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I’ve got to be honest, I knew next to nothing about pneumatic spearguns until recently. I was not completely uninterested but I must admit that I thought they were substandard and not really worth a serious spearfisherman’s consideration. My mind was about to be changed!
Grant Laidlaw, a Scottish spearo spent some time with me and Turbo recently and changed my perception by sharing his experience with us about changing from conventional rubber banded spearguns to pneumatic powered. Here are a few of the things I learned along the way as well as some recommendations for those who want to try pneumatics.
How pneumatic spearguns work
Fundamentally they are the same shaped design as a conventional speargun. The gun has an outer barrel that is usually 40mm in diameter. Inside that you have an internal 11-13 mm barrel that has a piston in it. To load the gun you actually push the shaft back into the piston thereby compressing the air into a sealed container. They operate at pressures anywhere from 15-30 bar. Loading them can be a challenge (you will see lots of negative comments about them on forums because of this), but Grant says that it’s not unlike the challenge of loading a longer rubber banded gun, he says its more about technique than anything else.
Learning to aim a pneumatic speargun
Grants biggest challenge with pneumatic spearguns has been learning to aim them. If you are a spearo who sights along the barrel or use another form of gun alignment then you might have trouble as well. Grant says that your brain is always compensating for the visual cues its receiving and it takes a while to overcome this. Sticking with new technology during this adapting stage is clutch because your brain and eye will adapt and you will improve, don’t second guess yourself stick with the change!
“It’s like everything else, you’ve got to have total confidence in the (spearfishing) gear you’re using and if you find yourself thinking too much about a shot then chances are you’re probably going to miss. When I point my speargun now, I know exactly where it’s going to shoot but it took me a long while to gain that confidence”
Pneumatic speargun recoil?
There is no recoil with pneumatic spearguns. Apparently when you start shooting them this is a huge deal because it feels like the gun has no power. Grants usable range is about 7 meters though, this is in stark contrast to the reduced feedback he receives through the stock, but he (and others) claim that the power of these guns is phenomenal and underrated, particularly for reef hunting.
Loading a pneumatic speargun
Some online spearfishing forums and articles suggest that pneumatic spearguns are only practical to use in shorter barrel lengths (70-90cm apparently), beyond that some people say that they are unwieldy and too hard to load. This apparently though is not true as I will explain. The standard way many pneumatic speargun users load their gun, is to rest the handle of the gun on their foot, hold the barrel with their hand and then reach up as far as they can and push the shaft back down into the internal piston. As you can probably imagine this restricts the working length of the speargun. Again though Grants first-hand experience has taught him otherwise and he laid out a very methodical approach to loading.
Grants loading technique that he uses with his Sporasub 115cm goes something like this.
Basically he grabs the gun in the middle with his left hand. He puts the spear in and then puts the speargun between his knees, curls his body up and pulls the spear down. He says that if you get the basic technique down you could load any size pneumatic speargun.
He did share a cautionary tale about increasing the internal pressure of the barrel until it was impossible to load, perhaps others do this regularly and this is another reason why they have difficulty loading their pneumatic spearguns. Apparently there is no need to overpower them though as the standard pressures are more than powerful enough to propel the spear over maximum ranges. If you have the strength to grip the gun then you can load it he says.
Fallacy No#1 Pneumatic Spearguns are Noisey
The noise of a wet barrelled pneumatic being fired is comparable to a shotgun being fired. Thankfully many pneumatics come fitted with a dry barrel. With a dry barrel fitted the noise is almost completely eradicated. For the older pneumatic spearguns you can convert your speargun to a dry barrel using one of these conversion kits. After listening to Grant Laidlaw’s stories I think a dry barrel sounds essential. More power, less noise and you’ll definitely spook less fish.
Fallacy No#2 Pneumatic Spearguns lose power at depth.
Grant says that on paper people might be able to demonstrate that pneumatics can lose power due to increased pressure however in the real world that difference does not translate when shooting fish.
Fallacy No#3 It takes 5 minutes to reload a pneumatic speargun
Grant boasts a 40 second reload time! He knows due to monitoring his dive watch in the midst of taking a few fish out of the same school. Grant claims the whole reloading process is easy with the pneumatic speargun but like all things it might take a few sessions to get your technique down.
So between the loading technique, adjusting to the aiming requirements, understanding the practical power and range there are a definitely a few hurdles to overcome however pneumatic spearguns sound pretty cool. My mind has changed towards them and I’m not completely in the dark, this is one of the great things about talking to spearo’s from all over the world. Check out all the interviews on iTunes or Stitcher (Android) for free!
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Isaac ‘Shrek’ Daly