Giffard Pneumatic Rifle  

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Garvin2
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15th December 2017 23:16  

Giffard Pneumatic Rifle.

 

With thanks to Sean Campbell, imaging manager of the Buffalo Bill Centre of the West in Cody, Wyoming, for permission to post these pics of a gun held in the Cody Firearms Museum. The blurb accompanying this gun follows.

 

Accession Number: 1988.8.1030

Date : 1865-1890

Dimensions: L: 38 in, Barrel length: 20.125 in, H: 6.75 in

Credit Line: Gift of Olin Corporation, Winchester Arms Collection

Remarks: stock checkered, light engraving on receiver and trigger guard

Inscription: behind hammer: C B P GIFFARD/ BREVETE/ 104

Synopsis: firearm- breech-loading- integral reservoir- airgun- single shot- Paul Giffard, France- wood- steel- behind hammer: C B P GIFFARD/ BREVETE/ 104- .30- 104- stock checkered, light engraving on receiver and trigger guard


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Garvin2
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15th December 2017 23:17  

Giffard Type Pneumatic Rifle.

 

With thanks to Sean Campbell, imaging manager of the Buffalo Bill Centre of the West in Cody, Wyoming, for permission to post these pics of a gun held in the Cody Firearms Museum. The blurb accompanying this gun follows.

Accession Number: 1993.8.56

Date : 1863-1870

Dimensions: L: 36.5 in, Barrel length: 19.625 in, H: 7.5 in

Credit Line: Gift of Thomas K. Hutchinson

Remarks: Wrist checkered, heave engraving on receiver and trigger guard. Finish pitted

Inscription: breach end of barrel: PEH

Synopsis: firearm - rifle - airgun- PEH (Unknown, probably St. Etienne, France)- wood - steel - breech end of barrel: PEH - Giffard (Integral Resevoir)- .25- Wrist checkered, heave engraving on receiver and trigger guard. Finish pitted


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Garvin2
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15th December 2017 23:18  

Giffard Pneumatic Rifle - Article by Larry Hannusch.

 

A Wonderful Giffard Pneumatic Rifle

By Larry Hannusch

The Giffard pneumatic rifle is as slender and graceful as it is rare and beautiful

 

To the world, Paul Giffard was a 19th Century French scientist, engineer, and inventor. To the passionate airgun collector, he is immortalized as the inventor who brought us the remarkable line of Giffard airguns, which arguably are some of the finest production air arms of all time.

Paul Giffard was born in 1837, domiciled in Paris, France, and later died in 1897. In addition to receiving over 200 various patents (some in conjunction with his famous inventor brother Henri), he was responsible for a whole new direction in the field of airguns during the last quarter of the 19th century. He is often referred to as the “father of the CO2 gas gun”.

Often, one will hear collectors refer to “a French CO2 Giffard rifle”. In doing so, they are referencing one of the many known specimens that were produced under license or direction by Paul Giffard in the 1880-1910's. The vast majority of these gas rifles were manufactured by either Rivolier et Fils of St. Etienne, France (the scarcer earlier models) or the more commonly encountered later models made by Manufacture Francaise d’Armes et Cycles, also of St. Etienne, France. In addition, some of the later 8mm CO2 shotguns were made by Société Stéphanoise d’Armes, also located in St. Etienne. Indeed, Paul Giffard even formed his own manufacturing firm, Giffard Gun and Ordnance Company, Ltd. of London to produce his short-lived hammerless gas rifle in the 1890's.

But what I’d like to take a closer look at is a much scarcer Giffard airgun: his front pump pneumatic airgun. It was produced both as a long gun and also as a pneumatic pistol. Very little seems to have been written about these arms over the years, which leaves the serious airgun collector stumbling in the dark concerning their history and production. I’ll attempt to offer my small, candle flicker of what I’ve discovered through research to try to illuminate the path for further study by others.

To start with the obvious, we go to the patent record. Giffard first patented his pneumatic rifle in England in 1862, followed closely by his U.S. Patent #41,500 on Feb. 9, 1864. This patent clearly describes the nature of the design in words and drawings. The basic principle of the gun is that of a multi-pump pneumatic gun with a built-in, straight line pump. By definition, the pneumatic designation means a gun which holds a charge of pressurized air, attained through a series of multiple pump strokes, to be released upon firing. At the time of Giffard’s patent, pneumatic airguns had been around for several hundred years, so this form of powering an airgun certainly wasn’t a novel idea. Even the principle of a built-in pump had been known and used for a couple of centuries, though most of these examples had the pump within the buttstock. However, Giffard’s valve design, using a “blow-off cap”, was somewhat unusual.

The text of the patent reveals some interesting details, such as the extensive use of caoutchouc (natural rubber) for valves and seals, instead of the more traditional leather for seals. Giffard also states “...My invention may be applied to walking sticks and canes...” (Now there’s something I’d like to find!). He also makes a most remarkable statement: “A bayonet may be fitted to the front of the barrel in the ordinary manner.” Either Paul had dreams of lucrative, pneumatic-based military contracts dancing in his head, or else he was dealing with some frighteningly vicious French rabbits.

