Tailliez Speargun (Elastic Band Powered) 1938

  • A French patent by Philippe Tailliez shows a design that he applied for in December 1938, but it was not published until 1940, which of course would have been in wartime France. It is one of the earliest that I have found for rubber powered guns and is contemporaneous with the Le Prieur band powered speargun of the same year. Tailliez was a member of the famous "Bandol Trio" with Jacques Cousteau and Frederic Dumas. Before they got into developing and testing their Aqualung demand regulator they were all keen spearfishermen. The patent is in French, but here is the gist of it.

    The hook 29, axle 30 and trigger bar 28 all form one piece which can be lifted out of the metal supports 4 (two parallel plates) through the opening shown to the upper rear. The gun uses "motor elastics" for rubbers 6 which appear to be of square section. They are trapped at the front by a muzzle plate 7 secured by the wing nut 19 which screws onto an embedded thread piece 17. The front of the barrel is slightly curved where the rubbers run to allow them to wrap around without being cut. The "wishbone" is a leather part 23 riveted around the two rubber bands by formed loops 24. The leather band in turn passes through a rectangular hole 26 in metal plate (figure eight shaped) piece 25 with a round hole for the hook at 27. The gun is loaded by detaching the trigger bar and hook assembly and engaging it in the "figure eight" plate while the other hand holds the gun at rear handle 2. When pulling the rubber bands up a foot is placed behind the front handle 3 to brace the gun. The rubber are drawn up so that plate 25 passes below the right angled tips of metal fingers 13 located on either side of the barrel, and then the trigger hook assembly is reseated in its rear mounted supports. The spear is loaded with the spear tail being trapped in the fold of the leather band due to the tension provided by the two rubber bands, in fact that is why he uses two bands. The spear, a plain metal shaft with a simple point, is held at the front by the lyre shaped clip 22 to prevent it dropping out of the open muzzle slot 21. Squeezing trigger bar 28 down rotates hook 29 up until the fingers 13 catch the metal plate 25 and drag it off the hook, which then allows the rubber bands to pull both it and the spear rapidly forwards. The gun is basically similar to a slingshot in its operation. Tailliez says a spearline can be attached, but does not show one in his drawings. Similarly the text mentions another lyre shaped clip to retain trigger bar 28 to handle 2 after firing, otherwise the assembly could fall out, but it is not shown. An interesting early design and probably actually used by Tailliez, unlike some other early patents which look to be designed by land lubbers as they often would not work and would be impractical to manufacture anyway.

    I imagine that there are one or two of Tailliez's guns in a museum somewhere. Modern readers need to remember that spearguns for underwater fishing had only existed since 1937 and back in those days spearguns were an exotic concept given that divers hunting underwater with mechanical weapons had previously been confined to the pages of science fiction, namely the gun toting submariners of the 'Nautilus" and the 1933 "Nautilus" gun of Commander Le Prieur, which being somewhat too powerful, blew most fish apart!


  • A must see, almost compulsory viewing, is this film by Jacques Cousteau. It is the earliest ever spearfishing film. I had heard of it previously, but until I found it today I had never seen it. The spearfisherman is “Didi” or Frederic Dumas whom the museum is named after that I referred to as having an “Ojard Chillet” pneumatic speargun, probably the very first pneumatic gun anywhere. The film was an absolute sensation in its time and in my view it still is today.

    Jacques-Yves Cousteau – “By 18 meters of Depth” (1942) or “Par 18 mètres de Fond”.




    or on “YouTube”.




    Dumas is shown swimming around shooting lots of fish with a timber band gun that has the spear placed in it after cocking the bands, same idea as Tailliez's 1938 band gun, but more modern looking as this is four years further on. You see him arming the gun early in the film before he slips into the water and sets off on the hunt.

    Didi (Dumas) drags out some pretty big fish over the course of the film, I was amazed, but of course he is the first spearfisherman that they will have encountered in those pristine waters and big fish are swimming up to investigate this intruder in their domain. Then zip and they are skewered, great underwater filmography at the very dawn of the sport.

    The post was edited 2 times, last by popgun pete ().

  • This is the three handle timber band gun used in the 1942 film "Par 18 metres de Fond" by Frederic Dumas. As with the Tailliez band gun the forward handle is to brace the gun with the leg while drawing the bands back to cock the gun in the water. The gun therefore has no cocking stock as you don’t hip or chest load it.


    Most of the front handle is now missing as only the remains of the handle bracing are still in place. The second timber gun shown here has more of its third "leg loading brace" handle frame and is also a vintage speargun most likely made by Dumas.


