Speargun Basics – What You Need To Know
If you are just getting into spearfishing you may have a few questions about spearguns and how they work. Fortunately, they are no overly complicated tools. There will be variations in different manufacturers designs, but the basic construction is pretty similar. We will cover some speargun basics and go over some of the common questions we get from people just getting into spearfishing.
What is a Speargun?
A speargun is any tube shaped item that holds a spear shaft which is propelled by stored energy that is released with some type of trigger mechanism for use underwater. That stored energy can be from pulling back bands that connect to the spear shaft through notches bin the spear shaft. The energy can also be stored through pushing a spear shaft through a pneumatic tube into a trigger mechanism. They work by storing this energy safely and by being able to release the spear shaft to be shot at a fish at the right time.
Are Spearguns Illegal?
Every country has their own laws. Within some countries different regions may have even more specific restrictions. The short answer is that you need to check in your area to find out if spearguns are legal. Most states in the United States are open to spearfishing. The Bahamas and Bermuda have outlawed them, but allow pole spears and Hawaiian slings.
Is a Speargun a Firearm?
No! Spearguns are powered by latex rubber bands or pressurized air. Firearms are powered by an explosion of a propellent that causes large amounts of pressure in a restricted space facing a small projectile through a narrow space. Don’t go through your local airport shouting that you have a speargun. The general public is not overly aware of the differences. So while traveling it may be best to refer to your gear as “fishing equipment”, unless you feel like filling out a lot of paperwork and getting some interesting questions from security and the airline. Many people ask about a spear rifle. This is a confused term. Rifles are firearms with a rifled barrel designed to spin the bullet as it passes through a barrel to increase accuracy at range. The short ranges of spearguns makes rifling is unnecessary.
Can You Use One Out Of The Water?
No! Can you physically load a speargun and fire it out of the water? You can if you are an idiot. Spearguns are designed to be used in an environment with water resistance. That water resistance helps with recoil and reduces the range of the spear shaft. That water resistance also helps by increasing the spear shaft’s accuracy. DO NOT FIRE SPEARGUNS OUT OF THE WATER. For more information on speargun safety please read this blog post.
What is The Best All Around Length?
There is no perfect length for all diving everything. It is a continuous effort that many builders have been trying to create from the beginning. There are good general lengths that cover most diving. As you get further into spearfishing you will find that the right tool for the job makes a big difference. You will end up collecting quite a few as time goes by. For more information on picking the right gun length for your diving check out this post as a speargun length guide.
What is The Difference Between a Speargun and a Harpoon Gun?
We already went over what a speargun is earlier. You mount Harpoon Guns to the deck of a boat. It fires a harpoon in order to retrieve large fish, like Tunas and Billfish. Some of the biggest differences are that harpoon guns are used from out of the water shoot into the water. You shoot spearguns in the water at fish that are also in the water.
There are a wide range of prices on the market. You get what you pay for with spearguns. There are plenty of inexpensive ones on the market, but make sure you you are getting a quality gun for the price. A cheap speargun may end up costing you more long term that the right purchase from the start. The cost of regular repair and maintenance can quickly get you ‘cheap’ speargun over the price of a quality Rob Allen or Amero very quickly. Most spearguns will cost between $260 up to well over $1000 depending on the type and quality you are looking for. There are even some spearguns on the market for well over $3000.
What is a Speargun’s Range?
Band stretch distance determines range. Most will shoot between two to three times the distance from the back of the band slot to the notch where the bands connect to the spear shaft. Roller guns are the exception to this rule, because the starting point of the bands is different. For more information check out this post on how roller spearguns work. Range is important for some spearfishing, but it shouldn’t b e the only thing you look for in your speargun. That means you need enough power to send the spear shaft through the fish. You also have to make sure you don’t overpower your speargun. Overpowering the speargun will c use major inaccuracy in your shots.
Speargun Safety – The Basics
Why Speargun Safety is Important
Spearfishing is one of the most fun sports you can participate in. That being said, there are risks involved. Speargun safety is one of the most fundamental aspects of preventing spearfishing accidents. New divers always think that their greatest risks are from sharks or other environmental issues, but the reality is your greatest risks come from other divers. Every few months there seems to be a diver that is shot with their own or another divers speargun. There are a couple rules you can impose on yourself that will prevent any problems with this.
