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A flare gun is a gun that fires flares. They are typically used as a distress signal as well as other signaling purposes at sea and between aircraft and people on the ground. It is shot in the air so the people nearest to the survivor can reach them and help them.
The most common type of flare gun is a Very (or sometimes spelled Verey) which was named after Edward Wilson Very (1847–1910), an American naval officer who developed and popularized a single-shot breech-loading snub-nosed pistol that fired flares (Very flares). They have a single action trigger mechanism, hammer action, center fire pin. Modern varieties are frequently made out of brightly-colored, durable plastic. Very Pistols are also used in the wildland fire service to conduct burnout and backfire operations in areas where it would be inappropriate or too dangerous to place personnel.
The older type of Very pistol, typical of the type used in the Second World War, are of one inch bore. Newer models fire smaller 12-gauge flares. In countries where possession of firearms is strictly controlled, such as the United Kingdom, the use of Very pistols as emergency equipment on boats is less common than, for example, the United States. In such locations, distress flares are fired from single-shot tube devices which are then disposed of after use. These devices are fired by twisting or striking a pad on one end, but the contents are otherwise similar to a round from a flare gun, although the flares themselves are much larger and can burn brighter for longer.
Flare guns may be used whenever someone needs to send a distress signal. The flares must be shot directly above, making the signal visible for a longer period of time and revealing the position of whoever is in need of help.
Use as weapons Edit
While not intended as a weapon, flare guns have been used as such in some situations. In 1942, at Pembrey Airfield in Wales, a German pilot mistakenly landed at the field. The duty pilot, Sgt. Jeffreys, did not have a conventional weapon; he grabbed a Very pistol and used that to capture the German pilot, Oberleutnant Arnim Faber.
In World War II, Germany manufactured grenades designed to be fired from some models of signal pistol.
In his autobiographical Think Like a Bird, U.S. Army pilot Alex Kimball describes shooting at an armed attacker with a Very pistol, following a forced landing in Aden during the Radfan conflict. The man's clothes caught fire, causing his death.
On December 4, 1971 at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland an audience member ("Smoke On the Water") fired a flare during a performance by Frank Zappa and his band, the Mothers of Invention. The flare ignited the ceiling of the entertainment complex of the Montreux Casino at Lake Geneva. Zappa shouted "Fire!" but initially the audience thought it was all part of the show. The resulting fire burned down the entire casino. The band Deep Purple witnessed the event and wrote about it in their song "Smoke on the Water," released on their 1972 LP Machine Head.