Spearguns powered by latex bands remain the most popular guns for undersea hunters around the world. Band-powered spear guns’ popularity has to do not only with the power and accuracy produced by the gun, but also because of the simplicity of design. Other speargun designs which are more complicated (e.g., pneumatic guns) require more maintenance and, in some cases, extra equipment, advanced technique and additional knowledge. For this reason, the band-powered speargun is often the best speargun for the beginning spearfisherman.
Speargun Parts: Barrel and Muzzle
Band-powered spearguns are fairly simple weapons. The shaft or barrel of the gun may be made of wood, aluminum or carbon fiber and typically comes in lengths ranging from 50cm (about 20 inches) to 130 cm (a little over 51 inches). The gun’s barrel is capped with a muzzle that is usually plastic (nylon) or aluminum. The muzzle holds the bands in place and may be either open or closed. For the novice, it may be helpful to know that many spearfishermen prefer open, nylon muzzles, but ultimately it often comes down to personal preference.
Speargun Parts: Handle and Butt
At the other end of the barrel from the muzzle is the handle, which is usually made from plastic and which houses the trigger mechanism. The handle looks very much like a typical gun. The best handles have a safety mechanism and a stainless steel trigger. Some guns (especially those referred to as American-style guns) have a butt that extends behind the handle away from the muzzle. The butt assists in loading the gun.
Speargun Parts: Spear
The most popular band-powered guns use spears that are 6.5mm or 7mm in diameter (9/32 inches). This is a thinner diameter than the spears commonly used on a pneumatic guns, rail guns and American-style guns. As a result, the typical band-powered gun is best suited for smaller game, as large game may bend the spear making the gun unusable. Spears come in stainless steel, hardened stainless steel or galvanized steel, with hardened stainless steel being preferred by many spearfishermen.
Speargun Parts: Bands
The power of the gun is increased by adding more bands. The bands are usually latex tubing and are joined by a device called a wishbone, which is seated in a notch on the spear when the gun is loaded. Although it takes longer to load multiple bands, no special equipment is required (unlike pneumatic guns).
The power of a band is affected by its diameter. For example, a 9/16-inch band is less powerful than a 5/8-inch band. Adding bands adds power in a one-to-one ratio (i.e. two 5/8-inch bands of 100 pounds each will result in 200 pounds of power).
Variations of Band-Powered Guns
Several variations on the standard band-powered speargun are available including the increasingly popular and highly maneuverable Euro gun and the very accurate rail gun. The American-style speargun is perhaps the apex of power and balance, although the shooting line mechanism does make it a louder gun than some of the others mentioned.
Best Speargun Brands
Choosing a brand is often a matter of personal preference, and several speargun manufacturers make band-powered spearguns that the novice hunter should consider. In particular, A.B. Biller Cressi, JBL, Omer, and Riffe all offer entry-level, band-powered spearguns that will serve the novice and advanced spearfisherman well.
For an overview on the pros and cons of both band-powered and pneumatic spearguns, click here.
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