The Giffard pneumatic rifle, though technically not a true rifle in that they are all smoothbores, is a lightweight, diminutive affair. This example measures just 39 inches in overall length and weighs a mere 4½ pounds. Each of the several specimens I’ve seen have been slightly different, but generally are about this size.

The exposed hammer on the Giffard pneumatic, coupled with its barrel superposed over the pump tube, gives it an appearance of a fine, light gauge shotgun

This specimen has a blued barrel 20¼ inches in length with a smooth bore in 8mm caliber. Other known specimen calibers are 4.5mm, 6mm, and 10mm. The pump tube beneath the barrel is also blued. A small v-notch rear sight is fixed near the rear of the barrel to align with the tiny post front sight. At the breech of the barrel is a rotating loading tap which is operated by a small, folding wing on the right side. The nicely engraved receiver and triggerguard are both finished with case coloring, though I’ve handled a nice example finished with a nickel silver receiver. On that specimen, and on a couple of others, the triggerguard was a more elaborately shaped style most often found on the early Rivolier produced Giffard gas rifles. The elegant metal buttplate on this specimen is also engraved along its extended upper tang and is case colored. All the screw heads throughout the gun are foliate engraved to match the receiver and triggerguard engraving. The top of the hammer is nicely checkered as well.

The rotating loading tap, shown open in this photo, is operated by the winged lever on the right side

 

The ornate trigger guard, as well as all of the screw heads, exhibit fine engraving

The walnut halfstock feels dainty to handle, though it has a length of pull of 13½ inches. It is finely checkered along both sides and across the top of the wrist. It is made from an upper grade of figured walnut that is beautifully finished with a soft gloss varnish.

The steel buttplate, with its engraved extended upper tang, compliments the nice figure of the walnut stock

 

The pumping and valve system are unique enough to deserve a closer look inside. In a “modern” front pump airgun, such as a Benjamin Model F, the inner wall of the lower pump tube of the gun serves as the sealing surface for the reciprocating pump head. On the pneumatic Giffard, the inner wall of the blued lower pump tube is the outer wall of the air reservoir. This visible lower tube actually houses a separate, inner pump tube that is threaded and sealed at the muzzle end of the gun. In other words, if the muzzle cap (with the pump rod) is unthreaded from the gun, a complete pump tube, pump rod and piston, and check valve would be withdrawn from the blued lower tube as a complete unit. While pumping the gun, the pressurized air is forced past the check (intake) valve, and into the space between the pumping assembly and the wall of the gun’s lower tube and held there by the exhaust valve.

Protecting the end of the front pump rod is the knurled rod cap. Please note the small retaining clip just visible behind the pump rod

 

The design minded readers among you are now probably asking a very thought provoking question: If the entire pump cylinder is enclosed within the reservoir, how can the pump receive outside atmospheric air to compress on each subsequent stroke? It’s a pretty tricky situation, but was brilliantly solved by Giffard in a most intriguing manner. The parachute style, leather piston head seal is attached to the end of the rod, but not affixed to the rod. It is retained by a threaded nut which, when tightened, still allows the piston seal to slide back and forth on the rod about a quarter of an inch. As the pump rod is forced into the gun, the leather head slides backwards against a fixed washer, allowing the back of the head to seal against this washer. In an instant, the pressure begins to increase, forcing the leather head to firmly seal against the cylinder wall, thereby affecting a great seal until the pressurized air is safely forced past the check valve. As the rod is withdrawn for the next stroke, wall friction ( plus the vacuum that is being created between the piston head and the check valve) pulls on the leather head and causes it to slide away from the fixed washer and loosely hang on the rod. In this manner, fresh air will be drawn in all the way from the muzzle plug, around the pump rod, and through the center of the now loosely situated piston head until the cycle is repeated. I told you it was tricky.

The exhaust valve used is a familiar type employed on modern single stroke pneumatic guns. It is known as a “blow-off valve”, which means the egress of the pressurized air within the valve body is blocked by a member held in check by the trigger and sear. Actually Crosman, Sharp, Excellent, and a host of other makers utilized this valving in multi-stroke pneumatics as well. But they all had to overcome an inherent design weakness with this system. And that problem is that as valve pressures increase after multiple pump strokes, substantial additional friction is created between the block and the sear, making the trigger pull to release it increasingly more difficult.

The Giffard pneumatic is no different in this respect. At two pump strokes, about the lowest to actually fire a projectile, the trigger pull was measured at 7 pounds. At five pump strokes, the pull was found to have increased to 9 pounds. At a full ten pump strokes, the pull was off the scale of the gauge, but I would guess it was in excess of 12 pounds. It would really take a shooter with a Popeye finger to use the Giffard at this level.

The shooting sequence of the Giffard is actually quite simple, belying the complexity of the mechanism under the hood. The first step is to cock back the hammer until the sear catches, whereby forcing the exhaust valve to seal off the valve port. Next, the pump rod is extended fully from the front of the gun. The rod is then forced back into the tube by placing the gun on the ground and pushing it downward. This cycle is repeated until the desired power level is achieved. The loading tap is next opened, a ball is dropped into it, and the tap is then rotated 90o to close it.

