Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Girandoni

One of the great stories of in United States history is Lewis and Clarks trek to the Pacific Ocean. Among the oddities and wonders of that journey is the Girandoni air rifle.

My experience with air rifles has been limited to the spring powered BB gun I had as a child. The Sherlock Holmes stories speak of compressed air weapons being used by big game hunters, but I never looked into them. The fact that such a weapon was on the Lewis and Clark Expedition pretty much exhusted my knowledge of the subject.

A couple of days ago our son, Matt, sent me the following link.

It seems my handwritten link is not working. If you do a goggle search under "Lewis and Clark air rifle" several links will come up. This will include a couple of videos, including the one I was trying to send you to.

Sorry, still working bugs out.

The Girandoni held abilities not obvious to the untrained eye. The shoulder stock was a reservoir that held enough pressure for about fourty shots. A tubular magazine on the side of the barrel held 22 .46 caliber lead balls.

They were loaded by way of a spring loaded, sliding block with a single cavity. When the block was pressed the cavity would move from the breach to the magazine where a single ball would drop in, then back to the breach and the weapon was ready to fire. Imagine a 22 round, .46 caliber rifle that could be emptied in less than a minute.

The Girandoni used a different set of tool than gunpowder weapons, carried in this case. It included a bullet mold, spare parts, and a 'bicycle pump' for charging the reservoir. It took about 1500 strokes for a full charge.

Meriwether Lewis was impressed enough with this weapon to purchase it out of pocket. He used it in a most effective manner on the Expedition to the Pacific. I found this U-tube video to be most interesting and very enlighting. It's well worth the time to look, and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.


  1. Never heard of it. Amazing! I thought air rifles were modern inventions.