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Old 11-01-2014, 02:15 AM   #1
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Expired Flares

Interesting Halloween evening with flares. We shot some off in the afternoon, the pistol seemed to work. I saved some (2005) flares for The Admiral to shoot tonight. It has a kind of 'magazine' that is on a flimsy piece of plastic and holds 6 cartridges. I had wanted her to shoot some to get some experience with them. I showed her how to load and hold the gun, how to hold it over her head to aim, cock and fire the thing, which she did. There was a very loud bang and the first flare didn't leave the barrel, it burned very red over her head! I reached up and slapped it out of her hand into the water where it promptly sank, taking the rest of the flares with it! Not only are expired flares unpredictable, if that had been an emergency, I was prepared to shoot expired flares and all of our flares would have been lost. I am now very skeptical about using a cheap plastic flare gun.

Thankfully, The Admiral wasn't hurt, just a bit smelly from the flare smoke.

So after ranting today about how making flares with an expiration date was a government plot to benefit some company that gave them party contributions, I have changed my tune. Bloody dangerous things that should be treated with the utmost respect and the expiration date really means something.

All of mine expire this December, so I'm off to buy new ones.
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Old 11-01-2014, 02:26 AM   #2
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Good to know. Was the pistol an Olin or Comet? Although the only ones I've seen or owned were the single shot variety.
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Old 11-01-2014, 08:14 AM   #3
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Yes, very good to know. Thanks for sharing.

Keep in mind that the same thing could have happened with unexpired flares.
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Old 11-01-2014, 08:48 AM   #4
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Our Michigan City Indiana Power Squadron unit has had many expired flare demonstrations over the last twenty years. Out of hundreds we have shot off a few of the old flares have been duds but we have never had a similar problem to what you describe.

Watching a demonstration of the shooting of old flares is a good idea for everyone. It is surprising how short a time the 12 gauge shells last in the air.
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Old 11-01-2014, 09:31 AM   #5
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I shot my old ones off about 6 months ago, very much discouraged by The Carbon Wife Unit, and I had similar results. Had a ball of something fly out and smolder. Won't be doing THAT again anytime soon.
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Old 11-01-2014, 09:37 AM   #6
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Ahoy BAY PELICAN! Apologize for thread drift but I was a resident of Michigan City 1961-1985, sailing small boats out of the Washington Park Marina. Now am in Rockford, IL and member of USS&PS here. Our Albin-25 is the Du NORD.
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Old 11-01-2014, 09:46 AM   #7
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My experience has been that the lifting charge gets weaker as they get older. They don't go as high as they should. I guess never leaving the barrel is taking that to the extreme.
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Old 11-01-2014, 09:56 AM   #8
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Greetings,
Never having shot off a 12 gauge flare gun (some amount of experience with shotguns) , this thread has raised a few questions. How much kick from the pistol? Do the flares extinguish if they hit water? Can they be extinguished BY water if a misfire occurs and one has a burning flare on deck?
Thanks.
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Old 11-01-2014, 10:33 AM   #9
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Hardly any kick as there's not much of a barrel or charge to produce one..about the same as it you were really pissed off at the ketchup bottle and gave it a good slap.

The magnesium still burns under water and water may actually cause it to splatter but they only burn for about 5 seconds...maybe 10 max.

I have never seen a misfire, except a dud in thousands shot...but like all firearms..I'm sure they happen. Even 20 year old ones...most do fire as long as there's not a lot of corrosion around the primer.

If you are holding the gun over the side of the boat at a reasonable angle...very little chance of having a problem and if you have a hot one in the gun...over the side I guess.

There is a USCG warning that some older guns can't open enough to accept the newer style longer catridges...so check ASAP.

I never did like the 12 ga and only kept my 25mm with metal barrel and a para flare.

In all my time in the USCG, actual flare sightings resulting in a rescue were actually pretty rare...they just don't last long enough or attract enough attention. If you do want to spend money wisely on flares the survival guys usually recommend SOLAR, individual parachute flares as what might actually be a benefit.

Unless you have a nearly inexhautible supply of flares...planning when to shoot or light one off is like playing chess.....when and what to move based on an unknown...
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Old 11-01-2014, 11:00 AM   #10
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Rockets with parachutes for the win!!

Red Parachute Signal Rocket - SOLAS Approved - Orion Safety Products | Fisheries Supply




For day use I really like smoke for use when within sight of others.



Good info here

Requirements Regarding Pyrotechnics Put Forth by SOLAS

Not a fan of 12 gauge meteor flares, 25mm is the cats azz however.
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Old 11-01-2014, 12:52 PM   #11
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That is scary to think of a flare burning off in the barrel of the gun.

I've never had that happen, but have read articles warnings of such with the 12 ga flares and plastic guns. (The gist of the article was, the plastic guns will melt down when that happens, while the metal gun can be dipped in water to extinguish the flare and wont be damaged.) I have the older all metal Olin 25 mm gun with 12 ga adapter.

The handheld flares can also fail and if you retain the out of date flares they need to be inspected. Pop the plastic caps off and inspect the igniter on the end of the flare. I had a couple where the flare looked great, but the igniter picked right off the flare with a flick of the finger.

