What I would carry at sea

Sebastian linked to this very interesting article about gun laws at sea.

Is it lawful to carry firearms?

This depends of several factors.

· Flag State your yacht is registered with.
· Area you are likely to operate in.
· Type of firearm.

If I were sailing around the world I would probably want to carry a pump action shotgun in 12 gauge and a bolt action rifle in a non military caliber such as 7mm-08 Rem., .260 Rem. or .270 Win.


Semi automatics are illegal or have various arbitrary restrictions in most of the world for civilians. At best it could be confiscated, at worst you could be fined or arrested.

Bolt actions are used all over the world and most countries will allow hunters or competition shooters to bring them into the country for sporting purposes. Military calibers are banned in some countries. Better to stick with something nobody is going to object to.

A removable magazine would be a plus and so would a stainless steel action and barrel. The Savage Weather Warrior Series Model 16FCSS in 7mm-08 would be my choice. It has a four round detachable magazine. I would be surprised if any countries has a problem with a four round magazine in a bolt action.

Some type of illuminated scope with quick detachable mounts and open sights would be a must.

Savage Model 16FCSS

Next up, a shotgun. A semi-automatic would be out for the same reason as the rifle. I am pretty sure pump actions are illegal in the UK, so if I were stopping by there then that would not be an option. The alternatives such as a double barrel, bolt action or lever action shotgun do not seem to me to be a credible threat to a ship full of pirates.

I would go with the Mossberg Mariner. At most I would install a magazine extension. Pimping it out withe pistol grips, fore grip and detachable magazines would not be a good idea.

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Mossberg Mariner: A good idea.

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Mossberg Mariner: A bad idea.

Lastly a replica RPG might not be a bad idea! Many years ago I was watching something on TV about super yachts and there was a brief clip of police somewhere in world showing off a cache of weapons they confiscated from super yachts including what looked like an M72 LAW. I am sure the LAW was not real.

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Orange tipped replica.

My experience at sea is limited. I think the above would be good enough on small yacht. The aim really is to make it hard for pirates to come close while out maneuvering them.

I have traveled on very large cargo ships and defending them from pirates would be no different from defending a building.

What do you think about my ideas? Realistically what would you carry on the high seas?

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • jdun1911

    You can carry whatever you like as long as you are in international waters. Once you enter a state territorial waters you must abide by their laws.

    I’ll take a machine gun. It’s very hard hit to hit anything that is moving in the sea with a single shot firearm. You’re are in an unstable platform (your ship) that is moving and the ship that is raiding you is moving. Chance are you’re going to miss very badly with a bolt action or shotgun (if it has the range).

    In the Caribbean it is common to see boats packing a lot of heat.

  • Paul

    Browning M2HB, with plenty of spare barrels and ammo.

  • Spence

    It would really depend why I’m at sea, but if I had to choose anything it would be a browning model 11 for a shotgun, an m14 for a rifle, and m2 if i’m on a big boat

  • Beware – because of Hollywood, “scary” pump-action shotguns are outlawed in some parts of Europe (in France, it needs an exceptional state authorisation to possess a “riot-gun”). We all know you can tank-hunting with a Remington 870 because the shot exiting its barrel is circa 32 times more powerful than the semi-automatic’s one.

    So, I’d go with a single-shot shotgun, like IZH18 from Baikal because it’s good enough for most situation, is good at balltrap-like shooting, can digest a lot of kind of ammunitions (like plastic shots for inside shooting without overpenetration of the walls of the boat or slug for deck shooting), is very secure and reliable, can be easily dismounted for safe storage and maintenance – and rifle and ammos cost nothing (so it can be tossed overboard without trouble). In a lot of country (like Morocco) any kind of gun is unlawful, but those two kinds are more connoted “hunting” than “guerilla”, and that can be a plus for law-enforcement gestion.

  • anon

    Totally agree with the Mossberg Mariner, and might add a Remington 7615P, a pump-action rifle that takes high-cap AR Mags. Maybe alternate the load between hollowpoints and M855 penetrators.

  • Laurent, I am very surprised. I thought it was just the UK that had the ridiculous ban on pump action shotguns.

