by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This is a guest blog from reader Hiveseeker. Today he reflects on the very first airguns — blowguns
If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me. Now over to you, Hiveseeker.
Blowguns — the first airguns
This report covers:
- Airgun history
- Blowgun calibers
- Blowgun length
- Popular .40 and .50 caliber darts
- Popular .625 caliber darts
- A word about blowgun hunting
- Blowgun accessories
- Make a blowgun target
- How to blow that blowgun
- Aiming a blowgun
- For further study
Modern-day blowguns come in .40, .50, and .625 caliber. Note the accessory dart quivers.
Here at the Airgun Academy blog B.B. has done a great job of sharing his passion and knowledge of airgun history, deepening our appreciation for our favorite sport. Today we’ll be traveling even further into the past as we delve back to the earliest roots of airgun history — the blowgun! B.B. took us there in 2007 when he wrote about The blowgun Where it all began, and observed that “As airgun collectors become more interested in their hobby, they eventually start acquiring blowguns.”
Blowguns have continued to grow in both popularity and technology since then, and, as an airgunner and a blowgun enthusiast myself, I felt that an update would be interesting. Lest you doubt the relevance of this topic, I point you to the authoritative pages of the Pyramyd Air catalog:
The Pyramyd Air 2013 catalog informs us that the very first airgun used lung power! The blowgun is considered to be at least 6,000 years old but some reckon it to be even older.
The blowgun is thought to have been invented at least 6,000 years ago. The blowgun is such an ancient weapon that there are few early records. However, the evidence suggests that the blowgun was invented more or less simultaneously in South America and Malaysia. From Malaysia it spread to Indonesia, the Philippines and eventually Japan, where blowguns were reportedly used by ninjas! I was also extremely surprised to learn that the blowgun was used by the Cherokee and Iroquois Native Americans, right here in the United States.
Fast-forward to modern times. In the 1960s the Jivaro blowgun company was popular, but disappeared within a couple decades. Then in the 1990s a number of different blowgun companies emerged on the scene, and today we have a wide selection of quality blowguns and darts available.
Historical native blowguns were nearly all about .50 caliber. Today, the .40 caliber blowgun is the most popular size, but .50 and .625 caliber blowguns are also available. Popular brands of .40 caliber blowguns include Terminator, Bunker Buster, and several Avenger lines including the Avenger Warrior and Avenger Ninja.
The .50 caliber blowguns are fewer in number, with popular brands including the Commando, Extreme Ultra Pro, and Extreme Precision CT. The Extreme Precision CT (Close Tolerance) blowgun has a slightly narrower barrel that hugs the .50 caliber dart more snugly and is considered by many shooters to provide superior accuracy.
Cold Steel is the sole manufacturer of the .625 caliber big bore blowguns. These blowguns are in a class all their own. They are my favorite to shoot but they require good lung capacity.
Native blowguns were often 8 feet long! Modern blowguns come in lengths from 2 to 5 feet. Short blowguns 3 feet or less are cheaper and much easier to find. However, I prefer longer blowguns 4 to 5 feet in length when available. Just as a longer barrel can give you faster velocity in a CO2 gun, a longer blowgun can give you faster dart velocity and a flatter trajectory.
The more time the dart accelerates in the barrel, the faster it goes until it exits the muzzle. The exception to this rule is the .625 big bore blowgun, which requires a lot of air to blow correctly. If you run out of breath before the dart leaves the barrel, dart velocity drops rapidly. For the .625 blowguns I recommend that female, youth, or small-framed shooters choose the 4 foot models over the 5 foot models; a shorter blowgun may be better in this case.
Popular .40 and .50 caliber darts
The earliest blowgun projectiles were small round stones or clay pellets. Sharpened wooden darts were invented later. For the modern-day blowgunner there is a bewildering array of darts available, but we’ll sort out some of the most popular and most practical. We’ll examine the .40 and .50 caliber darts together because they are so similar. In fact, the shafts of these darts are usually identical, with the only difference between them being whether a .40 caliber tail cone or a .50 caliber tail cone is affixed to the end of the dart. There are a wide variety of .40 and .50 caliber darts available, but these are the most common and popular.
— Stun dart: (.40 caliber only; the rest are available in both .40 and .50) This fun plinking dart is all-plastic. It’s not really big or heavy enough to stun anything, but is fun for plinking at toy soldiers or aluminum cans. It’s not a good target dart, though, because it won’t stick into the target.
— Super stun dart: Similar to the Stun dart above, but with a metal-tipped head that provides more mass and impact.
— Target dart: This is the standard blowgun dart and the most popular, and nearly all blowguns will come with a selection of these. The Target dart is very accurate and is the kind most used in blowgun competition shooting.
— Spear dart: This dart is longer than the target dart and has a flared spear point. Functionally it is nearly identical to the Target dart, but will wear out your target backing a bit faster due to the spear point.
— Broadhead dart: Despite what the name suggests this is really not a hunting dart. It has a plastic broadhead that is not suitable for target shooting because of the damage it causes to the target backing, though it does not do enough damage for humane hunting either.
The most popular .40 and .50 caliber darts include (left to right) the Stun, Super stun, Target, Spear, and Broadhead darts.
