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Ammo What IS an airgun?

What IS an airgun?

by B.B. Pelletier

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?

Airguns, it turns out, can be a great many different things. Air is only one of their defining characteristics.

Carbon dioxide
Before we move on, however, let’s deal with the CO2 issue. Clearly carbon dioxide isn’t air. If you doubt that, try breathing it for 20 minutes, and then we’ll talk. I’ve had arguments at length with airgun collectors who were stubbornly opposed to labeling CO2 guns as airguns. While that’s a fun subject for two people to banter about as they watch the fireflies rise on a warm evening, it doesn’t serve a person who is drafting state legislation regarding new hunting laws!

So, are CO2 guns airguns, or not? Well — let’s see. They’re sold by airgun dealers, they travel under the same restrictions as guns that do operate on air, they use the same ammunition and they perform similarly. And, heck, there are even a few amphibious models such as Benjamin’s Discovery that operate on either compressed air or CO2. Wasn’t it Robert Kennedy who observed that if something quacks like a duck it probably is a duck? So, yes, guns that use CO2 are also airguns.

Green gas/red gas
Wouldn’t it be nice if it ended there? Well, it doesn’t. There are other propellant gasses that power guns that must also be considered, now that the door has been opened for CO2. I’m talking about green gas and red gas. The airsoft industry hates to admit it publically, but green gas is actually propane. A tiny bit of silicone oil is added to the gas to lubricate the gun’s parts as it functions, and they leave out the odor that’s added to commercial propane to identify gas leaks (real propane doesn’t smell like onions; it has no smell at all).

The same dealers who tell you green gas is special will even sell you adapters to fill your green gas guns from five-pound propane tanks, all the while backpeddling on admitting that green gas is propane! The Orient, where a lot of airsoft guns are made, is quite good at doublespeak!

Here’s where it becomes interesting. Green gas develops a pressure of around 115 PSI at room temperature. That’s plenty of push to propel a 3-grain plastic ball (they call them BBs) out the spout at a fairly good clip.

Red gas is more exotic. It has a higher vapor pressure than green gas, so the guns that use it require some modifications. If you read all the warnings, you’ll get the idea that red gas is like nuclear fuel, but for one thing. Some airsoft guns also operate on CO2, which has a vapor pressure of 853 PSI at room temperature, which goes way beyond the pressure of red gas. To operate on CO2, airsoft guns have to be modified even more, and this is done by restricting the gas flow through special valving that has very small gas ports. There you are. Guns that run on green gas, red gas and CO2, none of which is air — yet they fall into the airgun category because there’s no other category for them.

Airsoft guns do receive special legislation of their own because many are built to simulate firearms (called “real guns” by some folks), and they’re used in force-on-force skirmishes, with people shooting at each other. There are legal issues concerning brandishing in public and special markings on the guns that are not as applicable to the kind of pellet guns I generally write about. But airsoft guns are sold by the same dealers and often made by the same companies who make conventional airguns. Again, they quack like ducks.

Catapult guns
We’re not finished with the non-air powerplants, yet, Sparky. There are still catapult guns to consider.

Catapult guns propel their projectiles by means of a spring in the form of an elastic band or even a conventional coiled steel spring. If you think CO2 guns cause controversy among the anal airgun collectors, try raising this subject and see what happens!

The most common catapult guns are the Sharpshooter-series guns dating from 1923 and produced as toy novelties in the U.S. through at least the 1980s. These guns all shot .118 lead shot, which is more commonly known as No. 6 birdshot.

This Bulls Eye pistol was the first of many so-called Sharpshooter pistols powered by rubber bands. It fired No. 6 birdshot up to ~150 f.p.s. when multiple rubber bands were used.

In most airguns, the use of dropped shot (shotgun shot is made by either dropping it from a high tower so that it forms a ball as it solidifies or forced through small holes by centrifugal force) can be a problem, because of inconsistent size. The shot can easily get jammed in barrels when it’s oversized, which is why we seldom see real BB-sized shot (shot size BB is nominally 0.180 inches in diameter) used in antique BB guns. It simply isn’t regular enough. But catapult guns seldom use barrels. They usually place the shot to be fired in a shaped seat to hold it during acceleration, then release it cleanly at the end of the acceleration phase.

The Johnson Indoor Target Gun shot conventional steel BBs from a submachine gun-looking plastic frame. It used tubular elastic bands much like modern surgical tubing to launch a 5.1-grain BB at 100-150 f.p.s., depending on the strength of the bands.

The Johnson Indoor Target Gun sold for $15 in 1949. It shot steel BBs at 100-150 f.p.s.

But Daisy made a catapult gun that used steel springs. Their model 179 is a Spittin’ Image replica of a Colt single-action revolver that I reported in this blog some time back. Instead of just flinging the BB with the force of the spring, the spring in the 179 pushed a paddle that actually hit the BB like a croquet mallet smacks a ball. Instead of just pushing the BB out the barrel (and this is one of the few catapult guns that really does have a smoothbore barrel), it was whacked out like a line drive off a baseball bat.

Daisy’s 179 was an early Spittin’ Image gun. Production began in 1960.

Rigid airgun collectors are really challenged by catapult guns, because of the Daisy connection. They don’t want to include them in the body of legitimate airguns; but with Daisy being such a key player, they usually cave.

