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How can a single-stroke pneumatic be a repeater?

by B.B. Pelletier

This question came from one of our more active readers who wonders why a gun that requires you have to do something other than simply pulling the trigger for each shot can be called a repeater. That’s a good fundamental question that I’d like to answer today.

Single-shots came first
Nobody will argue that early muzzleloading firearms were single-shots. The shooter had to preform an elaborate loading ritual each time he wanted to shoot the gun. Shooters in those days must have thought, what a blessing it would be if that were not necessary – if the gun could just be cocked again and shot without reloading!

There were many early attempts to create repeating firearms before 1800 – but the one I want to mention was the gun invented by Italian Bartolomeo Girandoni. He worked to get his gun perfected; but, when it blew off his son’s arm in an accident, he abandoned the idea of working with gunpowder (too dangerous) and went to airguns. The 22-shot Girandoni repeating AIR RIFLE was adopted by the Austrian army in 1780, and they took delivery of up to 1,500 arms before the contract ended. This air rifle was capable of hitting a man-sized target from greater than 100 yards with lethal results! Imagine – everyone on the battlefield is shooting single-shot smoothbores that can’t be expected to hit a man beyond 40 yards, and here comes a guy with a 22-shot repeating RIFLE! It was the assault rifle of its day (only this assault rifle was really accurate, too).

Austria’s Girandoni of 1780 is a 22-shot .46 caliber repeating air rifle.

Repeating firearms – SAFE repeating firearms – had to wait another half century. In the 1840s, Jonathan Browning (John Browning’s father) perfected a “harmonica ” repeater that had a sliding breech with multiple (5 to 24) chambers in it. The mechanism that locked the breechblock in place also shoved it forward into the end of the barrel for a gas-tight seal. This was the innovation that was necessary to stop repeaters from blowing up. Unfortunately for Browning, the metallic cartridge was invented at about the same time, so the end had finally come for loose gunpowder.

Moving forward to 1873, the U.S. Army was issued a new breechloading rifle – the .45 caliber Springfield (Trapdoor). The Army thought a single-shot would discipline the men from wasting ammunition. They needn’t have made this decision, because lever-action rifles were already available and had been used in the Civil War ten years earlier. But, it was peacetime, and the Army wanted to keep its budget as low as possible, so the single-shot prevailed (in the American Army, only) for about the next 20 years.

So, what is a repeater?
Here is the distinction – a repeater is a gun that contains more than one round of ammunition and can be readied to shoot without loading again. That doesn’t mean you don’t work the action to load the round into the breech – it means you don’t load it into the rifle. So Daisy’s 840 Grizzly single-stroke pneumatic can be a repeater, even though it has to be pumped for every shot. So can Crosman’s 760 multi-pump pneumatic, even though it has to be pumped several times for every shot. Ah, but the Daisy 840 Grizzly is also a single-shot when you shoot pellets, because it has no pellet magazine. You must load a pellet each time you shoot, which makes it a single-shot, where the Crosman 760 has a five-shot pellet magazine, so it’s a repeater with both pellets and BBs.

Magazine vs reservoir
Before we get out of the woods, though, you need to understand the distinction between a magazine (or clip) and a reservoir. Daisy’s Red Ryder has a MAGAZINE capacity of 650 BBs. If you keep working the lever, all 650 will eventually be shot out. In contrast, Crosman’s 760 has a BB MAGAZINE with a capacity of 18 BBs and a RESERVOIR with a capacity of 200 BBs. When the BBs are gone from the magazine, you shake the gun in a certain way to move more BBs from the reservoir to the magazine. If you don’t do this, you can have 200 BBs in the gun and not be able to shoot a single one!

Get it?

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

18 thoughts on “How can a single-stroke pneumatic be a repeater?”

  1. Ohhhh, I get it now. I’ve always used to think a repeater was something like a semi-auto rifle, all you had to do was load and cock it once, and the gun will take care of the rest. Great explanation B.B.


  2. BB:
    I know you are a gun guy.
    To say a magazine is the same as a
    clip is just plain wrong. You know
    this. Perpetuating this sloppy use
    of terminology could get somone killed. A soldier is out of ammo.
    He needs a loaded MAGAZINE. He shouts “throw me a clip”, he receives a CLIP. A ten round stripper CLIP, still in everday issue, not a thirty round MAGAZINE. A MAGAZINE feeds cartridges from a spring loaded box into the chamber. A CLIP is a
    metal strip that holds cartridges in a pressed metal groove that charges the MAGAZINE. The CLIP CHARGES the MAGAZINE that feeds the firearm. Words do make a difference. Please do not perpetuate misuse that can lead to confusion that can lead to disaster. You are better than that.

  3. Hi, I know this is completely off topic, but I just read your post about the Benji Legacy 1000. I’m impressed by everything you stated about the rifle, but I have a few questions.

    How loud was the rifle? I have to do my shooting in my backyard and the woodlot behind my house, so noise is a big factor for me.

