Speargun selection is one of the most hotly debated topics on spearfishing forums. Fortunately, there are many great brands nowadays – such as Wong, AB Biller, Riffe, Hammerhead, Cressi, SEAC, Mares, Rob Allen, Koah, Mako, JBL, and more.
Over the last century, spearfishing equipment has evolved from very simple muscle-powered slings and polespears, made with wood and rubber bands, to the modern-day spearguns equipped with a trigger mechanism and more exotic materials. Interestingly, slings and polespear are making a comeback—but that’s a topic for another month—so let’s concentrate on how to select a modern-day speargun.
If you walk into your local dive shop, you will notice there are two main categories of band-powered spearguns: the American style, usually recognized by the wood stock, and the Eurogun, which has a tubular shaped barrel and a rear handle. The Eurogun originated in Europe where most spearfishing is freedive-only, fairly deep, and for small, easily spooked fish. Hence these spearguns have a low-profile, streamlined design and thinner shafts. If you are diving in similar conditions, the Eurogun style might be for you. On the other hand, if you want a sturdy, durable and easy-to-load gun that will handle bigger fish, you might lean toward the American/wood-style gun. This is also the style used for big powerful tuna guns because they can be ballasted and accommodate up to six bands. There’s also a hybrid design, which incorporates the best elements of both with wood stock in the back and a carbon fiber tube in the front.
Once you’ve chosen between styles, the next question is the length. Most Eurogun sizes are 90 to 160 centimeters, and most American guns are between 36 and 65 inches. So, with the conversion from centimeters to inches, they have pretty much the same length range. If you are diving in low visibility or hunting in rocks like they have in California or Rhode Island, you would choose a shorter gun. If you are hunting spooky fish in clear waters like mutton snappers in Florida, you would opt for a longer gun. If you are just getting started and expect to dive in variable visibility, 130 centimeters or 50 inches would be a good medium length for an all-around reef gun.
Here are some additional tips:
- Join a local spearfishing club and learn from the more experienced people. Observe what equipment they use and ask for advice.
- Shop at a dive store that caters to spearfishing. They carry more choices and have experienced personnel to help you choose. These include Austin’s in Miami, Florida; Freedivers in Palm Beach, FL; James & Josephs in San Diego, California; Freedive Shop in Sacramento, CA. and more.
- Check out the custom-gun builders. There are some high-quality builders who will work with you directly, give you advice, and design it to your specs—such as Wong Spearguns from Hawaii or Sea Sniper from California.
Most importantly, you should pick a style that suits you and the conditions you dive in. Chances are you will get hooked and add more spearguns to your arsenal in the future!
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