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Don't Bet Your Life Or Your Buddy's Life On A Riffe

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New Member
Sep 24, 2002
Don’t Bet Your Life Or Your Buddy’s Life On A Riffe !

The object of this thread is two-fold: to inform the forum and as many others as to the danger of older Riffe trigger mechanisms and trigger mechanisms and gun modifications in general.
Unfortunately, I learned that a spearo friend in Trinidad was severely injured when his Riffe misfired while being loaded. Yes, we usually think that misfiring happens after the gun is loaded. Wrong! After several operations and removal of parts of internal organs my friend with resultant large scars and loss of 30-40 lbs. can be a reminder that loading a gun can be deadly to the loader. Since I have had a Riffe bluewater for about 10 years,
I contacted Riffe and wanted an explanation of the above. Jay Riffe said, “Your friend used his gun too much.” Do you use your gun “too much?” Since I retired I average about 200 dive days/yr. Maybe about 1/3 are bluewater. Fortunately, I have several different bluewater guns and the lightweight Riffe has always been my last choice.
With further outside research on my part, several members of the forums had reconfirmed that the older Riffe mechanisms can and do misfire. Why haven’t the Riffes put out an advisory to the spearfishing community for a recall? You can bet your life that a car
Manufacturer would recall their faulty brake cars and fix them for free! Well, to make a
Long,sad,story short: After several months of being sent the wrong parts to Fiji and charging for the parts and shipping both ways (despite originally giving them both the model and serial numbers engraved on the gun), I finally have changed the mechanism to the new‘improved’ one. Prevention is better than cure!
The trigger mechanism is the ‘heart ‘ of the gun. What spearo hasn’t thought of increasing the power of his gun? Ever see an old gun at a garage sale or flea market,etc?
Think you can buy or modify the above for a fraction of the price of a new one? HEALTH IS WEALTH! Trigger mechanisms are lucky to be safe for factory rubbers at their original length. The European guns especially. It is easy and unsafe to overpower
Your gun with high modulus,thicker,shorter,more,etc.rubbers.Think you can increase the
Length of your barrel,etc. Please consider the principles of the above apply.
NO ONE wants to shoot a buddy but remember your gun could backfire and shoot yourself too, especially during loading! Don’t be stubborn and have to be kicked by a mule in the stomach to consider the above. RIFFE CULT MEMBERS please be objective
And demand an explanation from your leader! I’ve tried with several emails to urge Riffe to come forward and make public that a new ‘improved’ trigger mechanism is available for their older guns.
P.S. I always try and wear a closed cell foam loading pad which I put in my bathing suit to help protect my gut and ‘family jewels’.


Is a backfire where the back end (trigger end) of the shaft comes out and the shaft gets launched backwards? Gee, I never even considered that before! Scary!

Another name for a closed cell foam loading pad, is a mouse pad. Works great for wetsuits that don’t have loading pads built in.

You did the right thing in upgrading your gun, even though it wasn't easy. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Originally posted by fijifreediver
RIFFE CULT MEMBERS please be objective.

Uh, OK. Lemme get my soapbox out here and I'll join you. :hmm

Firstly, thanks for the heads-up and I wish your friend a successful recovery. There are a lot of easier ways to lose weight. :blackeye Second, you might want to divulge the scenerio of the accident. And yeas, it is possible to use a gun's trigger to the point of fatigue, just as it is with the mechanicals of a door lock, the slides on a drawer and the engine of a car. While I'm not totally pro Riffe, I will admit as you probably will that their trigger is one of the better ones. These days, the guns I make and use have Alexander guts and even then, there are times I wonder... At least the Riffe's come with a safety.

The only time I've seen, yeah, SEEN, a Riffe gun/trigger blowup was from the wood surrounding it, that was cracked from misuse and lack of monitoring and care, finally giving up and the whole thing literally just blew up. The noise was as frightening as the instantaneous realization that there was a chunk of stainless flying somewhere. Thankfully, the shaft flew over the guy's shoulder to land who knows where... I camo'd my suit.

Much as Colt, Rugar and S&W make things as safe and longlasting as they realistically can, (and note that they operate out of water), spearguns are a potentially fatal tool. And just as the gun makers will have a very small percentage of accidents, it's more from the operators deciding to look down the barrel to see what's going on. The charge blowing out the reciever is an anomoly just as a Riffe trigger blowing up from "overuse" is.

