View Full Version : Thoughts about shotguns for boat defense

November 28, 2008, 09:41 AM
I spend a lot of time on sailing forums, and of course there are a lot of questions asked about keeping a gun on board for defensive purposes. A good 12 ga. pump gun is the most often recommended weapon, if anything at all, as guns aboard can be a MAJOR problem when entering foreign waters.

However, the topic did get my brain working. If I did have enough money to own a large cruising sailboat (I wish!) and I was actually sailing it in areas of the world where kidnapping/pirating was an issue (why would anyone do this?), what would I have on board?

A stainless 12 ga. pump sounds about right, but what kind of round? Most commercial boat hulls are fiberglass or thin metal, but what kind of penetration could be expected from a lead slug?

Which brings me to the final question. Has anyone marketed a saboted solid bronze slug, a la the bronze rounds used for dangerous game in Africa? It seems that this round could be very effective in disabling a speedboat's motor, and punching a few holes in the hull.

I caveat this question with the statement that I know next to nothing about shotguns!!

P.S. I'm deliberately not getting into the issue of marksmanship from a rolling deck, as most of the posts on this subject seem to ignore it as well. I guess pirates only attack on glassy seas!:D

November 28, 2008, 10:06 AM
I would carry full-power 00 buck for BG....as well as good hard slugs which might be useful for disabling fast-boat engines or penetrating hulls just below the water line.

Personally, I would prefer an AK and a RPG for repelling boarders but alas, international law is on the side of pirates.

November 28, 2008, 10:16 AM
The 500 marinecoat mossberg is nice. If you practice alot, the pistol grip in the JIC plastic watertight tube would help for both storage and protecting the gun. As you know you have a distance of never less than 7miles (barring fog of course) to see an approaching vessel at see. Their intentions to intercept you quite apparent soon enuff to have your gun out and at the ready... I wouldn't waste precious ammo trying shoot out a powerplant. I would be focusing on humans. A .45 caliber just inside the companionway is your back up chose if it were me.

Jeff Mulliken
November 28, 2008, 10:17 AM
Shooting at pirates from your fiberglass sailboat is about the last thing you want to do. They will be armed with AK's or better and can stand off out of the range of almost anything you can carry and shoot you to pieces just for fun.

It's what they do, they are Pirates.

November 28, 2008, 10:50 AM
You would advocate just letting them board, and either:

1. Killing all aboard and taking the boat
2. Kidnapping and holding for ransom (or worse)
3. putting boaters in survival raft and taking boat

I don't especially advocate carrying a weapon aboard, as I've said it can create real problems in foreign waters, however, I'd think that "shooting at pirates from a fiberglass sailboat" would be preferable to the above options. The caveat being that you would not show your intention until the balance of force is as even as possible (within shotgun range). I suppose that could mean letting them on board, and ambushing them from the companionway or somesuch.

As far as shooting the pirates as opposed to the engines, keep in mind that a sailboat generally doesn't outrun a go-fast boat, but easily outruns a boat with no motor OR sails!

Don't get me wrong, it's basically a list of bad choices, but it does make for interesting mental floss.

November 28, 2008, 11:21 AM
T, Don't worry about the pirates and their accuracy... Both are limited by wave action. They will likely try AK type firearms and you are launching 00. Tends keep their head down. While you won't outrun many boats with a blow boat but imagine what you have to do to knock out an outboard. The fiberglass cowl has 2 inches of good foam as insulation. Your projectile has to hit the coil pack, carbs/injectors or break the block. On their approach you won't be able to hit the engines as easy as the humans aboard. The only time to try for an engine is when they are fleeing... I have alot of experience with outboard engines, inboards including diesels, Some sail boating too. Nothin' says "AHOY MATEY" like 00 buck shot...

November 28, 2008, 11:24 AM
Torts, just brandish a fine, sharp cutlass!! "arrgh mateys!!! :D

November 28, 2008, 12:26 PM
I've got a katana that would probably do, but first I need my own boat!!:D

November 28, 2008, 02:06 PM
Shooting at pirates from your fiberglass sailboat is about the last thing you want to do. They will be armed with AK's or better and can stand off out of the range of almost anything you can carry and shoot you to pieces just for fun.

