Speargun: Understand this Key Piece of Spearfishing Gear

speargun everything you need to know

The first time I held a speargun in my hands I felt invincible. It was a big step up from the pole spear I’d been using to go spearfishing, and it took my game to a whole new level.

But I also made a few mistakes.

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Speargun: Understand this Key Piece of Spearfishing Gear

To be honest, I was only 15 and I didn’t really know squat about spearguns.

To make matters worse, the internet wasn’t around back then to do any research. I just had to take the word of the pro in my local dive shop.

Being totally fair, he sold me a great speargun, but it wasn’t quite right for me.

It was too short for the kind of spearfishing I was doing. So, my range suffered. And to make matters worse, the muzzle would accept a maximum of two 13mm bands, so I couldn’t even overpower the rubbers for an extra boost to my shots.

I grew out of the speargun in a single season. I’ve still got it, but it’s gone unused the last 30 years. Hanging on a wall in my garage, waiting for one of my girls to need their first speargun.

My hope with this post is to stop this happening to you.

In this guide I will explain everything I’ve learned about spearguns after a lifetime in the water, so you know the right questions to ask and the right features to demand. So you end up buying the perfect speargun, that will last you season after season.

spearfishing in deeper water with speargun


The history of spearfishing

People have been using spears for hunting for thousands of years.

Poseidon, god of the sea carries a trident. There’s a cave in Southern France with paintings of harpooned seals from over 16,000 years ago.

The bible makes mention of fish spears in Job 41:7, and the Greek historian Oppian of Corycus details fishing techniques that include the use of spears and tridents.

This kind of spearfishing typically happened in the shallows.

Across the Americas native people would use fire and tridents to flush out bullfrogs and carp.

hand spear catching fish


One of my favorite memories as a child was a camping trip we did to a remote part of Southern Australia.

Along the flooded banks of the Murray River we noticed hundreds and hundreds of European carp (a highly invasive species, so much so that it’s illegal to put a caught carp back in the water, you will be fined if you’re seen doing so), trapped in a series of ponds.

My dad helped me to fashion crude harpoons to catch the fish, and I spent hours laughing, falling and eventually succeeding in catching a few of the fish.

Traditional methods work.

But as technology progressed, so too did the sport of spearfishing.

Instead of needing shallow water and a harpoon, advancements in diving equipment created the opportunity for modern spearfishing to emerge.

It was in the early 1920s along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea that things started to really snowball. As hunters pushed the bounds of breath-hold spearfishing we got some of the biggest innovations in spearfishing history.

  • Swimming goggles were replaced with diving masks.
  • Fins emerged to help speed through the water.
  • Snorkels were designed to help the hunters keep their heads under.

The Italians even created a novel rebreather system, in the 1930s, to help them spear more fish. But that’s not the coolest part. Their innovations sparked an interest from the Italian Navy, who used similar technology to launch their elite frogman unit.

The British and United States navies soon followed, eventually deploying these teams in World War II. This technology formed the foundation for the modern scuba diver.

In the 1960s there was a failed attempt to get spearfishing listed as an official Olympic sport. Despite the setback, two organizations were formed.

speargun world record fish 2017
Source: 2017 Fish of the Year – Nikki Watt – Black Marlin – Tanthra Australia

Both of these organizations aim to promote the safe, ethical and sportsmanlike spearfishing practices to ensure environmentally sustainable practices in spearfishing, and that any world record fish are caught under fair conditions.

These days the sport of spearfishing continues to evolve, with competitions, communities and an ever-evolving set of tools to help you become the best underwater hunter you can be. There’s nothing quite like spearfishing.

The sport has really taken off.


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What is a speargun used for?

Your speargun has a single purpose. To help you spear a fish.

Of course, it’s not the only tool for the job. You could always choose a pole spear, or a Hawaiian sling, as these are cheaper options for a beginner learning how to spear fish.

But I’d recommend sticking to a speargun.

You’ll have a shorter learning curve, get a greater range when you’re spearfishing, and you’ll be able to focus your attention on the hunt.

Which is important when you’re just starting out. You’ve got a thousand different things to look at, a thousand different things to learn, and a thousand other things that can go wrong.

If you want to make it as easy as possible to get in the water and shoot a fish.

Get a speargun.

Are spearguns safe to use?

A speargun is a piece of equipment that’s been specifically designed to help you spear fish.

It’s a weapon.

A weapon that launches a metal spear with a surprising amount of force.

In the right hands, a speargun is completely safe.

