Did you know that blowpipe was a predecessor of the modern air gun? Force of air got employed by ancient people since long time ago, and existing tribes still use it to propel a projectile! Air weapons have significantly evolved since then, and we know for sure that blowgun is an arch-father of the air gun which we shoot today.
The history of guns (as we know them today) has begun in 15th century. The oldest gun preserved till today dates back to 1580. Currently it exhibits in Livrustkammaren Museum of Stockholm. Interestingly, air guns used to be very expensive and only the richest could afford them.
At the start, air guns had significant advantages over firearms!
First guns applied one of these principles to propel the bullet: spring system or pre-compressed air.
Air guns came out very well at the start - they had significant advantages over firearms! They made less noise and could operate in any weather conditions. Since there are no burning elements, they don't produce any smoke. And the last (but not the least) - at that time, air guns were much quicker to reload.
During Napoleonic wars in 1780 Italian inventor Girandoni Bartolomeo has designed world's first pre-compressed air rifle. Austrian army called this rifle a “wind rifle” (Windbüchse, ger.). It was a .51 cal rifle, capable of firing 20 bullets within a minute. Firearms at that time could compete with an average of 3 to 4 shots in a minute.
United States came second in air weapon race. Air guns became very popular in America starting 19th century. Even Lewis and Clark used air gun during their Corps of Discovery Expedition of in 1803. Markham Air Rifle Company has designed America's most spectacular air rifle in 1886. The model got called Markham Chicago and it was a first BB gun ever made.
And then came the East: Japanese inventor Kunitomo Ikkansai created an air rifle in 1820 based on western technology.
Unfortunately for air weapons, triumph didn't last long. Air weapons required some exposure to mechanics and were complicated to handle during the battle. This was the main reason for firearms to replace air guns in modern combats. However, air guns didn't sink into oblivion: in the end of 19th century air rifles got involved in shooting contests, which led to the foundation of National Air Rifle Association in United Kingdom.
In late 20th century air gun popularity rocketed up again: firearms got prohibited in Germany, allowing air guns to come out as the most popular hunting instrument. No wonder that today Germany is officially the largest market for air gun companies with more than 1.5 million registered shooters!
The shooting history is pretty cool, isn't it? Read about Bell Shooting - the shooting discipline born in ol' British pubs!