The first time I got my hands on a pneumatic speargun it was a pleasant surprise. I’ll admit it. I was a doubter. Growing up I always used banded spearguns, and that’s all I knew when it came to spearfishing. But once I started experimenting with pneumatic spearguns, I quickly grew to love the size-to-power ratio. They just pound. Especially for short, dirty cave guns. In this guide today, I want to share with you my pick for the best pneumatic speargun in the market, so you can buy the best.
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The Best Pneumatic Speargun | Pneumatic Speargun Buyer’s Guide
But first, I want to clarify. When we started researching this guide, we had a particular spearo in mind. You. The recreational diver, who probably gets out only two or three times a month to go spearfishing. With that in mind, we wanted to find a versatile speargun. A speargun that would hold up in both shallow dives, as well as deeper water if you’ve got the desire to start pushing out further. Our recommendation for the best pneumatic speargun fits both these needs, and is the perfect buy for those looking to try spearfishing with a pneumatic gun.
And that’s not all. As we narrowed our list of the best pneumatic spearguns we also spoke to the professionals, both spearos and those operating dive shops to hear their feedback on these underwater hunting tools. Plus we got our hands on a few of these to test firsthand. It took a ton of dives, over almost as many weekends to complete the process. But we did find the best pneumatic speargun.
Wanna know what it is?
Cressi SL Star Pneumatic Speargun
Editors Choice: Best Pneumatic Speargun
The Cressi SL Star is a staple when it comes to pneumatic spearguns. Cheap and easy to use, many spearos swear by it, but I’ve experienced a couple of small issues with it so I actually prefer the Mares Sten range at this price level. You will need to swap out the attachment that ties your shaft to the gun, as it’s plastic and prone to break. Overall, it’s an okay pneumatic speargun, and at these kinds of prices it’s a great entry-level gun if you’re looking to make a switch from a banded speargun.
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Why I think the Cressi SL Star is the best pneumatic speargun:
- Available in 40cm (16″), 55cm (24″) and 70cm (28″)
- 20 bar of pressure for massive power in your shots
- Lightweight yet highly durable to last years
- Highly accurate with a powerful setup straight out of the box
Of course, the Cressi SL Star is my recommendation for those wanting the best pneumatic speargun, but there’s a few others to consider if you’re not yet convinced.
Mares Sten Pneumatic Speargun
Runner Up: Best Pneumatic Speargun
The Mares Sten is our runner up for the best pneumatic speargun. Versions of this speargun have been around since 1967, and it remains a tried and true underwater hunting weapon to this day. What I like though is the size. Offering a model that’s just 41cm, you won’t find a better mini speargun for cave diving and tight spots. Tested in the water you’ll get about 6 foot of distance in your shots using this model, which jumps to about 10 feet for the larger 55cm model. You won’t find a better mini gun.
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Why buy the Mares Sten pneumatic speargun:
- It’s the best in class mini speargun for caves and tight dives
- The smallest size (41cm) comes with a leg holder to keep your gun handy
- Can be overloaded to 30 bar of pressure to generate powerful shots
Right. Now this is a good list of the best pneumatic spearguns, but it wouldn’t be complete without running through my thoughts on the other pneumatic spearguns we put to the test. Here’s a few more options to help you choose the best pneumatic speargun.
Mares Cyrano Evo
Hands down, the Mares Cyrano Evo is the great pneumatic speargun. Powerful straight out of the box, it was actually the first pneumatic speargun I bought, and remains one of my favorites to this day. It’s got a comfortable and easy to grip handle, and you’re able to adjust the trigger as needed to fit your preference when shooting. It’s light in the water and tracks well, while still being a tough and easy to use pneumatic speargun.
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Salvimar Predathor Vuoto / Dark Side
There’s a few key differences with the SalviMar Predathor Vuoto, namely their patented “vuoto” (or vacuum) technology that stops water from entering the barrel, so it’s easier to load. It also helps to fire the piston with a little more kick. The line release is tucked in and out of the way on the side which is a nice feature, but it only loads to 18 to 20 bar (factory) though I kicked the one we tested up to 22 and it was fine (although the accuracy dropped slightly). Personally, it’s another great buy, and if you’re looking for something a little fancy try their carbon fiber model. It’s essentially the same pneumatic speargun with a beautiful upgrade to the barrel.
