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Submarine speargun

popgun pete

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Jul 30, 2008
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Here is a photo of a more complete example. Note how the "Siamese bands" wrap at the muzzle which seems to have guide flanges.
I found a French language advert for the gun and some other items like masks and flippers of the same "Submarine" brand, the advert seems to indicate the
equipment was available in both France and England at the time, but no date is shown. Probably of sixties vintage would be my guess. A drawing taken
from the advert is also attached here.
SUBMARINE.jpg

Submarine band gun R.jpg

Not a powerful gun and two skinny barrel tubes instead of one thick one just to be different and a rather flimsy construction as I have seen others that were broken. The bands would not be quick to change over and no automatic side to side band pull adjustment, so get the lengths wrong and the gun will not shoot straight.
Submarine advert.jpg
 
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popgun pete

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Jul 30, 2008
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More info https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Submarine_Products

Submarine Products Ltd (1959−1990) was a diving gear manufacturer, with a factory in Hexham in Northumberland, England. It was founded in 1959 by Lt.Cdr. Hugh Oswell.

In 1959 Hugh Oswell designed around the Cousteau-Gagnan patent and made sport diving breathing sets accessibly inexpensive. Submarine Products Ltd were the first company to make scuba sets readily available to the public in the United Kingdom.

After financial difficulties, Submarine Products Ltd ceased in 1990. I expect that with the increasing availability of European brands such as Cressi and Mares (Italy) and Nemrod (Spain), plus the avalanche of American made dive gear these minor brands disappeared. A French brand "Hurricane" made a wide range of sportdiving and spearfishing equipment in the fifties into the sixties and were well known internationally, but today they have totally disappeared, so it has happened to reasonably well established companies before and often they disappear following takeover activity.
 
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DRW

Vintage snorkeller
Jan 5, 2007
208
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Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Pete: To the best of my knowledge, while Submarine Products was in business from 1959 to 1990, the company never gave the brand name "Submarine" to any of its merchandise. The firm was based in Hexham, further up the Tyne Valley from where I live in North East England. It mainly distributed "Tarzan" diving equipment manufactured by Beuchat of Marseilles, best known for inventing the Jetfin. I have the 1960, 1964, 1966, 1969 and 1980 Submarine Products catalogues; the 1966 edition can be viewed in its entirety here:
.
The only spearguns Submarine Products distributed were "Tarzan" branded, i.e. of Beuchat provenance.

Within the context of underwater diving, "Submarine" was one of the brand names of another French enterprise: Kent Rubber Company of Anglet. Thank you so much for posting that "Submarine" advertisement, which I have never seen before now. The first fin in the ad also appears in glorious colour on the Skin Diving History website:

And here's the patent protecting this unusual fin design:

And here's a Kent Submarine snorkel-mask:

The pattern of triangles on the top of the mask matches the plainer mask on the Kent Rubber ad. As for the company itself, I found the following entry for the Kent Rubber Company in a French-language diving equipment directory somewhere:
Kent Adour Caoutchouc. Sarl., 39, avenue d’Espagne, 64600 Anglet. Tél. (59) 03.84.01. Télex : 578002. « Kent », « Submarine », palmes, masques, tubas et tous articles de plongée et de chasse sous-marine.
English translation: Kent Adour Rubber Company Ltd. 39, avenue d'Espagne, 64600 Anglet. Tel. (59) 03.94.01. Telex: 578002. Brands: "Kent", "Submarine". Products: fins, masks, snorkels, all diving and underwater hunting equipment.

If the ad above is anything to go by, Kent Rubber was best known for its hot water bottles. According to the June 1964 document at COUR DE CASSATION, Chambre sociale, du 10 juin 1964, Publié au bulletin | Legifrance, its other products included bathing caps and balloons. At some stage, the company adopted the name "Kent Adour Caoutchouc", which identified the manufacturer with rubber products, as "caoutchouc" is French for "rubber".

Focusing on the Kent range of basic diving gear, my principal source of information is the 1967 edition of an "Equipment List" I have in my possession, published by Calypso Sports Ltd of Poole in the UK. A summary follows of the Kent products Calypso Sports imported from France for the British market.

