Reportedly, less than 1,500 Austrian military Model 1780 Girardoni repeating air rifles were manufactured in Penzig, Austria, and notably used by Austrian sharpshooters in military service circa 1780-1815; only less than 25 of these rare military pattern Girardoni rifles are known to exist today. The Girardoni (sometimes spelled "Girandoni") is easily the most famous early air rifle, or "windbuchse," largely thanks to the fact that for many years it has been associated with Lewis & Clark and their famous Corps of Discovery Expedition. It is widely believed that Meriwether Lewis carried either a Girardoni or a very similar design by Isaiah Lukens of Philadelphia. The expedition carried some advanced weapons of the time to display their military firepower, in which they performed demonstrations in front of Native American tribes, including with a "magic" airgun. This extremely rare Austrian military Girardoni repeating air rifle offered is of the exact kind believed to have possibly carried on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, making this a highly desirable rifle today that would be a prized centerpiece in any advanced firearms collection or Americana collection, and is worthy as a prominent display piece/attraction in any museum. Page 599 of the book "Blue Book of Airguns, Thirteenth Edition" has another example of an Austrian Military Model 1780 Girardoni repeating air rifle (not this example offered) photographed above the caption, "There is strong evidence in the Lewis and Clark Expedition journals suggesting that this specimen is the air rifle carried on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Many arms and historical experts consider the Lewis Airgun, ca. 1790, as the world's most important and most valuable airgun." The Girardoni was designed by Bartolomeo Girardoni around 1779 and is also significant as one of the first widely used repeating martial arms, with a magazine tube on the right side of the barrel for use with lead balls and a breech block that is able to be pressed sideways against spring pressure for loading/repeating capability. These advanced air rifles were considered to be far ahead of their time when compared with the muzzleloading flintlock long arms then the standard in widespread military use. Because the air tanks took around 30 minutes of pumping by hand to bring to full pressure, the riflemen had assistants that repressurized the reservoirs initially and later also had more efficient wagon mounted pumps. These rifles were reportedly capable of approximately 30-40 shots on a single filled tank (one source claims more than 60), although original instructions to Austrian soldiers advised them to only fire one loaded tube of 20 balls before switching to another fully charged air reservoir due to loss of power as the air tank loses pressure. Their effective lethal range was between 125-150 yards when properly charged, which would have been devastating on the receiving end when combined with its repeating capability. "Wind guns" had several advantages over conventional firearms including that they were quieter, smokeless, quicker to reload, and relatively unaffected by rain. They also required less cleaning since they did not require corrosive black powder. This Austrian military example is chambered in .46 caliber/11.5 mm and features an octagon barrel with 12-groove rifling, dovetail mounted blade front sight and notch rear sight, 21 shot gravity-fed tubular magazine, screw-off metal buttstock air reservoir, and a walnut stock with incised border carvings. Austrian military eagle stamps are located on top of the breech of the barrel and on the stock reservoir which also has a "2" stamped on it, a "G" Girardoni maker marking is stamped on top of the brass receiver body along with an unknown tree-like symbol ahead of "356", and a fleur-de-lis is stamped on the left of the stock above the sideplate. More information on Girardoni air rifles can be found on pages 598-601 of the book "Blue Book of Airguns, Thirteenth Edition", as well as in the online articles at https://www.beemans.net/Austrian%20airguns.htm and https://www.beemans.net/lewis-assault-rifle.htm where the "Lewis Airgun" is shown in detail. Provenance: The Dr. Robert D. Beeman Collection
Very good, with most of the restored blue finish on the barrel, magazine tube, sling swivels, breech block, and hammer, some scattered patches of minor pitting, the brass displays golden bright as lightly polished, with clear markings in the metal. The wood is also very good as re-oiled, with some scattered light scratches and handling marks, recut incised carvings, and a defined fleur-de-lis stamp. Mechanically fine. This Austrian military Model 1780 Girardoni repeating air rifle was the most advanced shoulder arm of its time in the late 1700s, famous for its reported use on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and this is an incredibly rare opportunity to acquire one!
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