If the #1 most frequently asked question relates to storms we've encountered, the #2 question is “Do you carry guns aboard?” And the response is “No”. Our answer is usually met with raised eyebrows and a bit of disbelief. “Well, you're Americans. We thought for sure you'd have guns!”
The question of guns aboard is a topic of discussion between fellow cruisers, too. After discussing weather, destinations and boat problems, firearms aboard usually creeps into the conversation. Some folks think it's necessary; others disagree. Most cruiser we know, American and otherwise, do not carry guns aboard. We have several reasons for not carrying firearms.
First of all, unless the pirates are small time amateurs, they'd probably have us outgunned. If they threaten with guns and hold us at gunpoint, we might have a chance of getting out alive unless we draw guns, too. If we're outnumbered and outgunned from the start, our chances diminish significantly. We'll either have our own weapons used against us or be shot for resisting. If the pirates are small time operators, they've probably got knives and we'll take our chances with the machetes we have aboard.
There are also practical reasons for not carrying guns aboard. Most countries do not allow firearms to be brought into their country. One of the requirements of entry is to declare all guns aboard. Firearms are usually confiscated and kept by the authorities until the boat departs. If the boat moves from port to port as we'd usually do while cruising, the guns are left at the first entry port. It is the owner's responsibility to pay for transport of the guns by proper authorities from one port to another OR the boat must return to the original entry port. Easy, if it's a small country, but a bit more difficult in Australia or South Africa. By the way, most yachts are robbed or boarded while in marinas or at anchor. Since most countries confiscate firearms, the guns would not be available when you needed them.
All that said, we do carry a flare gun aboard. Most countries will allow a flare gun if the boat is foreign-registered and it is allowed in their home country. We think there would be some slim possibility of using a flare gun against an attacker. Some countries do not even allow flare guns aboard and they, too, must be declared and will be held until departure.
There is an exception to our no-gun philosophy and that would be any trip to the high northern latitudes where wildlife (and I'm talking polar bears) might be an issue. Most cruisers we know that have ventured to the Arctic have carried shotguns aboard, primarily to deter big, dangerous critters from boarding uninvited.
So far, so good. We've never needed a gun for protection in our 16 years aboard and hopefully, never will.