That sets them up for a huge disappointment when they suddenly learn that in the 1840s there was another catapult gun that launched lead balls of approximately .43 caliber with sufficient force to kill small game. The Hodges catapult gun is a long gun with no barrel but with all the Victorian styling expected of a naval weapon made in the 1840s. The thought among advanced collectors is that it was a foraging gun made for naval vessels. Except for the few parts that absolutely had to be made of iron for durability, the rest of the gun is fashioned from bronze and English walnut!

The Hodges catapult gun dates from the 1840s. It was a ship’s foraging gun that made little sound, yet could take game of reasonable size without alerting hostile natives. The Roman soldier statues at the front are for anchoring the elastic bands.

The Hodges ball carrier is pushed back until the sear hooks it. Then the elastic bands are stretched one at a time to increase power. This way, the shooter can build in a lot more power than he can possibly handle when cocking the gun.

The elastic bands were anchored at the forward end by two Roman soldiers cast in detailed bronze relief. I’ve seen two such guns — the one pictured here is in remarkable preservation and the other one has been restored to working order and shot by its owner, who reports velocities in the mid-400 f.p.s. range with 122-grain swaged lead balls.

The next branch on the oddity tree deviates toward those guns that shoot BBs and shot by means of the power of an exploding toy cap. Wamo made a minimum of five different models, and new ones surface every couple years. The most recent I’ve discovered shoots potato plugs!

The Kruger ’98 was a cap-firing gun that shot No. 6 birdshot. The same gun also shot BBs and was called just Kruger. Wamo (also spelled Wham-o) made them both.

The Western Haig used toy caps to launch No. 6 shot. It sold for $2.98 in the 1960s. Sold by the founders of Wamo under a different company name and only from a P.O. Box.

If a toy cap can launch a BB, what’s to prevent it from igniting a small charge of black powder? And who decides what’s “a small charge”? There have been .22-caliber, .36-caliber and even .45-caliber rifles made by Rocky Mountain Arms Corporation in modern times that operate by means of exploding caps igniting black powder. If you go back 100 years, there were some made then, as well. They’re clearly firearms when they use black powder, but what about those using caps only?

This .22 rifle from Rocky Mountain Arms Corporation uses toy caps to ignite black powder behind a .22-caliber lead ball. They also made this in .36 and .45 calibers!

As long as we’re talking about caps, what prevents someone from using percussion caps and even primers to propel pellets and BBs? Apparently nothing, because it’s been done. Are these all airguns, as well?

Not the end!
As you now can see, the question of what constitutes an airgun is far from clear. Once you accept any of these deviations, the rest will come streaming through the same loophole. For instance, is a gun that also launches an arrow then considered a bow? And if so, is it legal to use during bow season?

It is for reasons like this that Edith and I are sometimes so rigid and precise in our terminology — because you never know what’s waiting in the wings.

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.

118 thoughts on “What IS an airgun?”

  1. You forgot about nitrogen and helium! I’ve heard people talk about using it to power airguns for a while.
    There’s one fellow who mixes CO2 and HPA in his airforce gun tank.

    Maybe the terminology is due for an update and they should now be called gas guns?
    There’s already GAS (gun aquisition syndrome) so why not 😉


    • J-F,

      AirForce is the only manufacturer I know that recommends using nitrogen for their airguns. They were pestered by a lot of people who correctly reasoned that air is mostly nitrogen, so why wouldn’t it work? And of course it does, just fine. The reason they stalled so long (and probably why other companies don’t even recommend nitrogen to this day), is because if you start down that path there will always be someone who has access to pure oxygen and wants to use it. After all, they reason, oxygen is also a big part of air, too.

      But pure oxygen under pressure is so dangerous that it has to be handled in special ways, with the avoidance of flames being the big one. Airguns have been known to explode and to burst into flames when running on oxygen. Pyramyd AIR has one that a customer melted with pure oxygen.

      The root problem is there is always someone willing to say, “Well, if it can do that …” Such people seldom reason things out, and they disregard the signs of trouble. So airgun companies try to forestall disaster by writing instructions limiting how their guns can be used. It isn’t foolproof, of course, but it does make a good defense on the witness stand during the lawsuit.


      • B.B., does nitrogen have any kind of edge as a propellant over air? Probably a silly question but I really want to know. Do you know of any comparison that is available for the Air Force airguns?


        • ken,
          I’m curious, too. The air we breath is roughly 79% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen with a trace of some other gasses. I would like to know how 21% more Nitrogen would make a difference. Also, I would imagine the cost for pure Nitrogen would be more than the benefit if there is one. It must cost something to remove the oxygen.

          • Chuck, now I wish I had at least said “regular air” rather than just “air”. It’s one of those cases where my “inner child” (I had to read to many co-dependancy books; please forgive me) wants to blurt out, “I knew that, I knew that”. Thankfully my inner adult is more mature.


              • LOL, you broke down the composition of air which of course contains quite a bit of nitrogen. My original question to B.B. was worded as though air was a separate gas from nitrogen, rather than the mixture it is. My response to you was just me being jealous that you had broken it down for us. Thus my juvenile desire to say, “I knew that…”

        • Ken,

          Froma practical standpoint, nitrogen has no advantage over air. The nitrogen you buy is very dry, which some people claim to be a slight advantage, but purchased air is also dry, so the lead goes away.

          Compressibility is roughly the same, and by roughly I mean there is no velocity difference that can be detected.