Popular .625 caliber darts
I mentioned that the .625-caliber blowguns are in a class all their own, and so are the unique .625 darts. All the big bore blowguns come with a nice dart selection. Note that, even though some of these names are similar to the names of the .40 and .50 caliber darts above, the .625 darts are very different — so try to keep them straight!
— Stun dart: This is one of the most fun blowgun darts of all! It won’t stick in a target, but is fun for plinking at aluminum cans or stuffed toy animals. It will also work small-caliber firearm spinner targets. This dart is actually heavy enough to stun or kill small targets like house sparrows or starlings.
— Bamboo dart: This is the bantamweight of the .625 darts and the one I recommend for women or youth shooters because it is so light and easy to blow. It works only as a casual target dart because the shafts on many of these are not very straight and its light weight makes it easily diverted by wind, though it sticks into a target readily enough. These are also fun for popping balloons or shooting aluminum cans.
— Mini broad head dart: This is the standard .625 dart and a great all-around performer. It is an accurate target dart as well as a plinker that will also do a number on aluminum cans, balloons, and stuffed animals. However, despite the name, the flared broadhead is not wide enough to make this a humane hunting dart.
— Razor tip broadhead dart: This is the only commercially available dart besides the .625 Stun dart that I consider to be a legitimate hunting dart, and, of the two, the Razor tip broadhead is definitely superior. The broadhead is wide enough to do significant tissue damage in small game up to squirrel or rabbit sizes. This dart has very little other use, and will rapidly tear up a target.
The .625 caliber darts are fewer but unique and include (left to right) the Stun, Bamboo, Mini broadhead, and Razor tip broadhead darts.
A word about blowgun hunting
I have already mentioned hunting more than I want to only because many of the dart names specifically imply it, and because this topic ALWAYS seems to come up when blowguns are discussed. Let me state categorically that a modern airgun is the superior hunting choice. Only those who have acquired a great deal of skill and experience in shooting a blowgun should even consider hunting with one. Limited accuracy and power confine blowgun hunting to a range of about 10 yards. If you wish to pursue this topic you should check your state regulations regarding the legality of hunting with a blowgun first, and then join one of the blowgun forums listed below for some experienced advice. Also, be aware that blowguns are outright illegal in California, Massachusetts, New York City, and Canada.
Most blowguns will include quivers that mount on the barrel for carrying darts. Other accessories (which may or may not come with the blowgun) include foam barrel grips, vertical pistol grips, slings, crosshair sights, laser sights, and red dot sights. While some sight types (like red dot sights) are really designed for use on pistols and rifles and don’t function well on blowguns, I have found laser sights to be very effective.
A wide variety of blowgun accessories like foam grips, quivers, sights, and slings are available.
Make a blowgun target
I have not found a good commercially available blowgun target. Dartboards or plywood are too hard to remove darts from. Archery targets or various foam sheet products can work but have to be just the right density to stop the dart from burying itself all the way up to the dart cone, but still be easy to remove the dart. You can make a cheap and effective target by filling a flat box such as a large pizza box with at least 8 layers of cardboard. This is enough to stop the dart, but is also not too hard to remove the dart. Target darts work best with this type of target backing, with the Spear dart, Bamboo dart, and Mini broadhead also working well.
How to blow that blowgun
Nearly all blowguns come with an anti-inhale mouthpiece, but just like a gun safety you should depend more on good safety practices than on a mechanical device to keep you safe. Never inhale through a blowgun! To reduce the possibility of inhaling a dart you should inhale away from the mouthpiece before shooting. Of course, all your basic gun safety rules apply to blowguns as well.
Blowguns are simple and fun to use but they are not toys! To shoot, many blowgunners just puff or blow into the mouthpiece, but you can get significantly faster dart velocity and a flatter trajectory by saying “Tuh!” forcefully into the mouthpiece as you blow. This technique is called tonguing and pre-compresses the air in your mouth to release it in a focused burst. This method will also help you to achieve more consistent velocity from shot to shot and therefore better accuracy.
Aiming a blowgun
The most different thing about aiming a blowgun is that you do it with both eyes open. This creates a double image of the blowgun barrel, which provides a very helpful aiming point to center the target between. Then, all you need to do is hold steady and adjust for elevation until your darts are hitting the bull’s-eye!
Aim a blowgun with both eyes open. You will see a double image of the blowgun barrel, between which you center the target.
For further study
I hope you enjoyed this snapshot of what blowguns — the first airguns! — have become in modern times. There is a lot more to the sport than what we’ve covered here; a Blowgun Basics video provides further information. You can also learn more by joining one of the popular blowgun forums, the Lefora Blowgun Forum or The Blowgun Forum. Blowgun competition shooting has become increasingly popular in the United States as well as Japan, France, and Germany. For rules check the United States Blowgun Association. Have fun, and remember — shoot responsibly!
93 thoughts on “Blowguns — the first airguns”
Interesting! Do blow guns have rifled barrels? a baffle in the mouth piece? Seems like the skirt of the dart is the biggest advancement….
Will it be the next Olympic sport?
Glad you enjoyed the blog, and thanks to B.B. for posting! For those wanting to learn more, the video mentioned is a good start, and the blowgun forums have many knowledgeable and helpful members.
Blowguns are smoothbores. They don’t have baffles (they are very quiet and don’t need them), but the mouthpiece will have some form of anti-inhale safety device.
