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Old 01-10-2014, 02:09   #1
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Which countries restrict flare pistols on boats? (NOT a gun thread per se)

Which countries have restrictions on flare pistols (Very pistols, distress signal launchers, etc.) aboard visiting yachts and require their declaration, bonding, secure stowage, or have any other restrictions?

I am NOT talking about flare pistols that someone might have modified with a conversion kit to fire shotgun shells (presumably illegal in many jurisdictions and possibly dangerous), but just plain old 12 gauge or 25 mm signal flare launchers used for distress signaling only.

Are there any of these countries where the law on paper differs from typical practice for foreign visitors aboard yachts with flares?

Are there any places where flare pistols are a hassle to have on board?
Do any of these countries also have restrictions on any non-pistol-launched flares, such as self-contained SOLAS distress signal rockets?

Also, I don't want to discuss the motivations for people having flares on board; these should be self-evident, and I am NOT talking about trying to use flares as improvised weapons, or about the hazards of very old flares, or about people who are too stupid to use them safely, or about whether they should still be required, etc. And did I mention that this is NOT a gun thread or about creative ways for cruisers to kill the brothers-in-law of third-world police chiefs and get a lifetime prison sentence? Sorry to take away some of the fun but let's keep the melting slag off the deck here.
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Old 01-10-2014, 02:31   #2
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Re: Which countries restrict flare pistols on boats? (NOT a gun thread per se)

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Originally Posted by rgscpat View Post
Which countries have restrictions on flare pistols (Very pistols, distress signal launchers, etc.) aboard visiting yachts and require their declaration, bonding, secure stowage, or have any other restrictions?
I know that in the Netherlands flare pistols are treated as weapons. A Dutchman who wants to have them on his boat needs to get a small arms licence, and the requirements for storage are the same as for any other gun: ie, gun and ammo need to be stored in separate, locked, reinforced cabinets. Not exactly practical for emergency equipment...
I would assume that a foreigner arriving with a flare gun would have it treated as any other small arms.. So probably it will be required to lock them away under seal, or the authorities will keep them ashore for you until you leave.
At least you are unlikely to need a flare gun while in port.
I would not be surprised if laws were similar in other European countries. AFAIK know you need a small arms licence for a flare gun in the UK as well.

the normal SOLAS approved flares are legal everywhere in Europe as far as I know.
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Old 01-10-2014, 02:38   #3
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Re: Which countries restrict flare pistols on boats? (NOT a gun thread per se)

The Australian Customs web site says that flare guns "designed for emergency or life-saving purposes" are able to be imported without restriction.

It also appears that the possession of flare guns is also legal in each state and territory of Australia. It seems that they are excluded from the definition of a firearm, so no licence is needed to possess.
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Old 01-10-2014, 03:17   #4
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Re: Which countries restrict flare pistols on boats? (NOT a gun thread per se)

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Originally Posted by clownfishsydney View Post
The Australian Customs web site says that flare guns "designed for emergency or life-saving purposes" are able to be imported without restriction.

It also appears that the possession of flare guns is also legal in each state and territory of Australia. It seems that they are excluded from the definition of a firearm, so no licence is needed to possess.
This is contrary to the information a CF member received from the Victorian police department a year or two back. When I get the chance I will try to find the post.

It also seems contrary to advice I received some years back from Qld but I accept that things may have changed since then.
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Old 01-10-2014, 03:18   #5
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Re: Which countries restrict flare pistols on boats? (NOT a gun thread per se)

When cruising you don't want to upset officials.

Even if you are right and ultimately win the argument, they can make life very difficult.

In some countries it is not unusual to meet officials that have no idea of the rules. I have even met officials in some of the South Pacific islands that were (as far as I could tell) totally illiterate.

Even if flare guns are totally legal everywhere, I wonder if it worth the hassle?
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Old 01-10-2014, 03:42   #6
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Re: Which countries restrict flare pistols on boats? (NOT a gun thread per se)

The worthiness of flare-pistol-launched signals vs. self-contained flares would depend perhaps on how sailors perceive their efficiency, effectiveness, ease of aiming/controlling in the right direction, longevity/durability, compactness, convenience, cost, and ease and safety of launching.

There may be many different pros and cons. A flare pistol has a longer life than flares, so you only have to replace the flare shells, but if the flare pistol itself fails, then you have a problem compared to self-contained flares.

It might be easier or intuitive to control the direction of launch with a flare pistol; what comparative results have people had who have tried this for different flare types?

The pistol costs more than self-contained flares, but the shells may be cheaper for the same size signal. How true is this?

Anyhow, this may all be a bit of a digression from asking which countries restrict the flare pistols. And thanks for the info so far.

Has anyone actually experienced a problem with not declaring flare pistols or had an official enquire about them?
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Old 01-10-2014, 03:46   #7
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Re: Which countries restrict flare pistols on boats? (NOT a gun thread per se)

Noelex is correct, why invite problems. Even if you declare and have the flare gun kept by customs, you have all the hassle of the paperwork.

A few years ago, I took delivery of a new deep sea tug. In the inventory of stores was a flare gun and flares. I handed these over to the local police for disposal.

