1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Air-Gun
AIR-GUN, a gun in which the force employed to propel the bullet is the elasticity of compressed atmospheric air. It has attached to it, or constructed in it, a reservoir of compressed air, a portion of which, liberated into the space behind the bullet when the trigger is pulled, propels the bullet from the barrel by its expansion. The common forms of air-gun, which are merely toys, are charged by compressing a spiral spring, one end of which forms a piston working in a cylinder; when released by a pull on the trigger, this spring expands, and the air forced out in front of it propels the bullet. Air-guns of this kind are sometimes made to resemble walking-sticks and are then known as air-canes.