Air rifles.

Old Hickory

Sergeant Major
Joined
May 4, 2010
Location
Enders, Pa.
This is the first I've read of air rifles used in the ACW. This taken from Greg Coco's book, "War Stories."

Reported from Col. John H. Patrick, 5th Ohio Inf. near Culp's Hill, Gettysburg July 3, "...being much annnoyed by Confederate sharpshooters. Some of them had air rifles, and we could not discover their whereabouts. At night the flashes of regular rifles can be seen, but there is no warning from an air rifle."

I know air rifles have been around for centuries in Europe, and have been used by hunters, poachers, and soldiers, but this is the only ACW refrance I've ever seen. BTW, these ain't DAISYS!..The rifles in question here are of fairly large caliber and quite capable of killing a man or deer with a single shot. I've seen some in museums dating from the 18th. century, but paid little attention to them. They were so deadly that in some European countries they were out-lawed.
 

Old Hickory

Sergeant Major
Joined
May 4, 2010
Location
Enders, Pa.
Here's the wiki link to Austrian air rifles in service, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girandoni_Air_Rifle Firing a .51 ball at about 850fps. and a maximim killing range of about 150yds, roughly the power of a modern .45 automatic pistol, or a Henry rifle of the times.

Although I certainly wasn't there, I beleive it more probable the mysterious incomming bullets were probably over-shots fired from elsewhere, and intended for some-one else landing in the 5th. Ohio's line. Though, large caliber air rifles were a possibility, they had been in service some 70yrs. prior, but would the Confederates have bothered with such a weapon?
 

TheSheik

Private
Joined
Jun 3, 2010
Location
Abilene, Texas - The Friendly Frontier
http://www.beemans.net/images/Austrian%20airguns.htm

I love threads and discussions like this one - never heard of or thought of air guns in CW either - so read the wiki above which lead me to search on Girandoni and that led me to the link above - with pictures and dissection of the air rifle carried by Lewis and Clark - which I now remember being mentioned in Ambrose's Undaunted Courage, but i never gave it any thought as to power or anything, just figured at most it was some kind of early pump up pellet gun.......

image002.jpg
 

Attachments

  • image002.jpg
    image002.jpg
    6 KB · Views: 449

K Hale

Colonel
Annual Winner
Joined
Aug 10, 2009
Location
Texas
You'll shoot your eye out, kid.

Seriously, that Lewis and Clark gun up there is amazing... what a thing of beauty.
 

Nathanb1

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Retired Moderator
Joined
Dec 31, 2009
Location
Smack dab in the heart of Texas
OMG....I've seen references to that gun and to "air rifles" other places, but I guess I just thought of them as some precursor to Daisys, also.....that is some weapon! Wonder where it is now?
 

Nathanb1

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Retired Moderator
Joined
Dec 31, 2009
Location
Smack dab in the heart of Texas
Never mind. I guess the Beemans have it back? And are we sure Mrs. Beeman is as interested as Mr. Beeman, or is she secretly irritated at his spending all their money on a bunch of guns (sorry, guys, couldn't help it) instead of antique hats?
 

TheSheik

Private
Joined
Jun 3, 2010
Location
Abilene, Texas - The Friendly Frontier
from the link
This actual specimen was donated by Dr. and Mrs. Robert Beeman to the U.S. Army War College's Heritage and Education Museum in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on September 25, 2006. It is on display at the NRA's National Firearm Museum until May 2007.

from elsewhere in that site's reading, it says that the rifle now resides at the Army War College
 

JohnnnyReb

Corporal
Joined
Apr 10, 2013
Location
Oklahoma City
If not mistaken, Napoleon executed any Austrians that were captured and found to have these guns on them.

Most powerful airgun I ever shot was a 20 calibur and it could almost go through one side of a 50 gallon drum. That being said, it is crazy how powerful that 1780's air rifle was.
 

Patrick H

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Mar 7, 2014
I hope someone can provide us with photos or other information about Civil War vintage air rifles of this type. The Girandoni in my video link obviously predates the Civil War by 50-60 years. I think it's safe to assume that improvements were made in that concept. I sure would like to see the general type that was used in the Civil War. I expect that info will come along a few posts in our future.
Patrick
 

Patrick H

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Mar 7, 2014
Now I'm wondering why they didn't switch to air rifles ASAP. No smoke, no noise, no powder residue, multiple shots, reasonable caliber and velocity at the required range. What's not to like about that ?

Yeah .... Smith's Red Ryders; the Daisy Brigade. Could've been a different war !
John, I am pretty sure it had to do with supply, demand, and also credibility on the part of superior officers and purchasing officers. Can't you just hear them..... "Air rifles?.......You can't be serious!...."
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
You'll shoot your eye out, kid.

Seriously, that Lewis and Clark gun up there is amazing... what a thing of beauty.
I have seen the Lewis and Clark gun up close, no I had to keep my hands off it. But it was picked up and shown to me. It is in very good condition considering the age and indeed a very interesting weapon.
 

Patrick H

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Mar 7, 2014
It was very time consuming to pump up the air reservoir!:nah disagree:
Bob,
You are certainly correct about that, but it was also a repeating rifle. At least, the Lewis and Clark model was. It sure would be interesting to know what was provided during the Civil War era. Still.... I have to agree with you that, for whatever reason, it was not deemed practical.
Patrick
 

JohnnnyReb

Corporal
Joined
Apr 10, 2013
Location
Oklahoma City
Bob,
You are certainly correct about that, but it was also a repeating rifle. At least, the Lewis and Clark model was. It sure would be interesting to know what was provided during the Civil War era. Still.... I have to agree with you that, for whatever reason, it was not deemed practical.
Patrick
1500 pumps to fill the resevoir plus they tended to leak. 800 psi...ouch! I got shot in the face with a paintball that was probably shot at 330 psi and it cut my cheek pretty darn good. No wonder this thing could kill you at 100 yards.
 
Top