How to Aim

How Band Power Affects Aim

I am often asked why a gun shoots a certain way or why doesn’t a gun shoot “dead on”.

There are many factors that determine how and why a speargun shoots a certain way. Let’s first consider band power.

We all would like to have a gun that shoots 25 feet and hits center mass every time. Greater band power results in greater distance, but at the expense of accuracy. Greater shaft speed means greater recoil. Recoil causes the muzzle to lift upward. When this happens, the muzzle lifts/pushes the rear end of the shaft upward as the shaft leaves the gun, causing the spear to tip downward, which results in a low shot. Some divers think that low shots mean the gun needs more power. On the contrary, low shots are remedied by using less power.

Although less power means less recoil and less muzzle lift, it also means less distance. There is a fine balance between distance and accuracy. Some bands have more punch or snap than others. The more snap, the more recoil. Softer bands generate less recoil but also less distance. It takes practice and experimenting with different band lengths and materials to yield the best result.

I’ve shot rifles competitively for over twenty years and I can tell you that no serious shooter buys a gun off the rack without trying different loads of ammo and testing. Why should a serious diver be any different? Practice makes perfect.

Aiming a Mid-Handle Speargun

Unlike a European rear-handle gun where the handle is all the way back, mid-handle and rear-handle plus positions can vary from 7 – 13.5 inches from the butt of the gun. This means you will be looking over the part of the speargun that is behind your shooting hand.

Aiming is simple. There are no sights on a speargun. Like shooting a longbow in archery, you use the tip of your shaft as an aiming point. It is as simple as pointing your finger.

When you point your finger at an object, your head is upright (not cocked to one side) and looking down your arm and finger. Same thing with a mid-handle or rear plus speargun. Extend your arm and lock your elbow and wrist. Point the speargun at the fish and use the tip of the shaft as your aiming point. Keep both eyes open and concentrate on pointing the tip at the spot you want to hit. Squeeze the trigger. Consistency is the key to good shooting. Always keep your head up and lock your elbow and wrist.

Practice makes perfect. You can learn more about how your gun performs in an hour of pool or ocean target practice than 10 hours of ocean diving. In a controlled environment you can shoot a known distance at a specific size of target. The target is not moving and you will see where your shaft hits. You will learn the range of your speargun and discover whether you are flinching or jerking the trigger. You will often find that what looks like 10 feet away is actually 15 -18 feet away.

Taking a brand new speargun out without testing it is like purchasing a custom big game rifle, traveling across the world to a safari, and then taking your first shot at a charging lion. Of course, no one would do that, so why do that with a new speargun?

Spearguns are basically a stick with one or two latex bands propelling a metal rod. If bolted to a table, they will shoot the same way, same distance each time. But in real life, many factors can affect the distance and trajectory of the spear.

As a responsible diver, we must learn how the speargun shoots and adjust so that it will hit what we aim at.

How to Practice Your Aim

I’m often asked this question by customers who are starting out and also divers who want to get better. Here is the way I make a target to practice in a pool or the ocean and how I dial in my gun. These items can be bought at most hardware stores.

  1. 2 ft x 3 ft plastic fence material with 1in x 1 in squares or bigger.
  2. 1 inch wood dowels, 3 feet in length (quantity 2)
  3. Electrical tape
  4. Plastic zip ties (quantity 8)
  5. 1 pound lead weights (quantity 2)

It’s best to use one band in a swimming pool. Practice really close to the target. Once you have that down, add a second band. When you master shooting at a particular distance, move back a bit. Your accuracy is affected by how you sight. That is why it’s important to find the right “sight picture”. If you are shooting low, it means you are cocking your head and looking down the bands and over the shaft. If you are shooting low to the right, then you are jerking the trigger. If you shoot high to the left, you are flinching. Make sure you just squeeze off the trigger.

You should just extend your arm and point the gun at the target. Then look only at the tip of the shaft and put that where you want to hit. Use the tip of your shaft as your aiming point. Like a rifle, you take it out to the range and dial it in. First at 25 yards, then 50 yards, and then 100 yards.

Our group uses a 2 foot by 3 foot square of plastic fencing material often seen around work sites or gardens. Then we tie-wrap a wood dowel across the top and one on the bottom. This makes it buoyant. Then we tie a cord to two corners and attach the cord to 1 pound weights. The target will float upright. In the middle of the target, use some contrasting colored electrical tape. Make four “tape squares” to give you something to aim at.

Since the target has squares, you will be able to see where the shaft is hitting.

Measure the length of the shooting line. If it’s 26 feet, then set the target 15 feet from the end of the pool and move back 20 feet. This will ensure that you shaft won’t ever reach the back of the pool. When you are shooting close, move the target towards you. Don’t go closer to the target or you’ll shoot the back of the pool. Always be shooting from the very back end of your pool so that the shaft will never reach the end of your pool.

By the time the shaft is going to the end of the line it’s pretty much just falling down. It’s the first 15 feet that it is zipping.

You will learn more about your gun in an hour of pool testing than ten hours in the ocean. The reason is that you will be shooting your new gun at a known distance at a known size. In the ocean, you are shooting at a moving target, guessing distance and size.

Have fun out there and dive responsibly. If you can’t tell if the target is big enough, then it’s too small to shoot.