But it’s also up to the user. If you search for spearfishing accidents you’ll find no shortage of divers who have accidentally shot their friends or themselves with their spearguns.

speargun accident
Source: Spearfishing World

The trick is to be sensible, and treat your speargun with care.

Much like a firearm, don’t ever point your speargun at anything you’re not intending to shoot. Misfires can happen, often with tragic consequences.

I’d also recommend keeping the safety switch ON until you’re ready to take a shot. It takes a couple of seconds off your reaction time, but it greatly reduces the chance you press the trigger accidentally when it’s locked in place.

Finally, think about your target before you fire. If you’re shooting into a cave or against a rock wall, make sure there’s enough space. Firing too close to a solid object can cause the spear to warp and bend, or send it bouncing back at you.

Also, I shouldn’t need to say this, but never load (or fire) your speargun out of the water. They’re designed to work underwater, and firing on land will send your spear flying, only to hit the end of your shooting line and have it bounce back at you lightning fast.

Don’t do this.

How much does a speargun cost?

Perhaps a better question would be, how much are you willing to spend?

Spearguns vary greatly in price and quality, with options starting under a hundred dollars ranging to upwards of a thousand. Yes, it does vary that much.

Unless you’ve got a budget in mind, it can be easy to overspend when you’re buying a speargun. And that’s not good.

One of the keys to finding the right speargun is to set a budget, then find the best setup within that price range. Of course, the more you spend will get you a higher quality model, that if well-cared for will last you much longer than a cheap speargun.

And better spearguns will also be easier to use, shoot more accurately, and you’ll catch way more fish. So, don’t cheap out too much when you’re buying a speargun.

The different types of speargun

When it all comes down to it a speargun isn’t an extremely complicated piece of spearfishing gear. In fact, there are really only two types of speargun.

Pneumatic Speargun


spearfishing pneumatic speargun

The power in a pneumatic speargun comes from compressed air. Within the speargun there is a chamber to store the air, and a piston that compresses as you load the spear.

Short pneumatic spearguns are easy to use, as you shove the shaft into the chamber the piston compresses as it “clicks” into place. Though this gets more difficult as the spearguns get bigger, you’ll need more force to push the shaft in to reload.

Pneumatic spearguns will hold anywhere from 15 to 30 bar of compressed air, which is typically enough for about 20 to 30 shots before you need to pump up the gun again. I’ve found this is usually quite enough for a good day spearfishing in the water.

The advantage of a pneumatic speargun is the speed to reload. They’re faster to get armed again, and are generally a pretty reliable option for spearfishing.

The downside is a pneumatic speargun won’t usually float, so you’re going to want to hang onto it after you’ve fired. Or connect it to your float line.

If you’re spearfishing in shallow reefs, low visibility, or anywhere with tight spaces, a pneumatic speargun is a good choice. Pound for pound, a small pneumatic speargun will often have more power than a band powered speargun.

If you’d like to read more we’ve reviewed the best pneumatic spearguns here.

Band speargun

speargun with band

The power in a band speargun comes from the rubber bands used to fire the shaft. This type of speargun functions a little like a slingshot mixed with a crossbow.

Where band spearguns really excel is once they start getting longer.

I’m talking a meter or more.

Because you’re able to use two, three or even four or five rubber bands to arm the speargun, loading a massive amount of power onto every shot.

This gives banded spearguns a massive power advantage.

And is the reason why they are the speargun of choice for spearfishing bigger fish when you need range, shaft speed and deadly accuracy.

The downside is they’re a little more cumbersome to load. Especially once you’ve got multiple bands. First, you’ve got to click the shaft into place and thread the shooting line. Then you’ve got to stretch out each band and secure it into place.

But that’s a small thing. Most spearo’s will use band spearguns because of the significant power advantage they offer. It’s an opportunity to catch more fish.

But not all banded spearguns are the same.

There’s a few different styles.


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European speargun

European spearguns are built to be sleek and slim.

They’re often produced in smaller sizes making them easy to maneuver through the water and track your fish.

Their shafts are thinner, and so are the bands. European-style spearguns are lighter, easy to load, and very easy to use.

Brands like Riffe, Beuchat, Cressi and Sea Sniper make great Euro spearguns.

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American speargun

American spearguns are designed for power.

These are the guns you’ll see with big thick barrel stock, often made from wood, to allow for more pressure to be loaded onto the speargun.

These spearguns usually come standard with two or more bands, and thicker shafts.

In the water American spearguns are heavier but more durable, and are easily able to take down bigger fish without concern you’ll damage the shaft.

