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Did Meriwether Lewis Carry an Assault AIR Rifle?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Harry Tuttle, Mar 20, 2004.

  1. Harry Tuttle

    Harry Tuttle Senior Member

    Nov 14, 2003
    Did Meriwether Lewis Carry an Assault Rifle?
    (Further Considerations about the Lewis and Clark Air Gun)

    _By Robert D. Beeman Ph.D.

    Revision: 24 February 2004

    Summary and conclusion: One brief, puzzling passage in the journal of Thomas Rodney, a day visitor to Captain Meriwether Lewis eight months before the start of the main expedition, suggests that the air rifle carried on the Voyage of Discovery was a Girandoni system repeater and not the Lukens single shot air rifle that previously has been considered as the most likely candidate for "The Lewis and Clark Air Rifle". However, Rodney's own editors state that "assuredly creative exaggeration and rich embellishment had their share in coloring his memory†and that it is “virtually impossible to sift fact from fancy… in some of his descriptions†and they made numerous remarks about the credibility of other tales presented as facts by the author.

    Although the various expedition journals, made over three years, mention and discuss the airgun more than any other gun, there are no references to the key features of a Girandoni system airgun: breech-loading, rapid-fire repeating action, awesome firepower, great potential as a game getter and lethal weapon, conspicuous long external magazine containing a certain number of balls, unusual appearance, and tremendous appetite for air and lead – most of which are extremely unusual, and highly notable, features for a gun of that period. And despite the almost inevitable association of Lewis and Isaiah Lukens during the small time/space window when Lewis purchased his airgun, and the almost certain fact that the Lewis airgun was later_ in the Lukens shop for a very long time, it seems clear that neither of the Lukens men nor Kunz, their young partner, had seen a Girandoni system airgun before, or for some time after, the expedition. The supposed evidences for a powerful repeating airgun being on the main expedition are strongly countered.

    It is not at all surprising that Rodney would have had_ information about Girandoni airguns and use some of the specific details to embellish his conviviality with Captain Lewis. The present author and world leading airgun history experts feel that it is highly unlikely, to nearly impossible, that Captain Lewis carried a Girandoni system repeating air rifle on the main part of the "Voyage of Discovery".

    Three possible, but less likely, alternative scenarios are presented which suggest that Lewis may have started the trip with a Girandoni system repeating air rifle, but carried the Lukens DNH single-shot, muzzle-loading air rifle for the main part of the expedition.


    http://www.beemans.net/Lewis Assault Rifle.htm

    Gee, i wonder if we could use CNC and high end plastics
    to resurrect the venerable 31 caliber Girandoni assault air riflle

    i gather we won't need a flash hider

    http://www.beemans.net/400 Years of Tradition.htm
    The powerful, big-bore pneumatic airgun carried by Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition in the northwest U.S. has only recently been identified with quite a good deal of certainty. It is a .31 caliber butt-reservoir pneumatic, made by Lukens of Philadelphia. Lukens was already famous as the maker of the big clock on Independence Hall. This gun may have been chosen by Captain Lewis because good airguns of that period were generally more dependable, and could be fired more rapidly, than firearms of the same period. However, its ability to astonish the Indians with its smokeless discharge and repeated firing without powder could have been equally important. This gun is mentioned 18 times in the expedition journals. It_ was reported to have fired at least 40 times from a single charging. I certainly confess that holding this gun in 1975, well before its important identity was known to the public, and sighting down its barrel, as did Captains Lewis and Clark almost two hundred years ago, was one of the real thrills of my airgun collecting career!

    Certainly one of the most famous of the butt-reservoir guns was the Austrian military air rifle designed by B. Girandoni in Austria about 1779. Here the buttstock is a detachable air reservoir which could be quickly unscrewed when empty and replaced by a full one. Each reservoir pumped by portable hand pump, or a pump machine behind the lines, held enough air to fire a series of 20 heavy lead balls fed from an ingenious rapid feed magazine. These formidable weapons could put out their 20 smokeless shots in a minute; the .45" caliber (11.5 mm, not 13 mm as previously reported) balls_ were deadly to 150 yards (137 m)! A corps of 500 soldiers so armed had a potential firepower of 300,000 shots in a half hour; incredible for military rifles of the 1790 period! Emperor of Austria Joseph II became excited about these guns as early as 1779 and both he and his successor, Leopold II in 1790, had corps of Jaeger and Tyrolean troops armed with these air rifles. Perhaps 1500 such air rifles actually were produced and they did see battle repeatedly against Turkey, France, and the Confederation of the Rhine.
  2. joab

    joab Senior Member

    Feb 11, 2004
    Ocoee, Fla
  3. rev214

    rev214 New Member

    Nov 9, 2005
    "Land of Landfills",New Jersey
    updated info...

    good article in the October edition of NRA American Rifleman about the Lewis air rifle, most likely the design of C.G. Girardoni...

    updated info (and lots of it) on the "New Evidence Points to the Lewis and Clark Air Rifle – an 'Assault Rifle' of 1803."
  4. tellner

    tellner member

    Apr 17, 2004
    Not the air rifle but still very clever...

    L&C had a great way of carrying shot and powder. They made cans, essentially, out of lead. Each contained enough powder sealed inside to fire the balls that could be made from the lead.
  5. Mr. Ouchie

    Mr. Ouchie New Member

    Apr 11, 2006
    glbarnes.com make some monster airguns... beautiful stuff really.
  6. Harry Tuttle

    Harry Tuttle Senior Member

    Nov 14, 2003
    Rev214 uses the search function



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