The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


Required guns on planes, Soviet shotguns in space


A stream in Girdwood, Alaska, just outside Anchorage, in 2014. (Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)

From Alaska Stats. 2.35.110, as it existed from 1949 to 2001:

Except as hereinafter provided, no airman shall make a flight with any aircraft within the Territory unless emergency equipment is carried as hereinafter set forth:
The minimum equipment to be carried during the summer months is as follows:
Food for each occupant sufficient to sustain life for two weeks.
One axe or hatchet.
One first aid kit.
One pistol, revolver, shotgun or rifle, and ammunition for same.
One small gill net, and an assortment of tackle such as hooks, flies, lines, sinkers etc.
One Knife.
Two small boxes of matches.
One mosquito headnet for each occupant.
Two small signalling devices such as colored smoke bombs, railroad fusees, or Very pistol shells, in sealed metal containers.
In addition to the above, the following must be carried as minimum equipment from October 15 to April 1 of each year:
One pair snowshoes.
One sleeping bag.
One wool blanket for each occupant over four.
Provided, however, that operators of multi-engine aircraft licensed to carry more than fifteen passengers need carry only the food, mosquito nets and signalling equipment at all times other than the period from October 15 to April 1 of each year, when two sleeping bags, and one blanket for every two passengers shall also be carried.

The current version updates things a bit, among other things removing the gun requirement and the gill net requirement, allowing a "fire starter" instead of the matches, allowing "equivalent[s]" to the wool blankets, and requiring only one week's worth of food rather than two weeks' worth.

Likewise, James Simpson (Medium) wrote in 2015 that "Soviet cosmonauts carried a shotgun into space":

Having a gun inside a thin-walled spacecraft filled with oxygen sounds crazy, but the Soviets had their reasons. Much of Russia is desolate wilderness. A single mishap during descent could strand cosmonauts in the middle of nowhere.

In March 1965, cosmonaut Alexey Leonov landed a mechanically-faulty Voskhod space capsule in the snowy forests of the western Urals … 600 miles from his planned landing site.

For protection, Leonov had a nine-millimeter pistol. He feared the bears and wolves that prowled the forest—though he never encountered any. But the fear stayed with him. Later in his career, he made sure the Soviet military provided all its cosmonauts with a survival weapon.

Thanks to Joseph Horton for the pointer on the Soviet shotgun story.