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Pritchard’s 19th Century Precharged Air Gun

Sold for $4,313.

William Pritchard was a Birmingham gunsmith in the mid 1800s who offered both firearms and air guns, and this particular ball-reservoir air gun is a fine example of the latter. Air guns have existed in Europe nearly as long as firearms, although they have never had the popularity of their powder-burning cousins. Air guns offered a cleaner, quieter, and more rapid firing option than firearms (and also one that would work in the rain), but at the cost of power and cost. That is not to say that early air guns were weak; they were not. A large-bore air gun like this one would have held 700 or 800 psi in its tank, and produced a muzzle velocity probably around 550-600 feet per second (170-180 m/s). A round ball of .50 caliber at that speed was certainly lethal with a well-placed shot, and these weapons were just fine for hunting as well as sport shooting.

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