This information presented on this site was created by a person who once worked in a retail chain that offers ear piercings performed with a gun. All of it is true and based on first hand knowledge. This is not intended as an endorsement of any one form of piercing, but rather a warning against the risks posed by ear piercing guns.
About ear piercing guns :
In concept, a piercing gun is similar to a staple or nail gun. It uses force to push an object (the earring stud) into a surface (the ear). Most ear piercing guns are made from plastic and metals, and can be purchased without any special license or required training from beauty supply stores and manufacturers. Their use is widespread, and almost every mainstream ear piercing facility (Claire's, Merle Norman, Wal-Mart and beauty salon type places) uses them.
The way they work seems fairly simple: with an earring stud in place in the adapter, and a backing in the cradle, the tension regulator is pulled back or "cocked", the point of the stud is used as a guide for aim and the trigger is pulled, forcing the stud through the flesh. As of yet there are no widespread certifications or government regulated training requirements associated with the use of piercing guns. Doing this procedure is about as complicated as stapling a few sheets of paper together.
A typical ear piercing procedure :
When undergoing an ear piercing in a store or salon that offers ear piercing services using guns, the first order of business will be to obtain consent. These places are businesses, and they will always have legalities in mind, and cover their butts so to say. The salesperson will often explain in detail the procedure, while wiping the gun's surface with an antiseptic wipe. Usually the surface of the ear is also cleaned with a similar wipe, and the customer is consulted on the exact placement they would like the piercing to have. Once a style of stud has been chosen by the customer, and the placement is decided, the salesperson pierces the customer's ear, explains the "after care" procedures, collects her payment, and sends them on their way.
Risks and dangers of getting pierced with a gun :
Excessive swelling and infection is almost a guarantee with this type of piercing. It may seem simple and harmless, but the procedure is actually very unsanitary and risky.
1) Sanitation because of the plastic componenents and cost of proper sanitizing equipment, piercing guns are not properly sterilized. They are not cleaned using any method that is widely used in medicine or tattooing. Antiseptic wipes are not able to kill germs instantly, and do not usually kill blood borne pathogens like Hepatitis or HIV. Many salespeople are told to do this in front of the customer to reassure them and gain their trust, while some never do it at all.
2) Blunt force trauma because they need to be worn for a long period of time, piercing studs are not very sharp, many have rounded tips, with grooves in the post so that the backing fastens securely to the stud. Essentially, these blunt points with grooves and notches shred their way through healthy tissue using the force and speed the gun provides. Because a stud is not streamlined it increases the amount of damage to the tissues and causes excesive swelling.
3) Malfunction piercing guns malfunction frequently and in many different ways. Often the earring adapter will not release the earring once it is already in place, inside the ear, and it has to be removed by pulling at it with pliers. Often times the piercing guns will not pierce all the way through a customer's ear, leaving a stud pushed part ways through the lobe, and a puzzled salesperson. When that happens options are to try and manually push the earring the rest of the way through, or remove it and pierce it again. Both are extremely painful.
4) Studs because of the way a piercing gun works, it is not possible to be pierced using anything other than stud earrings, this causes a problem in many people who experience excessive swelling, because as the ear swells, the backing and front of the stud pinch it, which causes more swelling, and eventually infection. Stud earrings also do not allow for as thorough cleaning as do hoop earrings, and while some people remove the studs early and change to hoops, this only adds to the trauma of the tissues, and prolongs the healing process.
5) Training the training is usually minimal, often covered by reading a booklet and practicing by piercing circular cosmetic sponges. Crooked piercings are more common with poorly trained people.
6) Infants and small children run the risk of being cut in the face. The square corners and metal edges of the cradles that hold both the adapter and backing, can easily pinch the chubby cheeks of infants as the guns are held paralell to their face.
The main alternative to ear piercing guns is professional body piercing. It is a readily available service performed in many tattoo shops and piercing studios. Many body piercers apprentice and go through lengthy training sessions, and are highly skilled at what they do. Body piercing is usually done with a sterile, single use, long smooth hollow needle that had a razor sharp tip, this minimalizes the damage to tissues. If you want to get your ears pierced, or any other part of your body, visit a place that offers this service and ask questions, learn about the procedure, sanitation, training and experience the piercer has and decide for yourself. because serously... piercing guns really suck
About the author
I spent 2 years working in a retail accessories chain that offers ear piercing with guns. It was not a pleasant experience, and I quit because of it. I have since then come to learn about how bad ear piercing guns really are, and my experiences at this company, and with my own piercings, only confirmed it. I believe places that offer this service feed their employees propaganda about the safety of piercing guns, and use them to sell it to the customers so they can make a lot of money, in the end, everybody loses except them. I may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.