Within bright orange cases, Distress Pistols can be found and have been the saving grace of many a lone survivor in The Long Dark. It's the most consistent weapon in the game, even on harder difficulties like Interloper, and it's guaranteed to exist in every run.
The benefit of the Distress Pistol is that it's the only thing that will stop a charging bear or moose every time, and three Flare Shells will outright kill a moose. Every other animal in the game will bleed out, and will sometimes retain the Flare Shell somewhere on their bodies. This makes tracking the corpse much easier – just follow the smoke. If fired onto the floor, all animals will avoid the Flare Shell, giving it a wide 30m berth. The downside is it needs to be reloaded after every use, which can be time-consuming in the heat of the moment.
7 Timberwolf Mountain
Possibly the most famous spawn location, inside the Tail Section of the plane at the top of Timberwolf Mountain the player can find the Distress Pistol case. Within the airplane are plenty of wooden crates to break down and use as firewood while you decide how to get the loot down the mountain. There are a couple of spots the case can spawn, one being behind the crates at the back of the plane. Near the cliff, where the plane was torn apart, a case can spawn at a lower level and requires some very careful climbing to reach.
There tend to be six to eight Flare Shells at the summit, guaranteed to be the most in one place. On an interloper run, this is a high-priority spot to check early on for this reason, as no other weapon spawns at this difficulty. It's worth the loss of condition to ensure surviving your next wildlife run-in.
6 The Ravine
The second guaranteed Distress Pistol spawn is at the bottom of a ravine. This is in the Ravine transition zone between Coastal Highway and Mystery Lake. Here the player might spot the passenger railcar that tragically fell to the basin during the great earthquakes.
Locate the specific rock near the hanging train, but bring a Mountaineering Rope as one isn't provided. Once deployed, climb down into the basin and walk along the frozen creek to loot the railcar. This spot tends to have the second-highest number of Flare Shells, with up to six being available to those who make the trek down. The Ravine region has no predators, but there is very little shelter, along with deadly drops. Not a good area if you have a fear of heights.
5 Bleak Inlet
The final map to always spawn a Distress Pistol, the Fallen Lighthouse on the most southern point of Bleak Inlet. Once you've run past the packs of Timberwolves and skipped across thin ice, you'll get to an isolated island with great views all around. At the top of what's left of the staircase, you will find a Distress Pistol case with a few Flare Shells provided inside. If you have a flare for the dramatic feel free to fire a shell off into the ocean from the top of the lighthouse. This is a very lonely area of a lonely game.
From here on, there are no guaranteed Flare Shells, but there's a very low possibility of finding them in containers around the world. They are not available to craft, so use them wisely.
4 Ash Canyon
One of the few remnants of humans that existed in this wild region is the burnt-out campfires surrounded by loot left behind. Coming into Ash Canyon from Timberwolf Mountain, you will emerge at Pillar's Footrest, a plateau beneath the tall mountain. Heading directly north and uphill will lead to a partial cave shelter and one of the abandoned campfires. There is a very small chance of finding a Distress Pistol and some ammo lying in the snow.
There may also be a hatchet, a knife, and some food that was forgotten, so it's worth checking if you're running dangerously low on Flare Shells. In fact, there are stashes of canned food and matches hidden all over this region, so check behind trees and in rock crevices often.
3 Keeper's Pass North
Another transition zone with a possible Distress Pistol connects to the region added in episode four, Blackrock, and is a bit of a trek to get to. After traversing Keeper's Pass South, connected to Pleasant Valley's the Long Curve, the path is difficult to lose, as it snakes between cliffs in a frozen gully with not much to explore. The only building down here is the Forester's Hermitage, a derelict house with a working stove and very little shelter.
After crossing the rickety bridge over the river and coming to a real road, turn right and head towards the collapsed train tunnel. This will require skirting along the cliff face to reach a climbing area, so bring a Mountaineering Rope with you as one may not spawn, and jump even further down the pass. Along the river bed will be a cave, providing better shelter than the Hermitage, as well as a stick bed and a bright orange distress case.
2 Hushed River Valley
If you're desperate, or have run out of things to do on a long run, check the corpses in Hushed River Valley. There are no man-made buildings here, but people who came before would regularly shelter in the many caves, and that's where their frozen bodies will be. Particular spots to look out for include the Valley Cave, near the Little Bear and Cub Falls. You'll go past the Twin Sisters Falls too, so keep an eye out for rainbows on sunny days.
Following the mountain right and climbing two ropes, you will come across Monolith Lake, and climbing the hill covered in Reishi Mushrooms nearby you'll find Peak Cave, with another possible Pistol. Finally, on your way out of this region is the Lonely Cave. It's reached by crossing a tree trunk bridge that can be seen from the entrance to Hushed River Valley. This is the last place a survivor is likely to find a Distress Pistol.
The rules change when it comes to two challenges in particular (what's the difference between feats and challenges?), and the usual distribution of Distress Pistols and Flare Shells doesn't apply. The Hunted Part One revolves around escaping the bear up on Skeeter's Ridge and making your way to the Trapper's Cabin in Mystery Lake. Within the basement where the challenge begins, you will find a Distress Pistol and Flare Shells, this is to scare the bear away throughout the challenge, giving you precious time to get further ahead.
The Hopeless Rescue challenge is based entirely on getting the Distress Pistol from Timberwolf Summit to the Lonely Lighthouse and firing it within seven days. The game is set up in a way to force you to climb to the Tail Section, as no other Distress Pistols will spawn. The weather for this challenge is pretty lenient, but the wildlife is still hostile and there's no grace period at the start of the run.
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