I first came across this unusual gun in the pages of W.H.B. Smith’s Gas and Spring Air Guns of the World. (I traded my somewhat rare copy away, but I see you can now order a nice reissue from Stackpole books for much less than originals are selling for.) Getting back to the Barakuda: It’s perhaps the only air gun that was designed with dieseling in mind.
Normally dieseling is the result of an excess of a hydrocarbon in the chamber, and it’s something you want to avoid. In the Barakuda, a measure amount of a very light hydrocarbon is injected into the chamber behind the pellet. The heat from the compression of air ignites the ether-air miix, and you get an extra boost of several hundred feet per second. If you look at the above photo, you’ll see what looks more or less like a common HW 35 but with a tube running alongside the barrel. Here’s a view from above:
A glass ampule containing ether was placed in the tube and crushed, releasing the liquid. Pulling back on the “bolt” would inject some of the vaporized ether into the compression chamber. The combination of spring plus ether-air combustion was supposed to result in velocities of over 1,000 fps, but in practice this was rarely (if ever) achieved. More often than not the result was pellets blown apart (you were supposed to use round balls for this reason), blown seals, and sometimes broken springs. The heavyweight HW Barakuda pellet was reportedly developed in order to create a pellet that could stand up to the explosive force of this gun.
I’ve read that the gun was in production from 1954 to 1981, but I’ve also read that it’s fairly rare, with only a few hundred having been made. Some “Barakudas” were reportedly made by dealers and gunsmiths by modifying a standard HW 35, but I’ve never actually seen an example or even a picture of one, which is not to say they don’t exist. If you find you have a hankering to own one, be advised that you’ll probably have to pay well in excess of $1,000 to get a working one- probably a lot more. The last one I saw being offered for sale had a price tag of $1,800. I suppose for the collector who has to have one of everything it might be worth it.