The horrors of piercing guns.

This is a subject very important to me, and a discussion I find myself engaged in fairly frequently. Admittedly, most of us have, or had, gun piercings. I myself had several done before I knew better. They’re so incredibly common, and many people still believe that piercing studios are filthy, drug infested and only frequented by the dregs of society. I was fortunate enough to not suffer any lasting consequences from these gun piercing experiences, but others have not been so lucky. What I want you to take from this post is a better understanding of why these things are so bad and why you should do everything you can to help get these things banned.

If they’re really so bad, why are they so readily available? You can even buy reusable home kits from places like Sally Beauty Supply. Again, most of it comes from the misconception that piercing parlors are dirty and that needles actually cause more damage, or WILL cause infections, or that these things are less painful than needles. Thus, making home guns safe, right? Some will say they’re sterile, or have been sterilized, which we will soon discover is impossible.

Many people think that because “piercers” like Clarie’s, Piercing Pagoda, Wal-Mart and some hair and nail salons offer gun piercing services that they’re completely safe, as well as because it’s common, cheap, readily available, convenient, and quick. Because they’re performed in national, well known retailers that the employees are highly trained and knowledgeable. We’re about to learn why they’re not.

You can’t call yourself a professional and use a gun. Because real professionals would never use one. Most of these gun “professionals” have about 10-30 minutes, MINUTES, of training before they’re let loose on the public. Most of it is reading a pamphlet or watching a video, practicing by gunning a piece of cardboard or a teddy bear, and then they can call themselves professionals.  REAL professionals, the ones you’ll find in licensed shops, have undergone at least two years of training as an apprentice under a mentor. Many also require that apprentices take blood borne pathogen classes, sterilization courses, study human anatomy, and are not allowed to pierce until they’re given permission by their mentor.

The way the gun works is by using brute force to blast a blunt piercing stud through the flesh of the earlobe. It was originally designed for tagging livestock. This causes severe tissue damage, unnecessary pain, swelling, and extended healing times. Frequently, this force isn’t even enough to shove the blunt stud through the ear, requiring removal of the partially inserted stud and trying to repierce it. Or they could try to manually force the stud in the rest of the way. The best way to illustrate what guns actually do to your ear is to imagine if you punched a wall. See all the cracking in the drywall, the ragged and uneven hole your fist left? See the dust and wall chunks that are left on your arm? That’s exactly what the gun is doing to your ear, and what it’s leaving behind on the gun.

Sometimes, these guns are also used on cartilage piercings, such as helixes. The force from the gun can actually shatter the cartilage, which is very hard to heal, if it can be healed at all. Because cartilage has less blood flow than other areas, the rate of severe infections in cartilage piercings done with guns is much higher. These can result in deformity and collapse of structural ear tissue, requiring antibiotic therapy for the infection and extensive reconstructive surgery to actually rebuild the shape of the ear.

Piercing guns cannot be fully sterilized. Alcohol wipes are not adequate sterilization, by a long shot. These wipes only wipe down the surface; they don’t penetrate into the deeper mechanics of the machine where bacteria and blood can hide. The very mechanics of the piercing gun don’t allow it to be fully cleaned. There are so many little nooks and crannies that it makes it impossible. The only, ONLY way to fully sterilize a piece of equipment is to autoclave it. This is the same machine that doctors and dentists use to clean their reusable tools. It uses either high pressure and steam, or high pressure and chemicals, to destroy every single living pathogen on the surface of the item. Piercing guns could never withstand the pressure and heat from these machines, the plastics would melt, the cheap metals would rust and become brittle, it would utterly destroy it.

As it blasts through the ear, skin cells, micro-drops of blood, plasma, and other organic particles explode around the area and land on the gun. And since the gun can’t be cleaned, whoever is pierced next is at risk for those cells to be rubbed off on them, or onto the new jewelry that is then rammed into their new piercings.

