As a result of the article that was the subject of this post, I have been getting questions from my friends about the practical and legal effects of firing a 12 gauge shell in a flare gun. It turns out that I happen to have a bit of experience in this area.

It turns out that a 12 gauge shell will work in a flare pistol. Once. A long time ago, thirteen year old me was left home alone and unsupervised and decided to do a little experimenting with my father’s Beretta shotgun, some shells, flares, and a flare gun. The shell fires, but it destroys the flare gun. Not surprising, being that the flare gun is made of bright orange plastic. Right after that, I tried loading a 12 gauge flare in my Dad’s shotgun. The flare got stuck on the choke, the barrel of the shotgun was ruined, and I got my ass beat.

So that handles the practical aspects. A ruined flare gun, a ruined shotgun, a damaged ass, and an angry father. Now that dad is dead, I own that shotgun, complete with the ring around the barrel where the bluing is no longer there. How about the legal aspects?

The National Firearms Act (26 US Code 5845) is going to be what applies here.

– A flare gun can’t be a shotgun because it isn’t designed to be fired from the shoulder.
– It can’t be a rifle, because it doesn’t have a rifled barrel.
– it seems to fit the definition of an “any other weapon.:”

The term “any other weapon” means any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosive, a pistol or revolver having a barrel with a smooth bore designed or redesigned to fire a fixed shotgun shell, weapons with combination shotgun and rifle barrels 12 inches or more, less than 18 inches in length, from which only a single discharge can be made from either barrel without manual reloading, and shall include any such weapon which may be readily restored to fire. Such term shall not include a pistol or a revolver having a rifled bore, or rifled bores, or weapons designed, made, or intended to be fired from the shoulder and not capable of firing fixed ammunition. (emphasis added by DM)

So it seems that loading a shotgun shell into your flare gun means that you are now in possession of an unregistered NFA weapon.

The usual disclaimers apply: I am not an attorney, not your attorney, nor should you try this at home. Your mileage may vary, this is not intended to be technical or legal advice, and no one should act upon the advice I am giving you. In fact, none of this happened. Forget it.

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SiGraybeard · August 30, 2020 at 4:17 pm

I'd be too chicken to put a 12 ga shell in a flare gun. I figure it would take off my hand, or seriously remodel it.

Beans · August 30, 2020 at 8:40 pm

Some of the old-school brass and steel flare guns will hold up to several firings of 12 ga shells. Like the flare guns pre-1970s.

And, no, I know no-one who ever dropped a steel sleeve into a plastic flare gun that would take a 20ga shell. No, never (cough, cough…)

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