Your first speargun???

By Max Tapper

How and what to consider when you choose your first speargun.

When we start our spearfishing journey we often get overwhelmed by the volume of options available. I am going to try to give you a simple flowchart guide to help you make your choice.

To begin, what is a speargun?

A speargun is composed of a handle, a barrel and a muzzle that supports the spear.  The power to propel the spear comes from the spring of rubber bands.

Step 1

To choose the correct length of speargun you first need to determine where you’re gonna be spearing most of the time. Once you know you will be able to decide the appropriate length of your speargun -length is the measurement  of the barrel in cm- that will suit the area. For example, in dirty water we will choose a short speargun (75cm) which allows us to keep moving around fast and keep it close to us.

At the opposite end of the scale , a long gun will be an asset when spearing in clear water to get this extra distance in range as the fish may not come as close.

Step 2

You need to determine what size fish you are most likely to encounter on this dive site. This will help you decide on the power required. For example, most uk shallow water will hold fish up to 5 or 6kg then a single 16mm band might be more than enough for it. But if you venture into tropical water you may encounter fish over 20kg in 5m of water,  going for double band 16/17/18mm would then be recommended. 

However if you are struggling to load your speargun a good option could be to swap that single band 16mm for a twin 14mm set up. I have experimented with young spearos and some female spearos who were struggling to load their gun and after changing their setup to a twin 14mm band there were no problems for them to load/unload their gun without giving up any power. A usual mistake is to get a longer single band but this results in  losing a lot of power and therefore your range and accuracy will drop drastically. 

Step 3

Now we have cover the basics, let’s get into deeper details:

Barrels can be made of three different materials – Aluminium – Carbon – Wood – they all have different properties. 

Aluminium barrels are generally cheaper and will last many years,  however on long barrel lengths they might bend when loaded. Obviously this will greatly affect your accuracy. 

Carbon barrels are strong and are often the choice for middle range length (90cm to 110), they won’t bend but keep in mind they are lightweight. Most of the time this is an advantage but when loading too much power this lack of weight becomes a weakness. When firing your gun all the recoil will go through the barrel straight into your wrist. Once again it may affect accuracy.

Wood barrels are strong and feel heavy out of the water, they are often well balanced once in the water. They are prime choices for high power spearguns because their mass will absorb a great part of the recoil. The down side of these barrels is they are often thicker and wider than regular barrels which make them difficult to use when tracking is necessary or when they are used in current. They are mostly “aspetto” style spearguns.

Step 4

Understanding max range, effective range and power throughout the range is important.

I won’t go into the maths this time but as a simple rule:

Range is defined by the distance from the spear tip when loaded in the speargun to the tip of the spear once shot.

Max range is about 4 times the barrel length.

The effective range, where the power of the spear is still high enough to go through a fish, is about 3 times the barrel length. 

For example, a 75 will give you Rmax of  3m and Reffective of 2.25m

For example, a 90 will give you Rmax of  3.6m and REffective of 2.7m


 I personally advise a 75 or 90cm gun (aluminium or carbon), with a single 16mm band on a 28mm diameter barrel it allows an easy tracking in any condition of tide. With this set up I have speared along the whole south west of england. The 90cm have been my preferred choice of the two so far from the boat but my 75cm was my prime choice for shore dives. 

I use a twin 14mm set up when hunting the clear water of Cornwall to make sure I have the maximum power throughout the “effective range” of my 90. 

I voluntarily haven’t talked about rollers, invert rollers and pneumatic speargun as I think they are a bit complicated to handle as a first speargun.

As for many other things in spearfishing, keeping your set up simple is a key.


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