Are flare guns approved by SOLAS, USCG etc ?
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Old 01-10-2014, 04:17   #8
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Re: Which countries restrict flare pistols on boats? (NOT a gun thread per se)

Nigel, as an example, Orion says that its flare gun signals are USCG approved. However, the only SOLAS-approved aerial signals it sells are the big self-contained parachute flares.

In my part of the USA, the flare pistols can be found in most chandleries as well as some mass merchandisers such as some Wal-Mart stores, where they can be bought directly off the shelf without restriction. Prices for Orion's 12-gauge flare pistol with 4 shells seem to be in the USD $ 43 -- 70 range. It is possible that they are perhaps somewhat less available in some US states with stricter regulations, but this would likely be the exception.

Obviously, the situation is very different in the UK, where it appears you need to have a firearms certificate describing a specific firearm for a flare pistol, and it also appears that flare pistols may be quite costly and rather uncommon, as well as requiring stringent control and security. There was a reference on one website to a fee exemption for a FAC for a firearm designed for signaling, but that may be about the only break for UK citizens wanting one. So it may well be that flare/Very pistols are just not practical at all for UK boat owners if, say, SOLAS aerial devices are cheaper, brighter, and less hassle to own.
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Old 01-10-2014, 08:11   #9
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Re: Which countries restrict flare pistols on boats? (NOT a gun thread per se)

For Australia the rules changed last year in July.

The new legislation allows flare guns (when designed as an emergency signalling device)

http://www.customs.gov.au/webdata/re...egulations.pdf

Nice to see we are moving a little forward


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Old 01-10-2014, 08:20   #10
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Re: Which countries restrict flare pistols on boats? (NOT a gun thread per se)

Strange, I never thought of flare guns as a weapon and have personally purchased them from walmart and bass pro. I don't believe there is any age restriction to purchase them either- I will check into this. They hang on the shelf for all to purchase. It is a piece of gear that is always on our boats and we don't leave port without them.
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Old 01-10-2014, 12:31   #11
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Re: Which countries restrict flare pistols on boats? (NOT a gun thread per se)

One reference I did see was that California, USA, does not consider flare guns to be firearms for most purposes, but seems to restrict carrying them in public or as a concealed weapon. It might be worth checking whether MD, NJ or NY, or cities such as New York City within these states do anything similar.

From the Cali Attorney General's web site:

http://caag.state.ca.us/firearms/forms/pdf/cfl.pdf

7. FLAREGUNS
A flaregun is any loaded or unloaded rocket, rocket propelled projectile launcher, or similar device designed primarily for emergency or distress-signaling purposes. (Penal Code 12031.1.) Because a flaregun is not designed to be used as a weapon, generally it is not considered a firearm as defined in Penal Code sections 12001(a) and (b). However, the following prohibitions also apply to flareguns:
prohibitions against carrying concealed firearms (Penal Code 12025.); and
prohibitions against carrying loaded firearms in public. (Penal Code 12031.)
NOTE: Pursuant to Penal Code section 12031.1, a person may lawfully store a loaded or unloaded flaregun aboard a vessel or aircraft. A person may also possess a loaded or unloaded flaregun while in or traveling to and from a permitted hunting area, if the individual is carrying a valid California hunting permit or license.


Just wondering... if you were driving to your boat in a marina in, say, King Harbor, and an Los Angeles PD officer pulled you over and saw an "Orion 12 gauge locator" flare gun in the top of your West Marine shopping bag... or you allowed a search and the officer found it in the bottom of the bag.... could that be any sort of problem?
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Old 01-10-2014, 12:32   #12
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Re: Which countries restrict flare pistols on boats? (NOT a gun thread per se)

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Originally Posted by nigel1 View Post
Noelex is correct, why invite problems. Even if you declare and have the flare gun kept by customs, you have all the hassle of the paperwork.

A few years ago, I took delivery of a new deep sea tug. In the inventory of stores was a flare gun and flares. I handed these over to the local police for disposal.

Are flare guns approved by SOLAS, USCG etc ?
Seems like sensible advise. If someone has a concern about burn rate, etc.. Carry twice as many. For all we can tell, it may be more than a hassle in some places. They may throw you under the jail.
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Old 01-10-2014, 12:58   #13
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Re: Which countries restrict flare pistols on boats? (NOT a gun thread per se)

Also, I see there was a somewhat abortive CF thread several months ago asking about flare guns in Mexico, but it didn't generate much hard info.

Flare Gun
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Old 01-10-2014, 13:12   #14
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Re: Which countries restrict flare pistols on boats? (NOT a gun thread per se)

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Originally Posted by rgscpat View Post
Also, I see there was a somewhat abortive CF thread several months ago asking about flare guns in Mexico, but it didn't generate much hard info.

Flare Gun
Down there probably depends on who you pay off and the Mexican state you are in. My last post about under the jail may well depend on the flag you are flying elsewhere in the world.
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Old 01-10-2014, 13:14   #15
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Re: Which countries restrict flare pistols on boats? (NOT a gun thread per se)

When I cleared into Bermuda a few years ago, the agent asked if I had any weapons or ammunition on board, including flare guns. I did not, so I didn't find out what would have happened. I think it likely that a flare gun and the flares would have been confiscated, or at least held until we departed. SOLAS parachute flares were not an issue.
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