Throughout my relatively short history in spearfishing (as of this writing), I have only used a few different spearguns. Now obviously, my opinion in this matter is not one of extreme trial and error. Mostly it consists of recommendations made to me by those I spearfish with along with some of my own common sense.
In the beginning (early 1990's), I used one of my brother-in-law's extra guns. Specifically, a 38" Arbalette. Now this gun had already seen finer days by the time I started using it. It has been reconditioned more times than you can shake a stick. We used it until well after what most people would have considered its useful life. Unfortunately, its accuracy wasn't what it used to be, so we really only used it for close quarters. Mostly, shooting groupers in confined spaces.
Towards the end of its life, we used a custom made tip on this gun. The tip used to be a standard rock tip. But after getting it stuck in the back wall of many grouper holes, we decided it needed a change. I had my dad cut a 30 degree conical point on a lathe. This gives me a tip that probably wouldn't work at long range, due to the quick change in diameter, unless I had a lot of power backing it up. But at the same time, it didn't get stuck as much in the back walls for the same reason.
My second hand-me-down, which was given to me around 1995, was a gun my brother-in-law found while spearfishing. It's a 42" Canon. Even though he found this gun in the water, it hadn't been there for long. A new shaft and slings, and the gun was good as new. I used this gun for a couple of years with decent results. It still took a little customizing. It used to be a triple band gun, which I changed when I got the new shaft. I also stepped up the diameter of the slings in order to get a little less shaft drop on the slightly longer shots. I also cut down the line from a double wrap to a single. This gun just didn't have what it needed to shoot 12-13 feet away.
On to the present...
For the past few years (by now, few means closer to 10) I have been using Riffe guns. I currently (at the time of this writing around 1998) own two of these beauties. The first is a C-2 (Competitor Series). This is my all time favorite multipurpose gun. I have been extremely happy with the results I get from this gun. I have used it in depths varying from 10 to 60 feet with nothing less than great results.
As far as their slogan "The Silent Hunter" goes, they aren't kidding. I have actually shot a fish, surfaced, reloaded and gone down and shot another fish from the same school without spooking them (Remember I said that some of my stories aren't exaggerated? Well that was a prime example :).
I only started approaching the 50 foot barrier (at least, it's a barrier to me :), in the summer of 99. When we started going deeper, I realized that I needed a gun with a little more range. Not being able to spend unlimited amounts of money on this sport, I also wanted a gun that I could continue to "grow into". My next purchase was the No-Ka-Oi (Mid Handle Series), with an Ice Pick slip tip from Riffe. This gun packs a wallop!
Due to the mid handle nature of the gun, I find myself occasionally clipping myself in the chin with the bright red butt. Like anything else, it will take a little getting used to. I look forward to many dives with my new gun, many deeper and more productive dives. Unfortunately, the summer weather isn't always extremely cooperative, which has makes the deeper dives harder to go on. But we persevere and go out every opportunity. Unless we go deep however, this gun is a bit of overkill. So I only get to use it sparingly for now.
I'm going for my third Riffe this year (2002), a C3 or a C3XS. I figured I needed a mid-range gun that was a little more general-purpose. After giving it much thought, I have narrowed it down to one of these two. In all likelihood, it will end up being the C3XS, because it's setup for a little bit easier loading. Basically, it's the same gun as the C3, but with an extra three inches in the butt for easier loading. Seeing as how the stretch on these guns is about 40", I figured a little help in the loading area doesn't hurt. Especially, when you're loading your gun 30-50 times a day. I'm really looking forward to having another fun year of spearfishing, with my new toy!
After having bought my C3XS that summer of 2002, I made some small modifications. First, I swapped out the bands in favor of a couple of 5/8" bands for a little more power. This past summer (2006) I also added some custom-made band risers to get a little more parallel pull from the slings. I found this to be a great improvement in the accuracy of the gun for the way I shoot. Not everyone shoots the same way so its difficult to say if this would be an improvement for everyone, but based on the principle of the risers, I can't see how it could degrade accuracy. I can say that I will probably make this modification to my No-Ka-Oi in the near future as well. I really believe that longer guns benefit from this small upgrade.
It really wasn't that difficult to make from 2 pieces of unfinished teak that I cut down and drilled. You need to make sure the front part has no edges to it or else you will start cutting through slings like they were made of butter. A couple of cross drilled holes in the stock and you're pretty much done.
This past summer (2006) I also purchased a new gun. I wasn't really in the market for one, but this one fell into my lap so to speak. We were at the cleaning station one afternoon when we start talking about guns with a couple of the other fishermen. One thing led to another and one of the other fishermen mentioned that he had come into a new Riffe gun that he wasn't happy with. He had bought it as an experiment. He owned several pneumatic guns and he couldn't get used to dealing with slings. I picked it up for a song and long story short, that is how I got my first Riffe Euro!
I wasn't sure I was going to like this new Riffe style myself, being a fan of the American style speargun for so long. I was soon converted! This gun is a wonderful addition to my collection and is now my favorite patch reef weapon. It came with a reel and loaded with line. I quickly adapted to life with a reel. Reels on guns have become commonplace over the past 5-6 years, but I hadn't ventured into adding one to any of my guns. I used to think they would just be too cumbersome for our style of spearfishing (relatively shallow). I have grown to enjoy this new gun immensely and look forward to many more productive dives with this new addition to my arsenal.
In 2007 I added another Euro 100 to my collection to make sure I have a backup for any situation (that and I got it for a great price too. Thanks Ebay!). Since then I have been using my Euro guns almost exclusively. So much so that I am seriously considering picking up a Euro 120 to replace my C3X. Although my C3X is a great gun I really prefer the lower side profile of the Euro and have found that they are incredibly accurate guns too!