I agree with you that the skirt (or cone) of the dart has seen the biggest improvement, both compared to historical blowguns as well as modern blowguns. The first really popular commercial blowgun, the Jivaro blowgun, came with steel wire that you would heat and insert into an orange plastic bead that served as the “cone”. Any old-timers reading this will be able to attest how much of an improvement modern darts are!
Competitive blowgun shooting is very popular in Japan, France, and Germany with interest growing in the United States as well. We all hope to see this sport added to the Olympics soon as both the number of participants and the number of countries where blowgunning is popular increase.
I have an old blowgun I bought about 30 years ago. It came with the darts with the orange plastic bead you describe and stiff wire dart. I used to shoot it at a paperback book. Those darts would penetrate at least 1/2″ into a paperback book. I lived in a travel trailer and it was about 25′ from one end to the other. It was easy to keep all the darts on the paperback book. Most would form about an inch and a half group.
That’s definitely one of the old Jivaro blowguns! Often the orange beads would crack when you inserted the hot wire, and you would lose a dart — very frustrating! The company had just come out with some brand new plastic cones similar to today’s darts when our family went overseas and I totally lost track of blowgunning. I don’t think the company was in business much longer because I frequently hear about the orange beads, but not the cone darts.
Fascinating and well written. Blowguns are something that always interested me but I have never delved into them.
Awhile back I delved into darts/arrows for air guns, (think 880), and learned quite a lot about balance, centered weight and balance forward of center and what percentage that should fall within. 9-15% front of center was ideal, with broad heads needing something towards the 15%. Is this something that is given any consideration in blow gun darts? Different weighted tail cones and maybe tips?
Short on time now as it is a work day, but look forward to seeing all of the comments when I get home.
Again,… super fine job! Chris
As a side, I recently watched a show on TV that showed modern day jungle tribes using homemade blowguns to take down monkeys out trees with poison tipped darts. The ones they used looked to be 8-10 feet long with 12′ being sited.
I have to wonder, what in nature could provide such a long hollow tube like that?
I have no real knowledge of how they were made, but today they very likely use a hot wire to slowly bore it out. This is speculation, but they were/are probably made in sections, then pieced together. I am certain that someone on these forum, perhaps even Hiveseeker can enlighten us.
Found this info in the Historical Geography of crop plants. Doesn’t say how the blow guns were made but that they used the Pejibaye palm- “the green wood is relatively easy to work, but hardens into something resembling steel, extremely strong and flexible, and a beautiful black color, which was used by the Indians to make blow guns, lances, spears and musical instruments”.
And from An Illustrated History of British Guiana I found that the Indians used the cotton from the silk cotton tree to put on the ends of their darts:-
” The Indians chiefly use it for winding round the extremity of their arrows, which they blow through a tube of ten or more feet in length, the point of which has been poisoned with the worali poison. When such an arrow pierces the flesh, it inevitably proves fatal within a few minutes”.
As a boy, I used the hollow stem of the leaf of the Papaya tree for the gun and made my darts using a needle, a match stick and a few soft feathers plucked from a very reluctant hen, all tied together with thread.
Hi RidgeRunner and Pete in The CSea,
See below. There were various woods and various methods used, depending on the location and the types of plants and materials available. Making a blowgun was a lot of work, and I’m pretty thankful to be able to just buy one over the internet or wander down to the local Ace Hardware for some tubing! The easiest blowguns to make were from hollowed out reeds, with those requiring boring or made from two hollowed-out halves reaching artisan level in the craftsmanship required.
There are generally two basic methods of making traditional blowguns: boring out a very straight piece of wood using a rod of harder material (such as fire-hardened wood), or hollowing out two halves of wood (like making a dugout canoe) and piecing them together. Both required great skill, and experienced blowgun makers could even compensate for the bend of gravity in the long tube so that the blowgun barrel would be perfectly straight when held horizontally. Usually a very skinny, tall tree trunk was used. Some cultures used hollow reeds which gave a “head start” in hollowing out the barrel.
Hi Chris USA,
Thank you. I have seen some fairly technical discussions related to dart ballistics, but most have approached the topic indirectly by discussing it in terms of dart length. Longer darts often are more accurate. Weight is nearly always distributed forward (broadhead), or along the entire shaft of the dart (wire target dart), with the drag of the much wider tail cone providing stability. When experimenting, weight is added to the shaft of the dart rather than the cone.
Yes, length does play into the factor. But with that, comes weight. But yes, that can be an adjustment tool. Weight comes down to how much force you can put behind the weight. I played with muzzle loaded darts and an arrow that went (over) the actual barrel of an 880 with the shroud cut off. Adjusting the head would be tough. A hammered head and ground to size = +/- weight would be one way. As for the tail, increasing mass and or density would be about the only way. Shrink tubing is also something that I played with. It has weight and can aid in balance when trimmed to variable lengths and variable placement. It is pretty aerodynamic too when shrunk. Shrinking to the shaft and leaving the tail un-shrunk can make a pretty good air catching cup/tail.
I do not have any break barrels, but if I did,… playing with darts would be very high on the priority list. Let the springer piston do all of the “puffing/blowing” so to speak. Easy loading too. A PCP would be super ideal. None of those in a break barrel that I know of though.