It's what they do, they are Pirates.


I would use anything/everything...even if it came down to just a flare gun, a fireman's axe or a firehose, if my boat was so equipped, to repel boarders.

November 28, 2008, 03:29 PM
In the spirit of the holiday season, let's all pray the world will be a safer pace to sail by the time you've saved-up for your cruiser. Entering an arms race with Somali pirates seems like a loosing proposition these days.

B. Lahey
November 28, 2008, 05:03 PM
This thread will be locked in a hurry just like mine was.

The mods apparently think piracy is rare (it's not) and it is not worth talking about things that the average person may not run across.

Dave McC
November 28, 2008, 05:46 PM
Much as I love my shotguns, for boat use and pirate repellent I'd want something with a bit more range, say a nickeled SKS.

And, I'm not sure how many more "Arrrgh, mateys" and such I can handle sans retching.

I'm not locking this but go carefully......

November 28, 2008, 05:57 PM
I would want a good shotgun with a deer hunting barrel to aid in shooting sabot shells, you can still use it for buckshot in close. Also a stainless Mini 30 you have the advantage of the SKS but a better package then my carry gun which I always wear on my cruiser.

November 28, 2008, 06:13 PM
If i was to have a gun for pretection on a boat or for pirates there are many choices. I would most likely have an ar-10 with armour piercing bullets for penetrating the boat and also because of how far it can shoot. But if they board I would most likely have a remington 870 tricked out by scatter gun technologies its called an 870 witness protection. It is a class three shotgun you have to go through a state and federal background check and i takes about 6 months. This is what i would use.

November 28, 2008, 07:58 PM
Most of the firearms choices in this thread will get you arrested overseas.

I have a friend who goes cruising internationally who uses a SMLE for range, a Glock 19 hidden aboard, and a Remington 870 set up for 3+1 with a 4 round sidesaddle for anti boarding and showing to authorities. The Glock, and reloads for the pistol and rifle hide in a "spare" battery, that is "dead" and "out of service" which still carries lead and is tightly packed so as to not rattle so to complete the illusion.

In any event, he only carries weapons he'll toss to the bottom without a second thought.

November 28, 2008, 08:45 PM
a 50BMG shooting 750gr FMJ will disable any speedboat and give you long-range capability - bolt action, with possibly a mount that fastens to the deck (think camera tripod-like)

Pitts Spcl
November 28, 2008, 09:39 PM
Most of the firearms choices in this thread will get you arrested overseas.

Actually, most of those choices will get you arrested even in US waters.

Thanks to the PA and the 'war on drugs', you have less privacy and property rights aboard than you do even in a land vehicle.

I lived aboard my sailboat and cruised for 7 years. The only international waters I entered were Canadian, Mexican, and the Caribbean. Customs and other water authorities did not bother me at all while in offshore waters.

Sadly, I was most apprehensive of the USCG and state and local water police. One boarding by the USCG resulted in my boat and possessions being torn apart with complete disregard to my property and not even an apology when no drugs or whatever contraband they were searching for were not found. The Georgia Water Police also boarded one night in the wee hours and were very heavy-handed.

'Pirates' were not a real concern. Mostly I was on the lookout for common thieves or thugs.

Back to the topic-

I carried a 12 ga pump and a hidden Glock. My first line of defense was a collection of flare guns. I acquired 6 of these. A flare shot into any type of open or light vessel would ruin the BGs day.

November 28, 2008, 10:27 PM
On topic, I never carried a shotgun when cruising. My brother carried your Mossberg solely and I would too as an only weapon, with a variety of ammo.

I grew up on an 80' schooner and learned to shoot from an oscillating platform (sailboat) at oscillating targets (soda bottles thrown overboard) try it with a .22LR sometime, pretty challenging. I went to power ASAP and lost my last and favorite 33' sportfish to Francis and Jeanne.

Back when the dope boats started running coke and everything went ruthless I carried the following;
9mm pistol for on deck/at anchor/backup.
30-40 to puncture fuel tanks at range.
30-06 full with tracers to puncture tanks and set fuel on fire.
Mini-14 w/2-20rd. clips taped back to back as backup.

Then I was also a marine tech, worked on their boats and knew the fuel tank layouts that were preferred.

