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In every instance when the expedition encountered a new tribe they would dress up in their best split tailcoats, unfurl the American flag and to the rolling of drums, enter the village. After presenting the chiefs with colored beads and large coins, Meriwether Lewis would unveil the Girandoni air rifle and demonstrate the gun, much to the amazement of the Indians. It could fire 22 times in 30 seconds and struck fear that caused intimidation amongst the tribes, and they quickly spread the word . . .

Lewis would demonstrate the gun with every new encounter and the Indians, not knowing how many more of these guns where in their longboat, repressed their aggression, traded with the expedition and allowed them to pass. Without the Girandoni, any of the tribes could have overcome the 36 to 38 members of the expedition, taken their muskets, pistols, power and other supplies and used them against their neighboring tribes and greatly alter the course of land procurement for the fledgling new country.

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  1. Undaunted Courage, by Stpehen Ambrose, is a great book on the Lewis and Clark expedition and talks a lot about this air rifle and how it impressed the Native americans. Very cool to see a picture of it.

  2. Lewis’ mom warned him that he’d knock somebody’s eye out with that air rifle, but did he listen? Noooooo. And because of that Red Ryder wannabe, the US is now stuck with Oregon.

    • I find it amusing that a relic from the Napoleonic Wars might be illegal in some states because of its 22 round magazine capacity.

  3. Interesting. I just got back from a Montana History trip with a group of 7th and 8th graders, and the guide at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls told us this same story.


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