Modern pre charged air rifles are something of an arcane creation, complicated with many valves and seals, but efficient. It is often erroneously assumed that air powered weapons are a new thing, but this is far from true.

The history of air powered propulsion stretches back centuries, and it has even been hypothesised that pre charged compressed air was the propulsion method behind the Byzantine ‘Greek Fire’ in the early medieval period.

Antique Air Guns

Air guns have been used on the battlefield and for sport for some time, but have always been rather niche, and never caught on to anywhere near the same extent as powder guns. Antique air guns were powerful, quiet, gave off no smoke, and could be loaded quickly. Air guns are also (as you might have guessed) powered by air, which is much more readily available than gunpowder, meaning they have several great advantages over their powder burning cousins. This begs the question of why they were not more widely used, the simple answer being that they were expensive and delicate.

A muzzle loading musket is merely a tube closed at one end with a source of ignition, the most basically trained shooter can load and fire to some effect. Air guns, on the other hand, require attention on the shooter’s part, some education on its use, and a whole host of accessories, including a pump, gaskets, reservoirs, on top of the usual musketman’s accoutrements. Some saw limited use on the battlefield, most notably by the Austrians, and some expeditions into the American interior, but were otherwise largely consigned to history.

The reason for the compressed air gun's niche popularity was down largely to difficulty, particularly with the technology of the day of both compressing and containing the air needed to make the gun a viable weapon, even against muskets firing two or three rounds a minute. A compressed air gun in its loaded state means all the gun's power is already present, with no gases from powder to expand upon ignition, therefore any damage to the gun's delicate working components can render it useless. Not a great feature for a military arm, and critical to the concept's adoption by the world's militaries.

Sporting guns do not necessarily share this requirement, and sporting air guns were popular and effective weapons for target or game use. Produced in a variety of configurations. including ball and butt reservoirs, and even bellows guns, sporting air guns must have seemed a breath of fresh air compared to contemporary flintlocks.

30 Bore German Bellows Air Rifle

A 30 Bore German Bellows Air Rifle - View Here

Antique airguns are a fascinating example of gunmaking skill of the period, as due to their more complex nature and construction, far greater challenges are put on the gunsmith’s skill.

We have a fantastic range of sporting antique air rifles, from characteristic German bellows rifles, to the elegant and popular Giffard's patent rifles and pistols. Take a look at our full collection here.

Antique Air Guns manufactured after 1939 MUST be either collected in store or shipped to a registered arms dealer where you may then collect the item. Please contact us for more information.