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Way down Rio Grande way, the “border troubles” with our friends in Mexico are spilling out over our border. Haven’t gotten the memo? Think it’s just a couple of uppity ranchers on the border gettin’ into a little dustup with some over-zealous economically challenged Mexicans running some pot to pay the bills? Think again.  Check out this story from Fox News: Pirates Threaten Boaters on U.S. – Mexico Border Lake. Seems the Mexican drug gangs have turned to the second-oldest profession. With guns. And everything.

Since I grew up on the water, and my dad was a bigwig in the U.S. Power Squadron and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, I feel eminently qualified to dispense advice on the topic of fending off pirates. And it’s free advice, so it’s worth at least what you’ll pay for it.

  1. Go in heavy. I’d recommend a shotgun, just because of the sound it makes when you rack it. But that’s only good for close-up work. If they’re in shotgun range, you have to expect that the baddies might be sportin’ an AK or AR. Or two. Or three. What’s a poor pleasure boater to do?
  2. Go long. Get some kind of carbine. My personal choice would be an AR-15 or M-4-style rifle. Nothing says “Don’t screw with me” than a black gun. I’d lean towards the larger calibers, too. Never know if Juan and his Buddies are sportin’ flak vests.
  3. AIm high. If your vessel is approached by a boat full of armed and dangerous thugs bent on mayhem, a nice message might be your proverbial “shot across the bow.” But don’t count on it. If these hoods are willing to attack, they’re willing to escalate. And they strike me as the kind that don’t follow the Marquis of Queensbury rules, if you know what I mean. If you wanna waste a warning round, make sure they can hear it. Like right past their ears. This has the added advantage that if you miss, you might just blow one of their heads off. THAT will get their attention.
  4. Shoot to Kill. But only if you mean it. Remember, never point a gun at anyone you don’t intend to shoot and don’t shoot unless you intend to kill. If these guys are gonna shoot you, the only way to survive is to shoot them first. This is the MOTHER of all “discretion” calls, but the important thing here is restraint. You really don’t wanna have to answer questions as to why you took out some innocent vacationers who were asking for directions, just because you have an itchy trigger finger. On the other hand, if a boat heads your way with guys brandishing AK-47s, you should probably think about responding aggressively.
  5. Shoot for the Memories. If you’re worried about those messy consequences of being armed and dangerous, a useful accessory would be to have a video camera on board, should you have someone else available to record the event for posterity. If you have a video of what the bad guys did, you’ll have proof you need to justify your actions. Or if you over-react, proof that you went too far. Act as if someone is watching.
  6. Stay on Your Side of the Lake. Wanna make sure you don’t go overboard, figuratively speaking? Don’t cross over the U.S./Mexican border. Period. If you drift over Mexico-way with a boat that’s got weapons on board, you’d best expect to be exploring the finer points of the Mexican prison system from a first-person perspective. While it’s perfectly legal to own/carry weapons in the USA, things are muy differente South of the border.
  7. Check your Local Laws. My recommendations above are based on common sense. If you’re on a lake that is a Federal or State waterway, then Federal and/or State laws WILL apply. Do they allow guns? If they do, great. If not, you might want to rethink your plans, if aquatic banditos are a problemo.
  8. Think things through. How badly do you wanna go boating? Is it worth your life? Those of your loved ones? I mean, seriously . . . if these idiots are attacking boats, do you really wanna find yourself on the front lines of the coming U.S.-Mexico border wars? It’s up to you, but at least think things through, first. This applies to you bass fishermen, too.

If you think that this border problem is just gonna solve itself or go away on it’s own (like every Presidential administration and Congress stretching back past Reagan) you’re dreamin.’ I got a bad feelin’ about this, Sundance.

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  1. The way I read the story, the fishermen were approached by multiple boats at once. Best approach, take advantage of that 300 hp Mercury engine and run like hell. If you try to stand and fight, they'll get you in a multi-angle cross-fire. A bass boat in a kill zone is not the most survivable position. Fiberglass is not noted for it's bullet-proof tendencies. I don't care what gun you have at that point, it's over.

  2. Excellent points, all. Everything comes down to the situation at hand – and situational awareness. Running away to live another day is usually the best option if you're not trained to fight. And even if you are, you really don't want to fight from a position of weakness (i.e.: being overmatched). However, I'm a big believer in making myself a less attractive target, and if going in armed accomplishes that, then so be it.

  3. As a theoretical exercise, let's assume a professional tournament style bass boat. Two fishermen, 300 hp Merc engine, center console. You're going want to stay on this side of the border, obviously. And have a plan.

    Multiple boats approaching? Drop both poles (inside or outside of the boat is unimportant at this point). One (pre-chosen) partner fires up the engine and the other lifts anchor (rarely used in this situation) or pulls up trolling motor. You should be moving before the first boat reaches the 100 yd mark from you.

    At which point the non-driving partner grabs a carbine, stays in the rear of the boat, lays down covering fire and yells steering direction (jink left, right, etc.). You want a carbine, small caliber, high capacity. Stopping power is secondary to capacity. Fewer mag changes in a high speed jinking boat is a good thing.

    At which point I'll also add, accuracy is secondary to the ability to lay covering fire. Don't plan on hitting very much in a high speed boat chase. And you'll want something that, worse case, can be thrown in the water and left behind. So leave the $2500 match grade at home. So I'm thinking:

    M1 carbine or clone

    SKS or AK clone, el cheapo

    9 mm carbine (generic, several on market)

    Each fisherman should have a personal carry pistol. But this would be a last resort if the run to safety fails. A stainless steel 12 gauge pump backup gun would also be good, but again, only if running to safety fails.

    And yes, I live in Texas and this one struck close to home. I don't fish much, but both my brothers have salt water rigs. Things are getting worse.

  4. Now THAT sounds like a well-reasoned, well-thought-out plan. My dad used to have a captain's license to take people 50 miles out into the Gulf, anywhere from Brownsville, TX to the Florida Coast. (He wanted to get into shrimping for fun and profit. Go figure.) I can remember meeting some pretty shady characters as a kid, around New Iberia, LA – seems that the Cajuns did a bit of drug smuggling – and it would have been all too easy to stumble upon the wrong guys at the wrong time. (That's a time-honored tradition – smuggling, that is – in South Louisiana. See: Laffitte, Jean and Youx, Dominque, in your history books, circa 1812.)

    I'm a big believer in self-defense, and it strikes me that going out on the water near the Mexican border is (in this day and age) kinda askin' for it. A plan – really almost ANY plan + situational awareness has got to be better than "hoping a disaster doesn't occur" – which seems to be the ops plan of most people.


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