    The post was edited 1 time, last by popgun pete ().

  • Thanks Peter.

    I remember seeing stills from this film as a young boy. Thank you for the link to the images.


    Cheers, Don

    ''Great mother ocean brought forth all life, it is my eternal home''
    Don Berry from Blue Water Hunters.
    Speardiver Gear

  • Thanks Peter.

    I remember seeing stills from this film as a young boy. Thank you for the link to the images.


    Cheers, Don

    Thanks Don. I believe everyone who spearfishes should watch this film as it is the only record we have of the beginning of spearfishing using mechanical underwater weapons. What we don't have are films of the prior years (1937 to 1941) when spring guns ruled the spearfishing world (small as it was back then) and divers swum around with and shot 2 meter long guns which were sinkers both before and after the shot. That awaited the invention of the mobile underwater camera. Only the “Photosphere” of the Williams brothers’ had previously recorded underwater movement of divers, most notably in the silent movie "Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea". There we see underwater arms in action, but they are only simulations of the fictional Leyden rifles, the underwater guns of the crew of the “Nautilus”.



    The post was edited 2 times, last by popgun pete ().

  • The double band layout on this contemporary speargun suggests that it was influenced by Tailliez's band system as can be seen in the inset diagram.


    Given the rapid rate of evolution this may actually be one of his guns.

  • Actually the "Photosphere" was a creation of Williamson, not Williams as I erroneously stated earlier, a father and two brothers combination as before I was just relying on memory of reading about their work over maybe 10 years ago. Here are two references to their pioneering exploits in developing the art of photography under the sea.

    http://www.therebreathersite.n…11_Charles_Williamson.htm

    and https://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9615/sea.html.

    In the pantheon of underwater heroes the Williamsons are right up there with those pioneer spearfishermen using "Underwater Arms" as the former provide the lure of turning the pages of fiction, but soon to become fact, into visual images of men hunting and working in the submarine world. For those interested their heroic film of "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" can be seen on-line where they push the boundaries of technology to bring Jules Verne's work to life on the silver screen.

    The post was edited 3 times, last by popgun pete ().

  • The first submarine was invented before Jule Verne authored 20 thousand leagues.. he was inspired by it. My favorite book as a child rivaled only by Tarzan :)

    I think that goes for most of us. I saw the Disney remake of the film as a small kid and looking underwater through a dive mask was for me an absolute fascination. Even when my first such experience was over a sandy bottom in the calm shallows of a local beach wearing a green Turnbull "Sea Raider" dive mask. The sand grains on the bottom brought into sharp relief, a few flecks of floating detached green plantlife or algae hovering over the bottom and tiny minnows swirling around and I was forever hooked.

    The post was edited 1 time, last by popgun pete ().

  • I always thought it was a flaw in the narrative/unrealistic how capt Nemo had the whole crew basically hidden away in such tight living quarters (not enjoying everything the ship had to offer as in library , the organ :) etc.) so the story could focus on the main characters.

  • I always thought it was a flaw in the narrative/unrealistic how capt Nemo had the whole crew basically hidden away in such tight living quarters (not enjoying everything the ship had to offer as in library , the organ :) etc.) so the story could focus on the main characters.

    Well the first submarines were pretty small affairs accommodation-wise, so Verne was extrapolating what he already knew and creating an exciting background narrative to his tale which millions have read and marvelled at ever since. In the original Captain Nemo is a Pole or some Eastern European type, but due to political sensibilities at the time of publication Verne reset Nemo as an Indian Prince. The "Nautilus" fired the public imagination and even today there are groups who still discuss its wonders and speculate on its power; nuclear power, fuel cells, etc., but Verne actually explains the motive power as batteries. So 70 years in advance of actual submarine technology the "Nautilus" is an "Electro-Boat", only becoming a reality with the super advanced German Type XXI submarines of WWII which post-war were seized upon by the victorious Allies to create their own new generation of submarines.

  • Interestingly in the large format display posters announcing the then forthcoming DVD release for the “LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN” the “Nautilus” is depicted on the poster as a stylistically embellished Type XXI submarine with golden "Art Deco" ornamentation encrusting both the bow and the conning tower areas. In the actual movie an entirely new vessel is rendered in CGI for the "Sword of the Ocean". Possibly in the early conceptual stages the movie producers had considered use of the Type XXI museum boat, but it was just not big enough for the vessel eventually seen in the movie. No sign of the poster after a search, but it reworked a similar image of the sub seen below.

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member to leave a comment.