The Basic Rules
- Never load a speargun out of the water
- Do not fire a speargun out of water
- Never point a speargun at anything you do not want to kill
- Keep you finger away from the trigger until you are ready to shoot
- Know what is behind your target
- Ensure there are not tangles in your rigging
- Never rely on the speargun safety
A Better Breakdown
Here is a more in depth breakdown of why these rules are so important.
Use Out of The Water
Never load or fire a speargun out of the water. Spearguns need water resistance to function properly. The amount of force stored in the bands is capable of shooting a spear up to 20 feet underwater. These same bands out of the water can launch these spears over 200 feet. There is no safe way to control that kind of shot.
Speargun Safety Compared to Firearm Safety
Most of the other rules are taken from basic firearm safety, but the same rules apply with spearguns. It stands to reason that you can’t shoot your buddy if you never point your speargun at them. That means never pulling the trigger of a fish directly between you and your buddy. Accidentally hitting you dive buddy with a spear is much less likely if you keep your finger away from the trigger until you are ready to shoot. That being said, The trigger can get caught on tons of things in the underwater environment. Be aware of your surroundings and maintain control of your speargun, especially if it is loaded.
Speargun Specific Considerations
Tangles in the shooting lines and bands are a major concern. This can be catastrophic because of the amount of force involved and extremely dangerous to all the divers in the vicinity. Always load your speargun properly.
The last key element is to never rely on your spearguns safety. Speargun safeties are notorious for failing. Many custom gun builder do not even bother installing them into their spearguns because they can be so frustrating.
Freediving Safety – The Buddy System and Spearfishing
In all underwater sport it is a safe practice to participate in the buddy system. Two or three divers helping one another is significantly safer than an individual diving on their own. The buddy system improves dramatically when you communicate expectations of buddies in the water ahead of time. If done correctly, the buddy system can even help your group land more fish.
How the Buddy System Saves Lives
The most important reason to use the Buddy System is the fact that is can and does save lives. The greatest risk that free divers and spearos face while diving is shallow water blackout. If you are unfamiliar with this term you should take a freediving course to educate yourself on the risks of freediving. Almost all shallow water blackout incidents occur at the surface or within 15 feet of the surface. That means an attentive dive buddy can prevent almost all potential shallow water blackout fatalities if they know how to act in this emergency. Again, if you haven’t already you should take a freediving course to learn the skills necessary to save yourself or your dive buddy.
Implementing and Improving It
Any group of friends is going to have different strategies in their given dive location. There can be mixed skill levels, or separate goals in any given group. Communicating expectations before you get in the water is a valuable practice.
Two Up, One Down Method
Some groups prefer to use the Two Up, One Down method in place which allows someone to always be underwater. As the name implies, you have one diver conducting a dive. The second person is acting as the dive safety and doing their breath-up. The third diver is conducting their recovery after their last dive. This is a good system to implement in a group of newer divers, or if the group is diving in deeper water where you may need longer recovery times.
One Up, One Down Method
The One Up, One Down Method is also popular. It allows for a smaller amount of diver pressure in the chosen dive site. This does require both divers to act as more attentive dive buddies and to multi-task a little more. To do this method properly the safety needs to stay at the surface with the recovering diver for a minimum of 30 seconds to ensure the diver does not blackout. This is a better practice for shallower water, where you have shorter recovery times. A proper timing device makes this method even safer. It is helpful to have some type of dive computer to make sure you and your dive buddy are doing proper recoveries.
How the Buddy System Helps Land More Fish
If you thin, about spearfishing as a group activity, as you should, working as a team helps land more fish. There are countless examples of how working as a team does this, but we will touch on a few common situations.
It is very common for a diver to take a long shot on a fish at the end of their dive. It is not always the best practice, but sometimes it’s the shot you get. These shots often turn into a fish that goes into a rock, or ledge, or inside whatever structure is nearby. If you are diving by yourself (Don’t do that) you have to come to the surface and do a long breath-up before you can safely dive back down. In that time the fish can work its way off the spear shaft or get taxed by another creature. If your dive buddy is right there on the surface they can help pull your fish out of the rock for you. You owe them one hell of a thank you afterwards because they just used one of their dives to help you, but that’s what good buddies do.
