A recent festival in the neighboring town of Bucerias gave me a good excuse to fire off some expired parachute flares. Nobody will notice them with all the fireworks going off right? To my surprise they gathered a big crowd on the beach when I started firing them in rapid sequence (after the main fireworks were all over). Lots of Mexicans wanted to know where to buy them - but were disappointed that they cost over 800 pesos each!
Comet SOLAS flares - 4 flares
Expiry date 7/2013
2 flares fired and 2 failed to fire at all. 50% success rate
nice molded hand grip, simple operation, fairly skinny
Ikaros SOLAS flares - 2 flares
Expiry date 9/2014
both flares fired, but one of the red flares was a lot dimmer than a proper flare. 50%+ rate?
bit chunky, and method of firing is a bit harder to figure out, though the direction on the side is clear enough. Lots of backblast (Comet had none). If fired from inside a liferaft it would have filled the raft with smoke for a few minutes I think.
Conclusions: Based on these very limited tests I'd pick Comet flares in the future mostly due to size, simple operation, and no backblast.