Make Seminole Blowguns

Bamboo makes the best blowgun barrel.

The Native American Seminole tribe, originally from Florida, is believed to have traditionally used blowguns to hunt birds. Not much is known about their blowguns, beyond the fact that they were made out of what is commonly known as switch cane or giant cane (Arundinaria gigantea), a species of bamboo-like grass native to the area. Blowguns are easy to make–you can construct your own out of bamboo and have a lethal weapon similar to what the Seminoles used many years ago.


1. Cut a length of bamboo between 7 and 9 feet in length. The stalk should be about 0.60 caliber (19/32 inch) in diameter–you get historical-accuracy bonus points if it’s genuine switch cane. One end will be slightly wider than the other–this will be the end you blow into.

2. Look along the length of the bamboo to make sure it’s perfectly straight. If not, note where the bent places are and hold one of them over an open heat source (traditionally a bed of coals). Bend the crooked part straight and hold it in place until it cools. Repeat until the entire length of the pipe is straight.

3. Heat one end of a metal rod and use it to burn out the septums, or node-ends. Bamboo septums are very thin, so this should not be difficult, but you need to be careful to remove each segmental divider entirely.

4. Make darts out of bamboo skewers or hardwood dowels, sharpened at one end. These darts can traditionally be anywhere from 10 to 22 inches in length. Tie fluffy rabbit fur or layers of dried thistledown along the rearmost 4 inches of the shaft, for the fletching. This should fit snugly into the barrel of the blowgun.

5. Insert a dart into the larger end of the blowgun to fire it. Push it in until the fletching is just flush with the blown end of the pipe. Hold the blowgun with both hands, resting your elbows against your chest. Aim carefully and blow a short, sharp blast to launch the dart.