Sharks and Other Creatures
If you take the previous situation but you add sharks or other animals that want to take your fish you can have some challenges if you are by yourself. A good buddy can help fend off these tax collectors by putting themselves between the animal and your fish. Typically acting aggressively towards these animals helps keep them at bay. It is far from a guarantee, but it does usually help land the fish. There is significant risk involved in putting yourself between a predator and a potential food source. This is not a paragraph recommending this method, it is just explaining something some divers do.
Blister Prevention on Multi-Day Dive Trips
Blisters while freediving are often not a consideration for most divers, until they become a big problem. It makes sense that putting large amounts of force from kicking on our feet can cause blisters. The long fins that Freedivers use can compound this problem. There are a couple important ways to ensure blister prevention while freediving, and we will be going over some of those strategies in this post.
Booties – Blister Prevention while Freediving
Dive booties help prevent blisters and fill in your freedive fin foot pocket. They can also help on long walks to and from your dive site. Booties prevent blisters by adding an extra padded, protective layer, between your foot and the sometimes abrasive rubber of a foot pocket. A good neoprene bootie will help keep your feet safe from the environment around you. That can be anything from an underwater rock, to shells walking along the beach. Booties are the single biggest piece of equipment that can prevent blisters from diving. Make sure to always have a spare pair of dive booties in your dive bag to prevent skipping a day of diving, or ruining your week or month. If you have particularly sensitive feet you should consider wearing a thicker neoprene bootie.
Properly Fitting Foot Pockets
After dive booties, properly fitting foot pockets are critical to blister prevention. Foot pockets for freedive fins should be like an extension of your foot. They should be snug, but not tight. If you foot can easily move back and forward in the foot pocket they are too loose and can likely cause blisters. Make sure to get a comfortable pair of foot pockets that fit your foot well. If you are having a hard time finding a good pair of foot pockets that fit you, another good option is to use a pair of Fin Keepers to hold the foot pocket to your foot better.
Know When to Get Out of The Water
It is amazing how quickly your feet can go from completely normal to looking like ground beef. If you are on a multi day trip it ic critical to make sure you are taking care of yourself. That means staying hydrated, cleaning your wetsuit, and taking care of your feet! One of the toughest calls you can make on a trip is to know when to get out of the water. If you forgot your booties up in your room, just stay out of the water for a day. It is brutal to miss a day, but it beats missing the rest of the trip and having to heal up for over a month with major foot injuries. We speak from experience when we say it is not fun to spend more time than necessary in 3rd world clinics trying to pick up antibiotics for blood poisoning.
Storing Floatlines – The Struggle of Storage for Easy Deployment
Storing floatlines is always a struggle, and one of the big problems with using floatlines at all. Over the years we have come up with several means to help make storing floatlines easier. The biggest factors come down to space, storage space, and travel conditions.
Bait Sorting Basket or Bucket
One of the best ways to store a floatline is in a bait sorting basket. This works well on boats with plenty of deck space. The best way to store it is to rig up your floatline to your speargun first. Then from the speargun side of the floatline flake out the line into the basket. From there you can attach your float to the other side of the floatline. To deploy you floatline you just need to put your float into the water and let the current do its work. The floatline should deploy tangle-free almost every time.
The other benefit to the sorting basket is that it doubles for all of your equipment storage. It also has the benefit of draining well. If you have a wash basin after your trip you can basically just dunk the entire basket and be packed for the next trip. A 5 gallon bucket has similar functionality, bud does not drain well (usually). It does have the benefit of being useful in other, traditional ways.
Figure-Eight With A Floatline Hook
If storage and deck space are limited you can use a stick after you wrap up the floatline in a figure-eight. The figure-eight prevents loops from getting tangled within the next loop of the floatline. It is not as effective as just flaking out the floatline in a limited space, but it does work.
The floatline hook can be placed in a fishing rod holder or hooked onto a railing or Bimini . It keeps the floatline out of the way while moving spots. You should make sure the figure eight is long enough that part of the floatline is resting on the deck of the boat. This keeps the figure-eight loops form unwinding into regular loops that can easily tangle. This is also a great way to transport your floatline in a bag. It prevent major tangles while traveling domestically, or internationally. It helps keep your floatline organized in your duffle or travel bag.