Brands like AB Biller, JBL, Mako make great American spearguns.

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Railgun speargun

Railguns are like the bastard son of a European speargun.

These spearguns tend to crop up in South Africa and Australia, where spearos have taken inspiration from the sleek and slim designs of the Euro speargun, but they’ve upgraded it with a metal rail to add strength to the barrel.

This allows for thicker shafts to be fitted, and more powerful bands than you’d normally find on a Euro speargun.

Perfect for hunting blue water pelagic fish.

Brands like Rob Allen, Mako, Torelli, and Undersee Australia make great railguns.

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Roller speargun

Roller spearguns are a novel innovation in spearfishing.

Instead of the bands being mounted to the front of the speargun, they attach underneath.

Two “rollers” sit either side of the muzzle, that guide the rubbers around a pulley-type system before they wrap around and click into place to load the speargun.

In a normal band speargun, you’re only getting acceleration in the shaft until the rubber fully contracts.

So, the last 25 to 30 percent of length in your spear doesn’t get any additional thrust, because the band is already slack.

A roller speargun doesn’t have this loss, because there’s still tension in the bands, allowing you to get maximum force into every shot.

It’s like the compound bow of spearfishing. Smaller, with a massive amount of force.

Brands like Omer, Rob Allen and KOAH make great roller spearguns.

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The only downsides to band spearguns is the bands wear out.

Over time you will need to replace these as they will crack and break, but that’s not really a problem because replacement bands are cheap, and it’s relatively easy to swap your bands over.

Hang on, what speargun brands should I be looking at?

Much like everything in life, not all brands are created equal.

Spearguns follow the same logic. There’s cheaper brands offering better priced spearguns, and of course the more premium brands that create top-of-the-line spearguns.

I’ve used my fair share of different brands, and have put hundreds of different spearguns to the test. And there’s a few brands that you should be looking for.


Building on the founder’s love for spearfishing, Riffe has become one of the most prominent speargun brands. They’re also the makers of one of my favorite spearguns, the Riffe Euro. Jay Riffe started the company after spotting a need for highly maneuverable spearguns that didn’t sacrifice on power. He also went on to set three world records using the spearguns he created. Needless to say, you’re in good hands with a Riffe speargun.

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Rob Allen

After his passion for spearfishing grew chasing some of the world’s biggest fish up and down the coast of Africa, Rob Allen saw a gap in the market. The equipment on offer just didn’t do the job. So, he started tweaking, adjusting and improving different spearguns in his garage, which ultimately led to the creation of Rob Allen spearguns. To this day Rob Allen creates some of the most rugged, hardcore spearguns that will stand up to a fight against a big tuna or a massive wahoo.

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Mako Spearguns

Now I may cop a little flak for including Mako in the list, but it’s important you know your options when buying a speargun. Mako serve a different need in the market, producing cost-effective spearfishing gear you can use to get started. Without dropping hundreds of dollars on spearfishing gear and equipment. Plus, they’ve got one of the best customer service teams in the industry, bar none. For an entry-level speargun you can’t go wrong with the Predator Pro 3G.

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AB Biller

Another maker of entry-level speargun, I’m a big fan of AB Biller because they make a decent quality speargun without the hefty price tag you find in some of the other spearfishing brands. They’re all American, and whilst they’ve built spearguns for many state and national spearfishing champions, it’s their entry-level spearguns that stand out. I’m a big fan of the AB Biller Stainless Steel Pro. It’s a solid gun to start spearfishing with.

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Cressi is one of the oldest spearfishing companies around, and they’ve since expanded into providing gear for all types of water sports. Formed in 1946 in Italy, this spearfishing brand was right there as some of the biggest innovations in spearfishing were made, including the pneumatic speargun, optical dive masks and more. They know what’s what when it comes to spearfishing, and if you’re looking for a quick little gun the Cherokee is a great buy.

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Hammerhead Spearguns

Kevin Sakuda started Hammerhead Spearguns in Hawaii as the spearguns on the market were too noisy for his commercial fishing needs. The team at Hammerhead are one of the first to use the open muzzle design, and they make damn good spearguns. Right now I can’t get over the Evolution 2, it’s also been independently rated as one of the most accurate spearguns on the market.

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Mares Spearguns

Another Italian brand, Mares has become one of the world’s biggest brands manufacturing dive and scuba equipment. But where Mares really excel is their pneumatic spearguns. If you’re looking for an option that isn’t a typical band speargun, I can highly recommend the Mares Cyrano Evo. It’s the best pneumatic speargun I’ve ever had my hands on.