Again, fine job and saved a few of your links to check out later. Chris
Thanks for the added comments, Chris. And cool idea on the partially-shrunk shrink tubing — quite clever I think! Particularly from France I have seen some fairly sophisticated research on blowing, and dart dynamics inside the blowgun tube, but much less on ballistics and downrange performance. A blowgun seems pretty simple, but like anything in science the closer you look the more complicated it can become. I like to test and figure things out, but stay focused on having fun (safely!) — that’s what it’s all about!
The best darts I made were ones that fell very close to the specification’s that a person would use to build conventional arrows. If someone understands the aspects there,… I believe that could be applied very effectively to dart building.
Also, what I found is if the dart did not land perfectly straight, the tail would tend to “whip” around/forward as soon as the tip hit resistance,… thus bending the dart shaft. Super thin and very stiff wire/rod would appear to be the answer there.
Interesting. I’ve seen lots of different custom darts tested, but not very much work on the actual physics involved. Can you point me to some relevant web links? Now you’ve piqued my curiosity!
I seem to have deleted the link. I do believe Vana2 provided me with it. I searched what I have and can not find it. Note made and will check more this weekend.
Thanks, Chris, though I imagine Google can help if you’re not able to track it down.
I did not forget about you. I can not find the links, but did find some notes. Find the post I just made a reply to Vana2/Hank, to provide them again, (to you), as I believe that he provided them. Keep an eye out.
I will re-save myself. Be sure to keep me posted as to any progress.
I did find this,… it is real close to what I remember.
Thanks, Chris! Yes, I’ve actually seen some of this before but it was a long time ago. Will definitely be interesting to see the application to blowgun darts!
My interest would be darts for air gun application. A lower powered break barrel would be best. The only down side might be that the cone would get pushed over the rod upon firing, as it will provide less resistance to movement that the mass/weight of the rod. And then, it would probably not be as accurate as a pellet. Arrows over the barrel is interesting but finding barrel OD’s small enough is an issue. Arrows in the barrel is interesting too, but requires a big bore PCP.
At any rate, hit me up on a current blog if you play with this in relation to blowgun darts.
The link that Chris provided below is a good one but not the information that I had sent him. I’ll check my home computer tonight to see if I still have the link.
Just a thought… the vanes on an arrow work aerodynamically to dampen the arrows’ oscillation and set up a spin to stabilize it. While center of gravity and center of pressure considerations would apply to a blowgun dart the dart itself is “drag stabilized” (like a pellet) by its skirt.
We used to do “tear tests” to check if our arrows were being stabilized properly: Tape a thin piece of tissue paper to a frame and blow the dart through it, if the dart is not flying true and on axis, the point and the tail will be out of alignment causing a tear instead of a hole in the paper.
Would be fun to experiment with. Hope this helps.
Thank you. I’ve done some bowhunting and have used the tear test for that, but have never seen one done for blowgun darts — thanks for the suggestion! Indirectly, I do notice when a dart sticks in the target off center (angled), which I think is an indicator of the same behavior, but this is worth testing!
Here is another one that Hank provided. It is about model rockets and much of it would still apply. I am not sure if this will post.
It looks like it did. Good luck and keep us posted as to any modification attempts and testing that you may do.
Thank you and Vana2 / Hank for your time on this! Some interesting ballistics applications common to archery, that may have some applications to blowgunning…very interesting. One of my favorite things about this blog is that even when I’m the guest writer, I learn something new! We have a really great group here — thanks for being part of that.
You don’t have a post on today’s Embark blog so I’ll let you know here.
I sent you a email this morning about the Hawke scope. Let me know when you read it.
Will check later or Friday. Been busy. Thanks.
Thank you for such a well written glimpse into the world of modern blowguns!
Many, many years ago I briefly delved into the world of blowguns, but since the authorities frown down upon the importation of poison dart frogs, my brief foray soon fell to the wayside. Now with a grandson, perhaps this hobby will be revisited.
Ha, one of my college professors was actually an expert in poison dart frogs and had permits for keeping them. That warning coloration sure can be pretty!
Blowgunning is a lot of fun, and depending on the age of your grandson there are a number of non-sharp darts like the stun darts that you can use. There are also “javelin” or “tournament” darts that work in soft-tip dart boards (these only come in .40 caliber). A three- or four-foot blowgun in .40 or .50 caliber is a nice all-around gun that everyone in the family including youngsters can shoot. Especially for beginners my biggest safety tip, after never pointing your blowgun at a person or pet, is to inhale AWAY from the mouthpiece before you blow to eliminate any chance of swallowing a dart. The anti-inhale mouthpiece will help prevent that too but this safety practice is even better.
Have you given consideration to gluing a pellet to the end of a cone? The increased mass of the lead could possibly make for a serious stun dart.
That’s pretty close to what many have done in modifying darts. The most common stun dart mod I have seen is screwing a metal bolt of the right diameter into the dart cone “socket”. Longer bolts add more weight. A rounded bolt head provides some aerodynamic efficiency.
These days they are captive bred in the USA and rather inexpensive pets.
However their poison comes from eating insects that either produce the alkaloids or from those insects eating plants that contain them. So in captivity they are not going to produce much poison if any.
Well that’s no fun. How am I going to hunt monkeys with a blow gun if the poison dart frogs are not poisonous?
