History of Compressed Air Guns

Getting started in the sport of air rifle shooting is synonymous with reading a bit of history on the subject, so that we can digest the theory before moving on to practice.

The early history of air guns is often shrouded in mystery and is still as intriguing as any chronicle of centuries past. Although it is difficult to ascertain exactly when air guns were first produced in Europe, historians now believe that the most likely period for their first appearance was in the mid-1500s. Comparatively few examples have survived the slow march of time, and most of those air guns that have done so now rest in weapons museums around the world.

We know that from their earliest days, air guns were often kept secret and even dismissively branded as the Devil’s tools. Considering the fact that some air guns of centuries past were commonly very large caliber and nearly as powerful as today’s firearms – albeit without the ear-splitting noise, flash and smoke – it’s easy to understand why air guns of that time they were feared by many.

Most early airguns belonged to two different groups, those powered by spring-loaded bellows and those using pre-compressed air stored in a reservoir, which was an integral part of or attached to the gun. Bellows guns were generally intended for indoor target shooting. Although underpowered, they were amazingly accurate at short ranges.

Pneumatic weapons, on the other hand, were relatively powerful. The technology of these weapons gradually improved over the years and their use for hunting became fashionable among the European nobility. The fact that game as large as wild boar and deer were routinely killed by these primitive pneumatic weapons demonstrates their amazing power. Their relatively quiet and efficient operation, coupled with their imperviousness to rain or snow, made them certainly highly desirable weapons. For this reason, commoners were prohibited from owning airsoft guns.

In the late 1700s, powerful pneumatic weapons found their place among military troops. The Austrian Army had an entire regiment armed with .44 caliber repeating air rifles. All surviving accounts indicate that the Austrians used these air guns with deadly effectiveness against Napoleon Bonaparte’s French troops during the Tyrolean Campaign and are said to have been powerful enough to kill a man from 150 yards away. So feared were they that any Austrian soldier caught with an air rifle was summarily executed as a murderer.

On the American continent, records of the famous Lewis and Clark Northwest Expedition (1804-1806) show that an air gun was carried and was called by the Indians “the smokeless thunderstick.” The first airguns produced in the United States centered around the “gallery gun,” a relatively low-powered gun that used a spring-piston power plant. These weapons flourished in the immediate aftermath of the civil war and were used primarily for shooting paper targets indoors. By the end of the 19th century, the calibers of American and European air guns had been significantly reduced.

The 20th century has seen tremendous advances in the field of adult airguns, especially since the end of World War II. Many German factories became airgun producers after the manufacture of firearms was banned by the allied occupying forces. The rest has been the creation of a major new industry claiming a significant share of shooting sports around the world today. The misconception that airguns are just toys has been fostered for years by the popular mass-produced low-power, low-precision BB gun; however, the fact that airgun shooting is now an Olympic sport is quickly fading this image. Modern recoilless competition airguns, with accuracy capable of putting ten shots into a single hole at 10 meters, can hardly be called “toys.” The 1984 Olympic Games introduced airgun shooting for the first time, a relevant and historical sign of the importance of airguns in recreational shooting today.

Airguns for adults have finally become truly universal, a shooting sport that can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere – a vast difference from its dark and uncertain beginning a few centuries ago.

Dr. Robert Beeman is an academic who founded his own pneumatic weapons factory. I think it is interesting to be able to read an academic who loves shooting, since rarely can we learn from a doctor of philosophy of sciences who talks to us about shooting.

Gamo 6110017154 Varmint Air Rifle .177 Cal , Black

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  • caliber: 0.177
  • velocity: 1250.00 ft/sec
  • Spring-piston
  • Includes 4x32 scope & mount
  • Steel barrel with fluted polymer jacket

Hatsan Mod 95 Spring Combo Spring Piston Air Rifle, .22 Caliber

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  • Mod 95 Spring Combo
  • Mod 95 Spring Combo
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Gamo 611006875554 Swarm Whisper Air Rifle, .22 Caliber,Black

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Features

  • The GAMO Swarm Whisper Air Rifle features the IGT (Inert Gas Technology) piston that allows higher velocity, less vibration and a longer lifespan than traditional spring powered airguns
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  • Package Dimensions: 47.7" L x 7.1" W x 2.7" H

Crosman CLGY1000KT Legacy 1000 Single Shot Variable Pump .177-Caliber Pellet And BB Air Rifle With 4 x 15 mm Scope, Black

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  • DURABLE, WATER PROOF SYNTHETIC DESIGN - With rifled steel barrel, built-in BB reservoir and side-load pellet chamber
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  • COMPATIBLE WITH .177-CALIBER PELLETS OR TRADITIONAL STEEL BBs - (Pellets and BBs not included)
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  • COMES WITH A FIBER-OPTIC SIGHT AND 4 x 15 mm SCOPE - For greater accuracy

Gamo WildCat Whisper Air Rifle .177 Cal , Black

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Features

  • caliber: 0.177
  • velocity: 1300.00 ft/sec
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  • 4x32 scope

Crosman CAK1 Full or Semi-Auto CO2-Powered 4.5mm BB Air Rifle, Black

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Daisy 880 Powerline Air Rifle Kit, Dark Brown/Black, 37.6 Inch/.177 Caliber

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Features

  • caliber: 0.177
  • velocity: 750.00 ft/sec
  • Warranty: One year limited warranty
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Barra Airguns Sportsman 900 Air Rifle, BB Gun, Guns for Adults, Hunting Pellet Rifle, Multi Pump Lever Action, .177 Caliber Airgun Pellets & BBS with Rifle Scope, 800 FPS, Power & Accuracy

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Features

  • USE YOUR CHOICE OF .177 CALIBER(4.5mm) PELLETS OR BBs for tons of shooting fun with plenty of power for target shooting and backyard plinking.
  • CONSISTENTLY HIT YOUR TARGETS WITH A 20 Inch Rifled Barrel, included 4x15 Scope, and Adjustable Fiber Optic Sights.
  • FUN AND EASY TO USE MULTI-PUMP POWER with a real working Bolt-Action. Load up to 50 BBs or one pellet at a time.
  • BETTER LOOKING AND MORE RELIABLE AND POWERFUL than competitors Multi-Pump BB Guns, and the Black Ops Junior Sniper Rifle shoots BBs or Pellets.
  • SHOOT AMMO UP TO 800 FPS with premium pellets for maximum accuracy even at long range.
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