Pictured above is the Brocock Fox, a novel air rifle very possibly inspired by the gun described in Frederick Forsythe’s The Day of the Jackal. There’s the skeleton design, the simple trigger, moderator, all the necessary bits for a minimal gun. But the inquisitive viewer might well ask, where’s the spring, or the air chamber, or the CO2 resevoir?
Brocock guns had none of these, owing to a very clever design – the air cartridge. This was a small reservoir that looked for all the world like a firearm cartridge, but was actually a self-contained airgun powerplant, containing pressure tank, pellet, and valve all in one package. The shooter would prepare a number of cartridges ahead of time, using a hand pump or SCUBA tank. This might be a little inconvenient for plinking, but hunters, who might only fire a dozen shots a day, found it very convenient. Given the difficulty of owning a real firearm in Great Britain, a lot of shooters were willing to put up with the inconvenience in order to shoot something that felt and functioned like a real firearm.
The Brocockcartridges functioned very much like firearms cartridges, too. Guns designed to use Brocock cartridges had a firing pin that struck a valve on the rear of the cartridge, releasing the gas and propelling the pellet forward. This design meant that not only was it simple to design guns that used the Brocock system- see the Fox above- but many firearms designs could be easily adapted to it. Brocock sold a number of very realistic handguns that were produced by European makers, including some stunning adaptations of percussion revolvers. The Brocock 6 was a standout- a Weirauch-made revolver that was essentially their .357 revolver with a different cylinder and a .22 caliber barrel. It looked and functioned just like its firearm cousin.
And that is what eventually led to the downfall of the Brocock system. The top-end guns were so like firearms that they could very simply be turned into firearms. A few gunsmiths made adapters on their lathes that allowed .22 cartridges and even .38 cartridges to be fired in Brocock pistols and rifles. This led to the banning of all cartridge air gun in 2004, and the surrender of all Brocock guns and cartridges to the police. (Today, firearms possession is essentially outlawed in Great Britain- even the British Olympic pistol teams has to practice abroad- but gun crime continues to increase.)
If you do find a Brocock gun or cartridge, hang on to it, as they’re becoming very desirable collectibles. Cartridge replacement and maintenance could be an issue, of course. I haven’t heard of anyone in this country making replacement cartridges, but I suppose it’s only a matter of time before some clever airgunsmith decides to service the Brococks still being shot here and in other countries.