While the popularity of air rifles in Britain continues to grow as a sporting interest, many people do not realise the heritage behind the gear they use. Air rifles for example were first introduced (at least according to the history books) sometime around the 15th and 16th century. According to archaeological documentation, 1580 marks the construction age of the oldest preserved air rifle still present today.
In fact, you may be surprised to learn that air guns were more popular in the 1600’s than traditional gun powder fuelled weaponry as they proved considerably less unwieldy and smoggy than the latter. For example, with an air powered weapon they needn’t be concerned about the black powder getting wet or having smoky clouds emerge from their fire – better yet, they were far quieter thus giving hunter’s considerable advantage.
The weapons continued their popularity well into the 1800s, particular in the states thanks to the development of technology and the earlier introduction of .30 and .51 calibre air weapons. A popular air rifle form this period is that used by Lewis and Clark between 1803 and 1806 during their expedition through the Pacific. The weapon was a .31 calibre air gun and was used for hunting, the gun is said to have roused considerable intrigue from the Native Americans who named it a “smokeless bolt of thunder”.
While air guns would eventually be phased out in battle in favour of firearms, air guns remained a favoured pastime worldwide for hunting, target practice and sport. In fact, you may recall in 1984 the Olympics introduced competitive shooting and the National Air Rifle Association continues to broadcast and support the sporting merits of these outstanding machines.
Solware recommend giving this brief video a watch over on YouTube, it condenses a lot of these facts down into an easily digestible lesson!