Okay, traditional native poison darts have been mentioned several times so I will BRIEFLY
Oops — BRIEFLY cover here. Poisons are generally not discussed because they are (1) very dangerous and (2) illegal. However, natives, particularly in Central and South America, used various poisons — the recipes of which were usually a very closely guarded family or tribal secret — to paralyze their game. They would often follow and shoot prey multiple times to deliver additional doses, and it could take some time for the game to succumb depending on its size. Unfortunately, reporting of the size of the animals taken by native blowguns this way has led to a widespread misconception about the hunting potential of blowguns under modern conditions. Without poison, blowguns are dependent on stun darts (VERY small game) or on broadhead darts to humanely take game. You must think in terms of bowhunting, but greatly scaled down. Most experienced blowgunners limit their hunting to squirrel and rabbit sized game, out to about 10 yards. I’ve hunted with blowguns on two continents and agree with that, and will add that a modern airgun is a much better tool for hunting.
Very coincidental, they recently showed Mel Gibsons 2006 movie ‘Apocalypto’ where a tribesman trying to escape human sacrifice kills or at least incapacitates three or so pursuers by breaking off some thorns sticking them in a brightly colored frog and blowing them into their necks. About the time the Mayan civilization comes to an end. May have been exaggerated by Hollywood.
I’ve got that movie and have always been fascinated by Mayan history and archaeology. Though I do not remember the blowgun scene! Going to have to re-watch that one!
I already deleted the movie but you may be right to some extent. They show him collecting the thorns and poking the frog but they may not have shown a makeshift blow gun itself. Just the thorns hitting their targets. Can’t recall exactly. Since the jungle was his natural habitat I assumed he simply grabbed a commonly used plant to blow them through. He was on the run. Thoughts being remembered instead of reality ?
I am heading off to that job that pays for all those light bills and Pyramyd Air orders, but please keep the comments and questions coming and all will be answered (or attempted) this evening!
I made my first blowguns in the early 1950,s. Spray cleaner bottles with long plastic tubes were first coming on the market. These tubes provided me with material for many of my home made toys. These tubes had different diameters, so I could use the larger ones to join several smaller tubes into longer blow guns. When I became a medical lab technician, I graduated to 3′ long glass tubes and stainless steel tubes. I used discarded scalpel blades and long cotton tipped applicator sticks to make my darts. There was no safety mouthpiece on the barrel. Since my darts were 8-10″ long, there was little chance of swallowing them . I used several rings of tape wrapped around the muzzle and forward part of the barrel. The distance between the bands appeared to increase as the gun was elevated. It gave me a crude way to compensate for distant shots. I was surprised at the accuracy of my blowguns. ——Ed ——–PS—I have 2 modern blowguns, one short and one long.
The 1950’s?! You were well ahead of the curve, and I’ll also add that was BMT (before my time)! I have experimented with a wide variety of different blowgun sights but have not seen that tape trick for estimating range anywhere — I’m filing that away for future experimentation. Even from my early experiences with the Jivaro blowgun in the 1970s I can appreciate the advances that have been made — I’m sure you could tell even more stories.
You should write the next guest blog. Scalpel blades for darts,???!!!
You are a sick man, tell me more…
And I meant to add — most of the hunters that make their own darts use wood skewers and #2 Exacto blades to make broadhead darts. Blowgun hunting is very much like bowhunting, rather than gun hunting.
Man you guys are an inventive bunch!
Thanks for the Blog HiveSeeker!
I’ve always thought blowguns to be cool but, living in Canada my interest in them is limited to reading about them. 🙁
Guess the local law-makers watched too many of those “ninja movies” where the victim died instantly (and dramatically) upon being hit in the neck with a tiny poisoned blowgun dart. Regulations are strange here, slingshots and bows have no restrictions but blowguns are absolutely verboten.
A suggestion for a dart backstop… (thin) plastic bags packed TIGHTLY into a burlap bag will stop a target arrow off of a hunting weight bow without a problem – and the arrows can be easily removed. Should work fine for blowguns as well.
Sorry, you are correct that blowguns are illegal in Canada (as well as California, Massachusetts, and New York City). We work hard to promote responsible use of blowguns, especially when it comes to safety and to hunting, to create a positive image of a sport that is simple and fun but still demands responsibility. From what I’ve seen, bad examples (rather than martial arts movies) have generated most of the restrictions that are currently in place.
Thanks for the dart backstop suggestion. Plastic bags I have not tried before. A little odd that there’s just not a good blowgun target on the market. There are also some commercial foams (think Home Depot) that work pretty well, but it’s a balance between being so dense that the dart is hard to remove, and so light that the dart buries up to the cone (or leaves the cone behind and keeps going!).
Most of the archery targets are made from Polyethylene Foam planks. As you point out, the density used is a compromise.
I used to make my archery target butts with low density 24 inch by 6 inch by 2 inch thick planks that I stacked and clamped together (with a couple of pieces of wood and some heavy threaded rod). This arrangement worked quite well and had the added benefit that you could swap the planks around when the middle area started to wear out. You still needed an “arrow puller” (usually a piece of innertube or rubber boot) to grip the arrows for removal.
I found that the stuffed burlap bags worked best. Just suspend the bag (about deer high) in between two trees and you were good to go. The bags were pretty well weather proof to.
Hate to bother, you but Hiveseeker asked for specifics/references on arrow building. I do believe you provided me with websites, but I seem to have deleted them. I do have paper notes that (hunters friend) and (carbon arrow university), but after looking them up, neither show the simplistic diagrams that I remember. Simplistic, but very good info.. on balance and front of center FOC and so on.
