened to be incompatible with the inserts. Now, the threat has returned, but not because of a new invention or better conversion kit. Instead, those looking to turn a life saving device into a weapon have taken a step back in time and turned to WW2 surplus to get the job done.
Rather than developing a new means of defeating the manufacturer’s safe guards, they have simply returned to a time prior to any safe guards. WW2 surplus flare guns are heavy duty metal single shot launchers chambered in 25mm. Although it was possible to load and fire 12 gauge shotgun shells without a liner, it was not only dangerous but lacked accuracy akin to a poorly built muzzleloader. However, fit that same 60 year old antique flare gun with a modern rifled barrel liner and you have a single shot pistol able to fire a wide range of calibers including .45 ACP, and it can do it with a reliable degree of accuracy. Thanks to the internet, both the launcher and insert are readily available without permits, without background checks and without any way of knowing if the buyer is a sailboater looking for an inexpensive means of protecting his family or a convicted felon circumventing his inability to obtain a traditional firearm.
So, why am I telling you this? Am I about to advocate for the banning of flare guns? Suggest boaters pass a background check prior to buying a safety kit? No; none of the above. In fact, I believe that this is a perfect example of how such restrictions of the 2nd Amendment have little effect; those who want or need a firearm will find a way to obtain, or even make, one. This is just a simple reminder that you can never let your guard down, and always be prepared for the unexpected.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
Latest posts by Tom Burrell (see all)
- REVIEW: GARMONT T8 Extreme GTX – 15 October, 2018
- Fall 2018 – New Tactical Products – 1 October, 2018
- Common Pack Break Points & How to Test for Durability – 30 September, 2018