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July 1, 2013

Punt Gun, a Type of Extremely Large Shotgun Used for Duck Hunting in the Early 20th Century

Called the “Punt Gun” this firearm of unusual size could discharge over a pound of shot at a time, and dispatch upwards of fifty waterfowl in a single go. A punt gun is a type of extremely large shotgun used in the 19th and early 20th centuries for shooting large numbers of waterfowl for commercial harvesting operations and private sport. “Used for duck hunting” isn’t the right expression for aiming this piece of artillery in the general direction of a flock of ducks, firing, and spending the rest of the day picking up the carcasses.

Punt guns were used for duck hunting at the turn of the last century. A single shot could kill up to 50 waterfowl resting on the surface of a pond or lake. Washington D.C., 1923.

Punt guns were originally designed in the 19th century to kill as many waterfowls in one shot as possible. In the early 1800s, mass hunting of waterfowl was largely an accepted practice in order to supply commercial markets with meat. Waterfowl were also used for fashion. By the mid-1800s there was a high demand for feathers for hats. In order to meet these demands, commercial hunters needed a weapon with maximum impact. The punt gun was born.

A punt gun as illustrated in Science and Mechanics magazine in October 1911.

The name was derived from a small skiff boat, also called a punt boat, and the gun was meant to be fired from these types of boats. These small skiff boats were basically flat-bottomed duck boats. Punt guns were too big to hold – some weighed over 100 pounds and were usually measured over 10 feet – so they were mounted directly on the punt boats. The recoil was so strong that, after firing, the boat would be propelled back across the lake or body of water.

Side view of punt and ducks, ca. 1900-1912

Hunters, usually traveling in groups to achieve more waterfowl kills, would propelled the boat quietly at night. They would stop close to a flock of ducks resting on the water and fire a large load of shot and powder that killed many ducks at once. It was reported that a group of hunters could bring in five hundred ducks per day.

Snowden Slights with a punt gun, ca. 1900-1912

It should be no surprise that this method arose objections. The wild bird population quickly decreased causing most states to ban the practice by the 1860s. Federal laws went further still. The Lacey Act of 1900 banned hunters from transporting wild game across state lines. Market (or commercial) hunting was outlawed by a series of laws by 1920. Today, punt guns are no longer used in the United States for hunting, however, in England there are a few of these guns still in use.

1 comment:

  1. somebody needs a proofreader...."kill as many waterfowls in one" "would propelled the boat"




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