Differences of Metal and Wood Banded Spearguns - Force-E Scuba Centers

Differences of Metal and Wood Banded Spearguns

  • Posted on
  • By Jim “Chiefy” Mathie
  • Posted in Scuba Tips
Differences of Metal and Wood Banded Spearguns

Let Force-E help you decide which speargun is right for you!

When it comes to selecting a speargun it’s like the time-honored expression, “so many choices, so little time.” There’s such a wide variety of spearguns, it’s sometimes overwhelming at first to make such an important decision.


Considered the “heart of the speargun,” says Josh Gregory of Neptonic Systems, the trigger mechanism allows the underwater hunter to store the energy to fire at their target, whenever they’re ready. The trigger mechanism really defines the speargun, “making it a functional weapon of the underwater hunter,” as stated in my book Catching the Spear-it, The ABC’s of Spearfishing.



The energy is either pneumatic or through bands, but there are many shapes, sizes, and brands. The pneumatic and metal-banded spearguns are typically a European origin and design while most of the wooden-banded spearguns have an Australian or American origin. This blog is intended to give you information on metal or wood-banded spearguns.


Metal-banded spearguns have come a long way since I purchased my first metal JBL speargun 35 years ago. Their basic design is a round barrel/tube made of aluminum with a muzzle holding the bands and trigger mechanism at the other end. The initial designs had the round spear shaft on top of the round barrel, but many have now advanced to having a “rail” where the round spear shaft lies and gives guidance as it’s fired. Most of these spearguns are called railguns, and their design can include filling the tube with a foam sealing material to give the speargun added buoyancy. They still have a metal-on-metal noise factor but these spearguns are accurate, inexpensive, and easy to maintain. Common manufacturers are JBL, Mares and Rob Allen, all available at Force E Scuba Centers.


Wooden-banded spearguns were introduced because of their buoyancy and fabrication was easier with more common woodworking equipment found in garages. Made of dense woods like teak or mahogany, they were initially lighter underwater then metal guns. Most of the newer designs include a channel or groove of synthetic material, like the rail in a metal speargun. Again, this allows less spear shaft whip, as it’s propelled from the speargun.


The wooden-banded spearguns are usually buoyant and gained popularity in America because of their appearance, accuracy, and power. Most of them will require occasional maintenance of their finish such as teak cleaner and oil or sanding and re-epoxying or applying polyurethane. The wood spearguns material is porous which requires refinishing versus metal spearguns that require no maintenance.


Wooden-banded spearguns don’t have that metal-on-metal noise and even one manufacturer, RIFFE, has a “silent hunter” theme. The trigger mechanism of the RIFFE is designed without any noise or metal contact. Additionally, RIFFE introduced the “open muzzle” design, allowing “shark-fins” to be added to the spear shaft and eliminating the metal wishbones in the bands. The spear shaft is held in place with the line as part of the redesigned open muzzle concept.


KOAH spearguns added a semi-enclosed track or channel to make the claim of “deadly accurate” as it combines the use of the track and open muzzle to provide “laser-sharp accuracy.” With the addition of the enclosed track, there isn’t a need to use the line to keep the spear shaft in place. The use of the open muzzle design allows the “shark fins” on the spear shaft and the track or channel makes KOAH a great all around speargun.


A common wooden-banded speargun is the AB Biller, which has a long history of dependability and reliability. JBL even makes a wooden version with similar look and design as the AB Biller.  


speargun selection

Now the big question…what speargun should I purchase?

Again, following along in my book Catching the Spear-it, The ABC’s of Spearfishing, when I asked Julie Riffe what her criteria is for speargun selection, she gave me these four elements:

  1. The type of fish you are intending to hunt.
  2. The environment where you will be hunting.
  3. The conditions where you will be stalking your target.
  4. Your versatility of usage.

Additionally, she indicated “nothing is a beginner speargun.” Just like land-based hunters who use handguns, rifles, and shotguns, they have different weapons for different targets and species. Even rod and reel fishermen have a variety of fishing rods and reels depending on the fish species and where they intend to fish.


Most of us will get a speargun that matches our everyday use for underwater hunting. As we grow in the sport and maybe expand into Bluewater hunting or our conditions and locations change, we’ll add more spearguns to our arsenal.


And just like different types of weapons, all spearguns shoot differently. Even different spearguns within the same manufacturer have a different feel or capability. Setting up spearguns with different size bands, reels or even extra shafts change the spearguns versatility.


It’s best to get comfortable with the speargun you initially select and then build from there…as I first said, “so many choices, so little time.” Stop in any of the Force E Scuba Center stores to get a feel for each speargun and assistance from our knowledgeable staff.


Jim 'Chiefy' Mathie
Jim "Chiefy" Mathie is a locally-known lobster slayer for more than 30 years and author of "Catching the Bug, The Comprehensive Guide to Catching the Florida Spiny Lobster-second edition" and “Catching the Spear-it! The ABC’s of Spearfishing.”