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In the hands of skilled soldiers, they gave the military a distinct advantage.France, Austria and other nations had special sniper detachments using air rifles.A skilled shooter could fire off one magazine in about thirty seconds.A shot from this air gun could penetrate an inch thick wooden board at a hundred paces, an effect roughly equal to that of a modern 9×19mm or .45 ACP caliber pistol.At that time, they had compelling advantages over the primitive firearms of the day.For example, air guns could be discharged in wet weather and rain (unlike both matchlock and flintlock muskets), and discharged much faster than muzzle-loading guns.They have been used in hunting, sporting and warfare.
The first air guns were developed as early as the 1500s.
An air gun is any kind of gun that launches projectiles pneumatically with compressed air or other gases that are pressurized mechanically without involving any chemical reactions, in contrast to a firearm, which relies on an exothermic chemical oxidation (deflagration) of combustible propellants to generate propulsive energy.
Both the long gun and handgun forms (air rifle and air pistol) typically propel metallic projectiles, that are either diabolo-shaped pellets, or spherical shots called BBs.
The air reservoir was a removable, club-shaped, butt.
The Windbüchse carried twenty-two .51 caliber (13 mm) lead balls in a tubular magazine.
Air guns represent the oldest pneumatic technology.