Small things have a way of defining my life, and this is a story about one of them. When I was about 12, I bought a copy of the 1948 Shooter’s Bible in a used bookstore. It was full of guns, and I couldn’t get enough information about them back then. Unfortunately, the wonderful books I would discover on the subject like Sixguns by Keith and Yours Truly, Harvey Donaldson were still decades in the future — in the latter case, more than a half century. But, I had that old Shooter’s Bible — a book I still own, by the way. I read it and re-read it, unwittingly but also unerringly committing the pages to memory.
Simple enough question, no? Maybe you get confused by certain air-powered tools or perhaps a slang reference to a paint sprayer, but most folks know exactly what you mean when you say airgun.
Think so? Think again.
The term airgun isn’t found in most dictionaries, yet. You’ll find your spell-checker wants you to write it as two words, but that’s not what today’s blog is about. I really want to know if you know what’s encompassed by the term airgun.
Some of you have already stopped reading to formulate an official-sounding definition that goes something like this: An airgun is any smoothbore or rifled gun that propels a projectile by means of compressed air. As you stand back to admire your work, it suddenly dawns on you that your definition doesn’t encompass any of the guns that are powered by CO2. Don’t you hate it when that happens?
Over the years I have written about many strange airguns. Some of them were mine and others were guns I either borrowed to test or just wrote about.
Sometimes, I’ve even written about firearms, which a student of airguns should understand because of the insight firearms shed on our hobby. Microgroove rifling, for instance, came from a 19th century barrelmaker named Harry Pope. Then, the Marlin company copied it; and only after airguns began being rifled in about 1906 was microgroove rifling finally applied to them.
And, there have been a fair number of curious guns that don’t really fit exactly in one category. For example, the Kruger cap-firing BB pistol isn’t really an airgun, but a firearm by the definition that a firearm discharges one or more projectiles by the force of a chemical explosion. But no BATF&E agent would ever give one a second look. Made mostly of black styrene, the Kruger is a toy by anyone’s definition. You can read about it in this report.