Commander Yves Le Prieur band gun 1938

  • Here is the patent diagram for an impressive band gun devised by Commander Yves Le Prieur who was a diving pioneer, prolific inventor and Navy man and should be as well-known as Captain Jacques Cousteau. Among his many achievements are the first practical scuba, the first underwater “Nautilus” speargun powered by blank cartridges and later by bottled compressed air and the formation of the world’s first diving club using his “Scaphandre” breathing apparatus. Alexandre Kramarenko patented the world's first underwater spring powered speargun in 1937, but hot on its heels was this much more practical and floating band gun which was patented, in terms of its priority date, in December 1938.

    Unlike many subsequent speargun patents in the thirties and forties this gun actually worked. Note the provision of front and rear targeting sights on the speargun and the eight band power system which even with the relatively weak rubber of the time would have delivered a powerful shot. A floating reel is used with the gun and there is an optional shoulder stock which is similar to the one on the “Nautilus” cartridge/compressed air speargun. A leaf spring item 28 on the patent diagram stops the spear falling out of the gun's side-slotted barrel tube by pressing upwards against the tail end of the spear. The spear has a replaceable tip and a pivoting flopper located behind the spear tip to retain the speared fish, so everything required to successfully spear fish underwater is in place 80 years ago!
    The "Nautilus" gun in its cartridge powered form, being demonstrated by Commander Le Prieur, is shown in the attached photo.

    The post was edited 5 times, last by popgun pete: Added explanation as to how the spear is held in the Le Prieur gun by a small leaf spring hidden inside the barrel tube. ().

  • The Le Prieur band gun is seen here with a spring gun handle fitted to the rear end in order to provide a production gun trigger mechanism instead of the “declic” original, but this is essentially the same gun.

    Unidentified until I saw it in a French historic speargun collection, this gun will be extremely valuable, but if it had its original rear end then it would be virtually priceless. That said, it could be by the time the gun was actually produced that it may always have had this handle. World War II put a general damper on diving and spearfishing activities, but somewhat ironically many ideas were developed in France by talented engineers and divers that all came together once the war was over. The proliferation of French spearguns used around the world in the fifties and sixties was due to the leadership of France in this area.

  • More photos of the Le Prieur gun showing the muzzle band anchoring system, which clamps the band loops in place, and the sliding spear pusher unit with curved hooks protruding from the barrel side slots that the rubber band loops are pulled back to during cocking of the gun. My guess is that the rubber band loops are sections cut from scrap tire inner tubes, probably truck tires, as these eliminate the problem of anchoring cut rubber strands that will be highly stretched in things such as metal hooks and rings. Note that band rubber, screw fastener ferrules and wishbones are yet to be invented and only appear in 1943 with the Cavalero "Champion" speargun which itself is only produced in any volume after the war.

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