If it was you, can you please re-post the links ((to Hiveseeker)). I will watch and save them again myself.
He is interested in applying arrow building theory to dart building.
Thank you, Chris
I’ll see if I can find that and pass it on.
Ok. Thank you. See the link I did find that I posted to Hiveseeker above. That may be it. If not, it is very close. I only have hand written notes.
Thanks for a great blog. Very interesting. I’ve always wonder about blow guns, but never owned one. One question, can you tell me what kind of accuracy you get in the way of group sizes (how many big at how many yards)? I’ve always wanted to know. Also, as a plinker, I’d like to know how many yards could you hit a wild coke can?
Last, if Gamo was to make one, would they show it killing a be hog at 15 yards (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Hi Doc Holiday,
Thank you for the kind words, and excellent question! The best blowgun competition shooter in the world can hit an official 2.25-inch target bull’s-eye with almost every shot at 10 yards. Nope, that’s not too great compared to what we are used to with airguns! That’s one of the reasons that blowguns are limited in range, especially for hunting. For airguns I’ve repeatedly seen guidance to hunt no farther than you can hit a 1″ circle (about the size of the vital area on many small game species), and I agree with that. Also, blowgun velocity (and resulting trajectory, which adds to the difficulty of hitting the vitals on game) is very low: from my testing up to about 130 fps with big bore blowguns (.625), which many hunters consider to be the best hunting caliber. You need to be a VERY good blowgun shot to even begin thinking about hunting with one.
I had no idea that there are comercial blow guns and darts out there. Thanks for the very informative report.
I was realy into blow guns about 50 years ago. I had an aluminum tube about 4 feet long and about .4 inches id. It had a screw on fitting that worked good for a mouth piece.
I made the darts from the largest needles i could find in Mom’s sewing box. Any over 2 1/2 inches were best. I used cigarette filters for the tail. I used fly tying thread and glue to attach the filters.
I was amazed at how accurate it was out to about 20 feet.
Thanks foor the grreat blog,
After my mail-order Jivaro blowgun, my brother and I made a variety of homemade blowguns too. We also raided our Mom’s sewing box for needles, then graduated to straight brass wire from the hardware store. Any fluffy, fibrous material can work for a “tail”, though we rolled plastic sheeting into cones that we would cut to fit the blowgun barrels. Having made my own blowguns I have to say that I really appreciate modern manufactured products. And though I still make some of my own blowguns, I try to match the pipe size to commercially available darts and mouthpieces as they are better quality and consistency than I can make myself.
Thank you for the interesting blog and the cool history lesson.
On the Blowgun Basics Video, I DO remember seeing those blowgun ads in Outdoor Life and Field & Stream
(since I grew up on those publications =>).
And a friend once let me shoot his .40 caliber blowgun (I forgot the make, but I think it was a 5-footer);
it was cool that we could shoot it, silently, on his screened in back porch.
We shot target darts into a piece of plywood, which they stuck into quite well.
Thanks again for the cool blog!
take care & God bless,
Thank you, and glad there’s some fellow old-timers (if I may say so!) that remember the “good old days”! I don’t think everything about these modern times is better, but blowguns (and airguns!) are two things that have really improved. We live in interesting times!
Yessir, and you just convinced this old-timer that he needs to get himself a blowgun…just for fun! =)
I went to the other sites you listed. WOW, I’m “blown” away. I did not know blow guns could have such hi tech sights and all on them. When I think of blow gun, I think of cheap, low quality “toys” sold in back of some magazines or comic books. Hmm, Maybe PA should dive in.
The internet is an amazing thing! And yes, blowguns have gotten serious! One of the nice things about blowgunning is that you can buy the best there is and only spend $30-$50 for something that will last a lifetime. Of course, then there’s darts, sights, quivers, and other accessories to start collecting!
For those interested in purchasing a blowgun, for an adult male I would recommend any of the Cold Steel Big Bore (.625) blowguns, except for the 5-foot Pro (which is a great blowgun, but a bit too heavy for longer shooting sessions). For female and youth shooters, or if you want to get a blowgun the entire family can easily shoot, I would suggest a 3- or 4-foot .40 or .50 caliber blowgun (with a 4-foot .50 caliber being my recommendation).
Good blog. Been a crazy day.
How about a part 2 with some chrony numbers and targets with the different blow guns and darts?
Ha, I’ve just started doing some basic chrony work with blowguns and the results have been a little surprising so far. Way lower velocities than claimed elsewhere (though I’m shooting the heavier .625 darts), and not as much extra velocity with longer blowguns as I’d hoped (though yes it does make a difference). The most positive result I’ve found is much less velocity variation than I was expecting — about 10 fps for most blowgun/dart combinations which is not bad at all. I believe the “tonguing” technique helps with this consistency.
I’ll be waiting for some results.
It will take a while, and we’ll see if B.B. will let me have another go! I’ve even come across some pretty sophisticated ballistics information for slingshots, but not much about blowguns. Hopefully that will change as the sport continues to grow in popularity.
I had a blow gun as a kid but can’t remember what brand it was. But I have had one of the modern blow guns you mentioned. It was not a big bore one though. I did buy a couple sample packs with the different darts you pictured.
