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 Air Rifles 
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Post Air Rifles
Air Rifles in the AoS

I am currently about half-way through "On the Company’s Service" by Ellis K. Meacham. This is the second in the Percival Merewether series centered on the HEIC Marines centered in Bombay, India in 1807.

What I found interesting was Merewether’s discovery of some Girandoni air rifles in the hold of a captured French privateer. I had never run across such a device set in any Age of Sail novel before and wondered if it was real or just fiction.

Bartolome (or Bartolomeo) Girandoni did actually invent such a weapon in 1787 and they were purchased by the Austrian Army. In this novel, they were supposedly captured by Napoleon and supplied to at least one of his privateers. Thus the entry into Meacham's story line. I am looking forward to seeing how they help Merewether to succeed in his assignment.

The stock of the rifle is, in reality, an air cylinder. There are extra cylinders with a pump and a special mold to make shot supplied with each weapon. Twenty 45 caliber shot can be loaded at one time. The cylinder contains enough force to fire all 20, one at a time, with only a simple movement of the lock to slide a new shot into the barrel. Thus, 20 shots can be fired in a minute. This rapid loading, repeating, weapon has very little noise, no flash, and no smoke. The muzzle velocity of the shot is nearly the same as a regular musket.

I can see where this rifle would be of immense value to a clandestine land operation or even during a ship-to-ship or boat-to-ship boarding action. At least one of these went on the Lewis and Clark land expedition westward across America to the Pacific in 1804-1806.

CLICK HERE for two animations showing the rifle's operation and the pump.

CLICK HERE for some general information of the history of the rifle and how it fit into the Lewid and Clark expedition. Don't miss the footnote information too.

Has anyone seen this in any other fiction or non-fiction naval book of this era?

Don


Thu Jul 20, 2006 9:29 am
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Sounds familiar, I think the Lewis and Clark Expedition carried one of these weapons with them, which they more often used to impress native americans than anything.


Thu Jul 20, 2006 3:16 pm
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Post Re: Air Rifles
timoneer wrote:
Has anyone seen this in any other fiction or non-fiction naval book of this era?

I was looking for a reference via Google Books and it seems that the air rifle is mentioned in Dewey Lambdin's books.

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susan


Wed May 28, 2008 11:52 pm
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Brit.Privateer wrote:
Sounds familiar, I think the Lewis and Clark Expedition carried one of these weapons with them, which they more often used to impress native americans than anything.


That they carried a Girandoni is definite. The remark about the weapon making little noise in firing is false however. It makes quite a loud report, though it is different than the BANG! of a firearm.

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Wed Dec 03, 2008 6:47 pm
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clash wrote:
The remark about the weapon making little noise in firing is false however. It makes quite a loud report, though it is different than the BANG! of a firearm.


OK, I'll bite. What did it sound like?

Broos

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Wed Dec 03, 2008 6:50 pm
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Broos Campbell wrote:
clash wrote:
The remark about the weapon making little noise in firing is false however. It makes quite a loud report, though it is different than the BANG! of a firearm.


OK, I'll bite. What did it sound like?

Broos


I was researching Girandonis for a game session, and picked up this fact from an article by an author who had actually fired one. Since he didn't actually describe the sound, I've always imagined a loud, rippling fart - which would account for the apparent unpopularity of the rifle as a military weapon. The enemy would laugh themselves silly, while the shooters would be standing there, totally embarrassed.

-clash

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Wed Dec 03, 2008 7:18 pm
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Air rifles are also mentioned in one of Dewey Lambdin's novels about Alan Lewrie, the one where he is dispatched to New Orleans. Can't remember the title of the book right now though...


Mon Mar 02, 2009 8:18 pm
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