Skip to comments.Air gun
Posted on 09/24/2012 8:09:11 AM PDT by JoeProBono
An air gun is a rifle (air rifle), pistol (air pistol), or shotgun that fires projectiles by means of compressed air or other gas, in contrast to a firearm which fires projectiles by means of a burning propellant. Most air guns use metallic projectiles as ammunition. Some others use arrows. Air guns that only use plastic projectiles are classified as airsoft guns.
Air guns represent the oldest pneumatic technology. The oldest existing mechanical air gun, a bellows air gun dating back to about 1580, is in the Livrustkammaren Museum in Stockholm. This is the timeline most historians peg as the beginning of the modern air gun.
In the 17th century, air guns, in calibers .30.51, were used to hunt big game deer and wild boar. These air rifles were charged using a pump to fill an air reservoir and gave velocities from 650 to 1,000 feet per second (200300 m/s). They were also used in warfare; the most famous example is the Girandoni Military Repeating Air Rifle.
At that time, they had compelling advantages over the primitive firearms of the day. For example, air guns could be fired in wet weather and rain (unlike matchlock muskets) and with greater rapidity than muzzle-loading guns. Moreover, they were quieter than a firearm of similar caliber, had no muzzle flash, and were completely smokeless, thus not disclosing the shooter's position or obscuring his view. Black powder muskets of the 18th and 19th century produced huge volumes of dense smoke when fired, a disadvantage compared to air rifles.
Although some enthusiasts suggest air guns posed a serious alternative to powder weapons, that was never proved to be the case, as valve leaks and bursting reservoirs were known problems. Air guns also were delicate, and peasant-soldiers, many of whom had never seen any mechanical tools more complex than horse-drawn carriages, could not have operated or maintained them properly. Later improvements in valve designs and reservoir strength either came too late or were too complex for the few air gunsmiths of the day.
But in the hands of skilled soldiers, they gave the military a distinct advantage. France, Austria, Japan and other nations had special sniper detachments using air rifles. The Austrian 1780 model was named Windbüchse (literally "wind rifle" in German). The gun was developed in 1778 or 1779 by the Tyrolese watchmaker, mechanic and gunsmith Bartholomäus Girandoni (17441799) and is sometimes referred to as the Girandoni Air Rifle or Girandoni air gun in literature (the name is also spelled "Girandony," "Giradoni" or "Girardoni".) The Windbüchse was about 4 ft (1.2 m) long and weighed 10 pounds (4.5 kg), which was about the same size and mass as a conventional musket. The air reservoir was a removable, club-shaped butt. The Windbüchse carried twenty-two .51 in (13 mm) lead balls in a tubular magazine. A skilled shooter could fire off one magazine in about thirty seconds, which was a fearsome rate of fire compared to a muzzle loader. A shot from this air gun could penetrate a one-inch wooden board at a hundred paces, an effect roughly equal to that of a modern 9 mm or .45 ACP caliber pistol. Kunitomo air gun developed by the Japanese inventor Kunitomo Ikkansai, circa 18201830 Kunitomo air gun trigger mechanism
Around 1820, the Japanese inventor Kunitomo Ikkansai developed various manufacturing methods for guns, and also created an air gun based on the study of Western knowledge ("rangaku") acquired from the Dutch in Dejima.
Air guns appear throughout other periods of history. The celebrated Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804) carried a reservoir air gun, later believed to be the Girandoni Military Repeating Air Rifle in Dr Robert Beeman's Collection. It held 22 .46 calibre round balls in a tubular magazine mounted on the side of the barrel. The butt stock served as the air reservoir and had a working pressure of 800 psi (5,500 kPa). The rifle was said to be capable of 22 aimed shots in 1 minute. That air rifle is measured to have a rifled bore of 0.452 in (11.5 mm) and a groove diameter 0.462 in (11.7 mm).