At five pumps, my specimen gives an authoritative report, while a full ten pumps produces quite an impressive bark. My airgun buddy “Oldair” supplied me with some .310" diameter lead balls (46 grains) which I used to record the following velocities:

2 pumps 93fps
5 pumps 276fps
10 pumps 386fps
12 pumps 408fps

The power level generated at 12 pumps translates to a respectable 17 ft./lbs of energy.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to examine a handful of these early pneumatic Giffards, and I’ve noticed that only about half of them are marked with the Giffard name. These specimens typically will be marked : “P.Giffard Breveté”, along with the initials “C.B” and the serial number. The unmarked specimens typically are found only with the serial number and the C.B initials. I have always thought it was curious that a French gun would be marked with a Belgian spelling of the word “Patented”-spelled with a single “t” as opposed to the French spelling Brevette”. I have never found a collector nor read published material that could explain it. But this Giffard pneumatic specimen I obtained quite some years back was the clue and the answer all wrapped into one handsome package.

The “P.Giffard Brevete” stamping clearly denote the patentee. The Brevete gives a clue to its birthplace. The familiar C.B. markings and the serial number 98 were stamped from the left side

 

Revealed upon disassembly, the side of the trigger block is stamped with the familiar initials C.B. and the serial number which happens to be “98" (both of which are also visibly stamped on the top tang). However, in addition to this, there is the maker’s name concisely stamped “WARNANT”. A quick check with the Støckel reference material reveals several makers who operated in Liege, Belgium, circa 1870. Bingo! My gut feeling is that all of the Giffard pneumatics, at least the earlier ones, were not French-made after all, but Belgian! Remember... you read it all here first, kiddos.

Subsequent research has revealed that Jean and Julien (aka Creon) Warnant, were brothers and gunmakers who had about 60 patents between them. They apparently also were known for producing a number of firearms for other firms needing a manufacturing agent. This would reconcile closely with Paul Giffard’s situation in the 1860's, as he was an inventor looking for either someone to produce his pneumatic wonder for him, or to pay him royalties to produce it under a licensing agreement. The Giffard pneumatics were probably produced during the 1860-1870's, though not in any large numbers. Serial numbers nearing 500 have been recorded for the rifles, and certainly far fewer than that of the rare Giffard pneumatic pistols were produced.

The Warnant brothers operated until the early 1880's within the town of Cheratte, a village within the famous gunmaking province of Liege, Belgium. My guess is that perhaps the initials C.B. so often seen on these Giffard pneumatics actually stands for Cheratte, Belgium. (Hey, I only said it was a guess-not necessarily a good guess).

The delightful elegance of the Giffard pneumatic rifle with its beautiful construction and slender proportions makes it a collector’s dream. They are indeed desirable and rare, but potentially obtainable in that I’ve seen a handful come up for sale in the last 30 years. But if and when that hopeful occasion arises, you had better be prepared to generously pile up your pennies, or should I say francs.


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Garvin2
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15th December 2017 23:19  

Giffard Pneumatic Rifle - Stripdown.

 

With thanks for these pics to Peter.


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Garvin2
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Joined: 12 months ago
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15th December 2017 23:20  

Giffard Pneumatic Rifle - Side Hammer.

 

With thanks to Don R for these pics. He says: "Side hammer as shown in the 1864 patent, along with an odd cutaway loading trough (missing its cover). Engraved on the receiver is "Paul Giffard inventeur Bte". Caliber is approx 6 mm, overall length 40 inches."


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Garvin2
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15th December 2017 23:21  

Giffard Pneumatic Rifle - Inline Pump Shotgun - David Swan Collection.

 

With thanks to Rod Meek of Anderson & Garland Auctioneers (www.andersonandgarland.com) for permission to post these pics of a gun auctioned in 2015..

The auction blurb was as follows:

"A Straight-line pump air gun by P Giffard, circa 1870, 21 1/2 in 8mm barrel, re-blued, sighted and smooth bored, the breech with loading aperture operated by butterfly wing tap, signed P Giffard, Brevet, the engraved tang stamped CB196, the full length cylinder with pump beneath the barrel."

Hammer price £980.

 

 

These pics of the same rifle copyright of Holt & Co Auctioneers:

Holts blurb:

"PAUL GIFFARD, FRANCE
AN EXTREMELY RARE 8mm MULTI-PUMP PNEUMATIC AR-RIFLE, MODEL 'IN-LINE PUMP PNEUMATIC', serial no. 196,
circa 1870, with blued round 20 1/2in. barrel fixed to the blued pump-housing via two side ribs, small dove-tailed blade fore-sight, replacement standing notch rear-sight, tap-loading breech, the butterfly shaped tap-handle marked 'P. GIFFARD, BREVETE', rounded receiver with scroll engraving and colour-hardened central hammer (currently at fault), highly figured walnut half-stock with iron furniture including complex trigger-guard, the whole re-finished with some slight loss to detail."

 

 

These pics were posted when the same rifle was for sale on Gunstar:

 


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