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Lewis and Clark’s Girardoni Air Rifle: The Gun That Helped Discover the West

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Lewis and Clark’s Girardoni Air Rifle: The Gun That Helped Discover the West

The Girardoni air rifle, carried by Lewis and Clark on their Corps of Discovery Expedition, is incredibly rare and on display at the NRA museums in Virginia and Missouri.

Did Lewis and Clark carry the first AR-15? Obviously not, but compare Lewis and Clark’s firearm of choice, the Girardoni .46 caliber airgun, with a traditional Kentucky rifle of the early 1800s and you might see the similarities.

The Girardoni enjoyed a higher-capacity magazine than other rifle designs of the time, and their gun was anything but lovely compared to the brass-plated patch boxes and beautiful engraving on the flintlocks. You can see this model of air rifle at both the NRA National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia and the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri. Perhaps when you do, you’ll see why it forged new territory in firearms, much like the AR-15 has done in the past fifty-some years.

One could argue the Girardoni airgun is the most historically significant gun in the NRA’s collection of historic firearms.

“It could be said this air rifle changed history,” said Jim Supica, director of NRA museums and co-host of NRA Gun Gurus on The Outdoor Channel. “These are incredibly rare and we are honored to have one at two of our museums, with a full Lewis and Clark display in Springfield.” The airgun boasts a detachable buttstock, covered in leather and made out of cast iron. They were expensive to make and required advanced training to shoot.

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