Probably the most debated item amongst spearo’s is the guns that they use. Many divers will swear by one brand whilst other will swear AT that same brand!! What must be remembered though is that ultimately it’s not the gun, but the skill of the diver that makes him successful. So let us enter the minefield of spearguns!!
Spearguns can be classified into two distinct types, namely Pneumatic (air) guns and band guns. Each type has its own advantages and dis-advantages.
Starting off with Pneumatic (Air) guns. They’re unfortunately perceived by most spearo’s as not being a good weapon. The most often touted theories are that they are high maintenance and lose power the deeper you go. The advantage of a pneumatic gun is that it has immense power for its size. Since the Mamba kit came onto the market, it has revolutionized the pneumatic speargun market. This kit basically seals off the barrel, stopping water from entering the barrel. The piston therefore pushes out ONLY the spear and not spear and water as before. This makes the gun very powerful. Quite a few divers are now starting to use pneumatic guns and it seems like their popularity will increase.
Band guns can be further sub-divided into a myriad of categories. Let’s start off with the categories of euro guns, multiple band wooden guns and hybrids.
Euro guns were designed for the euro spearo’s who mostly hunted smaller fish. They needed a gun that is fast and very accurate. Most euro guns are fitted with a 6-6.5mm spear and a single 16mm, 18mm or 20mm band. Popular brands are Omer, Picasso, Cressi, etc A mutation of the euro guns is the South African railgun. South African divers needed a gun with more power and thicker spears for the larger fish they hunted. So 7-8mm spears were used and 2x16mm bands were used to propel the spear. To counter-act spear whip and spear wobble, a rail was added to the gun. This not only strengthens the barrel, but also makes the gun very accurate. Popular brands are Rabitech and Rob Allen spearguns.
Most euro/South African railguns are measured by barrel length and not the total length of the gun and is expressed in centimeters.
The most popular set-ups are:
16mm band with a 6.3-6.6mm spear for fish under 7 kg’s (15lb’s)
20mm band with 7mm spear for all-round use
Twin 16mm bands with 7-8mm spear for large fish
The advantage 16mm bands have over the 20mm is that it’s simply easier to load. That’s why many spearo’s use 2x16mm bands on their longer guns, as not only does it facilitate easy loading, but also give a little bit more power than a single 20mm band. That said, a single 16mm will generally be more accurate than twin 16mm bands, albeit less powerful.
What many spearo’s tend to overlook is that the effective range of a euro type speargun is roughly three times the spear length from the tip of the gun. Since you should be able to penetrate most fish at that range with a single 20mm on a euro gun, more powerful bands won’t give you additional range, but will only increase the speed of the spear, but more likely also cause spear whip or spear wobble or barrel flexing, thereby making the gun in-accurate. Consider 2x16mm bands to be the most powerful bands a euro or SA railgun type gun can handle.
Wishbones. What are they?? Well, the wishbone is what connects your spearguns bands to the spear. You get two basic types, articulated and dyneema wishbones.
Articulated wishbones are metal wishbones. They are used on the majority of euro guns. Their advantages are that they have a long life span and rarely give trouble. However, they are dangerous to your hands should they slip out of the spear notch, usually because the diver loads his gun in a hurry or incorrect loading technique. Dyneema wishbones are a soft rope type wishbone. The majority of SA Railguns are fitted with these. Very safe on the hands. The only precaution you have to take is to ensure that you use dyneema wishbone friendly spears. Should you modify your normal euro gun and fit a dyneema wishbone, you will HAVE to smooth the spear notches or else it will cut the dyneema wishbone.
Multiple band wooden guns are used when hunting larger quarry. Many divers who hunt fish is very clean waters need the additional range that a multiple band wooden gun gives them. Wood is used, as it is extremely difficult to flex the barrel. This allows the spearo to use anything from 3-8 bands (even more if needed!!), with-out the fear of barrel flex causing problems, as opposed to the maximum loading capabilities of 2x16mm bands on a railgun. Using multiple bands also allows the diver to use a thicker spear. The heavier spear has more penetrating power over a lighter spear. Because of the amount of power used, wooden guns mechanisms tend to be very much stronger than your euro gun type mechanisms. Since multiple bands are used, recoil becomes an issue. To reduce recoil, gun manufacturers make their guns heavier. How-ever, the heavy guns now start to sink due to their weight and to combat this, side stocks are fitted. Many popular gun’s also have front stocks on, which assist in keeping the muzzle flip down, as well as moving the bands so that they are more in line with the spear. Some guns, such as Daryl Wongs Blue Water guns uses an internal weight system frees the gun of these bulky side stocks. Popular wooden gun manufacturers are Riffe, Wong, Kitto and Alexander guns.
These wooden guns generally come in two configurations, rear handle and mid-handle design. The mid-handle design allows for easy tracking, whilst the rear handle guns are easier to aim with.
Most wooden guns are measured by TOTAL length of the gun and are expressed in inches.
Hybrid guns marry the best of both worlds by combining a short euro type barrel to a wooden stock. Wong Hybrid guns are regarded as one of the BEST on the market. With barrels made from titanium or carbon fiber, they offer the strength of a wooden gun trigger mechanism, coupled with the maneuverability of a euro type gun.
That just about covers the general range of guns. Now for a couple of odd-ball entrants!!
C4 Monoscocca is a full carbon fiber gun built in Italy. This gun is touted by many as the very BEST euro type gun on the market.
Totemsub is another Italian gun manufacturer, who builds wooden euro type guns. Very well built and extremely accurate guns. Another popular brand is Abellansub.
Omer has also released two guns that sport wooden barrels married to a euro type grip. Specifically the Omer Master America and the Omer Cobra.
Similarly, Picasso has also launched their version of the Picasso Pacific in a wooden barrel.
What size gun should I get?
Gun size is dependant primarily on the visibility in your area. Generally, the cleaner the water, the longer the gun. Then there are also guns that are used for very specific purposes, such as a 75cm gun that is used for hunting in caves, cracks or crevices. Here, smaller guns maneuverability gives it a great advantage over a longer gun, even though the water might be very clean. The following is just a general idea on what gun sizes you should look at. The easiest way to find the ideal gun size is to simply speak to the succesfull spearo’s in your area.
Hopefully you have now successfully navigated the minefield of spearguns and should be able to make a good decision on what type of gun and what length would be suitable for YOUR application.