Many people that I talk to about air guns have the impression that most air rifles and air pistols shoot small caliber pellets or even BBs. They are amazed to learn that there are air rifles known as big bore air rifles that are capable of taking down large animals such as a deer and that these air rifles have the ability to shoot heavy pellets such as 9mm, .45 and even .50 caliber with authoritative results. Given modern technology, many people think that the big bore air rifle is something new. However, from 1790 to 1815, the Austrian Army used a 22-shot .46 caliber repeating air rifle known as the Girandoni air rifle because unlike single shot gun powder muskets there was no smoke to be seen and very little noise to be heard. Soldiers had to be specially trained and hand pumping the air reservoir 1500 times to a working pressure of 800 psi finally gave way to newly developed repeating gun powder rifles that were arriving on the scene.
Consensus has it that the Girandoni air rifle was carried by Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition in 1803 to 1806. In fact, two accomplished Pennsylvania gun maker historians recently succeeded in producing four working reproductions of an original Girandoni air rifle as shown by the American Rifleman videos below. One was given to the donor of the original, two were kept by the gun makers for demonstration purposes and one was sold to a friend for $34,000. When I asked if they were going to produce more of the Girandoni air rifles, I was told by one of the gun makers that they were off to other new projects. However, I was also told that if a manufacturer wanted to start producing Girandoni replicas that one of theirs could be available for copying by that manufacturer.
Below are today's Big Bore Air Rifles that are capable of taking down deer and eliminating varmints such as Coyotes
(seat belts not included)
The Lewis & Clark Girandoni Air Rifle gave birth to the Big Bore Air Rifles that we have today.
Unfortunately it is not available because it is too difficult to manufacture and there would be huge liability issues.
17th Century Girandoni Air Rifle Lewis & Clark Girandoni Air Rifle
American Rifleman Part 1 American Rifleman Part 2
Girandoni air rifle as used by Lewis and Clark. A National Firearms Museum Treasure Gun.