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The SEAC Asso is another nice little gun, and you could do far worse when buying your first pneumatic speargun. Crafted from an aluminum alloy cylinder, it’s got a 40mm diameter and you can fit up to an 8mm shaft in. What I like is the regulator that can cut out 50 percent of the pressure if you need to make a quick, close shot, and straight out of the shop it’ll come pressurized to 20 to 25 bar giving you a decent amount of power.
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Much like the other speargun from this brand, the Asso, the SEAC Caccia is another option. Many of the technical features align between the two, but the key difference is the addition of a red rifle sight for easier targeting, along with a reduced diameter of the butt of the gun to allow for better sighting. Oh, and it caters for 7mm shafts. It’s a little less powerful than the Asso, but it’s still a decent pneumatic speargun.
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Of all of these spearguns I’d recommend putting your money into the Cressi SL Star. It’s affordably priced so you shouldn’t have to worry about your budget, while getting a great pneumatic speargun that really is best in class.
How we actually determined the best pneumatic speargun
My name is Max Kelley. I spent my childhood scouring the reefs in Australia learning to spearfish with a pole spear, before moving onto banded spearguns and pushing out into deeper water. I’ve been in the water chasing fish more than I (or my wife) would care to admit, and I’d love to share my thoughts on what makes the best pneumatic speargun.
Whether you’re heading in for a sneaky shore dive or jumping off a boat into a beautiful offshore reef, there’s a few things you need to understand about how these particular spearguns work. Because even if you’ve been spearfishing for years, it can be difficult to find the right speargun. There are new models, and different brands. Reviews to read and understand. It can be overwhelming, and I’ve definitely wasted money on my share of duds over the years.
It’s frustrating seeing a new speargun give out after only a season or two.
So that’s why I’ve put together this buying guide. To help you buy the right pneumatic speargun, so you can start catching fish, after fish, after fish. But there’s one secret I’d like to share with you. The most expensive pneumatic speargun in the store isn’t always the best pneumatic speargun.
Understand the background of pneumatic spearguns
There’s definitely a place for pneumatic spearguns in the spearfishing community, but they’re not as common as the banded models. Reason being is they tap out once you start getting to a certain size. Because of what’s needed to load them. Your strength (along with a loading device and good technique) will determine how much pressure you can use in the speargun while still being able to load it. Too much, and you won’t be able to reload.
Pneumatic spearguns are like the bulldogs of the underwater world. Short. Stocky. Often fitted with a heavy duty 8mm shaft that packs a true punch. When you’re looking at smaller sizes, they are often far more powerful than their banded brothers. The downsides are they will require more maintenance to stay operational, as they have far more complex internal mechanisms. Some will oven have a switch to change between high and low pressure, allowing you to use the same gun for both distance shots, as well as short cave shots. Oh, and they can be a little noisier to use as well.
How a pneumatic speargun works
A pneumatic speargun uses compressed air to fire a spear, using a piston to shoots your shaft out the front of the barrel once the trigger is pulled. For all intents and purposes, they look similar to any other speargun, except for the oversized barrel. These are usually about 40mm or more in diameter. Within the barrel of the speargun is an air chamber that you “pump” with a pressurized charge. These usually last for about 20 to 30 shots, before the air is spent and these need to be pressurized again.
Most pneumatic spearguns will come with a hand pump for this very purpose, or you can always have them pressurized at your local dive shop before a dive. We setup a small little compressor on our boat for this exact purpose, it’s much easier than manually re-pressurizing them by hand. All you need is an adapter to fit your particular pneumatic speargun, and an air compressor. Just be warned. You will need a high-pressure compressor to do this (i.e. one designed to fill scuba tanks). A cheap one like you use for inflating a car tire will only get you halfway. But you could always finish it off by hand.