Face Masks
  • Kent Junior (Black). £1 3s 0d.
  • Kent Senior (Black). £1 5s 6d.
  • Kent Biarritz (Blue). 13s 9d.
Compensators
  • Kent Compensator Beryx (Black). £1 9s 6d.
  • Kent Compensator with Drain Valve (Black). £1 17s 2d.
Snorkels
  • Kent Rubber (Black). 10s 9d.
Goggles
  • Kent Senior Champion Goggles (Blue). 8s 0d.
Swim Fins
  • Kent Tiki Standard, Adjustable (Black). £2 10s 8d.
  • Kent Tiki Large (Black). £2 10s 8d.
 
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popgun pete

Well-Known Member
Jul 30, 2008
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Australia
The "Submarine" name is molded into the gun's butt, that is how the OP identified it.
Submarine gun butt.jpg

The star shaped sear lever Beuchat guns were late sixties vintage, so this catalogue may be later than the "Submarine" gun, thus no mention of it.
Beuchat star sear lever.jpg
catalogue page.jpg
 
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DRW

Vintage snorkeller
Jan 5, 2007
208
83
118
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
If we're talking spearguns carried by Submarine Products during the 1960s, here are the gun pages in the four catalogues issued by the Hexham company over this decade:

1960
54021

1964
54022

1966
54023


1969
54024


These are the only speargun pages in the Submarine Products catalogues. So far as I am aware from the documentary evidence in my possession, Submarine Products never made their own spearguns or even rebranded any made by other manufacturers. I cannot find any link between Submarine Products of Hexham in the UK and Kent Rubber/Kent Adour Caoutchouc of Anglet in France either. Both firms appear to have come up with the name "Submarine" independently of each other and probably unaware of each other's existence.

The "Submarine" logo embossed on the speargun

and on the fins pictured in your Kent Rubber advertisement
54028
54030

appears to match the distinctive cursive script logo on these Kent Rubber/Kent Adour Caoutchouc swimming fins:

54027

54026


The following excerpt from a French diving equipment directory confirms that "Kent" and "Submarine" were both official brand names of the Kent Adour Caoutchouc firm and presumably too of the Kent Rubber Company Ltd that preceded it.
Kent Adour Caoutchouc. Sarl., 39, avenue d’Espagne, 64600 Anglet. Tél. (59) 03.84.01. Télex : 578002. « Kent », « Submarine », palmes, masques, tubas et tous articles de plongée et de chasse sous-marine. (English translation: Kent Adour Rubber Company Ltd. 39, avenue d'Espagne, 64600 Anglet. Tel. (59) 03.94.01. Telex: 578002. Brands: "Kent", "Submarine". Products: fins, masks, snorkels, all diving and underwater hunting equipment.)
 
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popgun pete

Well-Known Member
Jul 30, 2008
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Australia
This thread started on a query on the “Submarine” gun and it looks like something from France given the advert language. Due to the flimsy construction I doubt too many were sold compared to the other French Arbaletes, however some made it to other countries and I also saw similar “orphan” guns here that after a brief introduction sunk virtually without trace, often due to the low prospect of spare parts such as spears.
 

DRW

Vintage snorkeller
Jan 5, 2007
208
83
118
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Just to throw a little more confusion in to the mix, :) there was another British rubber goods manufacturer, W. W. Haffenden, whose range of products was branded "Submarine" during the 1950s:
54039

In the mid-1950s, the firm expanded its existing "Submarine" brand range of moulded rubber swimcaps to include a Submarine Clipper rubber swim fin, face mask, breathing tube and combined face mask and breathing tube. Here is an image of the interior of Sugg Sports store in central Sheffield in 1961. The photograph shows "one of the rooms where some of the sportswear was on display, including some Lee Cooper jeans and snorkeling and scuba diving equipment." The Submarine Clipper snorkelling equipment is displayed on the panel at the top right of the picture.