          So the answer is no. But since it was not permitted for a long time, nitrogen because the dream gas of the contraries.


          • B.B., I also must suspect that customer demand plays a part. If there are enough customers who want something and the manufacturers find it is reasonable at least in cost and hopefully in other ways they may discover are of consequence, then by all means “keep the customer satisfied”.


  2. Hmm weird stuff, just the kind of stuff I like!

    It’s about time I do some more experiments with my primer-powered-pellets, out of my Ruger Single-Six. I believe the next experiments in line were first to perfect my shooting rest, as I don’t think I’m getting as tight groupings as I can due to the stand. I’d actually not mind coming across a pistol scope to aid me also. And then I wanted to try “pre formed” patches, and I also want to try plastic patches.

  3. B.B.

    Another kink….

    I have seen some guys intend to get around hunting laws by saying that they will load an airgun from the muzzle, and therefore it is a muzzle loader and therefore legal for deer hunting.
    Depends on how state laws are written, and how the game warden and judge want to interpret them. You would not want to try to pull this in my state, because the laws are explicit enough that it will not be open to interpretation.


    • Similar talk going on in my state, and now that airguns are listed as legal implements to take small game, they are working on a definitions for big game so folks can use them for that . Problem is that folks are afraid that soon the regulations for airguns will be the same as for firearms at least in the state law here, no matter what propels the projectile. That would mean no mail order sales, permits for air pistols,and here as of now ,above a certain velocity level , air guns are considered in the same as a firearm here. Slippery slope towards that mis- guided,draconian utopia that exists in England and Canada,that many liberals dream about. They are using the right bait…

    • Nor would they want to face me if I were a judge. Any long gun of any kind, any short gun of any kind that can be loaded via the breech is not a muzzle loader.
      But, as you say, others may suffer from a different set of delusions (well,not exactly what you said).

  4. Hi B.B.,

    Given the wide range of things you included, I can’t believe you left out spear guns (the kind used underwater)! I believe they make both compressed-air (or is it CO2?) and elastic-band versions of those.

    Personally, my definition of “airguns” would include those running on CO2, propane, or any compressed gas, but exclude the elastic bands and anything that requires ignition or combustion. Here in Virginia our state law refers to these as “pneumatic guns”.


    • Neil,
      You sound like a scuba guy, so how would we classify this? A bang-stick. That is a shotgun shell on the end of a rod that when poked onto a fish – a shark, for instance – it fires. It’s not a gun – or is it?

      • What about the Shark Dart? I don’t believe it is manufactured any more, but it seemed like a good idea. It was stuck into a shark like a harpoon, then compressed gas was released through a hollow tube into the shark either to make it inflate and bob to the surface, or to rupture it’s internal organs. Only one shot per outing, but isn’t that the case with the bang stick?


        • Matt,
          Good question. I don’t know if the bang-stick can be reloaded. Don’t see why they can’t. I’ve never seen one in my diving experiences but have seen them used on TV. I wonder if off-the-shelf shotgun shells are waterproof to 200m?

          • Chuck, I read an article on the bang stick (in True, the Man’s Magazine :^) back in high school. If I remember correctly, the people using it coated each shotshell with Vaseline to waterproof it. The mechanism was simple: a longish steel rod with a base with a simple, sharp “firing pin” (and probably a spring to keep the primer from hitting it by accident. Then a 12 gauge shotshell was loaded into a metal holder and screwed onto the base with the firing pin. Then the stick was jammed against the shark with enough force to fire the shotshell into the shark. And yes, they were reloadable.

            • Joe,
              I haven’t thought about True magazine for a long time. My dad subscribed to it when I was about 12. I remember reading stories about sharks and Piranhas eating people. Army ants devouring everything in their path. There was one about a fisherman washing his shiny knife over the side of the boat causing a Musky to attack him. There was one about the guy getting his foot caught in a giant clam and the tide was coming in. Oh, and the one about the huge whale shark that terrified a diver into thinking he was going to be eaten(but really he needn’t be). That magazine could make any animal in the world sound like a prowling man killer. Also, there were some pretty racy pinup pictures in there, too, in those days. I remember one with a girl lying on the beach with only sand covering the vital parts. That image has stayed with me to this very day. One of my best memories 🙂

  5. BB,
    I’m quoting the ‘Collins English Dictionary’.
    ‘Air Gun:Gun fired by compressed air’
    What’s that mean?
    Gun fired out of a cannon by compressed air? 🙂
    I much prefer your definition BB.

    I just get amazed at the variety of ‘air’ guns and means of propulsion that have been made over all these years and I love being able to see them.Cheers.
    I do get the feeling on occassion and I will use this as an example.
    That some designers have seen a wheel and said to themselves,
    “I know,I’m going to invent that…….but mines going to be square” lol

    • I like that, Beazer! Very short, to the point and very positive.
      I need to trash this self help book!


      P.S. If Edith gets on us I’m telling her you started it. Done any airgun shooting lately?

      • Ken,
        Hold onto that book, I found ’em very helpful. Perfect size for my pellet trap…soon’s I get good enough ta hit it. Thanx for askin’, but, not sure “The Gang” here would consider what I do, shooting, as most of my “groups” look like those ink blotches shrinks use. For now, I call it “creative paper sculpture”. If I grab a pen & play connect the dots when I’m done “sculpting”, I do come up with some interesting stuff. One time I almost had a 3 legged anteater!?! Be awhile before I nail a dime size group, so at this point, something in the man hole cover size range would be cause for celebration.