During the 1890s, air rifles were used in Birmingham, England, for competitive target shooting. Matches were held in public houses, which sponsored shooting teams. Prizes, such as a leg of mutton for the winning team, were paid for by the losing team. The sport became so popular that in 1899, the National Smallbore Rifle Association was created. During this time over 4,000 air rifle clubs and associations existed across Great Britain, many of them in Birmingham. During this time, the air gun was associated with poaching because it could deliver a shot without a significant report.
Today's modern air guns are typically low-powered because of safety concerns and legal restrictions. High-powered designs are still used for hunting. These air rifles can propel a pellet beyond 1100 ft/s (330 m/s), approximately the speed of sound, and produce a noise similar to a .22 caliber rimfire rifle. Using lead pellets, some current spring powered .177 pellet guns can break the sound barrier. Most low-powered air guns can be safely fired in a backyard or garden, and even indoors, with a proper backstop.
In some countries, air guns are still classified as firearms, and as such it may be illegal to discharge them in residential areas. Air guns can be highly accurate and are used in target shooting events at the Olympic Games, governed by the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF), where they are shot at a range of 10m or 32.8 feet.
The Red Ryder BB Gun is a BB gun made by Daisy Outdoor Products and introduced in 1938 that resembles the Winchester rifle of Western movies. Named for the comic strip cowboy character Red Ryder
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Hunting with large-caliber airguns has been gaining a lot of traction in recent years, and in 2008, Missouri for the first time allowed such guns to be used during the deer rifle season.
Lewis and Clark carried one on their trip. Fooled the Indians because once they saw it fired they attacked not knowing it was a repeater. On several occasions it fired four or five like a machine gun due to wearing of some part.
A very interesting article, Joe.
I have a high-powered air rifle, along with a Red Ryder (memories of childhood).
Thanks for that link, it is a good read.
Actually I believe that the Lewis and Clark expedition was not ever attacked because when they met up with indians they always brought out the air gun and demonstrated it for them. When the indians saw that it could fire so many times so rapidly they thought better of attacking the expedition.
My 22 air rifle will put a man down with a proper shot, just as well as a firearm. Nowadays that model must be licensed here.
But then again, they banned slingshots. Of the forked stick variety.
I had a Benjamen .22 and my brother had a Sheridan air rifle when we were kids.
It’s if fun.
The Lewis & Clark Girandoni Air Rifle
Okay, I think. I just remember something about some sort of attack. I do remember them demonstrating the rifle though. Thanks.
You do NOT wanna get hit with it !
So far it has a half dozen skunk notches on it, and one for a 20lb groundhog.
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Do you have a reference citation for this?
I read it a while back so I don’t remember if it was from a gun magazine or a history book. I think it was a book on air rifles but not sure. I’m sure it’ll be fun for you to research it though.
I seriously doubt this part. Watch the NRA museum video of how it operates.
That was now. The incident I mentioned happened during their trip.
At that time, the Indians were using single shot muzzle loaders (few of them who had contact with the French or British) or the ubiquitous bow and arrow. The Indians knew the limitations of the L&C muzzle loading firearms. But, they were blown away by a nearly silent, smokeless, flashless, repeating air gun that was very accurate and killed game. They did not know how many L&C had or how long it took to charge the air flask, but they observed the results and were impressed (and frightened if they had to go up against L&C armed with these guns).
The article I read that mentioned the mis-fire causing the rifle to shoot five or six rounds like a machine gun due to worn parts was in the Washington Arms Collector’s monthly news magazine. Sorry but I don’t know what issue it was in.
Isn't it $198?
RWS makes some really nice (and expensive) air rifles that I’d pit against just about any firearm of similar calibre.
If the L&C air rifle actually did malfunction and fire a burst of slugs down range, THAT alone would scare the daylights of the local Indian tribe. Imagine being introduced to a machine gun when the best weapons you had (or could get) were either a bow and arrow or a muzzle loading flint lock musket! Such a demonstration would have been terrifying.
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