Girardoni "Wind Gun" Air Rifle c. 1779


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.


Remarkable design, especially considering that at the time, the air reservoir would use sealing gaskets made of leather.


I recently had the opportunity to see one of these rifles in person at the National Museum of the United States Army in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

The museum is definitely worth the visit if you’re in the area and can stomach the military propaganda. Admission is free and there are many interesting exhibits and artifacts on display, ranging from the American Revolution to modern conflicts. The staff are extremely knowledgeable, too.

Here is an example of early night vision from the Korean War, a “Sniperscope” mounted to a .30 carbine:


The Sniperscope evolved from the M1 of WWII, with an effective range of about 70 yards, to the M2, with a range of about 100 yards. Both of these used vibrator power supplies to convert 6 volt battery levels to 4250 volts for the image-viewing tube. IR rays are focused on the image tubes, causing electrons to be emitted, which are then accelerated and strike a fluorescent screen, converting the sub-visible-light image to the visible light range, showing all objects as various shades of green. Besides enabling detection of enemy movement, and placing full-automatic fire upon them with complete surprise, IR units facilitate night communications between nearby units. Simple, pre-determined coded signals from a flashlight with an infra-red filter could be detected up to 500 yards. The M3, actually available for the Korean War, used 20,000 volts, had an effective range of 125 yards, and could detect ir-flashlight signals up to 1 mile.