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Sea Hornet Speargun Clone From China

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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popgun pete

Well-Known Member
Jul 30, 2008
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They say nature abhors a vacuum and that seems to be a case with this speargun from China. Sea Hornet and Undersee were the two main spearguns produced in Australia, with the third being Turnbull which produced a version of the Champion Arbalete. Sea Hornet initially manufactured a timber barrel gun and a stainless steel tube barrel gun which were named the "Sportsman" and the "Pacific" respectively. The guns are well made and used the first mass produced reverse trigger mechanism based on a design developed by spearfishing great Wally Gibbins in conjunction with John Lawson who operated an extensively equipped metalworking shop. The guns first appeared in 1966/67 and were of the cocking stock type used by Americans. As the US was still stuck with single piece trigger guns the two piece trigger Undersee and Sea Hornet soon found their way to the USA and had dealers there, the Sea Hornet guns sold by White Stag and later by AB Biller. The "Sportsman" had bronze coloured plastic parts and a timber barrel and cocking stock and that is the gun we will be discussing here.

The "Sportsman" in its line drop handle form soon switched to black plastic parts and was joined in production by the "Magnum" which was a near identical gun with minor changes to the spear and shooting line, the main difference being the barrel stickers. These guns were sold for decades until about a decade ago when Sea Hornet or the T.D. Preece Company began to run into financial trouble. Like many companies there is an old Chinese proverb that says the first generation founders build companies up, the second generation manages them and the third generation loses them. Whatever the causal factors were are beyond the scope of this discussion.
sportgun.jpg

maggun.jpg



China, which has become the world's factory for consumer goods, started producing spearguns of rather middling quality and created copies of some popular euroguns which were offered as the Shark and other names depending on whom they were selling them to. Then in 2018 a few guns appeared on eBay which bore the name "Shooter" which were dead set copies of the Sea Hornet Sportsman and Magnum, but produced in China out of their own injection moulds, a move which was no doubt precipitated by the sudden absence of Sea Hornet guns from Australia. In the USA AB Biller had eventually made their own version of the Sea Hornet, but this had been done in conjunction with the Australian company, so was not a rip-off.

The following photographs show just how close a copy the Chinese gun is.
handgrips R.jpg

clone foreground, sea hornet distance.jpg

grips reverse side R.jpg


Note that bar the name stickers the clones are devoid of any markings.
 
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The Chinese copied the spears and speartips as well.
speartip R.jpg

shafts full.jpg

The only difference is the Chinese spears have a flopper retaining cup directly on the shaft and held in the position by a short transverse pin. On A Sea Hornet that is part of their fish extractor speartip, not on the shaft itself.
Sea Hornet and Chinese clone spear tips.jpg
 
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The key difference is the Chinese gun has a specially extruded alloy barrel tube which replicates the shape of the timber gun as this handle shape has only been used by Sea Hornet for their timber guns, but with one exception. For a short time in the late sixties Sea Hornet made a stainless tube barrel gun using the same profile as their timber gun, but it was not popular and they soon stopped producing it. That gun still bore the bronze coloured plastic parts and one is shown below with the other Sea Hornets and the Chinese clones which are the black barrel "Shooters". Note one "Shooter" has the barrel sticker placed upside down!
Sea Hornets and Chinese clones R.jpg

Sea Hornets and Chinese clones 2R.jpg

The Sea Hornet "Sportsman" is the gun on the far right, alongside it is one of the rather rare and ill-considered stainless steel profiled tube guns. That barrel would have been very expensive to make in stainless steel, but made a noisy clunker out of what should be a quiet timber gun. On the round barrel guns, which are basically cylindrical tubes, the spear sits on a plastic support and in some guns there are two of them. AB Biller on their stainless tube gun can use up to three of these supports depending on barrel length and this keeps the spear off the metalwork to a certain extent. Plugging round tubular barrels is rather simple, however square or odd shapes with sharp corners in cross-sections is something else entirely! The stainless steel gun next to the 'Statesman' uses cork plugs cut to shape, but I don't know if this gun ever received a name or ever appeared in a catalogue. I saw a stand display of a bunch of them brand new in Myers Department store in Melbourne, the next week they and the special display stand had gone. The one shown here was in a second-hand store in Scarba Street in the back of Coffs Harbour, a mecca for spearfishermen for decades. Then new marine parks pushed us out to take our chances with the White Pointers and Tigers much further out.
 