Figure-Eight On A Speargun
This is a good way to manage a floatline while shore diving. You can prepare this method form the comfort of your home. You essentially use your speargun as a rigid stick you make a figure-eight using the spear shaft and unloaded bands, the body of the speargun, and the handle to keep the floatline organized. No method is prefect, and is has its drawbacks. The biggest is that your floatline and speargun are not ready to be used as soon as you get in the water. You need to undo the figure eight manually, and gradually while you are in the water, This does not present and issue, until there are fish all around you as soon as you get in the water. This method of storage is highly discouraged for diving off of a boat for this specific reason.
A Giant Tangled Mess
Anther option is to accept the giant tangled mess that is a floatline. This method is not recommended for several reasons. The biggest reason is that it can prevent you from landing big fish. This can be from the amount of time you waste trying to fix it in the water, or from actually shooting a nice fish and the resistance of a knot causing too much back pressure. Either way it is frustrating when it happens.
The other reason to try and keep it organized is to prolong the life of your equipment. Knots in a line are a natural weak point in any line. If you have a bunch of knots in your floatline it can compromise the integrity of the product.
The last concern is a tangled mess of a floatline should be your biggest concern. The risk of entangling yourself and drowning. You should be wary of any large loops in the water. If a large fish suddenly takes off and you are entangled in your floatline you have a real risk of drowning. Always keep safe in the water.
How Frequently You Should Replace a Wetsuit
There are several factors that can dictate how frequently you should replace a wetsuit. We will go over several of those considerations, as well as ways to extend the life of your suit. The biggest factor is the amount of use the it sees. After that the age is a big consideration. One of the biggest impacts on how long a wetsuit lasts is how it is cared for.
Frequency of Wetsuit Use
Easily the biggest impact of how well a wetsuit works is how frequently the suit is used. Neoprene is a rubber that has small air pockets within it to help insulate a diver. The more frequently a wetsuit is used the more these bubbles get compressed and destroyed. These bubbles are what helps insulate the diver, more so than the rubber. If you are diving multiple times a week all year long your suit will compress, and be less effective sooner than if you only were diving once or twice a month. You can see how the amount you dive can dramatically impact how long your suit will last and how frequently you will need a new one. If you are diving multiple times a week you will likely need to replace your suit every year or two.
The Age of the Suit
Even if you don’t use your wetsuit very frequently it still breaks down over time. The neoprene is a rubber, and it stiffens with age. Every once in a while you may have to buy a suit for a trip to somewhere cold. That suit may only get used every year or two, but it will still start to become less effective after a few years. Other than the neoprene getting stiffer, another factor in this is that these suits are held together by glue and stitching. That glue has a shelf life and will break down before the rest of the wetsuit. Even with effective stitching you will get water intrusion that makes the suit feel colder. Even if you take perfect care of your suit, they tend to loose effectiveness within about five years from when they were manufactured.
Extending the Life Of your Wetsuit Through Proper Care
Taking proper care of a wetsuit can dramatically increase the life of it. One of the reasons wetsuits can loose their ability to keep a diver warm is from not being washed. We mentioned before that neoprene keeps a diver warm by having air pockets encased in rubber. Those air bubbles can become clogged with your skin cells, sweat, urine, and debris. As these air pockets get saturated with all of this they loose effectiveness to insulate you. Using wetsuit shampoo and cleaner and properly washing and drying your wetsuit cleans out these air pockets and extends the life of the wetsuit. DO NOT USE DISH DETERGENT. Any type of de-greasing soap will harm your wetsuit. Wetsuits are made of rubber, which is a petroleum product. If you use de-greasing detergent on your wetsuit it will start to fall apart.
Quantum Stealth Wetsuits Product Review
The Neptonics Quantum Stealth Wetsuits are top of the line elite wetsuits. The camouflage pattern blends into any dive environment. The design of the suit ensures comfort, flexibility, and function.
The Neptonics Quantum Stealth Suit is made with Yamamoto #39 Neoprene. It is easily the warmest and stretchiest neoprene on the market. The outside of the suit is made with 10 oz 4-way stretch Lycra. These two materials make the best combination of flexibility and durability on the market. You do have to be a little careful with the interior of the wetsuit. It can be a little delicate when it comes to tearing from fingernails. Wetsuit glue fixes these small cuts with easy, to ensure a long life for your suit.