Again, best wishes to your friend.
Is a backfire where the back end (trigger end) of the shaft comes out and the shaft gets launched backwards? Gee, I never even considered that before! Scary!

First things first, I also am glad your bud escaped this scenario with his life. A hard lesson learned :(, but at least he will be able to teach it.....and I hope to learn it.

Fiji and everyone else,
I'm not a physisisisist, and a relative newbie to Riffe guns, so pardon my dumb(?) question, but how in the world can a spear backfire? Wouldn't this require a [band] attachment point on the front of the spear :confused:. As I hold my gun, and mock-load it, I'm trying to imagine all possible trigger-failure scenarios..... but the only 'normal' one I can conjure up is: The trigger mech fails and the spear is fired forward without warning. Possible injury occuring from gun recoil (ie, a butt to the chops, nads, guts, etc). Even if the whole mechanism suddenly disappeared, wouldn't the shaft still fire forward (ala hawaiian sling)?

Was the gun being loaded with the spear secured into an immovable object? Did some other portion of the gun fail simulataneously?

I must be missing something :head.


*edit: Upon reading all posts a second/third time, I see that it was never mentioned that the shaft did the damage. Were the victims injuries caused by the recoil of the gun [stock]?
Last edited:
Bula Guys,

The backfire term was used figuratively and described in following context.I hope that clears up any misunderstanding of the term. My understanding of the Trinidad incident was the gun “went off” (fired) while my friend was gut loading it. I believe that the butt of the gun rammed (recoiled) into his gut. He lifted his shirt to reveal some recent scars and I didn’t press him for details!
I’ve had gun barrels break at the handle joint while loading. Breakage also occurs at the muzzle end . I invite the members to inform the forum of other problems encountered
With their guns. AWARENESS is the key to PREVENTION!
Sadly, the Trinidad incident occurred about 3 years ago. At the time, I thought it was bad luck! It wasn’t until several months ago that a respected forum member warned me in private correspondence that the older Riffe mechanisms were prone to “misfire” (the word the non-native English speaking member) used. It was only then that I realized that the Trinidad incident wasn’t an isolated event. Also, heard of a similar incident from a Florida spearo recently.


Please explain further. How does a gun end do any damage? Was it padded or did the padding deteriorated and the metal or wood part do the injury? How much force would would that create (shaft weight in relation to the gun stock weight)? When I first got my Riffe metal tech the only problem I had was that when I fired it for the first time (with one hand ala European) was the unexpected recoil (the gun butt hit me on the chin :blackeye ), but that caused nothing but laughter from my spearo buddies whom had the same experience when they first fired their Riffes (no teeth or blood lost of any sorts). Like Unirdna, I am trying to figure out what caused the injury and can't seem to find a scenario where a serious one can occur to the person loading the bands. Can you explain further?

What spearo hasn’t thought of increasing the power of his gun? Ever see an old gun at a garage sale or flea market,etc?

Not a garage sale or flea market, but e-bay, you betcha.
I hope such case never happen to me.....:confused: ...since I load my Riffes with A-LOT of rubbers.

However I had a thought once that one day I will replace my entire trigger unit after a few years or when I see the sears are being worn. As someone who has a part time job of trouble shooting yachts mechanical breakdowns, the solution is simple....maintain..inspect and no mechanical object which is subjected to high loading will last indefinitely. I think 4 years trigger life for my frequent use MT3 at 6 x 9/16" bands, will be my maintenance schedule.

One thing I notice about some spearo is that they load a shaft fast, so very fast, the shaft hammers the trigger sear. Any 3/8" shaft of 65" or longer will weight about 2 pounds. If any hunter quickly slide in a shaft on the groove and got that loud "CLICK", this is the same as pounding the trigger with a 2 pounds hammer repeatedly. The sear contact of the trigger which holds the shaft is only approx 2mm by 4mm. 600 pounds of pressure can be loaded on this small area, so the load is very high. If you keep hammering the trigger by loading a shaft super quick, eventually the sear will be more or less "dented".

The other possible cause is one's own machined shaft. A guy I know tried to save money by using 316SS shaft machined to fit his Riffe. 316SS is soft metal, it will fail under heavy sear engagement. A failed shaft can be presented as a failed gun. Who is to blame ?