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Considerations when buying a pneumatic speargun
Before dropping your money on the best pneumatic speargun, there’s a few things to keep in mind. But what you’ll notice when you take your first shot is the lack of a “kick” that a banded speargun provides. There’s simply no recoil with a pneumatic speargun. Which can play tricks on you too, as your brain instantly thinks that the gun sucks and lacks power. I’ve found this is simply a misconception you need to get over. Especially once you start landing fish.
The right length for a pneumatic speargun
Ultimately this is like buying any other speargun. Where you’re planning to go spearfishing will determine the barrel length you require. But with a pneumatic speargun there’s something to keep in mind. The smaller versions actually pack a far greater punch than a banded speargun of a similar size. As they get longer the difficulty in reloading increases exponentially. Personally I like using up to about a 110cm pneumatic speargun, as for my height (5’10”) it’s still easy to load with the right technique.
Loading techniques for a pneumatic speargun
Now here’s where things start to get interesting. Actually loading a pneumatic speargun can be a challenge if you’ve got the wrong technique. Because it gets damn hard as you start using longer and longer guns. Many spearos actually don’t like pneumatic spearguns because they are a little tricky to load. Trouble is, they’re using the wrong technique. Or they’ve pumping it to a pressure that makes it impossible to load. My advice is to study diagrams and actually learn the right movements before pressurizing your speargun, and then slowly working your way up to a higher and higher pressure.
If you can, find a friend who already uses a pneumatic speargun and try it out first. You’ll get an idea of the “force” needed to push the piston back into it’s ready to fire state, and you’ll be able to try the loading techniques.
Hip-loading. This works for smaller pneumatic spearguns. Place the butt of the gun on your hip, holding the barrel in place with your left hand and using your right with the loading handle to push the shaft into place.
Foot-loading. A similar technique, but this is better for long pneumatic spearguns. The butt of your speargun rests on your foot, holding the barrel in place with your left hand you then use your right with the loading handle to push the shaft into place.
Curl-loading. This is how I load my 115cm Mares Cyrano Evo, as I’m just a bit too short to make the foot-loading technique work when my speargun is highly pressurised. I tuck the barrel of the speargun between my legs, and wrap one around it to help keep it stable. My left hand holds the barrel of the gun just under the muzzle (there’s a place to grip), and my right goes to the shaft. I bring my right arm down until about my shoulder (where I cannot physically move it any further), and then I do what’s best described as an underwater sit up. Crunching in place to bring my right and left hands together and lock the shaft in place. It’s a little awkward at first, but it helps me to use a speargun that’s got far more pressure in it than if I used the other techniques, because I can use the strength in my core to help load it.
How to aim with a pneumatic speargun
Getting used to a pneumatic speargun after a lifetime of using banded models took a little getting used to. Normally I can sight my fish straight down the length of my spear, but with a pneumatic speargun you don’t really have this ability. Some of the models have compensated for this and there’s a slight angle in place, but my advice would be to simply setup a target and use the first few minutes of a hunt getting the hang of aiming your new speargun.
Don’t neglect maintenance
Finally, you need to think about the maintenance. Because there’s so many moving parts that need to work in unison, a pneumatic speargun will often break down far quicker than a banded one. The seals will go which robs your shots of power, pressure can be lost in the barrel, and a host of other issues. You’re going to need to use a mineral oil to keep the inside of your speargun lubricated (otherwise friction will start robbing your shots of power), as it’ll also help the O-rings to create a water-tight seal, and protect the inside of your pneumatic speargun from corrosion. Just don’t overdo it. A 110cm speargun will need 30 to 35ml of oil, any more and you start robbing the air chamber of space which will reduce the pressure you can load your speargun to. Instructions for how to do this and the exact amount of oil to use will have been provided with your speargun.
What’s the best pneumatic speargun for me?
Ultimately, it’s up to you. I believe the Cressi SL Star is the best pneumatic speargun, an opinion I formed after countless interviews and tests run on all of these different spearguns. It’s a solid speargun, that will serve you well doing the most important thing. Catching a fish or two for dinner.