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Right, now on to all the different features.

The speargun muzzle

Let’s start with the front of the gun. There’s two different variations here.

Open muzzle design, and closed muzzle design.

open muzzle speargun


What I like about the open muzzle, is you get a clear line of sight, all the way down the shaft of the spear to help you aim and target a fish.

Some people say this makes these types of spearguns more accurate, but there’s a downside. You have to wrap a line over the shaft in order to lock it in place. The trouble in rough surf is that the line can come loose (along with your shaft) and it’s a bit more challenging to load.

closed muzzle speargun

Closed muzzle design is the opposite.

You’ll be able to spot this as there will be a circular hole the shaft of the speargun threads through.

Personally, I find closed muzzle designs easier to load, as you just have to get the shaft in the hole, then pull it through to click into the trigger housing in the handle. Easy.

And it’s much more secure, I’ve never had the shaft come loose either, which is definitely preferable if you’re diving in rough water.

You’ll also notice that there’s a few different ways that the bands connect.

speargun band differences

Some spearguns have screw-in connectors that sit parallel to the shaft. These are called threaded bands, and may often have another set of threads that connect it to the wishbone (the piece of metal that clips the band into the shaft).

These bands remain on the speargun, and can be a bit of a bugger to change. And they also need to be the same length either side to ensure your shaft doesn’t pull to the left (or right) when you shoot.

The most common setup is for a speargun to have a hole that accepts a circular band. There may (or may not) be a gap which you can use to swap out the bands quickly, but this isn’t always the case.

Depending on the size of the speargun the hole may accept more than one band (having space for two is rather common). Personally, I prefer these over the threaded bands because they’re simpler, have fewer failure points, and can be swapped out easily.


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The types of band

Right. Now comes the bands.

The most common thicknesses are 14mm (9/16″) and 16mm (5/8″) but you can also get up to extra-large 20mm bands for blue water spearguns.

Most spearguns will fit 16mm bands as standard.

Of course, the shorter the bands you use the more force this will transfer into the shaft when you fire. But there’s a balance.

You still need to be able to load the speargun in the water. Cut your bands too short and you’ll struggle to load your speargun. But leave them too long and you’ll be sacrificing the power in your shots.

The “right” length is obviously hard to judge, as it will depend on the size of your speargun, your upper body strength, and the technique you’re using to load your speargun.

But for a rough guideline, grab a measuring tape and record how far it is from the muzzle to the notch in your shaft. This is important.

What you’re aiming for is that the band is stretch anywhere from 300 to 380 percent when it’s loaded. Perhaps less if you’ve got less upper body strength.

To achieve a 300% stretch (i.e. 3x) you would use:

  • 90cm from muzzle to notch would require a 30cm rubber for 300% stretch.
  • 120cm from muzzle to notch would require a 40cm rubber for 300% stretch.

And so on.

If you’re stronger and looking for more power, you could use:

  • 90cm from muzzle to notch would require a 23.6cm rubber for a 380% stretch
  • 120cm from muzzle to notch would require a 31.6cm rubber for a 380% stretch.

All I’m doing is taking the distance from the muzzle to notch, dividing it by the stretch percentage I’m after, then multiplying it by 100.

As an example, using a 90cm distance for 380% stretch:

  • ( 90 cm / 380 ) * 100 = 23.6 cm

You can use this for any muzzle to notch length to work out the right band lengths for your speargun.

Just make sure you do some testing to ensure you will be able to load it.

The bands wishbone

Next, you’re going to see the wishbones.

This is the piece of gear that holds the rubbers together.

It’s also the part of the band that “clips” into the notches in the shaft in order to load the gun.

It’s called the wishbone.

You’ve got a few options for speargun wishbones.

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The solid wire wishbone is what most spearguns come shipped with. They’ll last virtually forever. They can pinch your fingers though when you load it, so you need to be careful. Sometimes these come with flexible wire cable instead, which is almost as long lasting, and you’ll notice once it starts to fray and be replaced.

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The hinged wishbone is composed of three pieces of metal, helping the bands to stay as flush as possible to the shaft so it fires true.

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Finally, you’ve got what I use.

The Dyneema wishbone. It’s essentially just a tiny piece of cord that connects the bands.

It’s silent as there’s no metal on metal rattle, and after experimenting with all four different wishbones I can tell you this is the safest to load, and gives you the cleanest shots. It will wear through, and you will need to replace it eventually.

