Punt Gun vs. Barrel

What if you have a punt gun but live far from the nearest duck? You mount it on a carriage, roll it up to an unsuspecting barrel and let fly. This gun, which belongs to a collector in England, has a 1 3/16-inch bore, making it a little bigger than a 3-gauge. It's nine feet long and was built before 1904.

It may be over 100 years old but it can still perforate a 40-gallon barrel with authority. The owner loads it with black powder -- as you can see by the smoke cloud -- and 18 ounces of BB or AAA (.20 diameter pellets, what we call T shot). This gun has a screw-in breechloading action which is typical of English punt guns. They were sporting guns and usually of much higher quality than the crude muzzleloading punt guns made in the U.S. for market hunting.

Punt guns are still legal for waterfowling in England although only a very few puntgunners remain. Lying on your belly in a small boat and sculling up to rafted ducks close enough to shoot them with a small cannon is much more difficult than you would think.* It's a lot easier and dryer to find a barrel and blast away.

*Harry M. Walsh in "The Outlaw Gunner," a book about illegal market hunters on the Chesapeake Bay, suggested that the arrival of 12 gauge pumps and semiautomatics put an end to punt guns. The new repeaters were much deadlier than the punt guns and batteries. One old hunter Walsh interviewed said, "Before the pump, we had nothing to kill them with."