    Also, I’m considering getting the .22 Legacy instead of the .177, will the .22 be any louder than the .177 version?

    Sorry about my questions being off topic, but I figured if I posted them on the Legacy review you wouldn’t see them.
    Thank you very much.

    Mike C.

  4. Mike,

    The Legacy is approximately as loud as a Beeman R9 or a Gamo Shadow 1000. Does that mean anything to you?

    A .22 spring gun is about the same loudness as a .177. I will say this, the Beeman R1 I just tuned has the same noise level as a silenced TX 200, so tuning does reduce the signature. At 100 feet you would not hear the discharge of the gun unless someone told you to listen.


  5. flintlock,

    You are right. I called the Crosman clip a magazine.

    However, you say a magazine has a spring. Well not all of them do. The Girandoni shown with this article has a gravity-feed magazine. That’s how the U.S. Army defined the magazine for the Gatling gun, though it, too, was fed by gravity. So the Red Ryder’s magazine, is indeed a magazine. In fact, it was defined that way in the recent court case the Consumer Product Safety Council filed against Daisy, so it has legal ramifications as well.

    My comment about a …magazine (or clip…) vs reservoir was simply to distinguish between the mag and the clip.

    Thanks for keeping me straight.


  6. Thanks for the response BB, but I’ve never shot (or heard) a S1K or a Beeman R9, so I can’t realy tell from that.

    I have however shot and heard a Benji 392, is the Legacy quiter/louder than that, and if so by how much?

    Thanks again.

    Mike C.

  7. B.B. thanks for clearing things up, I had always been confused when i heard a springer or single-stroke pneumatic called a repeater.i also apreciated the bit about girandoni’s rifle. i recently saw one in the vienna military museum and was intriged by the pump or tank that filled the gun. I was wondering if you had any more information on whats used to charge the gun as i have had no luck finding anything on it.
    thanks scope stop

  8. BB,

    I hardly ever hear you speak about the RWS 34, how come?! I’m curious where it fits into the world of airguns I hear about on this blog… The R9, The TX200, the HW77, GAMO, China, etc… I know you put German barrels at the top of the list when you talked about who makes the best barrels. Diana makes the 34 so I’mm assuming it has a german barrel. Anyhow, How could the german made RWS 34 air rifle hardley get a mention here when so many of the other RWS rifles have been profiled, reviewd, and reccomended?

    And along thos lines, I havn’t heard much about the R9 either. You have it in a few of the lists of your favorites, but it has never gotten much face time on the blog either! Is it your favorite secret? Or are the mid powered rifles a trifle boring to talk about?

    Here’s the wierd thing I noticed about them when looking on the SS website where they show how the different pellets performed in different rifles. It appears that the R9 has a better power spread with the .177 caliber pellets! So i am confused about how that could be, knowing that .20, or .22 geerally gets 20% more power from any given gun than the same gun in .177 The same seems true of the 34 although it’s not as dramatic.

    Anyhow, I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on the mid powered german gunns…

  9. BB:
    Yes, I too considered
    gravity feed devices, i.e.,Gatling,
    and stripper-fed Nambus and Benet-
    Meciers. There always seems to be
    an exception to any rule. How can
    one classify the magazine that will
    not function without the clip in place, such as the Carcano, K-31, or, umm…Garand? Oh, Well.
    Good Answer,

  10. Bill D.,

    Although I love Sheridans and own three of them I would pick the 392 today. Not because it is cheaper, but because it is .22 and there are so many more pellets available. The two guns are equivalent in power and accuracy and I endorse the use of open sights with them.


  11. Josh H..

    There will ALWAYS be models I seem to treat lightly. The reason is time and probably a little of my personal taste. The R9 is so overshadowed by the TX200 (in my mind) that it comes off as second-best. That’s not a fair assessment, really. The R9 is less expensive, has a Rekord trigger and can be tuned to be a wondertful, smooth shooter.

    On the subject of tuning, however, the R9 can never be as smooth as the R1. Again there is little to compare between the guns. The R1 is larger, more expensive and has greater power potential. However, I’m just showing you how my mind works. I’d buy a Hudson instead of a DeSoto.

    Then there is the Diana 34. I searched and found no report on it, nor the R9 for that matter. Yet I have owned both guns. So here’s what I’ma gonna do. I’ll do a report on each gun and try to bring the score back up to where it should be.

    How’s that?


  12. A Hudson over a DeSoto? Come on, BB. You’re showing your age. Most of the young’uns on this sight are scratching their heads, wondering what you’re referring to! : )

    For those young’uns: They’re cars. Old ones. You know, like vinyl records?

    Looking forward to your take on the 34. I just picked one up and am VERY pleased, especially after coming from my defective Crosman/Mendoza RM577.

  13. BB-

    Sounds great! I look forward to reading about them. They’re interesting guns to me… They seem like an attempt at a good comprimise between quality and cost and I’m curious about what your take is on the end result! Anyhow, I’m looking forward to seeing what you think! Thanks BB!


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