This European double barrel combination air gun/percussion shotgun features extremely high quality deep relief cut floral engraving and gold inlaid borders on the breech, hammers, action and locks, with fancy gold inlaid initials "J.H." on top of the action. Both of the smooth bores are chambered in approximately .46 caliber/11.5 mm, with the left barrel using a muzzleloading percussion system, and the right barrel being a breech loading air gun with a rising breech block similar to the Girardoni (sometimes spelled "Girandoni") system although single loading as opposed to the Girardoni being a repeater. Pushing forward on the front lever in the trigger guard causes a breech block to rise up out of the top of the receiver for easy loading, and the left lock has a four-position selector for different air power settings. The Girardoni is easily the most famous type of early air gun 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 repeating air rifle (different style of air gun than this example offered, although using a similar system) or a very similar design by Isaiah Lukens of Philadelphia. Air guns of this style were used primarily for hunting, with this extremely high quality engraved example made for an individual of very high status, possibly even for an emperor based on the level of detail and workmanship. "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. German silver bead front sight on the matted rib. No maker markings visible. Leather wrapped iron stock air reservoir. Circular brass collection tag marked "R.D. BEEMAN/PRIVATE/COLLECTION/460" hanging from the trigger guard. This exact gun is pictured below the caption, "THE PINNACLE OF AUSTRIAN AIR GUNS" in figure 42 of the online article at https://www.beemans.net/Austrian%20airguns.htm with the article stating, "The key feature of the genius of the Girandoni system, a sliding breech block with a ball socket, has here evolved into a concealed, vertically moving breech block with a similar ball socket. The firepower of the long magazine has been replaced with the combination of firepower and dependability of a double-barrel gun with two completely different power sources." Provenance: The Dr. Robert D. Beeman Collection
Exceptionally fine, retains 85% period refurbished blue finish on the barrels with scattered light scratches, and strong patterns of case colors on the action and hammers with mostly smooth brown patina, attractive gold inlay, and sharp engraving overall. The leather wrapping on the stock is very fine with some tears around the butt. The air gun lock has a non-functioning half cock, otherwise mechanically fine.
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