Gun Use Offshore

It’s a fairly undocumented subject, the use of firearms off shore.  In an attempt to understand the laws I’ve called Fish and Game in MA and NH.  I’ve also called NOAA and the US Coast Guard. 

From what I can best determine, while in State Waters the gun laws of that state are in effect.  State waters in most cases are from shore to 3 miles out.  Federal waters are from 3 miles to 200 miles in most cases.

Once you enter Federal Waters the firearms regulations get very fuzzy very fast.  When I’ve asked specific questions, such as is it legal to shoot a shark I’ve been given answers like, “it’s the wild, wild west out there”.  And while it does appear to be legal to kill a shark first hooked and landed to your boat I would not advise shooting a shark swimming past your boat- hunting a shark.   In any case it would be expected that you have an HMS permit as required and that you’re planning on eating your catch.  (I would hope that no one would take any fish they do not plan to consume or otherwise made useful.

Keep in mind that if you boat between states you MUST have the proper permits of any state you enter with firearms.  If you carry a concealed firearm you must have a permit for EACH state you visit.  If you do not you will need to secure your firearm in accordance with that state’s laws. 

You’re on your own out there, do something wrong and it’s you and perhaps you guests that will pay the price.  Be prepared for all you can, if you feel comfortable with a firearm check the state laws first- good luck finding anything on the Federal waters.  That being stated this author brings a firearm on every offshore trip.

If you decided to legally bring firearms offshore keep in mind just how corrosive salt water can be.  There are stainless guns and purpose designed marine shot guns.  With any gun brought into a salt water environment I would strongly suggest a through oiling of the gun and magazine used.  I would advise an immediate soaking of the firearm with WD-40 or gun oil once back on land. 



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