Skip to comments.Piracy & Firearms: Another View
Posted on 12/14/2008 8:40:14 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
I was scanning your site, like I do often, and I noticed on the issue of piracy some short comments about using firearms to ward off pirates.
One good source of info on modern piracy that many who own yachts may not have ever read is an American magazine called, "Soldier of Fortune".
"Soldier of Fortune" magazine, founded and edited by a retired US Army special forces colonel, is known as the only publication to have had a reporter on the ground the entire time during the Russian war in Afghanistan.
This magazine is of extreme interest to the yachting community because it has also run several excellent, unique, in-depth articles on modern piracy, even from some journalists that have actually traveled with the pirates on their forays. One article showed a real yacht being hit and looted. I know of no other publication that has acquired the hands-on, personal look into modern piracy that "Soldier of Fortune" has done.
One thing that the invaluable data gathered by "Soldier of Fortune" has shown is that most pirates tend to break off encounters as soon as they start to receive gunfire, or feel that they may do so. They are not in the business to get killed. If a yacht has teeth, they usually break off and find another, "softer" target - Blackbeard they are not.
Another thing that their data shows is the tactic of being defenseless and leaving yourself at their mercy is foolish. Aa time goes on, this is becoming a riskier and riskier thing to do, yet this is the main plan many on yachts have. Putting yourself at the mercy and whim of thugs, killers, and bandits and hoping they just take some cash and leave you alone is foolish and can easily be far deadlier to yourself and your crew than fighting them off. These men follow no rules except what they make up as they go.
This is the reason why in almost every pirate attack that you hear about where a yacht gets boarded, the crews were virtually defenseless, except for maybe a flare gun. Yachts that return fire with real firearms generally don't get boarded. The train of thought of, "Don't shoot at them, you might make them angry," is not the wisest of paths to follow. Submission to murderous criminals is seldom a smart and productive move.
A good example is that Italian catamaran, near Venezuela if I recall, some time ago that was chased for quite a while by eight men in an open skiff brandishing rusty shotguns. The yacht had only a flare gun.
(this refers to the 2004 incident when Italian Bruno Bianchella on "Joe's Dog" was shot and killed off Isla de Margarita)
A common hunting rifle, or even an aging, old, $100 WWII surplus bolt action rifle could have stopped that pursuit in its tracks. The pirates' boat, like most boats used in piracy, was small and offered virtually no protection against defensive rifle fire, especially from pretty much any common hunting rifle. Even a single, ordinary hunting rifle (bolt action or pump action) plus maybe a shotgun (pump action) on board - both recognized around the world as civilian weapons - could have prevented such a tragedy.
A rifle is more dangerous to pirates than a shotgun as it has range and penetration. It can hole and/or disable a small boat while also hitting the pirates. A rifle gives you a defensive cordon that can be measured in hundreds of meters, depending upon visibility and sea conditions. Pirates in their typical small boats have virtually no defense against accurate rifle fire except to take evasive action and leave.
A shotgun is better for closer ranges as they try and board, and for defense in case a boarding is in process or has already occured. A shotgun is extremely effective at close ranges and it has a low level of penetration power - meaning that you probably won't sink yourself if you fire it inside your boat.
In retrospect, that murdered Italian skipper might have found the extra paperwork and bureaucratic hassle, while in port, that is normally associated with having a rifle on board, to have been worthwhile after all.
The world is going through one its periods in history where it is getting to be a more dangerous place. People are going to have to understand that and be better prepared to deal with the risks and dangers of traveling the seas during such a period.
Law enforcement agencies all too often consider piracy out of their capabilities and concerns. Piracy won't stop until it becomes too risky to be a pirate. The only way for that to happen is for people to start defending themselves, because no one else will do it for them.
An item of note: A good introductory "how-to" book that some may find interesting is "High Seas Security" by Frank Camper. It is an easy read and it is written to be understood by regular people who are not security professionals, but it is still very informative. It is generally available used on Amazon for less than $7.
Hmmm. Time to bring back letters of marque and reprisal?
AND stop all this nonsense about what kind of weapons individuals should be “allowed” to own and use.
These two boats, armed with a few basic firearms, beat back a close-range pirate attack, killing or wounding several with shotguns and rifles.