And I have to say the metal rods with the point is what we used as a kid. And speaking of frogs. Not poison ones but big ole bull frogs. That’s what we used the blow guns on. And like you say. Probably about 10 yards away from them. Although some shots stretched out past 15 yards a bit. And as it goes the more you use something the better you usually get.
And on the modern one I had I used basically the same metal pointed rod with the orange cone on the back. I could hit a 12 oz. beverage can at 10 yards no problem. But was interesting is it would hit the can an knock it over. The metal of course was through both sides of the can. And the orange cone severely dented the can.
So when you just did the blog it made me remember that. I never thought of chronying a dart and I do believe I had a chrony at that time. So that’s why I asked about velocity with how hard the cans were getting hit. And the bull frogs couldn’t move because the dart was stuck in the mud.
Anyway will be waiting for part 2. And I’m pretty sure BB won’t object. Just take your time. I’m sure it will be interesting when you get it all together.
Glad I brought back some fun memories! Some of the comments on the blog have actually reminded me of some things I forgot from my first blowgun, in return.
I’ve hunted with slingshots as well and have to say they have more range and accuracy than blowguns. There’s some fairly detailed ballistics information on slingshots out there, as well.
We’ll have to see about a Part 2! I actually covered most of the basics that I wanted to in this one, but there are a lot of other possible topics out there including ballistics. As far as a practical blog for improving your shooting, one covering blowgun sights would probably be the next logical choice.
Really appreciate all the positive comments! We’ve got a really great group here!
How to get on target would be a good next blog. And the picture you showed above about seeing the double barrel is dead on.
But if I’m remembering right people have put lasers on them as well as sights. Matter of fact thinking about it that See All Sight BB reviewed some years back just might be good for a blow gun.
But seriously. I think some kind of part 2 should happen on blow guns. Cool stuff.
Oh and forgot. I still got my wrist rocket sling shot I had as a kid. I’ll put it this way sqerrials, rabbits and birds didn’t stand a chance at 20 yards.
You wouldn’t believe the thump’n it would put on them. DOA is all I can say.
Back in the old days … when BB and I were apparently playing Cowboys and Indians with our trusty Roy Rodgers cap gun rigs, he in Ohio and me in Brooklyn, I was introduced to ‘home made’ blow guns. A pea shooter, remember them?, was transformed into a blow gun by launching a wooden match stick with a straight pin inserted into one end with some strategically placed high tech ‘scotch tape’ wrapped around the match stick just behind it to fill the pea shooter space.
Not too much in the way of ‘ big game ‘ to hunt in NYC but they worked just fine on wooden telephone poles holding targets ! 😉
Not sure if we cut off the match head …. there was a time when throwing darts were very popular, not the bar target type but longer wood ones with feathers and then the world went high tech … all plastic darts !
As a young boy (50 now) I remember one of my adopted dad’s childhood toys that my grandparents gave us to play with.
It was a rectangular box you looked in like a periscope…..BUT it looked downward to aim with.The front of it held 3 huge woodturned darts fletched with feathers.Each dart was released by pressing on a wood peg that corresponded to it.The object was to land the dart “rocket” on the target’s planets! I believe it had to be 1940s or even earlier.
Lawyers would become incontinent at the thought of such a thing today.The tips were sharp carbon steel about 1.5″ long! REALLY wish I had it today…..and YES I still have lawn darts.;)
“Lawn darts.” Mention of those is what would make me apoplectic if I was a lawyer!
I think the taboo mixed with the nostalgia of a simpler time made me get them……I also remember the die cast “bombs” that held the roll paper caps in the tip fondly.
I also used sewing machine needles and shoelace tips to make darts we shot through soda straws we would flare with heat and a pen tip to sleeve together..Wicked little combo that was…..if the lace tip didn’t split when assembling..Aaaaahhh,the good ol’ days!
Ha, I do remember the cap bombs! Not quite in the same category as those lawn darts, I don’t think — I remember seeing those for sale in more recent memory.
I’m 69 and that is one game I never heard of. We were very creative in ways to spend our time before TV’s & computers and common sense was the only safety rule then. Seems to be in short supply these days, probably because it’s not needed much to survive today.
If we only knew at the time how collectable things would become. I often wondered what happened to my fathers WWII treasure chest, only looked into it once at my great grandmothers house, very young.
Full of WWII firearms and stuff. Rumor has it that my mother had it disposed of after she woke up one morning and found my drunk father pointing a rifle at her !!
The ones I’m referring to are evidently being called ” Vintage” wooden feather throwing darts. That word keeps popping up a lot for me these days !
We ARE talking about the same darts,….I’m fairly certain.These were just part of an ingenious toy set with pasteboard construction for the periscope body…..the “board” was like a screenprinted cork bulletin board and the scene of space.The launcher also had the great graphics folks kill for today.It would have been in Bradford PA that we played with it.
Grandfather grew up next to a ball bearing factory……had about 18lbs of shooter marble sized irregular castoffs.I BET nobody played marbles with him twice.As a boy I believed any “fried” marbles were a result of playing against him! I remember the first Star Wars figures and how everybody said they would have great value someday…….I say the memories are worth the most but dang……..a rocket firing Bobba Fett in the pkg. is worth $125,000.
Many people’s first blowgun was one of those wonderfully big McDonald’s straws with straw wrapper ammo! 🙂
We wet the end and turned them into spit wads. They were hanging down from our school ceilings all over the place.