The speargun barrel

The barrel of your speargun is one of the most structurally important pieces.

It’s what gives your speargun the ability to stay straight once it’s loaded, but it can also provide a guide for your shaft to fly straight and true.

round barrel speargun

The simplest barrel design is a plain old bit of round tubing. Most likely created from aluminum, this is what you’ll find on most entry-level spearguns.

The trouble is that the round tube won’t provide much guidance at all for your spear, so you may notice a plastic bit of support sitting halfway along the barrel.

This is to help guide your spear just a little.

Next comes your integrated rails. With these types of barrels, you’ll spot the tell-tale groove running along the top of the barrel.

wooden speargun barrel integrated rail

The shaft sits within the groove, so it doesn’t rattle around while you’re spearfishing, and once you pull the trigger it’s like a runway ensuring a nice, straight shot. Once you start chasing bigger fish and shooting further distances, an integrated rail is a good feature to have on your speargun.

It also strengthens the barrel so you can use more powerful bands without concern the barrel will bend.

Despite not being round, wooden spearguns will usually have their own version of an integrated rail, with a groove carved into the top to better guide the shaft. Personally, I’m a big fan of beautiful wooden barrels, there’s just nothing else like them, especially once you start looking into big blue water spearguns.

There’s also models of spearguns that contain what’s known as an enclosed track. This is a more severe form of rail, as it covers the majority of your shaft to help guide it with a lot of accuracy. The downside is your shafts will need to be deadly straight, if you happen to bend one even slightly it’s not going to fit in your speargun anymore.

Finally, you’ve got the cuttlefish design. Essentially just a tapered set of wings towards the front of a spearguns barrel, it helps to reduce the drag when you’re tracking a fish from left to right underwater. It also helps strengthen the barrel.

The Omer Cayman HF Camu is a good example of a speargun that has both the cuttlefish speargun shape, along with an enclosed track. It’s a damn good speargun.

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The material of the barrel

Not all spearguns are the same quality, and you’ll notice that most in the material of the barrel.

Most spearguns are metal, crafted out of an aircraft-grade aluminum that will stand up to whatever you try to throw at it in the open water.

But sturdiness isn’t always good. Plugged metal tubes create an air pocket that floats when you’re trying to spearfish, which can affect how the speargun tracks and moves underwater.

I used to always drill two small holes in the tubes, so these would flood with water. It made my spearguns heavier underwater, but I wouldn’t be fighting the buoyancy. And a little filler foam offsets this if they get too heavy.

But the added weight of the water would also help reduce the recoil you typically get on metal spearguns, so don’t fill it completely.

What you will need to watch out for is the rattle. Metal shafts, metal barrels, and all of your clips and other spearfishing gear will clank and rattle as you’re spearfishing. This can scare away your target fish, if you’re not taking care to keep it quiet.

Oh, and let’s not forget the color. Most spearguns are plain black or left silver from the metal, but many are now coating the barrels with camouflage print. It’s up to you what coloring you choose to use, personally I’m a big fan of plain old black.

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Switching to the pricier end of the spectrum are the carbon fiber spearguns. These are one of the lightest, strongest, and most hydrodynamic materials you can construct a speargun from, and they’re wonderful to use.

The carbon fiber helps dampen the sounds of your shooting, while providing one of the stiffest barrel materials you can find. This is what your most premium spearguns are made from, for a reason. They’re awesome.

And finally, you’ve got wood.

My favorite spearguns are wood, as it’s just so damn beautiful. You can get short wooden spearguns but mostly these are used for longer models.

But the wood isn’t just to look pretty.

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Once you start using four, five or more bands on a speargun the recoil gets pretty ridiculous. The heavy barrel stock of a wooden speargun helps absorb the recoil, while helping it to hold straight and true under pressure. It’s also naturally buoyant in the water, so it’s a good choice for bigger, less easy to use spearguns. The only downside is the price.

The length of your speargun

One of the most important decisions you will make is the length of your speargun.

If you’re spearfishing in shallow water, caves, or for smaller fish, you will want a shorter speargun. It makes it easy to track your fish, giving you lots of mobility in the water.

These are typically under 80cm or less, and are the equivalent of using a handgun. If you’re a complete beginner, perhaps this is the size of speargun you should be looking at.

A shorter speargun also means your shots will be less powerful, and that you’ll be less likely to bend a shaft if you do happen to hit the rocks with any force. It’s also very easy to load and maneuver underwater.