The armed yacht was American, and was named for a LOTR character. Gandalf I think.
Anyway, I've been known to sail pretty good distances, and I sail armed.
This is me.
I even had to chuck a few guns overboard before making an unscheduled stop in Mexico, but that's another story.
It has been years since I’ve even seen a copy of SoF, so my memories are hazy. I remember, out of the half dozen or so issues that I read, the reporting was interesting, thorough, and felt authentic.
Good memory old FRiend.
You need to reacquaint yourself with SOF. They have been giving the best coverage of anyone of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. (www.sofmag.com).
JIC 500® Mariner® kit includes:
* 500® Mariner®
12 gauge pump-action, 6-round capacity, 18 1/2" barrel bead sight, proprietary Marinecote metal finish
* Heavy-duty multi-tool, serrated blade lock-back survival knife and cordura carrying case
* Floating synthetic carrying tube with shoulder strap (tube includes a heavy-duty synthetic seal, factory tested to be air-tight and waterproof to a minimum of 17psi or 40' when properly installed)
* Gun lock
* Swivel studs
* Owner's Manual
* Contents packaged in heavy-duty re-sealable bag
* Easily stores with bumpers and jackets
* Shoots hell out of pirates or sharks
* Also tightens nuts, bolts, cuts bait
Yes indeed. SOF is a terrific mag, alone on its perch like a solitary eagle. There is no other entry in its niche.
I hope you threw some Mosin-Nagants overboard.
I think this is the one you meant.
12ga shotgun vs. 2 boats of Pirates
The Highroad ^ | March 11, 2005 | Rodney J. Nowlin, USN Retire
Posted on Sunday, March 20, 2005 8:22:16 AM by SLB
“We are safe in port of Aden. Its been 3 days repairing the damage. 30 bullets holes in deck, cabin house, dodger, and alas, newly varnished mast. Our bow shows evidence of a satisfying crunch. Our new paint job was not meant to be. Dinghy on deck was seriously wounded but in stable condition, much repatched. No wine was hurt.
This is the official report filed with the Yemen Coast Guard, Yemen Navy, Aden Port Control, US Coalition 5th Fleet, US Embassy and State Department? but not Carols mother. Unfortunately, the poor guy that shoots has to write up the paper work. The one that rams does not engender any paper-work, except sand paper work.
March 11, 2005, written by Rodney J. Nowlin, USN Retired Pirate Attack off Yemen Coast
On Tuesday, March 8, 2005 at position 13 Degrees 28 North / 49 Degrees 07 East, in the infamous Pirate Alley of the Gulf of Aden, two sailing yachts, Madhi and Gandalf, were moving SW 30 miles off the coast of Yemen proceeding to the port of Aden from Salalah, Oman.
At about 0900 local, two outboard powered fiberglass longboats, about 20 feet long, each containing 3 men, passed off our sterns moving south at about 25 knots into the open Gulf between Yemen and Somalia. An hour later they returned, one coming quite close and looking us over carefully. The second boat passed off our bows but quite a ways away. These boats were obviously not engaged in a normal activity like fishing. At that time we were south of Al Mukalla, Yemen. The area around Al Mukalla is well documented as being a piracy, drug & people smuggling problem area and we maintained a careful watch for anything out of the ordinary.
At about 1600 we observed two different boats approaching us head on from the west with the glare of the sunset in our eyes. These were 25-30 feet long, had inboard diesel engines and higher freeboard. We immediately motored closer together. As soon as they saw us close ranks they started coming very fast directly at us. There were 4 men in each boat. They separated at about 200 yards with one boat coming down Madhis port side, shouting and firing into the cockpit. The other boat, firing automatic weapons came at Gandalf. There were no warning shots. Carol on Gandalf began sending Maydays on every frequency.
The first boat swung around behind Mahdis stern to come up and board us. At that point, I , Rod Nowlin aboard Mahdi and armed with a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with 00 buckshot, started shooting into their boat. I forced them to keep their heads down so they could not shoot at us. I am not sure I hit anyone at that point. I could see the driver of the boat crouched down behind the steering console. After firing three shots at them, their engine started to smoke and I swung around to try to shoot at the second boat ahead. At that point I saw Jay Barry on Gandalf ram the second boat amidships almost cutting it in two and turning it almost completely over. I turned back around to shoot at the boat still behind Mahdi. That was when they turned away from Mahdi and headed toward the stern of Gandalf. Gandalf was beside us about 100 feet away. The bow of the pirate boat came right up against Gandalfs stern and two men stood up on the bow with guns to board Gandalf. That was a serious and probably fateful error on their part. I shot both of them. That boat then veered away and I shot the driver, although I am not sure of the outcome because they were farther away and I didnt knock him down like the other two trying to board Gandalf.