        • Beazer, you did it again. About my self help book you were to the point and very positive, not to mention that your are into recycling.
          As for the shooting, I’m sure everyone here will agree that when you create those groups you are definitely shooting…and I suspect they want to give you plenty of room 🙂

        • Beazer:
          Sorry to chime in but something has obviously wound you up and I think I can address that.
          ‘The Gang’ you refer to is so exclusive it has a me as a member? 🙂
          Me,the guy who for the first two years of coming to this forum,all I had to shoot was a BAM B3 AK47 lookey likey which was worth less than my shirt and couldn’t hit the back end of a bus.
          Never at any stage of coming here have I felt patronised or belittled,even after I’ve asked some really daft questions to try and improve this pigs ear of a rifle.
          A warm welcome and constructive advice is what I got all throughout from ‘The Gang’.
          In terms of air gunning I am purely a ‘plinker’ and occassional hunter(without much success)so in other words the exact demographic you are getting the hump on behalf.
          Well I haven’t got the hump mate,sorry if you have.

          • Howdy Dave,
            Nope, sorry, ya got it all backwards. No humps here. I’m making fun of only myself and my lack of shooting ability & knowledge. As biker trash, and because others here ride as well “The Gang”, is a, tongue firmly planted in cheek, term I’ve used for many years to refer to a group of friends. The “Leaders of the Pack” (tounge in cheek refrence to a ’60s song) are Mr. B.B. & Ms. Edith. The pack or gang as I call ’em are all the rest of us here. Notice now, I’m part of “The Gang”? Sorry, but, we read, we post, we’re part of “The Gang”. Oh, by the way, my mother was British & kept her dual citizenship all her life. If she were still around, she’d scold you severly for missing my very dry british humor. All that said, re-read what I wrote & if you’re still offended by me tryin’ ta give “The Gang” a laugh (3 legged anteater, man hole cover sized groups that look like ink blotches? Dave, buddy, lighten up) by joking about MY lack of ability & being included in “The Gang”, lemme know.

            • Beazer:
              Of course recognise when a fella is being ironic and you are very good at it.
              But I felt your irony was based on the wrong premis.
              That this forum is just the preserve of elite air gunners.(Forgive me if I was wrong)
              It obviously isn’t…. because I’m here for a start. lol
              That is what I was getting at by listing my impressive CV.To prove my credentials as a fellow ‘Plinker’.
              Not my place to say it but welcome to the gang you plonker…sorry plinker 🙂

        • Beazer,
          This is the one I enjoyed the most: “If I grab a pen & play connect the dots when I’m done “sculpting” I do come up with some interesting stuff. I can actualy visualize doing that with some of my results, too.

          • Chuck, I.D.(intelligent donkey) alert! Some of mine are actually very creative lookin’. Been thinkin’ I otta grab my crayons, color ’em & give ’em as gifts. When’s your birthday? Have a great weekend, ride/shoot safe.

    • Beazer, I definitely meant what I said about short, to the point and very positive.
      The rest was just me being….well, I don’t know what I was being. But I’m glad you’re here.


  6. Well, this has ventured into my daily realm. Legalese.

    This word wrestling is the spawn of too many lawyers and too little common sense.

    This blog is not a refuge for me today.


    • kevin,

      It’s not necessarily the lawyers. From time to time, Pyramyd AIR has gotten customer reviews with a mini-diatribe about calling a CO2 gun an air gun. It’s not that these people have nothing better to do with their time, but they want the descriptive terms to be exact. I assume these are the same people who examine every pencil they sharpen to determine the exact, correct moment where the point can literally be called a point and where it cannot be called a point. Exactness is a passion for them in almost every facet of their lives 🙂

      Long time ago, I recall a customer review I had to decline because he berated the other reviewers for calling a CO2 gun an air gun. It’s NOT using AIR, he claimed. So, today’s blog isn’t as far off as you might think. Most of what we write about in the blogs that are not product reviews are not made up. They’re based in reality. And that’s the scary part!


      • Edith,

        I understand your goal to be correct, consistent and accurate with lingo.

        It’s admirable and necessary since there are those that bring their disorders to a hobby that in all other ways could be a happy, healthy release and outlet for them. Unfortunately since most of them got stuck in the second phase of psychosexual development they probably spend most of their time washing, weighing and lubing pellets rather than shooting. They should be happy and go their merry way just knowing that there is never a chance that I will respond to their reviews.

        I’m blessed since the airgunners I spend my time with like to shoot and joke around and are not politically correct.

        This is supposed to be fun right? 😉

        If I was in your skechers and was forced to deal with some of these airgunners I would have sold all my airguns, changed my phone number, unplugged the website and forbid the use of the word airgun in my home.


    • I read on some list that one of the most quotable Shakespeare quotes was from one of the Henry plays and says essentially, “First, kill all the lawyers”….


  7. B.B., I only just begun reading. I did have to stop, but not to say anything except it only took me half a minute to know I will not mix airgun and “air gun” indiscriminately (I have been guilty of it).

  8. If anyone had an issue accessing the blog today, it’s because we tried a new plug-in that temporarily cut off access. The plug-in has been disabled.

