Shooting galleries have been a major influence in the shooting sports for close to a century and a half, and airguns have had their day in galleries. Reb, our most outspoken reader, once ran a traveling shooting gallery that featured the popular “Shoot out the Red Star” game. I’ll discuss that at the end of the report, but right now I’m going back to the beginning of shooting galleries.
The 15th century
And, who can really say when that was? We know from documents and from tapestries that shooting events were popular in Europe in the 1400s. But those were sporting events that came and went — they weren’t the galleries I am discussing today. The crossbows and guns that were used at those events belonged to the shooters. They were not rented by the gallery to the general public.
This report is for reader Zebra who asked me last week about the power of the antique big bore airguns. He said he read that some were used in battle and had the power to kill soldiers. I answered him and gave a link to the very first report of this airgun history series (Part 1, linked above). It was done way back on August 21, 2015 when this section was started. But I read that report and discovered that it really didn’t answer his question. I had explained how big bore airgun power was determined, but not how powerful the guns actually were. So I’m adding this Part 2 to get to the heart of the question.
Sharpshooter pistol uses rubber bands to launch a .12 caliber lead ball. Other catapult guns were as large as .43 caliber!
This report covers:
You know catapults guns
More power doesn’t mean higher velocity
Why a limit?
What is the limit?
Crossbows may be faster — but…
What about stonebows?
You know catapults guns
Over the years I have written several reports about catapult guns . The Sharpshooter shown above and the Bullseye pistol that proceeded it used rubber bands to launch their shot. But the Johnson Indoor Target gun used surgical tubing. And a don’t really know for sure what the .43 caliber Hodges gun of the 1840s used but I suspect it was natural rubber bands. The point is, catapult guns have used many different power sources.
Johnson Indoor Trainer uses surgical rubber tubing.
We started the week with a report on the Hammerli Trainer. We’ll end it with a look at the VZ-47. This ball-firing spring piston air rifle is a later version of the VZ 35 that we looked at in December. That’s why I put the link to that report at the top of this one. You might say the 47 is an updated model 35, only the updates were mostly ways to reduce the cost to manufacture.
Like the VZ35, the VZ47 is a very large air rifle. Most people seeing one for the first time would think it is a firearm. It weighs 8.5 lbs. and has the same rugged look as a 98K Mauser that it’s meant to copy. All you see on the outside is wood and steel, as this is indeed an old-school military trainer.
I’m out at Media Day at the Range today. So tomorrow I’ll start showing you new stuff from the SHOT Show.
About three weeks ago I was cruising the auction website Gun Broker, looking at the listings of one of my favorite dealers. This guy sells oddball and eclectic firearms and, from time to time, airguns. I saw a Hammerli Trainer that was made for the bolt action K31 Schmidt Rubin rifle Switzerland used. I thought I recognized this trainer from Smith’s Standard Encyclopedia of Gas, Air and Spring Guns of the World, and, sure enough, I found it on pages 159-164.
Before we begin, I am leaving for Las Vegas and the 2016 SHOT Show today. I will have limited time to answer questions from readers, so I’m asking the veteran readers to help out until I return to following Saturday.
We know there are 4 popular smallbore airgun calibers in use today. These 4 are not mandated by any regulation, nor controlled by any specification. Nothing makes them smallbores, except for the existence of big bores. In other words, they are smallbores by default — because they aren’t big bores.
The 4 smallbore pellet calibers we know today are .177 (4.5mm), .20 (5mm), .22 (5.5mm) and .25 (6.35mm). The round ball calibers are steel BB, which is .171-.173 (4.3-4.4mm). Anything larger than .25 caliber is commonly called a big bore, though there are no hard and fast rules about it. In fact, there are .25 caliber guns that qualify as smallbores and other .25 caliber guns that qualify as big bores. Confused?
This report was requested by several readers after seeing a cased air cane in an earlier history report.
In the 19th century, the airgun world developed many curiosities, but none made more of an impression on today’s collectors than the pneumatic walking stick, or air cane, as it has come to be known. They survive by the thousands and fascinate all who see them. Today I’d like to examine the air cane!
Here we see a complete simple straight cane disassembled. From the left the parts are: the lower outer shell, the upper outer shell that is also the reservoir, the smoothbore barrel and lock, with the firing valve removed from the reservoir, the rifled barrel insert and the ramrod that doubles as the cane’s outer tip for walking.