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Rebikoff Ratchet Cocking Speargun

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popgun pete

Well-Known Member
Jul 30, 2008
Dimitri Rebikoff was one of the underwater pioneers especially in the field of underwater photography and developed a number of devices including his torpedo-like underwater scooter which was equipped with cameras and lights for underwater work. He also invented an underwater speargun for which I am showing the patent below. In the event the actual gun produced was somewhat different in the final layout, but how it worked was essentially the same.
Rebikoff Ratchet loading speargun.jpg

I only mention it here as one has come up for sale on eBay.

Anyone who has ever cocked and fired a speargun underwater may wonder why anyone would bother with such a layout which has some obvious drawbacks, but in the fifties an informal competition seemed to be on to come up with new weapons that displayed inventiveness and imagination. Expensive in its day and not a lightweight given the all-metal construction.



Photos supplied by John Warren from his web pages on historic underwater weapons (which are unfortunately no longer up) as an educational resource for divers.
We can see why Rebikoff inverted the gun compared with his earlier proposal as it means that the ratchet lever pivot did not have to be on a yoke that flanked the sliding barrel with the pivot being a stub cylinder projection on either side rather than an axle passing through it. By creating this new deep handle all the pivots are under the barrel, not above it. I have never seen the innards of one of these but the arrangement of pawls to lock and advance the gear rack on the barrel will be much the same. Of interest is the vertical sliding column sear tooth element that the trigger pulls down on to fire the gun, not such a great idea with friction loading up the movement of the column. This trigger design was one of those considered by Rene Salles for his pneumatic gun and is shown in his patent, but he used a single-piece trigger instead with an outrigger arrangement placing it on one side of the gun and bent at its lower end to be inside the trigger finger guard. It is possible that Rebikoff changed the trigger as the column would now be much shorter, but I have never seen it disassembled.

I have seen photos of a number of these and most do not look like they received much use before their owners switched to something easier to use. Fish hanging around listening to the frantic clicking as you work the ratchet handle for the last part of the cocking action would soon have wised up once a few of their pals had been shot. However if you have ever speared in a virgin untouched area you will find the fish swim up and look at you trying to figure out what this strange creature is that has appeared in their midst, both big and small ones.
rebikoff speargun advert .jpg
rebikoff hanbdle.jpg

The above is an earlier version with a more rounded styling of the handle that is shown in the advert.
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These Rebikoff guns usually sell for around 1000 bucks and up, so it will be interesting to see if this one sells. A decade back about half a dozen dive gear collectors would be all over it in a bidding war, but such feeding frenzies seem to have tapered off in the last few years. These items really belong in a museum as bar their highly unusual layout and high quality of manufacture they would not be that suitable for modern spearfishing, particularly as most expect their guns to float after the shot.
With so much mass high up above your hand these guns would be inclined to flip when fired, although the spear projection line is not that far above the grip compared to other mid-handles. However that will depend on how far back you ratchet the handle as it can go right back to the butt pad. Amazingly a two spear model was produced, but I don’t know if they were ever sold as this one owned by a French collector was new in the box.
Rebikoff double handle.jpg

Rebikoff double.jpg

The silver selector lever on the side of the grip has three positions which are fire, safe and arm, the last position is for when you are working the ratchet. When the gun is ready for firing the ratchet lever is locked back inside the grip handle. Scuba divers may have liked such a weapon as they don’t want after the shot floaters. Line handling options bar a shaft line slide don’t appear to have been provided for in the design.
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The Rebikoff gun failed to sell at 600 USD. Not surprising as that included shipping which would be around 130 bucks for a heavy gun given the big alloy castings used, and maybe more.
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