Below is a three part video put together by Orion which you may find interesting. It's about half sales pitch, but contains some interesting facts.

Orion 25MM Red Meteor Distress Signal Flares
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Old 11-01-2014, 06:27 PM   #12
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In my ill spent youth, I got hold of a SOLAS rocket parachute flare. It was the Fourth of July and I decided to fire it in my back yard. What could go wrong?
I fired the thing straight up. Watched it rise to the breath taking height of fifty feet where it deployed it's parachute. The burning flare drifted down, bounced of my neighbors awning and hung up in a bush. I think it must have continued to burn for an hour or more. At least it seemed like an hour! I'm lucky I didn't burn down my neighbors house!
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Old 11-01-2014, 07:26 PM   #13
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Years ago, we had to go to Oklahoma City every 3 or 4 years for refresher survival training which included a ditch tank, arctic survival, fire building (without flares) and shooting flares. This was held at the FAA Academy on Will Rogers Airport in OKC in a building which also housed many research facilities including the Civil Aeronautical Medical Institute (CAMI).

These are the folks who decide how strong seats need to be, what recline angle is acceptable for takeoff and landing, where lighting needs to be placed in the aisles and exits to effectively evacuate the plane, how many exits and where they need to be located, etc. One of their research tools was an airplane mockup that sat in a grass field. Inside it looked much like any airliner including staircases to simulate the movement of passengers to and from a second level. They'd fill the plane with FAA personnel like me in a training class and fill it with a harmless glycerine smoke so thick you couldn't see the hand in front of your face. Then they'd simulate an emergency evacuation. It was a real eye-opener!!

Anywaaaay....we were in the field adjacent to this fuselage shooting flares one windy autumn day. The grass was so dry that every time a flare landed near us, we had to trample out the flames with our feet. We had fire extinguishers at the ready, but the fires were small enough to easily manage by foot stomping. That was all fine until one guy (not the sharpest pencil in the drawer, if you know what I mean!) had the bright idea to shoot the flare DOWNWIND! Ruh-roh!!

That flare went sailing over a fence dividing us from that fuselage and immediately started a grass fire that spread very quickly. The only way we could fight it was to boost the smallest guy in our group over the 8 ft fence and toss him a piece of plywood 3 ft x 3 ft to try to squelch the flames 9 square feet at a time. Needless to say, this didn't work in reality as well as it did in theory. But as I recall it, it was the funniest thing I'd seen to date and most of us guys were laughing so hard we could hardly watch!

This was before the day of cellphones, but someone in the control tower saw the smoke and called the airport fire department. The FD arrived and saved the day before the fuselage went up in flames, but the grass at its steps was scorched when the firefight was done. The Dr. who developed the aisle lighting system in modern airliners was so pissed we almost burned down his airplane and we heard about it the next day when it was our turn to practice the emergency evacuation. I'm convinced he pumped in just a bit more smoke when it was time.

That was the last time they allowed us to shoot flares outside without the FD present. To this day, they're still telling that story in training...and not without a few smiles!!
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Old 11-01-2014, 09:10 PM   #14
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No where in the discussion do I read of any consequence for firing off flares in a non-needed exercise. This is noted as I too have desired to fire off the obsolete flares yet here in an area where there is little human congestion when out boating. It would still be with some apprehension that firing off flares would not result in a call to the Coast Guard by an unknowing boater in the far distant. Did you folks fire these off in a controlled event or area that would suffice for not alerting the officials. Just asking-
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Old 11-01-2014, 09:57 PM   #15
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The flare demonstrations I have organized/ participated in have been sanctioned by the US Coast Guard, who gave notice of the demonstration on VHF channel 16.
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Old 11-01-2014, 10:15 PM   #16
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That was my exact question-Al. Where can you fire off flares safely and without attracting unwanted (and unneeded) attention?
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Old 11-02-2014, 12:16 AM   #17
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My understanding is that in Canada it is illegal to test or discharge a flare if it is not being used in an emergency situation. Our Power Squadron has not been able to obtain a permit for a flare demonstration session.
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Old 11-02-2014, 12:35 AM   #18
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Would it be? With a tattered flag or one that has been damaged to the point of destruction locally you can dispose with a local VFW unit. Would the same hold for either a local fire department or if you have access as we do, the U.S.Coast Guard for expired flares? I suppose one could weigh them down and toss them overboard!
I believe I will ask in the next opportunity.
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Old 11-02-2014, 01:01 AM   #19
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It was Halloween at Pender (Bender, Suspender) Harbour. Just about every boater around the harbour shot off their old flares just before the fireworks display in Madeira Park (the water was flat calm and the show was doubled!). We used some flares to ignite our bonfire, with a little accelerant, from a safe distance. The 12 gauge ones bounce...
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Old 11-02-2014, 08:27 AM   #20
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I once tried to figure out how to legally dispose of old flares. It's next to impossible. I called the Coast Guard, Fire Department, local hazardous waste disposal, and finally the state Fire Marshall.

The Fire Marshall told me there was an incinerator in Ft. Meyers Florida that could do it.

I rather not say how I finally got rid of them.
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