Often used as firearm training aids, air rifles have been around since the 1800s. When W.R. Benjamin introduced his "Benjamin Pump" in 1882, most of the compressed rifles of the time were toys by comparison. His pump-action air rifle built up enough pressure to shoot round shot or darts up to 300 to 400 feet per second with just a few strokes of the pump lever.
More Than a Century of Success
In the 1880s, Wissler Instrument Company began manufacturing the Benjamin pump guns. By 1899, Walter Benjamin manufactured the guns under his own company, the St. Louis Air Rifle Company. The guns were unreliable and broke easily, and the company went defunct. W.R. Benjamin purchased the patent rights and started manufacturing an improved product under his own name. The gun line expanded to include models with CO2 cartridges, pellet guns and .22 air rifles. Benjamin outdid the competition in the CO2 arena by replacing refillable cylinders with disposable ones. In addition, the Benjamin Air Rifle Company continued manufacturing the original pneumatic rifles and pistols. The company eventually combined in the 1990s with two of it's long-time competitors -- Crosman and Sheridan. You can still buy Benjamin air guns today through the Crosman company.
- JackF/iStock/Getty Images