November 29, 2008, 01:59 AM
OK, if your getting arrested anyway, you might as well go with a M-79 with some buck rounds and a little HE.

November 29, 2008, 08:21 AM
pardon me, i'm a diehard landlubber...totally clueless about the laws of international waters...but is it legal to keep aboard the boat a good bolt action rifle, like maybe a Remmy 700 in .308???

November 29, 2008, 09:03 AM
Yes, it is. The problems arise when you leave international waters, especially those of other countries.

Katrina Guy
November 29, 2008, 09:40 AM
Key question in my opinion!
If it's as simple as they confisgate then fouey, go get a cheap SKS, let them keep it, when you return buy another to keep onboard.
If you are arrested that would be another matter.
I think most here would agree a shotgun and a rifle (for longer repelling distances) along with a handgun too would be tools worth having onboard.
In addition to longer distances, well, check out a youtube video on SKS's being fired, formidable defense, bearing in mind in a fiberglass boat you aren't likely to survive any lengthy exchange of gun fire.

November 29, 2008, 09:59 AM
In many locations, being caught with ANY firearm is BAD BAD BAD!!! In others, if you declare it at customs it is fine and in others they simply live the don't ask don't tell mindset. A buddy of mine has a 43 foot Hatteras, when he was completely going thru the ol' gal re-doing the interior we put in MANY "hidey holes" for any thing that could be considered contraband. Now if they want to find it they will but in most searches these spaces would not be discovered. He keeps at least 3 long guns aboard and several hand guns. of these he has a 2 Mossberg 500's (one is full stock for on board use and the other is in the life raft locker in the JIC tube), and for a rifle he has a Mini-14. Hand guns are all semi and strategically located thru out the yacht with one stainless kept up on the fly bridge. He doesn't let others know where they are or even that they are there so the others do not get nervous in a search and cause suspicion.

Katrina Guy
November 29, 2008, 10:19 AM
That is some kool, keeping them hidden in the woodwork so to speak, some kooool!

Lefty Mc
December 1, 2008, 04:32 PM
No one has mentioned a flare gun.
Which is legal on a boat.
If I still lived aboard I would find the biggest one I could buy.
Along with my Mossberg 500 Mariner.

December 1, 2008, 09:56 PM
Nothing says "stay away pirates" like a 50 cal mounted on the fore deck. Of course your boat may tend to sail a little funny and the recoil from a long burst may put her on her side. :)

Death from Afar
December 2, 2008, 04:46 PM
As an aside, international law is not on the side of pirates- quite the opposite. All states and persons may take actions against individuals or vessels involved in acts of piracy. The rationale is that those commiting acts of piracy have "rendered themselves enemies of all mankind" (hostis humani genreis) and do not have flag protection ( this is why pirates flew the jolly roger, they did not have the protection of any state. ON the high seas, therefore, any person may take action against pirates without legal consequence. Of course, when you enter a nation states territorial waters, you are subject to local law, which may make your .5 on the prow illegal.

Warships have "law of flag" immunity from local law regarding firearms and are not subject to local law.

So now you know.

December 2, 2008, 06:03 PM
but does that law apply to civilians? I mean I don't think my carrying a shotgun on my sailboat qualifies me as being on a warship

December 2, 2008, 06:27 PM
Our flare pistols at work are Four gauge and have a twelve gauge insert. They are made in Germany, single shot, steel and are strong enough to handle 4 (1") gauge flares. I'm sure light shot loads would work in them.....Disclaimer: I'm not going to try nor am I suggesting that anyone should try.

Could you build a twelve gauge pistol that would be mistaken or presumed as a flare gun or purchase one that would be strong enough?

It would still be single shot but would not be under the scrutiny of people inspecting your boat, I believe that some of the older wartime ones where doubles?

Friends that boated around the world do have a tiny bit of discussion about Piracy as I believe they where followed by another boat, I looked but couldn't find the exact journal entry:

(They started their journey boating from inland Alberta on a river with the same boat they took around the world.)


