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"Blowpipe" and "blow tube" redirect here. For other uses of the terms, see Glassblowing

Demonstration of blowgun in Ocanaluftee Indian village, Cherokee, North Carolina

A blowgun (also called a blowpipe or blow tube) is a simple weapon consisting of a small tube for firing light projectiles, or dart. The wielder blows into one end, forcing the dart out the other. Its propulsive power is limited by its user's respiratory muscles. Sometimes, for increased effectiveness, the dart is tipped with a poison, most famously curare.

Many cultures have used this weapon, but various indigenous rain forest tribes in South America and South East Asia are the best-known users. Blowguns were very rarely used by these tribes as anti-personnel weapons, but primarily to hunt small game such as monkeys. North American Cherokees were known for making blowguns out of river cane to supplement their diet with rabbits and other small creatures.

Today blowguns are used with tranquilizer darts to capture wildlife or to stun caged dangerous animals. Herpetologist use blowguns to capture elusive lizards with stun darts. Blowguns are also used recreationally, with either darts or paintballs.

Sport blowgun

See also Fukiya for standards pursued by the International Fukiyado Association (IFA).

There are several competition styles practiced around the world. A standardization of competition style, based upon fukiya, is being pursued by the International Fukiyado Association and hoped to become an Olympic event. It is a 10 meter target shooting, using a standardized barrel caliber and length, and a standardized dart length and weight, as outlined by IFA.

Two other styles are also being pursued to make up the Olympic blowgun event, both based upon the Cherokee Annual Gathering Blowgun Competition. The Field Style competition is similar to the winter Biathlon, where the shooter runs from a starting line to a target lane, shoots and retrieves the darts, and continue to the next station. The course length varies from 400 to 800 m or longer, with from 9 to 16 targets at various heights and shooting distances. The final style is the Long Distance target shoot. The target is a circle of 24 cm diameter, and the firing line is 20 meters away. Three darts are fired by each shooter, at least one of which must stick in the target. All successful shooters move to the next round, moving back two meters each time.

Sport blowgun competition is managed by the International Fukiya Association, with which national associations in the United States, France, Germany and the Philippines are affiliated.


As a primitive weapon, there are no set dimension for blowgun's length and diameter. However, generally there are three sizes:
  1. Fukiya — diameter is 13 mm (.51 cal) in Japan. Tournament length is 120.0 cm, but for practice one can use a 50 cm tube. No mouthpiece is used; users wrap their lips around the tube. International versions can be slightly more flexible, allowing a tube of 121.92 cm (4 ft) and .50 cal under IFA rules. Darts consist of a paper cone 20 cm long, weighing 0.8 gram.
  2. Cherokee — made of river cane, 6 to 9 feet long. Dart is 8 to 22 inches long, similar to a fukibari, but has tufts for an air seal.
  3. Modern (US/EU) — typically have a diameter of 10 mm (.40 cal), with varying length. Bell-shaped mouthpiece. Length limited to 121.92 cm (4 feet) in competition.
  4. Paintball marker — Made to be identical to the size of a paintball (.68 cal)


In the United Kingdommarker, the blowgun is categorized as an offensive weapon under the 1988 Criminal Justice Act, and as such it is illegal to manufacture, sell or hire or offer for sale or hire, expose or have in one's possession for the purpose of sale or hire, or lend or give to any other person. Antique blowguns are, however, exempt.

In Canadamarker, the blowgun is classified as a prohibited weapon and is defined as any device that "being a tube or pipe designed for the purpose of shooting arrows or darts by the breath". Any imported blowguns must be deactivated by either drilling a hole or by blocking it. On the other hand, like many prohibited weapons, it can be used in a legal shooting range, and can be transported through legal channels.

In the United States, blowguns are legal to have and use.

See also


  • Speck, Frank G. "The Cane BlowGun in Catawba and Southeastern Ethnology" in American Anthropologist 40:2 (Apr.-Jun., 1938), pp. 198–204.

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