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Can You Shoot 12 Gauge Flares From a Shotgun? | What to Know

You can fire 12-gauge flares from a shotgun, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. It’s important to note that using full-bore 12-gauge shells in a flare gun is dangerous; you should never attempt it. Furthermore, it is illegal to use flares from a flare gun as self-defense ammo.

Keep reading to learn more about this topic and some essential safety tips to keep in mind. I’ll also talk about the reasons you shouldn’t try to use flare guns for self-defense, so be sure to stick around until the end. 

12-gauge-flares and a flare gun

Should You Shoot 12 Gauge Flares From a Shotgun?

You shouldn’t shoot 12-gauge flares from a shotgun. Flares are designed to be fired from a flare gun, a specialized device designed specifically for launching flares. 

Using a shotgun to launch flares can be dangerous, as the pressure and force required to fire a flare from the weapon can be significantly greater than the pressure and force that the shotgun can handle. 

If this happens, it could cause the flare to malfunction, which could release dangerous sparks or flames or even cause the flare to explode.

Additionally, shooting flares from a shotgun is illegal in some jurisdictions.

For example, in State v. Rackle, the Supreme Court of Hawaii determined that a flare gun could be classified as a deadly weapon if used aggressively. The defendant, Lee Rackle, was found with a flare gun with a phosphorous cartridge. The court determined it was a deadly weapon if used offensively.

Safety Precautions for Shooting 12 Gauge Flares From a Shotgun

Disclaimer: It is important to note that shooting any projectile, including flares, from a shotgun can potentially cause damage to the gun and can also be dangerous to the person firing the gun and anyone in the vicinity.

If you’re absolutely set on using a shotgun for shooting flares, it’s essential to take safety precautions, including the following:

  • Make sure you use a cylinder choke, as a full choke can get stuck. 
  • Make sure you use 12-gauge flares only in a 12-gauge gun.
  • Shooting a flare cartridge from anything other than a flare gun is never safe.  
  • Be aware that there will be a significant loss of velocity on the flares when fired from the shotgun.
  • Always wear eye protection when handling and shooting firearms. Otherwise, debris can cause serious injury to your eyes.
  • Make sure the shotgun is in good working condition and properly loaded.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and ensure no people or objects are nearby that the flare could hit.
  • Only shoot the flare in a safe direction, away from people, buildings, and other structures.
  • Never aim the shotgun at a person or object you do not plan to shoot.
  • Don’t pull the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. This is a basic safety rule to follow when handling any firearm.
  • Follow all local laws and regulations related to firearms, flares, and other fireworks.

It’s essential to exercise caution and follow proper safety procedures when handling and shooting any firearm, including a shotgun. 

If you do not have experience handling a shotgun safely or feel unsure about using one, it’s a good idea to ask someone trained and experienced in handling shotguns to assist you.

The YouTube video below demonstrates how to load 12-gauge flares into a shotgun. Again, I want to reiterate that it’s not recommended that you attempt this, as it could be dangerous and illegal in some areas.

Can You Use a Flare Gun as a Shotgun?

You shouldn’t use a flare gun as a shotgun because it is not meant for that purpose. Flare guns aren’t meant to be used as firearms and cannot shoot regular shotgun shells. Instead, they’re intended solely for signaling and should only be used for that.

When using a firearm for self-defense or any other purpose, selecting a weapon designed and intended for that purpose is essential. Various types of firearms are suitable for different situations, so choosing the one that best meets your needs is crucial.

Here’s a list of reasons I advise against using a flare gun as a shotgun:

  • Flare guns aren’t nearly as accurate as shotguns. You won’t have much luck using them in place of a shotgun, so you’ll end up putting yourself at a massive disadvantage. Additionally, if you’re hunting with a flare gun, most of the meat will burn and become unusable (assuming you hit the target).
  • Flare guns can cause fires much easier than shotguns. If you miss your target when shooting a flare gun, it can catch dry brush, grass, trees, and other things on fire. Shotguns very rarely cause fires, but a flare gunfire can quickly get out of control. This is why flare guns should be shot upward, not in front of the user.
  • Flare guns can cause severe pain to animals without killing them. Shotguns are intended to hunt animals ethically, preventing them from suffering. If you hit an animal with a flare gun, not only is there a chance that they’ll catch on fire, but they’ll also likely get away while suffering permanent damage.

Flare guns should be used as flare guns, and shotguns should be used as shotguns. Although they both use 12-gauge ammunition, you shouldn’t swap them with one another or seek to use them interchangeably.

Can a Flare Gun Be Used for Self-Defense? 

You can’t use a flare gun for self-defense because it’s often not enough to stop someone from pursuing you. Furthermore, missing someone with a flare gun is relatively easy, and there’s a chance that you accidentally burn your house to the ground if you don’t hit the target.

So, what should you know about using flare guns for self-defense?

  • You can’t own a flare gun solely for self-defense purposes. They’re made for emergency purposes, so you’d have difficulty convincing a salesperson to sell it to defend yourself. Furthermore, they’d have to go through laws on the subject that vary from state to state.
  • Carrying a concealed flare gun with the intent to fire it at another person is illegal. Even if you want to defend yourself, your intent and purpose of carrying the flare gun are what matters in the eyes of the law. As mentioned in the court case above, flare guns can be considered deadly weapons. Why risk it?
  • Flare guns are extremely less lethal or effective than real guns, not to mention their lack of stopping power. You can severely hurt an animal or a person with a flare gun, but you won’t knock them down with sheer force. On the other hand, shotguns are known for their impressive stopping power and home defense capabilities.
  • Pew Pew Tactical explains shooting a flare gun anywhere other than at the sky has a very high chance of starting a fire. In fact, firefighters often use them to start backfires, preventing wildfires from advancing. There are better courses of action than using something for self-defense that’s often used to start fires.


In conclusion, 12-gauge flares are a reliable and effective way to signal for help in an emergency or to shoot a flare for a special event. However, you should never try to shoot them from shotguns, nor should you attempt to shoot shotgun shells from flare guns.

Additionally, check your local laws and regulations before using a 12-gauge flare gun to ensure that you comply. Finally, various options are available if you are looking for alternatives to 12-gauge flares.