If you’re wanting more distance in your shots, you need a longer speargun. A longer speargun stretches the bands further, giving you more power in your shots. Think of this speargun like a hunting rifle. Better range, able to take down bigger fish.

Because once you start chasing bigger fish, you’re going to want a longer speargun.

My go-to these days is a 130cm model from Riffe, but anything around 100 to 110cm will give you a versatile tool to go spearfishing. Just make sure there’s space to add two bands so you can get a decent amount of power.

If you’re after blue water speargun, these beasts can be anywhere from 140 to 160cm or more, with multiple bands. This is the bazooka.

Heavy, sturdy, and capable of taking down true monsters of the deep, with special breakaway rigging setups so you’ve got no hesitation taking a once-in-a-lifetime fish.

dogtooth tuna pic speargun shot

The trigger mechanism

The firing mechanism within the handle of your speargun is one of the most important pieces of tech in the gun.

It’s what locks the shaft of the spear into place, and is the trigger that holds all of the force of the bands from misfiring. You want this to be quality, or you risk an unsafe speargun.

On cheap spearguns they will often use plastic components within the trigger mechanism. Look at the trigger, if it’s plastic, my advice would be to steer clear.

Plastic wears much faster than metal, and there will be much more “play” before you hit the sweet spot where your trigger fires the shaft.

What you want to choose is a speargun with a metal trigger.

This increases the changes the remainder of the components inside are metal, providing you with a more reliable speargun.

safety switch speargun

The safety switch

When you’re just starting out it’s good practice to use a safety switch. It’s essentially just a locking mechanism that prevents the trigger from being pressed by accident.

While your safety switch is on, you cannot shoot your speargun.

Many spearguns will also not lock the shaft in place if the safety switch isn’t activated, reducing the chances of an accident while you’re loading it.

The most common form of a safety switch is a small trigger on one side of the handle. Sometimes it’s located on the top of the handle.

I’ve even seen a few spearguns like the Cressi Cherokee which has a reversible side-safety switch, that can be operated by either your left or right hand.

But many spearos opt not to use a safety. I’ve seen spearguns where the safety switch has been intentionally removed. Other times they just leave it switched off. Because the couple of seconds you need to flick a safety off can be enough for you to miss a perfect shot.

Or a perfect fish.

Personally, I like knowing my shaft is locked in place with a safety switch, especially if I’m swimming out through a rough set of breakers or in a group with my friends.

The line release

Near to the safety switch you’ll notice another little hook.

This is the line release.

The line that connects the shaft to your speargun hooks into the line release, to hold it tight in place and out of the way while you’re spearfishing.

Inside the trigger mechanism the line release is activated when the trigger is pressed, freeing the line so the shaft can fly free.

Look at this part when you’re buying a speargun to ensure there’s enough room on the line release for two wraps of line.

Once you start overloading your speargun you’ll want two wraps of line so the shaft doesn’t come to such a sudden stop after firing.

line release speargun

The speargun handle

Considering this is the part of the speargun you’re going to spent the most time holding, it needs to be comfortable in your grip.

Don’t be shy to try it out in the store, or if you’re ordering online there’s a few things I’d recommend looking for.

The grip should be spacious enough that it’ll fit your hand when you’re wearing a pair of spearfishing gloves.

You also want a slight angle so it sits comfortably in your hand.

It should also have enough grip so you’re not going to lose your speargun fishing a fish.

Rear-handled spearguns are the most common.  It’s exactly what it sounds like, a handle sitting at the end of the speargun.

With most small to medium-sized spearguns, this is all you need, and gives you plenty of reach when you extend your arm to take a shot.

As spearguns increase in size, some brands have moved to a mid-handle design, pushing the handle towards the center of the speargun. With this setup a spearo can effectively maneuver even larger guns in the water, without straining to keep the tip up.

Another important aspect of the handle is the butt of the speargun.

Funny names aside, this is the piece of the gun you will rest against your chest, foot or hip when you’re reloading. It needs to be flat, and big enough that it won’t bruise you every time you go to reload.

The speargun shaft

The spear that loads into your speargun is known as the shaft.

At the cheapest end of the spectrum is stainless steel shafts. The trouble is, these are only suitable for shorter guns, and are prone to bending.

What you really want to find is a shaft made from spring steel.

It’s essentially just a stainless-steel shaft that’s gone through an additional heating process to add strength and help them “spring” back into shape. It takes a lot to bend one.

Or if you’ve got money to spend, you’ve got top-of-the line carbon spring-steel shafts that have gone through an oil-quenched process. These are even tougher, and is what brands like Rob Allen produce. If you’re shooting big fish, consider one of these shafts.

