Mailport: May 2012
Old Guns & New Flares
During a flare-firing demonstration at the recent Safety at Sea seminar in Newport, R.I., we discovered that the new Orion red plastic 12-gauge flares (PS, January 2012) will not chamber properly in an older Olin metal 25-millimeter flare gun with the Olin metal 12-gauge adapter. They will fit the new plastic Orion gun (www.orionsignals.com), with which they are sold.
There is a neck down in the 12-gauge adapter that occurs too close to the breach for the plastic flare to fit into the gun. There is no clear indication that this would occur, and it might well be that a boat owner with an old Olin metal gun and converter would buy these new flares to make sure he is up to date and legal. As the flares come sealed in waterproof plastic, it is not likely that an owner would try to chamber one until he was in distress.
My Olin gun is white with orange plastic handle grips; it reads “Olin, USCG APR, 160.028/11/0” above the trigger and “25mm signal flare launcher” on the barrel. It could be as much as 30 years old.
A second, and likely newer, 25-millimeter flare gun with a blue anodized 12-gauge adapter will properly chamber the new flares. This gun appears identical to the 25-millimeter flare gun above, except for having the plastic parts made of blue plastic and carrying the “Orion, Peru, IN USA” logo on the handle versus the “Olin E. Alton IL USA” on the Orange gun. The Coast Guard approval number is the same for both guns. The blue 12-gauge adapter from the Orion gun will fit into the Olin gun, and visa versa.
The discovery left us curious about other possible problems with our old flare guns, so we tried to see if the new flares would chamber in the older plastic Olin and Orion guns that we had on hand. The flare will chamber in the older plastic Orion 12-gauge gun. When we tried what is probably an older plastic Olin 12-gauge gun with the same approval number (stamped “Olin and E. Alton IL”), we could not break the barrel far enough to be able to load the 12-gauge flare. I believe this may have been previously reported.
We do not recall reading a warning of the first incompatibility, and we believe it could be a life-safety level issue. I have four flare guns that one would think would be all set to fire the new flares, but half of them cannot be made to function.
Garry and Leslie Schneider
We appreciate your alerting us about the issue. We reported in the February 2012 issue that the barrel of some 12-gauge plastic flare launchers made by Olin and Orion Safety Products before the year 2000 may not open sufficiently to load the new cartridges. Anyone with such a launcher should contact Orion at 800/851-5260 or firstname.lastname@example.org for instructions on how to get a replacement, or visit the company website. Your experience is a good reminder that boaters should always check safety equipment before setting sail; this includes checking to be sure your flares are compatible with the launcher on board. According to Orion, the Schneider’s report was the first complaint of this type that it had received. The company said it could be that the incompatible (older) 25-millimeter-to-12-gauge converter was one made by SkyBlazer Inc., not one made by Orion or Olin. At presstime, Orion was planning to inspect the Schneider’s older launchers and converters and was investigating the issue. “Every Orion 12-gauge red aerial shell includes the words “For use in Orion launchers only,’ ” Orion’s Rod Utter explained. “If boaters have 12-gauge converters for their 25-mm launchers and they are not the blue anodized aluminum converters currently sold by Orion Safety products, they need to carefully check to see if their equipment will allow an Orion signal to properly chamber in the launcher.” We’ll keep readers posted as the probe moves forward.