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The traditional method of ear piercing involves the use of a sharp, hollow piercing needle. The same instrument can also pierce other parts of the body.

Conventional methods rely on an ear piercing gun. Spring-loaded varieties apply a large amount of force to push a starter stud through the ear. Models that use disposable cartridges are safer, and buyers can also opt for disposable guns for one-time use. A newer type has the operator applying only as much hand pressure as needed.