    The plug-in would have allowed commenters to edit their comments after they were posted. Apparently, that’s not going to work out for us.


    • Edith,
      That’s too bad because I would have loved such a feature. There are errors that a spell-checker can’t detect. But thanks for trying! Maybe there’s something else that can be done? Good luck!

    • Edith,
      Here’s my take on me being able to edit my own blog comments. I believe that by the time I got around to editing and correcting my last comment most people would have already read it and moved on. I believe correcting through re-posting a comment like we have been doing is much better because then everyone who keeps up with the blog would see the new comment correction whereas they wouldn’t have before. However, I do believe I wish I had the ability to delete a comment I eventually regretted posting.

      Another position of mine is that, and we all do it, even me, is correcting our typos in a subsequent comment. I find it unnecessary because I think we all know what the person meant and we all understand how easy it is to make typos and I doubt any of us think less of the person who is the victim of a typos. I don’t think it is necessary for us to edit our typos after committing. The only reason I see for correcting a typo is if is causes a misleading statement. I have seen a couple instances of that but I still feel a followup comment is going to do a better job of communicating the correction.

      • Chuck,

        I practically live on the blog comments page. Tell me what you want deleted (edith@pyramydair.com), and I’ll quickly do it. However, I’m not sure what that’ll do to any responses that got posted in the meantime. Will they “hang” out in the same spot, will they also get deleted or will they look like they’re all new comments instead of responses…and possibly make the poster look odd because no one knows what he’s talking about?


        • Edith says,
          “and possibly make the poster look odd because no one knows what he’s talking about?”

          Uh..you talkin to me?!

          Really, though, if you develop the edit function for the blog the delete part is the one I’d probably use daily. 🙂 And hopefully I could use before even you get to see the cpmment.


  9. B.B.,

    I would have considered the following to be a more accurate definition of airgun: “An airgun is any smoothbore or rifled gun that propels a projectile by means of compressed air or gas.” I understand that many other forms of propulsion can qualify a gun as an airgun, but that’s only if you really loosen up the definition almost unboundedly so. For instance, you’re example of the Daisy 179 apparently qualifies because of the manufacturers long history in making airguns by the above definition. It seems to me that the use of the term “airgun” needs to be tightened up a bit so that there is less confusion, and not more. I would accept the word “air” in “airguns”, even though the compressed medium can be something other gas, because air is most common, and what you expect from a self-contained gun of this sort (e.g., a pneumatic or springer). Maybe I’m being too simple-minded or stubborn, but I kind of see that there needs to be a certain amount of “common sense” about this, and there is considering that most of us have never even heard of, or seen, some of the exceptions that you’ve shown us here.

    Some of the other examples that you gave are, to me, more like a sling-shot, or some other term. But we wouldn’t call a bow a “sling-shot”, just because it works like a sling-shot. We call it a bow because it shows an arrow. Sure, someone might then say, but “airguns” can shoot darts, which are like an arrow, so does that qualify an “airgun” to be a bow. Of course not. That gun that shoots darts is mostly intended to shoot B.B.’s or pellets. Bottom line, for me at least, is that when someone says “airgun”, I think of the slightly modified definition that I wrote above.


    • Victor,

      I brought up slingshots when I proofed the blog last night. Blowguns are also airguns.

      What about Robert Beeman’s term: non-powder guns? I like it, but people like short & snappy…so airguns, it is.

      On Pyramyd Air’s site, I have to write airguns as one word & two because most people searching for airguns in Google & other search engines will use the term spelled as two words. They practically had to beat me to start writing it as two words because I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. However, aging has mellowed me a little bit (but still quite unmellow compared to a normal person :-)), and I’ve now mixed one-word & two-word spellings right there in the same description.


      • Edith,

        Yes, blowguns (blow-guns – lol) use air as their propulsion mechanism, but they don’t have some form of mechanical trigger mechanism (redundant?). An “airgun” is a machine that is used much like a self-contained tool (even if you have to add a compressed gas cartridge of some kind), and not merely an extension of it’s user (like a blowgun).

        No, you are mellow. You are just much more refined, and thus have higher standards, than most of us. These are qualities that are of great value to yours, and B.B.’s readers. We learn from you as we would from professors of the highest of educational institutes. We appreciate your knowledge, abilities, wisdom, and adherence to such high standards. Teach on!


    • I suggested the following, “An airgun is any smoothbore or rifled gun that propels a projectile by means of compressed air or GAS.” And yet, we know that it can be argued by opening up the meaning still further, as outlined in this report. Does that mean that we also have to better define, or further classify what we man by “gun”?

        • Edith…

          A town just up the road has these kind of rules…

          No discharging of firearms within city limits….
          Sounds reasonable, right?

          Then they define firearm as anything that launches any kind of projectile by any means….
          Just think about what that can be applied to at the discretion of the police.

          Usually charges for discharging a firearm really are about a real firearm.
          Improper use of a firearm charges are usually for someone doing something deliberately annoying with something that could be called a firearm by their catch all definition.


          • TT,

            We have one of those devices that spreads stuff on your lawn. You push it and it spreads the fertilizer, seeds or weed killer over a certain area. Is broadcasting the little pellets of fertilizer the same as launching a projectile? It might be, according to the town you reference!

            When we lived in Ellicott City, Maryland, several years ago, I asked a USPS employee if we could send an air rifle via the USPS. She said that anything with a trigger could not be mailed.