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The Chinese guns were sold in knock down form, you had to assemble the barrels and grips.
shooter package .jpg
 
The Chinese copied the trigger mechanism faithfully, the only part they got wrong was using the wrong stuff for the leaf spring which tends to bite into the plastic cassette sidewalls and jams the trigger. If you throw that spring away and use the Sea Hornet spring instead it works just fine. Clone is shown below followed by the real thing.
Shooter trigger mech (800x588).jpg

Sea Hornet mech circle analysis.jpg
 
Because of the trigger jamming problems the Chinese guns were pulled from the market in terms of being offered for sale, but a number of guns made it into the hands of users. After a few years they have appeared again, but only on Alibaba and seem never to have been taken up here as far as I know. In Australia we wonder if Sea Hornet will ever get going again as the company sold their Sydney factory, but crated up all the parts, machinery and production tooling. It is all seemingly sitting in containers waiting for someone to light a match.
 
The original Sea Hornet trigger mechanism was all stainless steel, but was costly to make and the cassette was first injection moulded in plastic and chrome plated and then moulded in black plastic which continues to the present day. AB Biller in the USA are still going strong as the guns there have a strong following. The timber gun below is my own construction using Sea Hornet parts, the cut down down handle and trigger being taken from the original "Pacific" stainless steel barrel tube gun. I have shot lots of fish with it.
Sea Hornet mechanism R.jpg

Sea Hornet metal cassette cutaway.jpg

pacifgun.jpg
The "Pacific" tube gun in stainless steel which was a floater after the shot, but only just! The original version had a passive line clip and no auto line release pistol grip as can be seen on my custom wooden gun equipped for shooting reef fish with prangers or cluster heads.
 
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In the distant past someone produced a clone of the Sea Hornet tube gun and must have been stopped in their tracks as the one shown here came out of an old timer's spearfishing collection sold off on eBay and is the only example that I have ever seen. Like the Chinese, someone grabbed a Sea Hornet speargun and then decided to improve it by creating a new lower grip shape, but this is actually no improvement at all. Your middle finger now jams up into a tight corner where the trigger finger guard blends into the grip handle. There are two clues as to its vintage, it was made when Sea Hornet were still metalizing the cassettes by chrome plating them and the gun uses the line drop mechanism layout. One feature of this mystery gun is it is designed to flood and use three bands, probably 9/16 inch or 1/2 inch diameter, but no bands or wishbones survive. The shaft carries three wishbone notches, Sea Hornet guns only ever have two.

The mystery gun is shown far right, an alloy barrel Sea Hornet Recruit is in the centre and the red grip gun is a low cost gun created in recent years, the Terminator. However that red handle gun is probably as good as all the others as bar the spear used Sea Hornet guns are all the same mechanically.
Sea Hornet and stranger R.jpg

Sea Hornet and stranger muzzles R.jpg

The mystery gun uses an unusual speartip as is shown in the inset above.
Sea Hornet stranger grip gun R.jpg

As with the Chinese clones this gun bears no ID nor markings, but as they are it is injection moulded and has been made for mass production, but where are they? You don't make injection moulding dies and then just produce one gun! My guess is the gun was made in the USA judging by the way it has been put together with a type of Chicago screw which has a male and female slotted screw head end rather than nuts and bolts or self-tappers.
 
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Here is a comparison of the trigger mechanisms and the levers used. Sea Hornet on the left, mystery gun on the right.
Sea Hornet mech comparison 1.jpg

Lever comparison 1.jpg

Top lever set are from the mystery gun, note the cut out to accommodate the safety cam in the top arm of the trigger, possibly a boo boo when designing the clone.
 
Here is a better look at the Chinese clone which has now lost its blue barrel sticker, which was starting to come off and is no great loss. The other gun is a "Gunslinger" made in the USA which uses Sea Hornet parts to replace the horrible original handle that these guns originally came out with.
gunslinger and clone R.jpg

GUNSLINGER AND CLONE R 2.jpg
 
Whoever made these injection moulds knew their stuff as when a die opens the object created is very hot and it shrinks slightly as it cools. If you take an object, scan it and dimension it very precisely and then construct your own moulds unless you build in a shrinkage factor your finished object will just be that little bit smaller than the original. So whoever constructed these moulds in China worked out the shrinkage factor and expanded the dimensions slightly to create a final copy that was dimensionally accurate. I have been right over them and one difference in the sockets for the tubes on the clones is that they contain a tiny bump at the back of the socket that stops the alloy tubing ramming right up into the socket, maybe to prevent cracking stresses as unlike the timber barrels they are designed for alloy has no give, unlike timber. As a matter of interest the bronze plastic handles on the Sea Hornet guns cracked where they were forced onto the stainless steel formed up barrels because they were designed for wood, not metal tubes. So someone in China has been doing some thinking!
 
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