  • In France, they were de facto banned in 1995 when they were transfered from the fifth category of firearms (hunting) to the fourth (self-defense). Fifth category guns are available to sporting shooters and hunters easily (the only obligation is the gun is registred on tyrant’s records), but fourth ones need an exceptional autorisation, which is delivered by the tyrant for three years to sporting shooters, and self-defense autorisations aren’t emited since at least fifteen years for normal citizens. And since the administration don’t admit that you can have a sport activity with a pump-action shotgun, they don’t deliver shooting sport autorisations. The only “riot-guns” available are castrated to get only one shot in the mechanism (people who bought pump action shotguns before 1995 can still get them, but they have a special life autorisation to detain them, but they can’t use it without risk of confiscation and severe personnal retorsion).

  • Rob

    I know this thread is a bit old..but wanted to enter my 2 cents; I would love to carry a 30/06 bolt for longer distance “warning” shots over a vessels’ bow which I determine to be threatening. Hopefully this might scare off the less expereinced “pirates”. Keep in mind that range on this rifle is long…so I am talking about daylight and several hundered yards out…and a definite threat ie..visible firearms on-board the approaching vessel.

    If it came to close contact I would surely want a shotgun of some type but also a handgun that would allow me to maneuver very quickly through the hallways of a sea vessel..(very very skinny halls). On civilian recreational yachts, a shotgun could go right through the walls and get one of your family members in a stateroom behind your aggresor, but a nice 45 in the hands of a person who has taken appropriate time to train, can be put right on the mark keeping in mind that if you get into a confrontation in a hall on a boat it WILL be very close! Missing isn’t an option at that point.

    If you can’t hit a person with a .45 in a yacht hallway you shouldn’t be possessing firearms on your boat. Just call the Coast Guard and pray they get there before…….I don’t need to finish that.

    As far as the legality goes there are a ton of issues. First, your boat is under the law of the flagged country. Then, when you enter another country’s waters, they will surely expect you to follow their laws. A flare gun is very common on most boats, and can cause damage if aimed properly, but even those are outlawed on the Bahamas! No matter what you carry, it will be illegal in some country. So I personally would get things that are legal in the country of the flag flying on my vessel, and then keep them well hidden and tell nobody that they are there. Most people will never need firearms at sea…and I pray that it stays that way. If you are taking your yacht through the Gulf of Aden you are an idiot!

    Stay safe, legal, and enjoy the open seas!

  • barry

    firstly to enter uk teritorial waters with any weapon you will require the relevant paperwork secondly pump action shotguns are not banned in the uk but are restricted to 3 shots one up the chamber and 2 in the mag which must be non detachable and carry a certificate stating this (london or birmingham proof house) hope this clears up some confusion

  • J Clark

    I need to bring a yacht back from Indondesia soon, I feel much safer with a firearm on board, I know from experience that most pirates aren’t as bad as they are potrayed and also that they do fear for their own lives when given time to think about it, a warning shot will in most cases deter them from taking a small yacht as the prize isn’t worth the risk. I have always carried firearms illegally and dumped them if i need to. but there is rarely a need as they are easy to hide down below the engine bed wrapped in oily canvas, searches are mainly looking for drugs.

  • Komrad

    I’d take some cheap guns. Mossberg 500 or Rem 870, Ruger Mini-14, scoped Mosin-Nagant, maybe a tec-9 or similar. Stuff I wouldn’t mind throwing overboard but reliable enough to get the job done. If I had something that would look like a heavy machine gun I’d put that on the bow and hide it when customs comes a knocking.

  • TOM


  • Pat

    I have a 350 mariner. Not a big boat, but we stay alone in coves on
    Intercostal US. A lot. I’m more concerned about the middle of the night
    guys that may be up to no good while we’re sleeping.
    I have a ccw. The laws state to state are fairly close.
    Better to ask for forgiveness from the cop and the judge if necessary.
    My choice is a stainless steel 38. special for in boat and a 10/22 rifle. Small cal.but good for longer distance very accurate.
    Be smart not big.

    PS. Not knocking other thoughts.