Wetsuit Camouflage Pattern
Most freedive spearfishing suits have some type of camouflage. The Quantum Stealth camouflage pattern allows divers to break up their silhouette in any dive environment. This includes both bluewater as well as reef spearfishing.
Wetsuit Comfort Features
This suit has some amazing features built into it. This make it one of the most comfortable suits on the market. The wetsuit has articulated knees, elbows, hip, neck, and shoulders. Those combined with the face, wrist, and ankle seals allow for mobility, flexibility and warmth. The loading pad on the suits totals to a 10mm loading pad, which is more than other suit on the market. This ensures the most comfortable chest loading possible. Additionally, the suit has a vented hood to help with equalization issues.
All of the suits have an integrated powerhead pocket. Additionally, the wetsuit has a built in safety whistle in the shoulder of the suit for getting the attention of nearby boats. The next piece of safety equipment is the integrated knife push with magnetic closure to prevent entanglements.
Changing Rigging and Tackle in Spearfishing
One of the key elements to landing big fish is to make sure your equipment is in pristine condition and that means changing rigging and hardware. That does not mean you need to change every piece of gear you own for every single dive trip. It does mean you should keep track of the condition of your dive gear and replace it well before it breaks. It is not the two pound snapper that is going to test your dive gear, but the big fish that are what we all hope we will see out there that will put your dive gear to the test.
Changing Rigging and Hardware
There are pieces of equipment that need to be replaced periodically. Any metal that is exposed to salt water should be given careful consideration, especially before big trips. The idea of spending thousands of dollars to travel to a foreign country, in addition to thousands of dollars on spearguns, shafts, slip tips, floats, floatlines, and bungees, and then having a trip ruined because you didn’t want to spend the money to replace a rusty tuna clip, shackle, or swivel. It is worth the 10 minutes and a few dollars to change rigging and hardware out on your float, floatline, or to replace your floatline adaptor.
Shooting line can be a very sore subject for many divers. If you dive a lot in your home town, your shooting line probably looks terrible. All divers have a tendency to become complacent with their shooting line, but it is one of the most important elements to landing your catch. Old shooting line is often freed, which reduces its strength. If you use monofilament, the crimps corrode over time once exposed to water. This also reduces the strength of the line’s ability to hold tension. Stainless steel cable rusts. If you are diving several times a week this is a gradual reduction that you don’t notice. The problem comes in when a big, strong fish, tests your equipment. That is when the shooting line breaks.Save yourself the trouble and change rigging and hardware, like your shooting line and crimps.
Most experienced divers share the opinion that it is important to tune your flopper shafts. It is true that a properly tuned flopper shaft helps land fish. If you are unfamiliar with what the term ‘tuning a flopper shaft’ means, we mean tightening the flopped on the spear. This is done to the point that once the flopper if forced open it remains open until forced down manually. Tuning a flopper is somewhat delicate and precise. If you over tighten the flopper it will not deploy on the other side of the fish. If the flopper is too loose the fish can struggle and the flopper can close and pull out of the fish. The best way to do this is to use a small ball peen hammer. Put the shaft and flopper on a hard surface and to make small adjustments until it is just right.
Getting Into Freediving For Cheap
Freediving can be a very expensive hobby. With that being said, there are plenty of high quality, low budget options to get you started. Here are some easy ways to stay within you budget for a new hobby. Additionally, we have some recommendations for gear and training you shouldn’t compromise on. This is a simple guide on getting into freediving for cheap while staying safe.
Mask and Snorkel
Masks are an important piece of equipment you should prioritize. That does not mean it has to be super expensive. Your mask needs to fit well and be comfortable. Comfort should be your number one priority. There are few feelings that will make you want to call your dive day early than your mask pushing in on your forehead in an uncomfortable way. Make sure to try out your mask in a shop. Try to push it into your face and see where it will put pressure on your face as you go deeper underwater. Snorkels, on the other hand, can be on the cheeper side. There are nicer snorkels on the market, and they can be worth the money, but overall a simple snorkel works well.
