The Girardoni Windbüchse (“wind gun”) was an air rifle developed in 1779 and adopted by the Austrian military from 1780 until 1815. It was reputed to be highly effective during the Austro-Turkish War (1787-1791) because of its repeat fire capability and innovative 22-round tubular magazine. An experienced shooter could fire all 22 rounds in less than 30 seconds.
The detachable stock served as the air reservoir, capable of holding pressures up to 850 psi. It required 1500 strokes with a hand-operated pump to refill the reservoir. A single reservoir provided enough pressure for 30-40 shots and the rifle was issued with 3 reservoirs that could be swapped quickly in combat. The rifle would launch its 154 grain 0.46 caliber projectiles at 400-450 feet per second with an effective range of approximately 150 meters (estimates vary).
Lewis and Clark brought one of these fancy air rifles on their famous expedition and used it to amaze (and intimidate) the Native American tribes they encountered.
Today, air rifles are seeing a resurgence in popularity among hunters, with modern air rifles being capable of firing projectiles at more than 1000 feet per second and delivering over 500 ft/lbs of energy on target. These guns are more than capable of taking down large game. Another benefit of air rifles is the lack of regulations (at least in the United States) surrounding their purchase, ownership, storage, and transport.