Lewis and Clark Expedition’s Secret Rifle

Did you know that Lewis and Clark took an “air rifle” on their expedition. Yes a bona-fide air rifle. Here it is below. It is named the Girandoni Air Rifle, the secret part is so astounding that even New Hampshire Rifleman like me are truly amazed!

Girandoni Air Rifle


The rear stock was a canister that could be pumped up to 800 psi. The rifle had an under the barrel tubular magazine. The shooter could load as many as twenty-two  .46 caliber balls into the Magazine at once and that could be readily fed by pushing a spring fed breech lever to push a ball into the chamber, fired and have the sequence repeated all 22 shots in less than 30 seconds. The rifle could shoot as many as 40 shots without significant loss of velocity according the NRA Curator of the National Rifle Museum Senior Curator Phil Schreier.

The Rifle was designed in the late 18th Century for use originally by the Austrian Army but one of these found its way into the hands of Lewis and Clark in their expedition west from 1803 to 1806.  The curator points out that the large.46 caliber round balls could easily penetrate an inch of pine at distances of 100 yards.

Lewis and Clark, the curator continues, often met Indians along the trail west. L&C gave them gifts and at the same time “always” provided a demonstration of firepower with the quiet air rifle as a repeater, shooting many shots in just a moment or two.

Can you imagine what the Indians said to each other after such an overwhelming demonstration? 

It was this demonstration of sheer firepower that kept the members of Lewis & Clark expedition alive. The Indians and their Chiefs that were exposed to this Rifle made the assumption that all of the members of the expedition had this rifle. So even though the Indians far outnumbered the expedition, just the mere thought of the firepower brought forth by one rifle, kept the Indians  from overwhelming the expedition

Hear the Museum Curator in his own words by typing in the name of the rifle in a search engine and watch it. It is on u-tube Girandoni Rifle at the NRA museum. You will be amazed!

This air rifle may in fact be the most important rifle in the history of the United States.

A case of peace through superior firepower.

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About Ed Hale

I am an avid hunter with rifle and Bow and have been hunting for more than 50 years. I have taken big game such as whitetail deer, red deer, elk, Moose and African Plains game
such as Kudu, Gemsbok, Springbok, Blesbok, and Impala and wrote an ebook entitled African Safari -Rifle and Bow and Arrow on how to prepare for a first safari. Ed is a serious cartridge reloader and ballistics student. He has earned two degrees in science and has written hundreds of outdoor article on hunting with both bow and rifle.