This same guy also tried steel for his Riffe shaft. As we know steel corrode in sea water fast. Any out of shape/worn shaft sear point will cause self-fire. We do not have commercially available 17-4 shaft grade hardened SS here in the country.

Last possible cause is transporting the gun with the shaft in the trigger and not paying attention when the shaft fall out of the groove. This is the same as prying open the trigger assy with a 1 meter plus crow bar. Strictly a NO-NO on all open muzzle gun.

I think no matter how good a trigger is, it has a fixed life span. Take any triggers in the world, use it for years and years at maximum loading and with no careful visual inspection carried out at proper interval, it will fail sooner than expected. If Riffe warranty is three years, I will use 4 years of frequent use as time to change all my 600+ lbs loaded trigger mech.

Currently there are 4 commercially available triggers in the world I read about often and are considered a Blue Water grade. Of all these triggers, I may say that Riffe is the most used. Riffe sales is obviously very high for a semi-custom gun. Some DIY hunter also uses Riffe mech. If there is any failure among these 4 triggers, I bet the Riffe mech will be one of the good candidate since they have the most quantity of Blue Water trigger mech being used, tested and abused. They even use it on their smallest Competitor series gun. I know someone who loads 5 x 5/8" bands on his Riffe #5 Baja Plus ( no failure ), it is just an example how extreme some hunters will test their gears. I am quite extreme too.

I have not own any Riffes more than 3 years but some of my friends have them longer than 7 years ( not used as often per-year as mine ). Also there is at least 40 more Riffe owners/guns I know. If they have faulty mech, I will post it on DB to share with you guys. If any of the Riffe trigger mech will fail, it will most likely belong to my core group ( approx 20 Riffes ) all loaded with minimum 4 x 9/16, 4 x 5/8 rubbers, 3 x 3/4" and a good amount is at 6 x 9/16 rubbers. 24-36 dive trips a year.

Sorry to hear about your friend and thanks for the trigger info.

Next time if I have time and can find the facility, I will pull out one of my well used Riffe trigger mech, take it to a machine shop, pull a shaft out of it with hydraulics and let you know the result. I too wants to know how much pressure does it take for the Riffe trigger to break. For my own curiousity and to maintain "Mr Experimenter - The Long Post" title on DB....:D

If I got the extra $$, I will buy the other three brands of blue water trigger mech to pull and break them. That will be an awesome test...:p. So boys, chip in US$10 to Iya and let me be a happy experimenter.
but how in the world can a spear backfire? Wouldn't this require a [band] attachment

Ted you are so right. I think I had a brain freeze when I was thinking about backfiring.

This whole thread is interesting to me, because someone getting shot is my biggest hunting fear. Maybe I’m too paranoid about this, but sometimes I lay awake the night before a trip thinking about it.

I think that inspection of the trigger mechanism and surrounding areas is vital, but its just one of the necessary steps. Without having any proof, I would guess that operator error is the number one reason for someone getting shafted. I also wouldn’t be surprised if a few time the equipment gets blamed when it was the operator error. The quilt of spearing someone would be so high.

Since I’m paranoid I usually put the safety on all the time and then forget to take it off about ½ the time. I guess its good practice at additional breath hold and not spooking the fish to be totally aimed, pull the trigger, nothing happens, have to pull the gun back, undo the safety, push it back out in front of you, and then shoot the fish.

The other thing I try to do is to keep the gun pointed away from my partner or anyone else in the water. One problem I have is Texas waters are usually choppy and we lose sight of our dive partners all the time. On our last trip we both spent most of our time trying to find each other. I don’t point down when I’m at the surface and sometimes I’m looking all over the place to find out that he just swam to me in the direction my gun was pointed. Any pointers would be appreciated.
Originally posted by fijifreediver
It wasn’t until several months ago that a respected forum member warned me in private correspondence that the older Riffe mechanisms were prone to “misfire” Also, heard of a similar incident from a Florida spearo recently.

How Can The Butt Of a Speargun Do Damage??

Anyone here ever been chest loading a euro gun only to have the wishbone slip off the knock as you're moving the gun into shooting position? I know I have! I was using a 20mm band and the butt was only 6in or so from my chest and I still had one hand on the rubbers. the force of the butt shooting back was enough to wind me and cause labored breathing for quite a few hours there after. had some serious bruises for over a week.

