The past is another country: combat shotgun, war of 1812
New Hampshire gun dealer Joe Salter always has something for a collector, and this flintlock blunderbuss is one of them. At first glance, it’s an ordinary-looking blunderbuss, except for the barrel, which is less belled than is usual for blunderbusses.
It turns out that this weapon features an unusual elliptical muzzle. That’s a different choke.
The blunderbuss was the combat shotgun of its age – from sometime after the invention of the flintlock action in France circa 1620, to the mid-to-late 19th Century. The flintlock dates the weapon to some time before 1830 or so, and Salter seems to think it’s European in origin, and suggests France or Holland as possible origins (the hammer does not look like a French part to us). Of course, in the era in which this gun was built, guns were primarily artisanal craftwork, every one handmade and unique.
He has the weapon listed on the collector gun for-sale site, Guns InternationalВ as well as on his own website.
Blunderbusses are particularly associated with seafaring combat, in which sailors or marines would climb high in the rigging to spray a hostile ship alongside with shot. New Hampshire was a hotbed of privateers in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and it’s possible that this gun came back as a prize or as a purchase by one of the seafaring officers who were the leading citizens of the day. As we so often say,В if only this gun could talk!В But of course, it can’t, so we’re reduced to impotent speculation. (Sigh). And at Salter’s asking price, more than many more historic guns go for, it’s not going to follow us home today. Pity.
The elliptical muzzle is clearly deliberately designed in to the gun, and it’s equally clearly meant to spread the pattern of shot horizontally. In most combat on this earthly sphere, our enemies are arrayed more horizontally than vertically, so this is an advantage. It’s also a help to have a broad but not high pattern when you’re trying to lead a running man – the spread of the shot compensates a bit for any error in your leading.
Various elliptical muzzles, chokes, muzzle devices and what-not have tried to spread the shot horizontally over the last couple of decades. In Vietnam, the SEALs used Ithaca 37 shotguns with a curious muzzle device called a “duckbill.”
We found that picture on ARFCOM, along with this shot of a replica duckbill, which bears comparison to the elliptical muzzle of the blunderbuss in the image above:
The purpose was exactly the same as the laterally elongated muzzle in the blunderbuss: to give a naval combatant a more useful spread of shot. So, perhaps we were wrong to suggest that the heyday of the blunderbuss spanned the period fromВ circa 1620, to the mid-to-late 19th Century. That would imply the blunderbuss is dead. But as a combat shotgun, the blunderbuss lives!