So, why is this significant in the current context? Well, the cursive script font used in the Submarine logo in the Haffenden swim cap ad
54040

is so similar to the Kent Rubber Company's Submarine logo on their fin:
54041

Might the Kent Rubber Company in France have originated from the W. W. Haffenden company in England?
  • The Haffenden company was based in Sandwich in the English county of Kent (hence perhaps Kent Rubber Company)?
  • The Haffenden company seems to have had plenty of European connections; its first fins resembled a design from Poland and it had some of its later designs made in Italy.
  • The evidence of the "Submarine" brand logo, which Haffenden dropped in 1961 in favour of the new brand name "Britmarine" when the firm was taken over by the London Rubber Company and renamed "Haffenden-Richborough". The dropping of the brand name by Haffenden would have released the logo for Kent Rubber to use in France.
Yes, I know this is still speculation and not conclusive evidence, but it's still food for thought. By the way, Haffenden never made or stocked spearguns. I wonder whether Kent Rubber's speargun marketed under their "Submarine" brand was actually made by them. There is no Kent Rubber patent for spearguns, while there are Kent Rubber patents for fins, masks and a hot water bottle stopper!
 

popgun pete

Well-Known Member
Jul 30, 2008
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It is common for companies to have branded lines made for them by others, one that comes to mind is Scubapro who had their pneumatic guns made in Italy, but those guns were made by the company that later became Salvimar. As “Salvis and Figli” they manufactured components, specializing in metal parts and machining, but some time after Scubapro ceased selling spearfishing related equipment the newly created Salvimar offered a “Vintair” pneumatic speargun which was a very slightly modified form of the Scubapro “Magnum”. I know this for certain as I own this gun in both forms. Scubapro also had some of their swim fins made in Italy. It is not uncommon for manufacturing companies that are not well known in their own right will make products for a wide range of brand names without ever selling product under their own name. Another example is SOS of Italy who made many Scubapro items, including dive gauges and their decompression meter. Catalogues don't always tell the whole story, you have to know the industry connections underpinning many brands.

One thing that sets this double tube "Submarine" speargun apart is that it uses a slide trigger which is not often encountered as it limits the leverage available in the release mechanism to that provided by the sear lever. Only really applicable in spearguns of modest power unless it operates a pushrod to control a two-piece trigger mechanism located much further back in the gun.
 
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popgun pete

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Jul 30, 2008
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The Beuchat gun with the star shaped sear lever is a plastic clamshell handle speargun and has a metal cage inside it to add to the strength. The metal cage is that D shape surrounding the star on the patent diagram shown above. The US version of the patent is 1970 vintage, so how a 1964 catalogue could show this gun is a complete mystery unless the catalogue date is wrong. The metal clamshell grip Arbaletes from Cavalero have pull down sear levers and their Beuchat equivalents have single-piece triggers as I have examples of both. Beuchat have a number of trigger mechanism patents which I have copies of and the star pattern version was to create a two-piece trigger mechanism for their guns. As this mechanism has no sear lever gearing they next moved to a dipping sear tooth type which was also adopted in various versions by other companies including the original Sporasub.
 

DRW

Vintage snorkeller
Jan 5, 2007
208
83
118
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
I've had a look through my collection of Beuchat documentation, and I found a leaflet on the catalogue page of the Finnish Diving Museum website that appears to show the gun's availability in 1962:
54044


The following from 1963, if the dating information on this Attrezzature subacquee d'epoca page is to be believed:


And here's an ad from the January/February 1964 edition of the French diving magazine L'aventure sous-marine that I have just scanned from a paper copy of the issue in my possession:
54045
 
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DRW

Vintage snorkeller
Jan 5, 2007
208
83
118
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
The US version of the patent is 1970 vintage, so how a 1964 catalogue could show this gun is a complete mystery unless the catalogue date is wrong.
There can be little doubt about the date of the 1964 Submarine Products catalogue containing the the following gun page on its tenth page:

The front cover of the catalogue is clearly dated with the year:
54046


The mystery continues...