            I sarcastically asked if I could mail the handle from my garden hose. It had a trigger that stopped and started the water flow. She said it fit the description of having a trigger.

            Apparently, sarcasm is unknown to postal employees, so I entertained myself at her expense by asking if I could mail a staple gun thru the USPS. She quickly went thru her book of regs and said that if it had a trigger that would launch something, it was not allowed in the mail. I told her that if you pointed the staple gun at something instead of holding it against a piece of paper, it would shoot a staple that would fly out and either hit the floor or make contact with anything in its way. She told me I couldn’t mail a staple gun, either.

            Enough entertainment to last a lifetime! Where else could you get that much comedy for free? Is it any wonder the USPS has run out of money?


            • Edith…

              Following the law to the letter….
              You are at McDonalds and blow the wrapper off your soda straw…..
              The cops come. As you are being arrested, you toss your soda cup in the trash can…
              You ask to go to the restroom before they haul you off.
              You take a leak…
              You wash your hands then throw the paper towl in the trash can…..

              That’s how many counts????


    • Victor, Based on the premise that an airgun is a gun that uses air or gas, I would amend your definition of an airgun that shoots arrows. I don’t think the projectile is the defining element, the powerplant is, therefore a gun that uses air or gas to propel an arrow is still an airgun. Even the speargun using CO2 mentioned by Neil would be an airgun. If crosbows were eventually designed to use air or gas instead of “string” tension then they would become airguns also, which might just change a lot of airgun laws by itself.

      • Chuck, in all seriousness I want you to think of me as a consultant. I like to let people know what their options are. This was never more obvious than when I was in a sales job (between my non-sales jobs). Sales are important (part of the big three: manufacturing, distribution and sales), but its a shame that deviousness is so intrenched in the sales arena; or is it that human beings are innately duplicitous? I think some are tempted and yet manage to maintain integrity.

        I hated that I couldn’t stop myself. When caller id was new the telephone companies rented the service to you. When a customer wanted to purchase one of the plug in caller id boxes I could never stop myself from asking them if they were aware that they would have to purchase the service from the phone company. Now I am a trained professional (LOL) and if you were to tell me that I would thank you for letting me know (even if I knew or even thought you were wrong) and I would take it from there. But I felt so beat up because people felt a need to beat me into submission. I know what happened when they got home and plugged it in but I never had one come back and tell me about it. I could have said nothing but I wouldn’t have been any happier.

        I sold (snicker, snicker) new cars for two months for a dealership that lived down to the car dealer reputation. As the man said, “we’re just working to support our families”, and I don’t doubt that Americans everywhere helped create this situation. There was a young woman who came in. She told me she had X number of dollars she could pay monthly. I told her to make an offer that was a third less than her max. I told her this because the pattern was so intrenched that no matter what you offered the sales manager would ask you to increase that amount. Anyway, she landed the car for her max. That still doesn’t thrill me. We have never bought a car or truck that way. We first go for the drive out price, then talk trade in and we have paid cash for the last four vehicles. We are not rich and the vehicles have been decent ones without me getting that black Shelby Cobra with more horsepower than Tim Allen could handle (but I can dream).

        If you decide you want that crossbow I want you to get it, but as your consultant I will counsel for more research. Did I already write to B.B. that I haven’t found a video actually showing the CO2 system cocking the bow. I feel a need to see it, preferably in person. But if it proves good and you get one I do hope to hear about your experience.

        • ken,
          I haven’t rushed into this crossbow thing, yet, so don’t fret about leading me astray. I will hold you blameless. I am fascinated by crossbows but until now the cocking effort and perceived range has kept me from buying one (not to mention that BB has enabled me to divert a major portion of my hobby budget to these incredible gasguns of his – ha, I love to redirect blame).

          I don’t find pumping multi-pumps entertaining so I’m sure I’d feel the same way about cocking a crossbow for half an hour or so one week after I bought one. The 50 cocks from a 9oz CO2 bottle sounds tempting, but while that sounds like a lot for hunting, it doesn’t sound like very much for an indoor target practice session. Also, I have had unfavorable experiences filling CO2 bottles locally for my Talon SS. I have since converted it to air from a scuba tank because of my scuba diving connections.

          And another thing, I only have 10m at my indoor range and that is where I want to do 98% of my shooting. Realizing I have no experience to back this up, 10m strikes me as too close for a crossbow. I can’t imagine having to dig a bolt out that’s been buried past the feathers in one of those Styrofoam blocks I see at Bass Pro.

          So, you see, you don’t have to worry. Take comfort in your consulting expertise because you’ve opened the door a little wider for me and a future crossbow, but I’m still in the vacillating mode. Yesterday, I was sure I wanted one, but today…? I’ll know when the time is right.


      • Wow, what a tangent. Apologies. I didn’t mean to act like you are some naive 16 year old. As much as we need to have people who sell thing for a living, I may not be one of them. “I’m a consultant”. If you saw the first episode of “Rob” on TV you’ll understand my cryptic allusion. If you didn’t watch that, when his mother-in-law asked him what he did for a living he began listing things that could suggest a professional landscaper. She interrupted and said, “You’re a gardener.”

