How It Works

An ear piercing gun is a tool used to pierce earlobes. Shaped like a handgun, it uses a spring action to push a sharp-pointed earring through the earlobe when the piercer pulls a trigger. Ear piercing guns are typically loaded with starter earrings (also called piercing studs) made of surgical steel or some other hypoallergenic metal, such as gold or titanium. Starter earrings have posts which are thicker than the posts on normal earrings, and the backings of starter earrings (called friction backs) are snapped onto the posts as the earlobe is pierced.

Older Models

Older models of ear piercing guns have tubes to load the pre-sterilized earring, and a holder for the backing. In these models, the earring and backing are loaded manually. The piercer pulls backward on the tube containing the earring, then puts the earlobe between the earring and the backing. She pulls the trigger and the spring snaps the earring into the backing with a force that is strong enough to push the earring through the lobe at the same time.

In these older models, the cartridge that holds the earring comes into contact with the earlobe, but its parts are not removable or are made of plastic and therefore cannot be properly sterilized in an autoclave, increasing the risk of passing infections through blood-borne pathogens.

Newer Models

Newer models of piercing guns come with a disposable plastic cartridge that can be changed after each use. These disposable cartridges are sold with the earring and the backing already inside, making it unnecessary for the piercer to touch the jewelry when she loads it into the gun. In Europe and Australia, these newer models are required in mall piercing shops, although in the United States, piercing guns are not regulated by the U.S. Health Department.

Hand Clasp Models

Another type of piercing gun, called a hand clasp model, is more of a clasp than a gun. Instead of using a spring action to snap the earring into the lobe, the user squeezes the clasp to push the earring through the lobe into the backing. This third type of piercing tool is usually sold in packets with the starter earrings, and is to be used at home rather than in a mall or piercing studio.

Warnings

Although piercing guns were used to pierce places other than earlobes (such as an ear cartilage or nostrils), some European countries and U.S. states have limited its use to earlobes. Critics of piercing guns claim the gun causes more trauma to the area being pierced than professional piercing needles, and that a piercing gun can, in fact, crack the cartilage in the ear. Professional piercers also warn that using guns even for simple earlobe pierces increases the risk of infection, since workers in malls have little training in avoiding cross-contamination, rarely wear gloves, and the shops lack the appropriate sterilization equipment. Piercing guns with disposable cartridges, however, reduce the risk of passing infections.