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Air guns are guns that, unlike firearms that need a flammable propellant to operate, use another means such as compressed gas or a spring-loaded piston to expel a projectile. Even though it does not use a flammable propellant, the power that an air gun can generate puts in the same category as firearms in particular jurisdictions. Air guns can come in pistols, shotguns or rifles.

The air gun was the first gun-like apparatus to exist as lung-powdered air guns from 125 A.D. have been discovered. The bellows gun is thought to be the first mechanical air gun to come into existence which used a spring-loaded bellows to propel the projectile. An experimental pump-up (pneumatic) gun was made for King Henry IV in 1600 and proved to offer several advantages: there were no clouds of smoke that appeared, and as with regular firearms, they were a lot quieter and they were weatherproof. However, they were harder to operate and more expensive to manufacture because their complex valves and locks were not a skill that ordinary gunsmiths were familiar with. As such, they became a gun utilized for hunting and target shooting as they were not easily affordable by the public.

Nowadays, the usages for air guns have not changed much as they are utilized for pest control, recreational shooting, hunting and sports. The type of ammunition used for air guns are lead pellets and copper or zinc plated BBs. There is a misconception that air guns are not as dangerous as other firearms but a lead pellet being shot from a high-powered air gun can have devastating effects which is why many air guns are considered to be firearms.

There are three types of air guns based on the source of their power: spring-piston, pneumatic and carbon dioxide. Spring-piston air guns consist of a coiled steel spring-loaded piston which propels the projectile with an expanding column of air. Until the introduction of carbon dioxide air guns, they were the gun of choice for Olympic air gun events. Pneumatic air guns use pre-compressed air through an on board pump or a high-pressure hand pump, available in multi-stroke, single-stroke and pre-charged pneumatic (PCP). The carbon dioxide air gun uses a disposable cylinder called a powerlet which contains pressurized carbon dioxide.

The absence of a flammable propellant may fool you into thinking that air guns are not powerful when truth is that the power of air guns is enough to classify many of them as firearms. For hunting, sport shooting and pest control, air guns provide an excellent alternative to standard firearms.

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