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Old 02-20-2011, 06:09 PM
 
Location: On the periphery
200 posts, read 489,675 times
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The Italian-made Girandoni air rifle must have been a technological marvel at the time of the Lewis & Clark expedition. It could be pumped up to an incredible 800 pounds pressure, and although springs were not thought to have been invented yet, it was fitted with a spring to eject balls into the chamber. Up to 30 firings could be made rapidly on a full charge of air with this amazing air gun.

The Indians that witnessed the demonstrations were astonished by the gun's accuracy and power. Obviously, Lewis & Clark used it to great psychological effect, as they had few hostile encounters. No one is really sure who brought the air gun into the US, but it was a valuable accessory for the expedition.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9WEsILY92o
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Old 02-20-2011, 06:39 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
48,565 posts, read 22,580,806 times
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Thanks for that, diogenes, I've read about that rifle numerous times, but had never seen one in operation before.

The reasons that it never caught on with the militaries of the day include the fact that it required 1500 pumps to fill the air chamber to 800 pounds, when your 22 shots were gone, it would be a long time before you could fire again. It was also a delicate mechanism, prone to easy breakage, as well as being difficult and time consuming to manufacture.

Worst of all in practical military terms, the range and power of the gun declined as more of the air pressure was used. The first few shots, backed by 800 pounds of pressure, were good up to 150 yards. The next few 135 yards and so forth. That made it difficult to range properly, and intensive training and practice was required to get used to it. This was the Napoleonic age where enormous conscript armies were being formed in Europe, and such training as the air rifle required was a luxury the antagonists could not afford.
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Old 02-22-2011, 09:49 PM
 
Location: FROM Dixie, but IN SoCal
3,485 posts, read 6,258,310 times
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800 PSI is a LOT of pressure. Woe be unto the shooter (and those immediately around him) whose rifle's air reservoir sprung a leak...
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Old 02-23-2011, 06:33 AM
 
Location: Brooklyn
40,049 posts, read 33,336,994 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grandstander View Post
The reasons that it never caught on with the militaries of the day include the fact that it required 1500 pumps to fill the air chamber to 800 pounds, when your 22 shots were gone, it would be a long time before you could fire again. It was also a delicate mechanism, prone to easy breakage, as well as being difficult and time consuming to manufacture.
1500 pumps and prone to breaking...it's a minor miracle that such a piece of equipment was in any kind of working order after being lugged across the continent. Wagons in those days weren't notable for their smooth rides!
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Old 02-23-2011, 08:19 AM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
48,565 posts, read 22,580,806 times
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Originally Posted by Fred314X View Post
1500 pumps and prone to breaking...it's a minor miracle that such a piece of equipment was in any kind of working order after being lugged across the continent. Wagons in those days weren't notable for their smooth rides!
I don't think that Lewis and Clark had wagons, they traveled by boat, horseback and on foot, but your point about the gun surviving such a rigorous journey is a valid one. I suppose it was a matter of there just being the one gun. If you limit its use and take special care of it, then it would remain in service. It certainly would not have survived the sort of rough daily handling that an infantryman's musket endured.

Another factor against its practicality for military use would have been the air pressure baldder and the pumping equipment, which would also have to have been lugged by the individual soldiers.

It would have been fairly useful for a stagnant army under siege. The problems of moving it around would be eliminated, and you'd have a rapid firing weapon which didn't cease fire because you ran out of powder.
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Old 02-25-2011, 10:38 AM
 
Location: FROM Dixie, but IN SoCal
3,485 posts, read 6,258,310 times
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IIRC, at one time Lewis & Clark put wheels on their larger boat or boats, and hauled it/them overland for quite a distance. Not a "wagon" exactly, but still...
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Old 02-25-2011, 05:57 PM
 
Location: NE Mississippi
22,944 posts, read 14,284,314 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grandstander View Post
.........the range and power of the gun declined as more of the air pressure was used. The first few shots, backed by 800 pounds of pressure, were good up to 150 yards. The next few 135 yards and so forth. That made it difficult to range properly, and intensive training and practice was required to get used to it....
Eh...So you shoot him a coupla times at 150 yards; a few at 135; some more at 120; again at 100; fill him up at 80; blow holes in him at 50; irritate him at 20; and then finally you use the bayonet on him if you can find a place that is still solid enough
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