By the way, I posted the first Submarine Products catalogue gun page as being "1960". I've rechecked and when I received the scan, it was labelled "c1960", so circa 1960, not precisely. I've now reason to believe that the catalogue was likelier to hail from 1962. Why? First the front page of the undated catalogue:
54048


and then this ad from page 16 of the March 1962 issue of the British Sub-Aqua Club magazine Triton:
54047

That would make more sense if we accept that Submarine Products chose to publish a catalogue every two years: 1962, 1964, 1966. The scan I have of the 1962? SP catalogue is indeed 16 pages long. And that tallies with the Tarzan Star action gun being introduced in 1962 by Beuchat.
 
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popgun pete

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Well I have found the answer as to why this mechanism does not appear in the Beuchat patent list as it is attributed to Louis Rossi and was applied for in 1961. The later patent by Beuchat must be for the plastic handle version, hence the metal cage. These guns in their metal form don't seem to have come here and very few of the later plastic versions either as the Champion Arbalete had most of the eurogun market particularly once their red safety trigger mechanism gun came out.
Rossi star sear.jpg

The other user of this star wheel mechanism is the Greek Balco Sub speargun which has an alloy clamshell handle. These trigger mechanisms don't do much for trigger pull reduction as the force on the sear tooth is about the same as the sear pushing on the trigger as the arms are the same lengths being a star with equal distances to the sear pivot pin.
 
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popgun pete

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This is the earlier Beuchat gun with the single-piece trigger and is a contemporary of the Champion Arbalete. This particular gun has been made for sale by Healthways in the USA and only had a change of name plates in the mould.
Peche-Sport Beuchat (Healthways).JPG
 
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popgun pete

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An advantage for Beuchat would have been that the same handle molding with a boss added for a new pivot pin would mean that the gun looked exactly the same externally. They did not have to make a completely new handle and only the trigger pivot screw remains as before. I bought the Peche Sport Beuchat gun a long time ago and have only seen a couple of others and externally you would be none the wiser without pulling the spear out of the gun.

This is the similar Balco Sub “Thunder” handle which sold well into modern times as I purchased this gun brand new.
Balco Sub Thunder handle.JPG

Balco Sub Thunder mech.JPG

At the time of these photos the gun had never been used and so was easy to pull apart. The muzzle molding in plastic had marks from years of the casting die being knocked around with multiple fittings and removals from the injection molding machine and this gun is one of the last ones ever manufactured.
 
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popgun pete

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I finally remembered the name of the plastic handle Beuchat gun with the star sear lever as the "Caraibe". Attached is a photo of it.
beuchat caraibe 3.jpg

You can see a star symbol just above the "Caraibe" name on the handle.
 
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DRW

Vintage snorkeller
Jan 5, 2007
208
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Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Well remembered!

I've just been rummaging through my scans and I found an old British "Typhoon" (E. T. Skinner) from 1966. Here are two pages from it, showcasing "Submarine" spearguns in three versions. So far as I'm aware, Typhoon didn't make its own spearguns, importing those in its catalogue from Cressi and elsewhere. I wonder whether this find adds anything to what we already know.
54074

54075
 

popgun pete

Well-Known Member
Jul 30, 2008
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Australia
Five quid for a speargun seems cheap until you remember what a young worker earned in a week back then, probably not much more. In the late sixties the "Surete Rouge" alloy handle Cavalero Champion guns were wiping the floor with most other euroguns and were so successful that they sold for decades, even after the company was making plastic handle guns. The same trigger mechanism was in their “Canon” cocking stock gun, hence these plastic grip “Submarine” guns were facing strong competition.
champion arbalete models RR.jpg
 
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DRW

Vintage snorkeller
Jan 5, 2007
208
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Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Just resurrecting this thread to report that a trawl through my library of images has unearthed a possible sighting of one of the products on Pete's Kent Rubber advertisement:

The arrow pattern on the blade is pretty distinctive and here it seems to be once again on the fins below:
5486531.png

My hypothesis is that these may be Submarine Sprint fins, although the fins in the advert have convex blade tips while the fins above have concave ones.
 
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