Spearfishing is one of the oldest forms of fishing, dating back to more than 16,000 years ago. Early spear fishers used harpoons or barbed poles to catch their prey, and this method is still used today. In 1947, Gerges Beuchat of France invented the first elastic band-propelled speargun, revolutionizing the sport. Later, new types were invented, including ones that used compressed air, carbon dioxide, and even gunpowder for spear propulsion.

Today, there are two types of spearguns that are widely used: pneumatic (which means driven by compressed air) and band-powered. Elastic band, or rail powered, guns are the most popular choice for many divers.

What Is a Speargun?

A speargun can be generally defined as an underwater fishing device used to launch a barbed spear with the power of compressed air or elastic bands. Spearguns have evolved over the years, and two main types have emerged as the leaders in the marketplace. Below we will further explore and explain these two popular types of spearguns.

Components of a Speargun

Pneumatic, or Air-Powered Spearguns

Elastic, or Rail-Powered Guns

Who Needs a Speargun?

Diver holding a speargun and getting ready to swim underwater

Image by OMNA Inc from Pixabay

 Let's face it, fish don't always bite when we use a hook and line. Diving and exploring is a blast. With spearfishing, it won't matter if the fish has just eaten a school of sardines, you can still catch him. Spearfishing is not always possible, with low visibility conditions being the main barrier to fishing a body of water, If mixed with stiff currents, diving and spearfishing can be extremely dangerous. Proper safety measures should always be taken, and a dive buddy is essential for safety

Buying the Right Gun

Let's explore three speargun categories you will encounter as your shop by calling out their main features and possible downsides.

Euro Style

  • Used for small fish
  • Thin shafts
  • Easily damaged if used on large fish
  • Thin barrels

Rail Guns

  • Similar to Euro gun for larger fish
  • Thick shafts
  • Thick barrels
  • Guided rail shafts for accuracy


  • Reliable
  • Powerful for large species
  • Thick shafts
  • Hold multiple bands
  • Lack maneuverability

Common Speargun Setups

Line Rig

Speed Rig

Break-away Rig

Reel on Gun

Essential Gear for Spearfishing

Having all the proper gear before going diving is essential for a pleasant, safe and bountiful spearing trip. When the proper gear is used, you increase your chances of a successful trip. Here is a short list of gear vital to have on your next spearfishing adventure:

  • Your choice of one or more spearguns!
  • Wetsuit
  • Weight belt
  • Gloves
  • Knife
  • Fish stringer
  • Snorkel and dive mask
  • Diver-down flag

Always Check Regulations

Diver holding a speargun while swimming under the sea

Photo by Mohamed Ahzam on Unsplash

Always be sure to check your local regulations before spearfishing. Many jurisdictions require a license and some areas outright ban the sport. In the U.S., the most common restriction is on in-shore spearfishing. In almost all fishing areas, there is a bag limit on the daily amount of fish you can take. This may also include size limits which will require you to assess the fish before pulling the trigger. These regulations help ensure a lasting sport for us all, so it is critical to observe them and spearfish safely.

Try Before You Buy

Many dive shops double as rental shops. Call around to your local shops and see if they will rent spear guns, or if they know of any local fishermen that would be willing to rent one out. By getting a handle on what the fishermen in your area are using, you can decide what size gun will best suit you. This also allows you to realize the limitations you may have with the sport. Often divers immediately want to catch the biggest fish ever, so they go out and buy the biggest speargun money can buy... only to get home and realize they're not quite strong enough to even load that gun.

A good way to get your feet wet is to purchase a Hawaiian sling spear or a pole spear. They are inexpensive, sometimes costing only $20, and will help you get a grasp of the sport before you drop that $400 gun to the murky depths. The pole spear can be a great way to learn safety and give you the chance to find some great fishing spots.

When going on your first trip, remember to be patient and try to relax. A rapid heart rate will make you unable to hold your breath for an extended period of time, and speed is not the ticket in this sport. You can't become a successful spearfisher by trying to chase down fish. This is an ambush sport, and it requires you to blend in with your environment and let the fish come to you.


The speargun market is flooded with a sea of manufacturers and brands. Your choice of the right gun will depend on the region you live in and the species you will be pursuing. If you are diving around reefs, a 130cm gun is probably unnecessary. On the other hand, a 50cm gun in open blue water, pursuing pelagic species such as tuna, will not do the job. Big fish require big guns and multiple bands. The best way to decide on the right gun is to spend some money on fish charters and learn from people that have been spearfishing for some time. They will have great advice for you.

Featured Photo by Mohamed Ahzam on Unsplash

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