Now comes the thickness.

Speargun shafts typically range in thickness from 6mm to 10mm or more.

  • Thinner shafts will shoot faster, but they’re less durable.
  • Thicker shafts will shoot slower, but they’re far stronger.

On smaller spearguns you’ll expect 6 or 6.5mm shafts. Big blue water spearguns will probably have an 8 to 10mm on there.

Generally, I think you’re pretty good with a 7mm shaft. It’s what I normally use in my speargun for all-purpose spearfishing, tough enough to stand up to almost anything you’ll throw at it, yet you’re not sacrificing speed to shoot.

Now there’s two different kinds of shafts, which refer to two different ways the notch mechanism works inside the trigger.


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European shafts have a rounded notch.

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American shafts have a square notch.

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It’s important you understand which type of shaft your speargun will accept, because if you buy a replacement that is different, it will not work in your speargun.

As to which is better, well it depends what type of spearfishing you’re doing.

The Euro styled notches perform far better with thinner shafts, for smaller spearguns. The American styled notches are designed for bigger spearguns, and are better at holding more tension (i.e. less chance it’ll fail once you start adding more bands).

Finally, look at the way the bands will attach to the shaft.

The first style are notches. Like someone has cut away a piece of the shaft, it’s a small slice for your wishbone to connect into. If your shaft has these, you’re going to want a wire wishbone to protect it from the sharp edges of your shaft. They’re quite sharp.

The other style are shark fins. Aptly named because they look like a series of shark fins running along your shaft. This is the style I prefer, as it allows me to use a dyneema wishbone on my bands without worrying this will get sliced as I load my speargun.

The shaft tip

Now comes the part of shooting a fish and not letting it fall off your spear.

You need a tip for your shaft.

There’s two big variations here. Some shafts are threaded, and allow the tips to be changed out. Others have the tip built into the shaft. It’s up to you.

Personally, I prefer shafts with an inbuilt tip. It’s one less thing that can fail on my speargun.

But if you’re spearfishing in close quarters and hitting rocks on a regular basis you may want a removable tip so you can easily swap this out once it gets all beat up, without needing to replace the entire shaft.

Think about the type of spearfishing you’re doing, and choose accordingly.

Then comes the actual tip.

A single flopper is exactly what it sounds like. A couple of inches down from the pointy end of your shaft is a bit of metal that flaps around. The idea is that when the fish pulls away from you this flopper opens, so it cannot simply slide off your shaft.

Single floppers are also called Tahitian style.

A double flopper follows the same principle, but it has floppers on both sides of the shaft, making it a safer choice (there’s two potential anchors to hold your fish on).

speargun shaft tip

A breakaway tip is an extreme measure that is really only used when shooting massive sport fish. In addition to a double flopper, the tip comes loose when activated, while staying connected to your shaft with a length of wire.

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The idea is that when you’re fighting a large fish like a tuna, wahoo or a sailfish, they will beat against your shaft and can bend and damage it. With a breakaway tip the fish is fighting a length of wire cable, which is far more durable than your shaft.

Personally, I’d stick with a simple double flopper for most speargun setups.

The speargun shooting line

Now you need a way to ensure your shaft stays connected to your speargun. In almost all cases, this is what you want.

Unless you’re hunting tuna in the open ocean, where you want a breakaway rigging setup.

Your shooting line is what keeps your shaft connected.

It’s a length of cord you’ll need to wrap in place once you’ve clicked your shaft into position.

The line is usually a heavy monofilament, spectra or a braided line with a rating up to 400 to 600 pounds.

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It connects to your shaft via one of two ways.

The first is a slide ring that sits near the muzzle when the shaft is locked into place. You bring the line down to hook into the line release, wrapping back up and down again, so it secures in place. The downside is the noise, as the metal slide on your metal shaft can spook a target fish as you fire.

The other option is to attach the shooting line through a hole that is present towards the end of your shaft. This is a more advanced setup that is usually present on open muzzle guns as there’s less spots for it to become ensnared and tangle. The downside is it’s a little more cumbersome to load, and it can get tangled when you shoot.

The anchor point at the other end of your shooting line is a fixed point on your speargun, usually towards the front.

You may also notice a piece of rubber tubing on your shooting line, this is the bungee.

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You want the bungee to be a little bit stretched on the final wrap, so that there’s enough tension on your shooting line that it doesn’t simply fall off.

The bungee also helps to absorb any shock on the line if your speargun shoots the shaft to the end, or if a fish you’ve speared takes off).

