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Thread: 12 ga flare gun vs pen-type flare gun

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2010

    Default 12 ga flare gun vs pen-type flare gun

    I thought I'd put this query here, in the survival section, because those guys in the power boating section are often geared toward open water scenarios, and I'm a bathtub sailor =).

    There is an old addage that says certain survival items should be kept on your person, not in a bag tied to a thwart or in your pack. To that end, I want to put a pyrotechnic signaling device in one of the mesh pockets of my pfd and secure it with a lanyard. The thought being if I go overboard/capsize in the middle of a lake or something, I will have, on my person, the ability to visually signal a passing float plane (on the chance one passes by.)

    I was looking at pen type flare sets the other night. They are pretty compact and light, but it looks like I would be holding that little explosive part almost in my hand. (Obviously, I've never owned or used one.) The flare gun, of course, is big and bulky, comparatively speaking, but simple and reliable. Additionally, you have all of about 10 minutes in a cold water immersion to have full dexterity in your hands and fingers. It seems to me that the larger, flare gun type signal would be easier to manipulate with cold/wet hands. What are your thoughts on this? Is there anyone who owns/used a pen type flare gun who can give a first hand account?

    Bear in mind, my boat is not a compulsory equipped boat (i.e. I am not required to carry any flares or signalling device); this is just an added peace of mind thing. I don't currently own either, and their price points are within about $10 of each other, so cost is not a factor. The flare gun or pen gun will go in the same pocket as my whistle, and the other pocket will carry my PLB. I already have a strobe light/becaon attached to the vest as well.

  2. #2
    Member Akheloce's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008


    I have used pen flares extensively (gyro jets). IMO, they can be kind of cumbersome. I would not want to rely on them with limited dexterity. We always wore gloves, and looked away while launching, sparks did fly down, not unlike holding a bottle rocket in your hand. Not a big deal if a real life scenario.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Sandpoint, ID


    I wish someone would produce a "flare launcher" that fit on a .22 LR shooting blanks. They used to have can throwers that shot .22 blanks and would fling a steel can 25 yds or more. No heavy drink cans anymore so I haven't seen one of them in years. 12ga flares work just fine but the 12 wouldn't be my first choice for a survival gun. Just a thought...
    Somewhere along the way I have lost the ability to act politically correct. If you should find it, please feel free to keep it.

  4. #4


    I had a large supply of skyblazer flares that was expired and fired them off one fourth of july (it was a rainny day). They are as effective as the 12 gauge flares and aren't too dangerous. They are so easy to use, I wouldn't be concerned about using them with cold hands. I carry them because three of them take up less space than the flare gun alone.


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