        Good day,

        • ken,
          No apology needed. I never once thought that way. I was just trying to say you needn’t worry about me getting mad at you or think less of you if I purchased that crossbow and it turned out to be piece of junk. I wanted you to know I found hope in the link you sent because the cocking effort always worried me.

          • The cocking effort is the issue. I think this crossbow may have merit; it may be just what the doctor ordered for a number of people who want to shoot for one reason or another but can’t cock the prod (or doing so may cause injury the young, strong buck aren’t acquainted with yet).
            You mentioned the issue of hunting and other shooting (and the 40 shots per CO2 tank).
            Forty shots may not be much for some fun plinking, field target shooting and the like. On the other hand, I wonder how loud this crossbow is when it is cocked. I don’t know, of course, but I have this image of woodlands creatures being alerted for quite a radius.
            I do want to know more.


              • It does now 🙂 That’s a good image, because the development of the train engine continued; the same may be true of this crossbow cocking system. Once someone does it first, like the first four minute mile, others often get motivated.
                After the first compound bow, look what has happened. Same for crossbows. Aside from the cocking issue which will probably be more of an issue in a couple weeks, there are two types of crossbows that grab me, the traditional non-compound with recurve limbs and the more recent reverse compound crossbow, like those from Darton and Scorpyd. Scorpyd has a U.S. patent but as sometimes happens, the Russians happened to get there first.

                I really would like to play with one of the Parker rigs.


              • Frank, I have to update what I said. Scorpyd claims to have been first but apparently there are others who predate. Pavel Ivanov of Russia is credited with the concept. Armcross of Germany manufacture the Leopro bows that Ivanov is involved with. Horton licenses from Armcross, not Scorpyd….and on and on it goes.

                I like what somewhat else wrote:
                “Scorpyd is the champion in kineic energy but LeoPro is most attractive in design.
                The most affordable is Horton’s Vision.
                I would prefer Scorpyd for hunting and LeoPro for field exercise.
                However the idea of this design came from ancient engineer, whose heirs my file a claim.”

                But what am I doing here; it is the Parker Concorde we were talking about. I guess I just want the cocking mechanism to be put on a reverse crossbow.

  10. Oh darn! I was just getting ready to change all my Pyramydair web addresses to Pyramydgas when you introduced the catapult guns. Now I’m stumped. How about Pyramydcatngas.com?

  11. B.B., when you mentioned Rocky Mountain Arms I was surprised you didn’t mention two others.
    You may have a reason not to so I’ll understand if this is not printable.
    They are the Daisy V/L rifle and the Primegun rifle (I am only speaking of the ATF verdict, not the airgun subterfuge Mr. What’s His Name used). They are easy to find so I won’t include links.
    Both of these failed the test of the ATF.

    About propelling a pellet or BB using a primer or percussion cap. This from the ATF site:
    http://www.atf.gov/firearms/faq/firearms-technology.html didn’t help me much.

    “Q: Does the ATF regulate the sale and possession of air guns? Is an air gun classified as a “firearm” under Federal law?

    The term “firearm” is defined in the Gun Control Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Section 921(a)(3), to include “(A) any weapon (including a starter gun), which will, or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon….” Based on Section 921(a)(3), air guns, because they use compressed air and not an explosive to expel a projectile, do not constitute firearms under Federal law — unless they are manufactured with the frames or receivers of an actual firearm. Accordingly, the domestic sale and possession of air guns is normally unregulated under the Federal firearms laws enforced by ATF.

    We caution that ATF is not charged with enforcement or oversight of the firearms laws of States or localities. To determine possible restrictions on air guns where you reside, we recommend that you contact the office of your state Attorney General, the State Police, or other State/local law enforcement authorities for further guidance.”

    • ken,
      I think, from that ATF verdict, “unless they are manufactured with the frames or receivers of an actual firearm”, you shed some credibility on our assumptions that the AR-15 firearm lower and pellet rifle barrel could be considered a firearm. However, now we would have to argue what manufactured means.


      • Chuck, that is the last thing I would want to do but if this is what the ATF policy is then I think it best that everyone know it.
        Somewhere else I someone was arguing about this. They did make some statements about the about the lower being the part that the ATF classifies as a firearm but I like to have something from the “legal controlling authority” that Al Gore spoke of.

      • Chuck, I would say I don’t want to split hairs, but since attorney’s do it only when they speak I won’t to call your attention to the wording I quoted from the ATF web site.

        “…unless they are manufactured with the frames or receivers of an actual firearm.”

        “manufactured WITH”

        I realize that this could end up in court and attorneys would be trying figure out what the definition of is is, but it is a toss up how it will play out or how long it will take or if congress would act on this.

        It has already been mentioned that logic doesn’t necessarily have a role in law.

        With all due respect to the attorneys who maintain their integrity,

        • ken,
          Exactly! But, if you take a lower and bolt on an upper, is that manufacturing? Or, is that merely assembling and can assembling be construed as manufacturing. Hypotheticaly speaking, because Bushmaster claims their AR-15s are American made, but if Bushmaster was to get all their AR-15 parts from China and assemble them in the US would they be a manufacturer of AR-15s?

          • Chuck, you point is well taken. Whether it is the ATF or a judge they may well fail to make a distinction between manufacturing and assembling (among other things). And anytime you have an elected leader speaking of the constitution as a flexible evolving document…well, that concerns me as much things like “manifest destiny”.