Too much shock can break the line clean.

But not all spearo’s use a shooting line.

We call it free shafting.

Turning your speargun into what’s essentially an underwater crossbow. Especially when you’re spearfishing on scuba, many divers will free shaft to avoid having any excess line to get tangled in. And you’ve got more than enough air to track and follow your shafts.

This is a very common setup for commercial spearfishermen.

The speargun reel

When you want to add versatility to your speargun you should consider investing in a reel.

It acts a little like the reel on a fishing rod, in that there’s a dial to turn up the drag and a handle to wind it up. Using a speargun reel you can effectively hunt bigger fish without needing to modify to a breakaway rigging setup, by just adjusting the drag on the reel.

I almost always use a reel on my speargun.

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It works like this.

The shaft on your speargun connects to your shooting line. You wrap the first two loops around your speargun as normal, but instead of this connecting to your speargun at the end, there’s a swivel for it to connect to the reel.

This way you don’t always need to let the reel activate.

I can keep the reel’s drag tight when I’m shooting smaller reef fish, so they don’t have any slack to run if I don’t make a clean shot and stone them immediately.

But if I come across something a little bigger, the reel gives me the option to still take a shot, as I’ve got a couple of hundred feet of line to play the fish, and get back to the surface.

I just loosen the drag, dive down and take my shot. The reel can feed out and I can get a breath of air before even attempting to pull a monster fish in.

Caring for your speargun

Once you’ve invested a couple of hundred dollars in a speargun, it’s common sense you’re going to want to take care of it.

Because salt water is one of the evilest things on the planet. It gets everywhere, and you need to thoroughly wash and clean your speargun after every dive.

Use fresh water to flush everything.

If it can be detached, unscrewed or has an opening water can get in, flush it with fresh water. After every single spearfishing session.

This is to get rid of any salt build ups, then stand your speargun in a shady spot to dry.

Keep your speargun out of direct sunlight, as it’ll age the rubber bands faster.

But also, don’t leave it outside where someone can see it and potentially steal it.

Oh, and keep an eye on the rubbers.

These will need to be changed every few months if you’re diving a lot, or just eyeball the cracks and replace it once it starts to look dodgy.

If you know you’re not going to be spearfishing for a while (like during winter), you can also remove the rubber and store it in a zip lock bag in your fridge.

It’ll keep them perfect until next season.

Every now and then I’ll use a little grease inside the trigger to keep things working smooth, your speargun should have guidelines from the manufacturer that detail where to apply it.

And that’s it.

spearfishing with speargun

How to find the right speargun

Ultimately, there’s no single speargun that will suit every person.

But you can find the right speargun for you. For your skill level, the conditions you’ll be spearfishing in, and your own preferences in its setup.

Right now, I’ve got about 12 spearguns in my garage, some in serious need of repairs, with about 7 that are ready to go right now.

There is no best speargun.

But there is a perfect speargun for certain conditions.

And if you’re armed with these questions and can answer them as you’re selecting a speargun, you will buy a great piece of spearfishing gear.

  • How much are you planning to spend on your speargun?
  • Do you want a pneumatic speargun, or a speargun with bands (hint, probably a band)?
  • What style of speargun do you want, Euro, American or Railgun?
  • Is there a particular spearfishing brand you’d like to look at?
  • Do you want an open or closed muzzle design?
  • How many bands do you want on your speargun?
  • What kind of wishbone do you want to connect the bands?
  • How long do you want your speargun to be, and what kind of barrel?
  • Does the trigger mechanism contain only metal parts (no plastic)?
  • Are you comfortable using the safety switch on the speargun?
  • Does your line release have enough space for two wraps of line?
  • What kind of handle is most comfortable for you?
  • What style of shaft do you need, and how thick would you like it?
  • What style of tip do you want on your shaft?
  • Is the shooting line long enough for a double wrap, and strong enough?
  • Do you want a reel for your speargun?

I hope this guide to spearguns has helped you better understand this crucial piece of spearfishing equipment, and you’re now armed with knowledge you need to make an informed choice, before you buy.

If you’re new to the sport and have a few minutes to spare I’d recommend reading my guide that explains the fundamentals of spearfishing, and don’t miss my explanation of all the other pieces of spearfishing gear you need to get started.

And as always, you can reach me anytime to answer any questions you have on finding the perfect speargun. We’ve got a few speargun guides on the site to help you choose, but if it’s easier for you just send me a message, I always reply.

Happy spearin’


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