I can see how this could be a nasty combo with a large bluewater gun prematurely firing if it has 4+ large bands and someone is holding the rubbers when it discharges. I will agree though it seem VERY improbable.

but hey - $hit happens.

hope your friend is allright,

A buddy of mine made me a gun with an Aimrite mechanism. It was a mid-handle and he made his own rod from trigger to mechanism. The rod was large in diameter, at least 1/4 inch. As I finished loading the second band, the gun went off, causing the butt to hit me right below the chest bone. The wind was knocked out of me and I ended up having a nice bruise. Turns out the rod was too long and was just at the point where the trigger would fire. No fault to the Aimrite mechanism, but a word of warning to others who make guns or use home made guns. I no longer use that gun.
I have one thing to say to you IYA,


You are one spearfishing enthusiast dude. More power to you. Maybe those manufacturers would like to contribute to that research you are trying to do Iya. What do you say guys? Let's write the speargun manufacturers and see if we can get Iya some mechanism to test.

Safety !

Sorry to hear about your friend.
For me, the probability of shooting a friend is very important issue to address. I am surprised with the amout of people I have seen pointing their gun at me ! also with the safe off ! I think this situation is forgotten by to many spearfisherman.
This is my way of handling my speargun:
1.Safety on always.
2.Load with safety on, tying not to let the gun loose between charging bands.
3.swiming with safety on.
5.Gun pointing away from frienly mammals around.:) Anticipation is good here. Adecuate gun balance an flotation is of great help here. (a neutral to mildly positive flotation with heavier muzzle floating with point down, I think is the best in many situations )
5.When I see fish, safety is turned off immediately.Regardles if I'm on the surface or at the bottom
6.If no shot is made, I turn safety on again, before ascent.
7.leave the gun or take it up with me, depending on situation.

Sounds simple, but many don't do this simple things ! Most get distracted with so manny things that can in the sea. Yes , I have make mistakes, but I have managed with discipline to stick with these procedures. If you losse fish because trying to shoot with safety on, youll eventually will remember to disengage the safety on time. For me is the first thing that comes to my mind when I see fish, with fewer exeptions every time.


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FYI- this thread is about three years old :) Best to check the date when replying.
ERm, I know this is gonna sound dumb but how did the spear go into this guy, I really can't imagine it. The spear must fire forwards and he must be pointing it away from himself no??
The worst problem I had was loading a little 115 euro, i forgot my gloves as the wishbone slipped off the notch and bruised my fingers as i was loading. If it has happened to you before you will know how much it hurts right.
Anyhow i really can not picture the situation mentioned in this thread.
Craig Thailand said:
ERm, I know this is gonna sound dumb but how did the spear go into this guy, I really can't imagine it. The spear must fire forwards and he must be pointing it away from himself no??
The worst problem I had was loading a little 115 euro, i forgot my gloves as the wishbone slipped off the notch and bruised my fingers as i was loading. If it has happened to you before you will know how much it hurts right.
Anyhow i really can not picture the situation mentioned in this thread.

Craig, thank`s for sharing that, i tought i was the only one bruising my finger when loading :head
lol, i thought i broke mine, i was reaching to adjust the shooting line and the wishbone flew down the barrel into my finger :(
Anyways, how did he spear himself??

The wishbone mashing your fingers is fairly common. Its THE greatest reason as to why i switched ALL my guns to dyneema wish-bones.

The mis-firing he's reffering to is probably the gun discharging the spear, WITH-OUT the spearo pulling the trigger, WHILST loading the gun. Obviously, this is applicable to multiple rubber guns. One of my mates didn't load his spear properly into the mech of his wooden gun. he loaded two bands and as he was pulling back the third band, the gun miss-fired. The spear went forward and the gun, which was still on his chest, smashed back into his chest. He fractured a couple of ribs and it took him a few months before he could spear again.

Another guy here shot a YF tuna from the DECK of his boat!! He didn't take into account how bad the recoil would be and the 4 band wooden gun knocked his front 4 teeth out of his mouth!!:martial The good part is that he still managed to land the 50kg YF!!rofl

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That's my take on it too, Miles. The guy probably didn't have the spear shaft fully engaged by the sear of the trigger and with the jiggling from reaching for and pulling the bands, BOOM. :head

That sure doesn't make it fuel to dump on a Riffe product, but rather to let others know to really check their shaft engagement before loading up.
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