Mahdi & Gandalf kept going at full speed to put as much distance between the pirates and us as possible. As soon as we were out of rifle range, we looked back and both attack boats were drifting and seemed to be disabled.
A merchant ship nearby finally answered our Mayday and diverted course to position itself between the floundering pirates and the fleeing yachts. They said they would contact the authorities by Sat phone and then sailed alongside us for 4 hours after dark to make sure we would be all right. Best speed was made to the Port of Aden 180 miles away.
If Jay on Gandalf had not had the presence of mind to veer over into one boat and ram it, the outcome of this attack would have been totally different. All the guys needed to do was stand off a ways and shoot us to pieces with automatic weapons. We were extremely lucky. We broadcast Mayday calls on VHF 16 and all HF radio frequencies, including two HF frequencies that were supplied by the US Coast Guard near Oman only a few days before. Frequencies which the Coalition Forces Warships in this area were supposed to be monitoring. There was no response. The pirates were well organized and well armed. There were at least 4 boats involved. They had set up a picket line out from the Yemen coast probably covering 75 miles out, so if you transited the area during the day they would not miss seeing you. The two attack boats appeared to have come from the south before positioning themselves ahead of us in the sunset.
There has been speculation in the past that this ongoing piracy problem off Yemens coast was being carried out by Somali pirates. Given the number, the types of boats involved, and the direction the supposed spotter boats were coming from, this does not appear to be the case. The men in the attack boats looked both African and Arab.
There was no evidence that this was a people smuggling operation. There were no men, women or children cowering in the boats. These were not fishing boats with nets or overhead sun protection. They appeared to be purpose-built boats, 25-30 feet long, with wooden splines or poles fashioned above the gunwales to which a plastic tarp or shield was hung chest high for the men to hide behind after shooting. The problem is getting worse and the pirate attacks are getting deadly. One could only expect that the Yemen Government will take more direct action At very least, allow yachts to group in Salalah, Oman and at some point along the NW Yemen coast request an escort until Aden or the Straits.
Rodney J. Nowlin, USN Retire March 11, 2005
Actually, three Ruger products. Sigh.
The original link for Gandalf.
“The bow of the pirate boat came right up against Gandalfs stern and two men stood up on the bow with guns to board Gandalf. That was a serious and probably fateful error on their part. I shot both of them. That boat then veered away and I shot the driver, although I am not sure of the outcome because they were farther away and I didn’t knock him down like the other two trying to board Gandalf.”
I love that dry writing!
Although most firearms are banned, apparently, by the Coast Guard on civilian vessels (or so I’m told) and at many foreign ports, they usually do allow flare pistols.
For a while someone was making steel inserts that would fit into the chamber of a flare gun and accept a pistol or .410 shotgun shell; sort of an “adapter”. Although only a single shot, it would be better than nothing and the chamber insert and a few rounds would be easier to hide aboard a boat than a shotgun or rifle, I would suppose.
I made an 11-inch long 1” OD .58 caliber muzzle loading barrel out of schedule 80 seamless steel pipe that slides into the breech of my German 26.5mm flare pistol and extends out beyond the muzzle. I use if for firing salutes on the 4th of July, but I could have just as easily bored it out to take a 12-ga. shotgun shell - although the recoil would be brutal and I would go to jail if the BATFE ever caught me with it.
Some Gunsmiths have made similar inserts that chamber .44 magnum, .30-30 rifle rounds etc.and are rifled..
the tricky part is getting the extractor to work. Otherwise you have to poke the empties out with a stick from the muzzle.
My boat would have a belt fed .30 cal at a minimum and I probably opt for a M2 .50 cal (even a semi-auto variant) just to be sure they couldn’t safely get within 2000 yards of me.
There were a few copycats back in the eighties, but they didn’t last.
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