Not Just for the Jungle: The Blowgun Returns - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Not Just for the Jungle: The Blowgun Returns

Not Just for the Jungle: The Blowgun Returns

By Eugene S. Robinson


Because the kind of respect you get when you tell people you’re into blowguns makes them well worth the price.

By Eugene S. Robinson

The movie Tarzan, all one hour and 50 uncomfortable minutes of it, opened in early July. Despite this, not because of it, we were reminded of the fact that no one living in the jungle was sporting AR-15 assault weapons. And even if they were hauling .223 ammo, the preferred ammo for the AR-15, dragging cases of it around the jungle makes no sense at all. 

Which sees our thoughts turn to the magic of the blowgun. Not blow guns, which are modified air nozzles you’re likely to see at your local car shop, but blowguns, long tubes down which sharpened darts spin, usually in movies about jungles and people with easy access to curare or other muscle relaxants.

“What are you doing?” The speaker was Mr. Williams. Next-door neighbor.

“Shhh ….” The 5-foot-long composite tube’s mouthpiece — think half the size of a toilet paper roll and just as thick around — is pressed to my lips trumpet-player-style. “Rats …” And as the now-very-disturbed Mr. Williams hustles away his now-extremely-curious kids, the business of pest control at Casa de Robinson concludes with a whispered hiss and at least one dead rat skewered to the fence by a 5-inch dart. 

“There’s actually no practical benefit to hunting with a blowgun,” says longtime hunter, Idaho resident and Neurosis guitar player Steve Von Till. “I mean, you hunt to eat and you’re not killing anything worth eating with a blowgun, so what’s the point? And what do you say to a hunting buddy: ‘I just blew a bear!’?”

Whatever. The point is that for not much more than $60 you can get yourself a 5-foot blowgun complete with a quiver and darts, which, using the compressed air of the mouthpiece, can pierce wood fences. And just as utilitarian arguments regarding assault weapons fall on deaf ears, failing to address the 12-year-old inside those who are drawn to such things, so it goes with blowguns. Which is to say the question is not “Why would you want one?” but “How much cool shit could I do with it?”

Like? Well, sport blowgunning! Target competitions all over the world, specifically in France and Germany, outpace interest in the sport in the U.S., but it’s there. How do we know? The United States Blowgun Association says so!

“Look, there’s just something about a weapon that comes from inside of you,” says blowgun aficionado Sal Russo, whose gateway drug was archery. “And it’s just so simple. And elegant.” Russo’s love of blowgunning comes from what he describes as a “total-body experience.”

“One of these days I’ll pull off a Mitsuaki Yoshida,” he intones, all serious earnestness. Yoshida being the first man to hit a perfect score in sport blowgunning. Meaning he never missed. Ever. Totally ballsy, totally zen.

Now, if you’ll excuse me … I’m off blowgunning.

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