Fins are the only piece of freedive gear the you can spend more money on that increases performance. Plastic fins are the least expensive fins on the market. They are the lowest performing fins, but they are the most durable. If you are just starting out plastic fins are a great option for getting into the sport. If you find that freediving is your favorite hobby you will eventually upgrade to carbon fiber fins. You can re-use some foot pockets with other blades.
Weight Belt and Lead
The difference between high quality and a cheeper weight belts comes down to the stretchiness of the rubber or silicone. Stretchiness doesn’t sound that important until you start diving deeper. A higher quality belt will conform to your body as you dive deeper and your lungs compress. Nylon weight belts will stay the same size and can fall up around your ribcage as you dive down.
Wetsuits can be a big investment when you are first getting into freediving. There are some great, top of the line wetsuits on the market. With that comes a bigger price tag. There are other, less expensive wetsuits available as well. These suits tend to be of a lower quality, but still do the job. If you buy a high quality wetsuit you are buying a suit that will keep you warmer for longer. They also tend to be stretchier and have better durability.
The biggest factor on buying a wetsuit should probably be the amount of time you spend diving. If you are in the water a few times a week you may want to spring for the better wetsuit. If you are only diving a few times a year you can probably deal with less comfort for the time you are in the water and buy a less expensive wetsuit.
It is easily one of the biggest expenses in getting into freediving. Training is also one of the most important investments you can make. An introductory freediving class will certainly help you learn the basics of freediving, but the real benefit comes form the safety techniques and strategies you learn in the class. There has been a massive increase in freedive instructors over the past few years as the sport has grown. There are good instructors and bad instructors. Do your research, make sure they are working through and accredited and insured training agency. Part of that increases the cost of your instruction, but it also insures they are teaching to a standard.
Getting Into Freediving For Cheap – A Review
Some of the big takeaways from this post are that you should find a comfortable mask rather than a cheap or expensive mask. You can keep your snorkel simple rather than expensive. Fins can improve your performance, but starting out plastic fins work fine. A freediving weight belt is important, but you don’t need to break the bank on a weight belt starting out. Wetsuits can be expensive, but can be worth it depending on how much time you are spending in the water. And last, but certainly not least, freedive training is very important and you should invest your time and money in quality instruction through a certifying agency.
Stay safe out there and have fun!
Getting Into Spearfishing for Cheap
Once you have the basic freediving equipment you may be wondering about the best way to get into spearfishing. There are countless options on the market with a wide range of price points. Every diver has different goals, and those goals should help determine your priorities. Spearfishing adds a new element to freediving, and the minimum required equipment does not have to break your bank account.
Spearguns For Getting Into Spearfishing
The most popular method of harvesting fish is by using a speargun. There are countless options of different spearguns on the market. The trick is to find the right speargun for you. Once you have figured out the type of speargun that suits your needs it comes down to finding the right speargun for the value. If you are new to the sport and want to figure out if you will enjoy the sport you may want to look a Euro style rail spearguns. They tend to be less expensive, but some brands are less durable. If you know that spearfishing is your sport you may want to spring for a more durable speargun. Going a little more expensive can save you from buying more spearguns than you need. It comes down to the ‘Buy Once, Cry Once’ idea when making important purchases.
Pole spears used to be the cheap way of getting into the sport and getting better at hunting. Now there are several high quality pole spears on the market that are more expensive than some spearguns. These pole spears have similar range and more power than some smaller spearguns. You can still find a few inexpensive pole spears on the market for starting out, but you will quickly outgrow them. The cheap pole spears are still great options for people still getting comfortable in the water, or kids just getting into spearfishing.
There are some accessories in spearfishing you can save some money on. For example, you don’t need a super expensive dive light. The nice thing about not using a dive light is that you won’t even see the fish you are missing in holes and under ledges. If you are not great at picking up at satirical wording, I am saying you probably want a dive light if you hunt reef fish. Other than safety equipment like knives and gloves, most accessories are designed to just make your life easier. So if you life your life to be a little more comfortable there are tons of accessories on the market for you. If you want to spearfish with the minimum equipment you better be tough. Just remember to maintain all of your safety equipment at a minimum. Being frugal is one thing, but your safety should always your top priority.