Because they can’t be cleaned properly, there’s no way to know what sort of infectious diseases could be on the guns. Infections, Hepatitis A, B, and C, HIV/AIDS, among others could be given to you if you are pierced with a gun. The Hepatitis virus can live on inanimate surfaces for weeks, or even longer. And when dozens of people go in and out of stores that use guns, the opportunity to spread infections and diseases to other people is huge.  These little machines can also malfunction frequently, requiring dismantling of the gun, dirty fingers coming into contact with newly exposed flesh, unsterilized tools used to help release any pieces that are stuck on the ear, etc.

Piercing studs aren’t even designed for wear in new piercings. If you’ve ever seen a stud under a microscope the end is actually very blunt, and there are notches cut out of it where the butterfly back clicks on.

This is what the stud looks like up close.


The studs are too short to allow room for any swelling. The backs are pressed on incredibly tight, again, not allowing room for swelling. Because there is no room for the swelling to run its course, the ends can actually become impacted or embedded into the flesh, requiring surgical removal. The butterfly back, which is usually the style used, has loops on the sides that harbor blood and plasma, which harbor bacteria close to the new puncture wound.

These are butterfly piercing stud backs.


The materials these studs are made of are certainly unfit for long term wear in the body. They are hardly the “14K gold” you were talked into paying extra for. They may be very thinly coated in that metal, but it wears off quickly, exposing the cheap metal underneath. This metal can cause allergies, infection, even adherence to skin as your body breaks it down, it literally corrodes in your body. Ever taken out a piercing stud that’s been in the ear for a long time, that green residue and crusties left behind? That’s corrosion taking place. That’s why piercing gun operators tell you to turn the piercings, because they know this will happen and they think that will prevent it. The spinning actually causes a rifling effect in your ears, causing unnecessary scar tissue to form.

So, is it really worth it to save money and time when you’re putting your very life at risk?

For full reading on the dangers of piercing guns, I refer you to the APP website, the Association of Professional Piercers. The APP is the authority on body piercing in the US. Their word is law for body piercing.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Vicky Stewart
    Jun 12, 2011 @ 03:32:53

    Thank you so much for this! I’ll be showing it to my parents when my little sister wants to get her ears pierced again. My first piercings swelled up a horrible amount so that the stud was embedded in my ear, but luckily, my dad was able to catch it in time and help out; I always thought that I’d had a reaction to the so-called ‘9ct Gold’, as my next two were done with ‘silver’, but now I know why it happened.


    • Steel and Bone, Horn and Stone
      Jun 21, 2011 @ 00:42:08

      Sorry for such a late reply, I’m still getting over this wicked bad cold. ^_^;

      Glad I could help, that was my exact intention with this blog, so please, continue to share it with everyone you know! All of the information can be verified on the APP website, the Association of Professional Piercers. Their website is Make sure your parents know that this is the leading organization for body piercing for the US. Their regulations and guidelines are law in many states.


  2. Elli
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 09:07:06

    Unfortunately I had all of the piercings in my ears done this way (I was 4 or 5 years back then, obviously didn’t know better and neither did my parents) and while I never had any severe problems with them, I noticed that it feels like I have tiny beads in my earlobes where the piercings are. I assume this is scar tissue? A bunch of my friends have this as well so I was never too concerned about it until I recently thought about stretching two of said piercings. Would this even be possible / possible to get a nice, clean result in that case?
    (I realize online diagnosing is hard and I plan to ask my piercer about this anyway before I settle on the stretching idea, but I thought maybe that’s a well known issue with gun piercings that I’ve just been oblivious to and wanted to ask if you knew anything about it).


    • Steel and Bone, Horn and Stone
      Jul 12, 2011 @ 13:00:51

      I’ve stretched my gun-pierced lobes and ended up being okay. But I got my lobes gunned when I was about 13 or so. If you’re really concerned, then absolutely ask your piercer for advice. Some may even offer to dermal punch your ears to remove the old scar tissue so you can start properly. Ask if that is an option.


  3. Trackback: Stabby, Stabby « Steel and Bone, Horn and Stone

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