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 they either had a Girardoni or a very similar design by Isaiah Lukens of Philadelphia. 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. They were notably used by Austrian sharpshooters from 1787-1815. 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. "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. "J:B :MISSILLIEUR A VIENNE" marked on top of the barrel at the breech, "IN WIEN" marked on the right lock. Johann Baptist Missillieur (1781-1835) is recorded as a master gunmaker working in Vienna by 1821, and by 1834 he was in Prague. This example is chambered in approximately .50 caliber/13 mm and features an octagon barrel with fine-groove rifling, a dovetail mounted bead front sight (absent bead), dovetail mounted two leaf notch rear sight, a leather bound iron stock reservoir, and a walnut stock. Features high quality engraving consisting of floral borders surrounding game scenes including on the top of the action consisting of a hunter sitting in a tree with a dog at attention and downed game birds at the base of the tree, and game scenes on the left and right lockplates with floral borders, floral engraving on the hammer with a head, and engraving on the iron forend cap and a martial motif engraved on the trigger guard. More information on Girardoni air rifles can be found in the online article at https://www.beemans.net/Austrian%20airguns.htm, as well as pages 598-601 of the book "Blue Book of Airguns, Thirteenth Edition". Provenance: The Dr. Robert D. Beeman Collection
Fine with bright iron surfaces, a few small patches of very light pitting, and crisp professionally recut engraving and markings. The walnut stock is also fine, with some visible repairs around some of the edges and some scattered dents and handling marks. The rewrapped leather is very good with typical age related wear and an absent section towards the front. Mechanically fine.
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