And then there was the day we found cases of new plaster of paris cast making rolls. Picture a tree covered in TP … then picture a whole town covered. I think we made the news that day. In hind sight the abbreviation ‘JD’ comes to mind.
I got my only paddling in high school for using a pea shooter in English class.
Must have made a lasting ‘impression’ 🙂 Your English turned out just fine.
I pulled my open palm out of my teachers hand just before an 18″ wood ruler came slamming down on ‘HER’ open palm. Natural instinct I guess, but it brought tears to her eyes and she never slapped anybody’s hands again and I was told to return to my seat. And those Christian Brothers, they wouldn’t think twice about flinging an eraser or chunk of chalk at you. But you know the saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
Then you and I must be Supermen! 😉
Pretty funny. An early sign of things to come? Of course, if you’d waited until Physics class you might have been able to finagle a “ballistic experimentation” excuse.
Thanks for an informative and entertaining blog…..right where I come to for such things.I am surprised to be the first asking this?! “Got any chrony strings??” I bet I would get light headed after shot 3. 🙂
Oops, Gunfun beat me to it…….I type slow.
A great question, and I’ve got some velocities but very limited and I want to confirm some anomalies I’ve come across . . . one of them being that chronographs seem to have a hard time with blowgun darts! Interestingly enough, some blowgunners have reported a slight drop in dart trajectory on the second shot (out of a standard 5-shot target string) which is very curious. I’ve noticed it in my own shooting too, once it was pointed out to me. Best theory seems to be something related to lung compression on the first shot with a bit of recovery going on during the second. Some of my second shots were actually lower velocity, but not consistently enough to be statistically valid. There’s room for a lot of serious study in the blowgun world, which has not yet become nearly as technical as airgunning.
I’d like to add a couple personal notes that didn’t quite fit into the main blog write-up . . .
First, I actually got back into airgunning after a 30-year hiatus because of an “off-topic” thread on airguns at one of the blowgun blogs. I have been even more amazed at the advances in airguns, especially in pellets, scopes, and the emergence of PCPs.
And second, the very first time I ever heard of Pyramyd Air was via a banner ad at a blowgun website! I clicked the link and started browsing all those neat guns — and that was all she wrote! Subsequent discovery of the complementary Pyramyd Air Blog has at least tripled my enjoyment of shooting.
This blog has brought me “full circle,” back to the topic that originally turned my attention to airguns again. I’ve been glad to help promote this sister sport, and I also hope this blog will draw some blowgunners to the airgun ranks. We are living in the golden age of both, and I thank B.B. for including this at the Pyramyd Air blog.
(from above),…Good,… I am glad that you found the info. interesting. Be sure to keep us posted if give any of it a try. Darts in a break barrel would be of high interest. Something in a 500 fps range might do well. Take care and good luck. Maybe some of what you might try might lead to another guest blog,… or even a new product that you could sell! Ohhhh yea! 🙂
FrankBpc—–I had the same kind of toy. The target board was some kind of flake board with a map that was supposed to be a part of Germany. The targets were factories, airfields, ships etc. If you were not careful, the darts could hit your feet. They would penetrate shoe leather. I got this toy during WW2. 1943 or 44. It was one of the many toys made of non strategic materials. The only metal was the steel needles in the wood darts.—–Ed
OH Ed……THANK YOU! Any info helps me as I search out this memory! So you had a fight for freedom version ….that makes perfect sense to me.All that would have been different was the art work.The non-strategic materials thing also fits.You have really helped solidify my estimate of the 1940s…..just imagine the space themed one! It was COOL.Worth noting is that it was pure fantasy in a toy who’s original (assuming he survived with feet intact) would later in life see the fantasy become reality.
I guess it is also interesting that I am living in Huntsville Alabama “The Rocket City” where many of the famous space ships are on display! Neat stuff……Thanks again Frank B
Yogi—-I used a bench grinder to reshape the scalpel blades for my darts. My hospital had a large room for lab animals. I discovered that some white rats had escaped their cages. They lived behind the refrigerator, freezer and other furniture in the room. I spent many of my lunch breaks hunting them with my blow guns. The darts were not lethal, but prevented the rats from escaping back behind furniture. Then I would finish them off with my Benjamin co2 pistol. ——–Ed
Wow….that is a story I can also relate to.In New Orleans post Katrina I spent two months in a 200yr old house taking care of my friend’s 2 parrots.The city was overrun with Rats…..two and four leggers.At night I slept in a recliner guarding the smaller parrot’s cage.The rats would show up for the food the bird would drop.I would greet them with a Walther Nighthawk and wadcutters……One of the 2 legged rats was then Congressman Bill Jefferson who lived 2 doors down and had just been indighted (sp?) .He was the one found w/ $90K in his freezer in graft money.I saved the parrots…..law enforcement took care of mr.Jefferson and his family of criminals.(even the mother was dirty….!)
Hiveseeker, B.B. or other members,
Can anyone please inform me on the size of pipe (id) that would be best for all three calibers, .40, .50, and the .625.
I live behind enemy lines and my betters have them outlawed because they know what’s best for me. I plan on purchasing the darts online but I am unable to purchase the gun.
p.s. Hiveseeker, thanks for sharing your expertise it is greatly appreciated.