Air gun

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An air gun (e.g. air rifle or air pistol) is a rifle, pistol, or shotgun which fires projectiles by means of compressed air or other gas, in contrast to a firearm which burns a propellant. Most air guns use metallic projectiles as ammunition. Air guns that only use plastic projectiles are classified as airsoft guns.

Contents

History

Air guns represent the oldest pneumatic technology. The oldest existing mechanical air gun, a bellows air gun dating back to about 1580, is in the Livrustkammaren Museum in Stockholm. This is the timeline most historians peg as the beginning of the modern air gun.

In the 17th century, air guns, in calibers .30 - .51, were used to hunt big game deer and wild boar. These air rifles were charged using a pump to fill an air reservoir and gave velocities from 650-1,000 feet per second. They were also used in warfare; the most famous example is the Girandoni Air Rifle.

At that time, they had compelling advantages over the primitive firearms of the day. For example, air guns could be fired in wet weather and rain (unlike matchlock muskets) and with greater rapidity than muzzle-loading guns. Moreover, they were quieter than a firearm of similar caliber, had no muzzle flash, and were completely smokeless, thus not disclosing the shooter's position or obscuring his view. Black powder muskets of the 18th and 19th century produced huge volumes of dense smoke when fired, a disadvantage compared to air rifles.

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