December 2, 2008, 07:12 PM
this is actually a pretty cool thread so I am gonna go ahead and say this. Discussing the legality of carrying firearms in international waters is fine, however suggesting ways of hiding illigel weapons from the police is just not what we do here. There is plenty of normal situations to go over here, and I don't think many of us will ever sail off the horn of Africa so we need not even consider the need of heavy weapons. Here in Guatemala for instance An american was killed aboard his boat near beliz by mechete totin bandits. I think that's the kindo of thing we are talking about here, so it may be a very good new start for this conversation should people care to follow along

Death from Afar
December 2, 2008, 07:50 PM
but does that law apply to civilians? I mean I don't think my carrying a shotgun on my sailboat qualifies me as being on a warship

Good question. ON the high seas (beyond a nation states declared waters) , there is no local law, and you are beyond anyones jurisdiction. That is why there are special rules for pirates on the high seas, such as a warship may engage them on the high seas, or in the case of , say, fishing violations in national waters, can board the offending vessel after a "hot pursuit". The second you enter a nations territorial waters you are subject to that flag states law, save in the case of peaceful transit through a sealane. The moral of the story is, if you are in mexican territorial waters, you are subject to mexican law. Which is a problem if you have a firearm.

December 5, 2008, 04:39 PM
I acquired 6 of these. A flare shot into any type of open or light vessel would ruin the BGs day.

I think the flare gun option is really underestimated. I'm not sure what the range of the average flare is but it must be 100 yards or so. I'm assuming the average pirate probably doesn't run the tidyest ship with spilled fuel and debris on the deck. A barrage of hot flares would likely light something up, in addition to making others aware of your distress. Better than nothing at all.

You could pretend you are a whaler and mount a few harpoon guns. A mi ti cocktail also might have some effect.

December 5, 2008, 05:29 PM
Besides a shotgun and my carry weapon that I carry on my cruiser I have an all steel german 26.5mm flare pistol and a 12GA insert for it you can use the mini 12 ga shells in it they are only about 1 1/2" long. I have fired the flares in the river here & was suprised at the range they had. I might mention I had C.G. approval to use the flares.

December 22, 2008, 07:25 PM
For the most part a shotgun is a last ditch weapon, they are already aboard and you have probably lost. The pirates these days are using 50 cal, 20 or 30mm, or RPG and bigger. You do not stand a chance unless you are carring a heavy crew served weapon and know how to deploy and use it. You better be better armed or your ship had better be whole lot faster or figuaboutit. They will board you, kill you immediately throw your body overboard and take your vessel, or they may kidnap you and hold you for ransom if you are lucky. The easy answer is stay away from those waters. The world is a very big and dangerous place
Glenn HM1 DV FMF USN Retired

December 22, 2008, 09:23 PM
i rode from Seattle to the GOM with a buddy in his 29' sea-ray.
he had an 870 mariner on board and had no problems in any us ports except San Fran. as long as you declare it in your manifest its kosher.

he frequently travels thru the Caribbean all the time, the cayman islands are big anti gun, they dont even want you porting if you have one in your manifest.

there are a few pirates thru the Caribbean as well, they dont use ak's and rpg's like the Somalis/Indonesians. a shot gun would be fine to hold them off.

December 22, 2008, 09:49 PM
Checkout the Mossberg JIC series. I know a gun store owner with a house boat on KY, Lake and thats what he takes. Best part about em is that they are corrosion resistant even in salt water.

heres a link:

December 23, 2008, 12:16 AM
on open water I would guess you really have two scenarios.
1. you see them coming, in shich case I would want to deter them at as long a range as possible.
2. they sneak up at night. I know a few have come on deck with guns and promptly been shot in this scenario.

I would go with the SKS or stainless mini depending on your budget with a glock sidearm. At the range where the shotgun would be most effective I think you are pretty much done. IDK, if you can get all three. I would want the rifle most as it is what may allow you to avoif them closing with you in the first place.

THis isn't like a lanf robbery where they are likely unarmed or poorly armed. If the shooting gets going it is going to get ugly.

Did i ever

December 23, 2008, 08:03 AM
SKS in the rack on the overhead in the galley, my trusty G19 close at hand.

Most guys I know have gone to the SKS for a 'boat gun' The nickle plate does sound like a good idea.

Pirates? We are the pirates! At least that is what the OSP and the CG think of us:barf:

It's tough enough to make a living fishing, when you are treated like criminals by the authorites, it's that much tougher.