*12- Gauge Marine Signal Flares*
By: Jaden
18 June 2006

The U.S. Coast Guard requires certain vessels to carry a certain amount and type of safety equipment. For a small pleasure boat the requirements are minimal. Pyrotechnics (flares) are usually required. A common type is the 12-gauge aerial flare. Orion makes nice kit. This kit came with flares, a launcher, 1 chem light, a whistle & a signaling mirror.


You will notice that there are red shells and 1 white shell. A RED flare is an INTERNATIONAL distress signal. The white is an illumination flare. It contains white phosphorous and burns bright white. It can be used for a search at night when an area needs to be lit up for a few seconds. It can be used if a vessel is navigating a tricky channel and needs to light up the area for a visual look.

NOTE: It is NOT illegal to sell expired flares. The flares are required to be within the expiration date stamped on them. So when you go to buy your kit, crack it open (in the store) and make sure they havenít expired. The date is right on the cartridge. In most cases, you are required to have 3 current flares. There is nothing wrong with having expired ones on board, as they will probably still work.

For illumination we used MK127 parachute flares. These babies were "da stuff". They are the same thing as the 12-gauge, only bigger and contained a parachute to keep it in the air longer. 1 of them would light up a HUGE area for about 30 seconds, sometimes longer provided the person who fired it did it properly.


MK 127

I launched some of these one bitterly cold Thanksgiving night during a search for a car & person in the water. We needed lots of light to look for debris. Instant light.

Donít be afraid to use an illumination flare. Thatís what they exist for.

If you are in distress and need to signal for help, whether it be other boats in the area or hopefully somebody on shore you can use RED.

To use this type of launcher-

Simply open the barrel, load a shell, close the barrel, cock the hammer, aim it up at about a 45 degree angle, squeeze the trigger. To fire another, open the barrel, remove the spent cartridge, load another.


Thatís all there is to it.

OH, by the wayÖÖ.just because this is a 12 gauge launcher, donít think you can load a shotgun shell in it and use it like a shotgun. Bad things will happen. Youíve been warned.

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