  12. Oh no, it’s B.B. as Bill Clinton. (Just kidding.) This is quite the tantalizing target for definition. I agree with Victor about “compressed gas” as the core of the definition. The only other difficulty I can see is whether this could be stretched to include firearms since there is some kind of release of compressed gas that takes place in the cartridge case. And, from chemical tidbits that I’ve picked up, isn’t the gas released actually oxygen that is created as a byproduct of combustion? B.B. has compared the process to the burning of solid fuel in rockets. So, what if we tweaked Victor’s definition to say “non-explosive discharge of compressed gas.” Would we be unassailable? I don’t think the catapults and caps pose any significant problem. So maybe: “Airguns are a subcategory of non-explosive projectile launchers that use compressed gas.” That doesn’t sound very catchy though.

    Chuck, interesting to hear about the artillery hold for the M1. I accidentally did this once out of habit from shooting my springers, and it was painful. A firm hold for me all the way.

    Kevin and Victor, if I had my way, I’d like to shoot objects rather than paper and a big candidate would be a sort of self-healing foam ball I’ve read about that can absorb any caliber including .50BMG.

    I’ve been fantasizing about an IO AK with all the tactical accessories which include a red dot sight, flashlight, and laser. That’s just about everything possible. Now the question is how to use all this stuff. The laser and the flashlight would have to operated with separate pressure triggers. I understand that the flashlight is only used when you’re ready to take a shot in the dark (wiping out your night vision in the process). I guess you wouldn’t want to shine the laser prematurely. Supposing you were using the laser, you would need to zero it to coincide with your red dot sight; otherwise when looking through your red dot, you would see two different aimpoints. But your zero would only work at a specified distance–no good in CQB where things are actually changing. So, you would need to know when you wanted to use your red dot sight or not and coordinate the laser accordingly. Bewildering. It sounds like you would need the skills of a guitarist to keep your trigger and pressure switches straight. Does anybody use all this stuff? I rather quickly removed all my accessories from my Walther Nighthawk and just shoot the bare pistol in snap shooting drills.


    • Matt,
      The video did stress placing the stock firmly in the hollow of your shoulder, however, it also stressed resting the forestock on your open hand. The instructor said, if using a sand bag, never rest the gun on the bag, always on your hand and your hand on the bag.

    • Matt,

      I remember you being interested in Russian guns. So a little info for you and others interested. Izhevsk design bureau announced AK-12, a new product in venerable line of AK rifles.
      What’s new?
      New, impoved barrel with rethought and reworked cartridge chamber and rifling profile, to improve accuracy, different type of steel and slightly to improve its stiffness.
      New ambidextrous safety, goodbye AK safety lever, stop, single, 3-burst and full-auto.
      New bolt handle – front, on the piston rod, ambidextrous.
      30/45/60/95 round mag capability.
      New harder cover with LOTS of Picatinny rails (it looks like an alligator).
      New sights – diopter|ghostring.
      Adjustable buttstock.
      New, reworked muzzlebrake/flash hider, reported to be at least 20% more effective.
      Right now it has entered 7 circles of Hell of factory testing. Then it’s must pass 9 rings of Army tests.
      Anyway, it looks quite good and well-thought for a cheap army rifle.


  13. Edith….

    Thread looks like it hit the limit…

    Above, did you mean Victor and me? Chuck didn’t get bad.

    I could get worse. You would either barf or laugh your butt off.


      • Frank…

        You gotta be careful about using words that I didn’t learn growing up or in the military. I have trouble with them.
        On the other hand, I had no problem understanding certain words and phrases in Full Metal Jacket and Heartbreak Ridge. I think my wife’s vocabulary doubled after watching them.


  14. Edith,
    Don’t include me with those booger flickin miscreants. 🙂 Ah…how I miss those golden grade school days. After that, seems like everything went down hill for eight years.

  15. Sorry to be off topic here (might be a good thing though :P)…..Is the Pyramyd AIR Store website having problems? It loads slowly and when I click on the product images, they come up blank…Seems to have been going on for a few days or so.


    • ELCID,

      Please email me personally with your issues. I need to know the platform (Mac or Windows) and the browser type & version that you’re using. I’ll then put you in touch with a rep from our IT department who will definitely want to talk to you. I also have this problem occasionally, and they’re trying to pinpoint the cause.


  16. My airgun dissipated , also this warm weather were having is causing my snow tires to melt 🙂
    On a side note my spell checker tells me airgun is wrong it wants me to write air gun.

  17. BB,this one (blog) was so good it changed the course of my day.That Hodges is just awesome,thanks.
    Quirky inventions are great.The slingshot guy from the video link above is MY kind of neighbor!
    Gotta go invent something cool…….Duskwight,things are looking great! Get it done & I’ll trade you,even for my FWB 300S type II universal !!!!!

    • FWIW,my family name,Balistreri has the interesting distinction of being tyed to the Crossbow.I was fascinated by them from a very young age,long before I found this out.It means a soldier armed with a crossbow,or even the makers of crossbows depending on your research source.If you look it up,please ignore anything about the “mafia”…….there’s no such thing 🙂

  18. Air is made up of several gasses, including oxygen, nitrogen and carbondioxide.

    So saying “an airgun is any smoothbore or rifled gun that propels a projectile by means of compressed air” is actually spot on. Also any gun using percission caps is a “firearm”, seeing as it uses fire(combustion) to propel the ammo.

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