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.
Here’s a combination of the thoughts of BFWA divers and South African Tuna expert Ishmael “Miles” Sonday
Rubber VS Pneumatic
Most freedivers in WA use rubber powered guns.
Pneumatic guns have several shortfalls, these include:
A slightly bent shaft renders the gun unuseable.
The size of the gun a diver can load is limited to their arm span, this means much shorter spears are used compared to rubber guns, which equals less penetration power at range.
These guns are VERY noisy compared to rubber guns, not good when hunting wary species.
They can however be useful in dirty water or confined space / close range spearing as the very small models are more powerful than a similar size rubber gun.
Guns for WA
In the early 90’s European brands such as Picasso and Esclapez appeared on the Australian market
Euro guns are designed for the mostly hunting small fish. These guns are fast and very accurate. A mutation of the euro guns is the South African railgun. These guns are more power and thicker spears for larger fish are used. A single 20mm or 2x16mm bands are 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.
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 WA:
16mm band with a 6.3-6.6mm spear for fish under 7 kg’s or for junior divers.
20mm band with 7mm spear for all-round use
Twin 16mm bands with 7-8mm spear for large fish
What many divers tend to overlook is that the effective range of a railgun is roughly three times the spear length from the tip of the gun. You should be able to penetrate most fish at that range with a single 20mm. 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 railgun type gun can handle.
The most popular brands in WA would be EDGE, Aimrite, Rob Allen and Freedivers. 1.2m is a very popular all-round barrel length with 1.4 and 1.5m guns favoured by divers who regularly target pelagic species such as mackerel.
Multiple band wooden guns are used sometimes used when hunting larger species. These species are often hunted in very clear water and divers like 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!!), without the fear of barrel flex. Multiple bands will also propel a heavier, 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 euro gun type mechanisms.
With the additional force of multiple bands, recoil becomes an issue. To reduce recoil, gun manufacturers make their guns heavier. However, 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, Kesby and Alexander guns although there are a number of custom gun manufacturers who do these guns to personal specifications and it pays to “shop around”
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 manoeuvrability of a euro type gun.
The take home message is there isn't a gun that is perfect for every situation and what your dive buddy thinks is perfect may not work for you. Most serious divers end up with several guns if they hunt a variety of terrain and species. Here Adreno's Kahlee Andrews explains bigger is not always better.
Quality rubber makes a huge difference to the performance of a gun. Extensive independent testing has shown that the stored energy in a speargun rubber varies greatly between brands and even between batches, basically you get what you pay for.
All rubber will permanently stretch over time (directly related to the quality) and thus lose power, it pays to change over every 12 months or so. The best material for bridals is cord or dyneema, around 2mm thick (see making rubbers). These will not scrape the protective coating off spears nor cause injury if they happen to break. Also the speargun can be “chocked” without pain.
RIFFE make excellent 16mm rubber as does Cressi although sometimes these are difficult to find in Australia. Adreno Spearfishing has Australia's largest range of spearfishing gear including a wide range of quality rubber which can be purchased on line. Their staff are actual spearos and always helpful so give them a ring for advice on all things spearfishing.
A good quality electroplated spring steel or 17-4ph stainless spear is an essential part of a speargun.
When the trigger on a speargun is fired the back of the spear starts in motion before the front. This causes the spear to flex in the middle, before the front “catches up” and the spear returns to a straight line. This is known as “shaft whip” and can be so severe the spear snaps the muzzle on exiting the gun. Even moderate shaft whip causes inaccuracy as the spear changes direction upon exiting.
A good quality “hard” spear will flex very little compared to cheap soft spear, therefore more power can be applied to the spear without “shaft whip” becoming a problem. Obviously more power equals more range and greater hitting power.
Rob Allen and Freedivers make good 7 and 7.5mmspears for Euro and railguns while Riffe rule supreme with fin tab type spears. Another thing to look at with single flopper spears is the angle of the end of the flopper. Too much bend will cause the shaft to rapidly deviate (High if the barb is underneath the shaft, low if on top). This is a common problem with production shafts.
Two-time Australian Spearfishing Champion and Adreno staff member provides a pretty good run down on getting spears just right;
or if your ready to go browse Australia's largest range of spearguns online jump over to our good friends at Adreno
In summary a good speargun needs to be “tuned” for the right amount of power for any given shaft/rubber/barrel combo. Guns bought “off the shelf” are often not “tuned”, as seen in many magazine testing results and we recommend talking to as many experienced divers as possible BEFORE buying a gun. Better yet contact us and come for a dive so you can test drive several different guns and decide which one is best for you.