View Full Version : Lewis & Clark's Girandoni Air Rifle

Unlicensed Dremel
March 17, 2014, 03:41 PM
Hey anyone know more about this rifle?

I've been hearing snippets for years, but now want the details, since I'm more or less obsessed with the Corps of Discovery Expedition these days:


Off the top, I'm wondering, was it charged just once for the trip, and that's it (when it's out, it's out), or was there a method of recharging, and how was it done? I'm sure it's probably the latter.

March 17, 2014, 04:40 PM
I heard once in a PBS special that the rifle required two men using a hand operated pump to charge the rifle's reservoir.
I seem to remember it took several thousand pumps to fully charge the rifle and for that reason it was little used.
Basically an emergency weapon should their powder get wet.

Brian Pfleuger
March 17, 2014, 04:45 PM
The wikipedia entry:


A youtube video by the museum:


Unlicensed Dremel
March 17, 2014, 05:22 PM
Wow, that video is fantastic; thank you! :)

March 17, 2014, 09:41 PM
My understanding is it was used mostly to impress natives.
There was a European military force outfitted with these rifles at or shortly after the Time of Lewis and Clark's expedition.
Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girandoni_Air_Rifle)
That article is simple, but right on according to everything I have read. The sources would likely prove valuable. I believe someone is manufacturing reproductions. I can't remember how much, but I think it is in the range or exceeding the price of a high end 50 BMG rifle.

March 18, 2014, 07:19 AM
You're correct about there being a repro. I don't remember the brand, but there was a demonstration of one at the Army Heritage Museum a couple of years back.

March 18, 2014, 09:53 AM
I'm pretty certain the Austrian corps of marksmen or skirmishers were known to use an air rifle. Being smokeless gave them an advantage in firing from concealment. Shot to shot variation seemed to be the biggest disadvantage IIRC.