10 April 2011

An underhammer punt gun???

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Over the past few years we have seen some interesting underhammer firearms that our readers have shared with us. However, this one surely takes the prize in the curiosa category.

It is a punt gun, and while punt guns are rather scarce these days, an underhammer punt gun is a real prize – if you collect really big shotguns, that is.

The owner of this monster bore, Jim Marsh, does collect really big shotguns and relates,

“This punt gun is from the 1870s and was said to be used for many years at an old Shooting Club (Duck Hunting Club). It weights about 100 pounds, is 6ft., 4 inches long and has a bore size of 1-1/2 inches. Also the gun has a rubber mount painted gray as seen in the picture below. 

The gun does not have any markings on it at all – nothing. I am an antique shotgun collector of big-bore shotgun and punt guns and anything about old time duck hunting. Although I have had this gun for many years, I have never found out anything about it. I hope The Underhammer Society readers can help identify it.”


 Jim Marsh

For those of you who are not familiar with punt guns, here’s a bit more info below from Wikipedia that will help in understanding these monster shotguns. 
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. Punt guns were usually custom-designed and so varied widely, but could have bore diameters exceeding 2 inches (51 mm) and fire over a pound (0.5 kilos) of shot at a time.[1]

A single shot could kill over 50 waterfowl resting on the water's surface. They were too big to hold and the recoil so large that they were mounted directly on the punts used for hunting, hence their name. Hunters would maneuver their punts quietly into line and range of the flock using poles or oars to avoid startling them.

Take a look at this video for a demonstration of the power of the punt gun pictured above.
Generally the gun was fixed to the punt; thus the hunter would maneuver the entire boat in order to aim the gun. The guns were sufficiently powerful, and the punts themselves sufficiently small, that firing the gun often propelled the punt backwards several inches or more. To improve efficiency, hunters could work in fleets of up to around ten punts.

In the United States, this practice depleted stocks of wild waterfowl and by the 1860s most states had banned the practice. The Lacey Act of 1900 banned the transport of wild game across state lines, and the practice of market hunting was outlawed by a series of federal laws in 1918. In the United Kingdom, a 1995 survey showed fewer than 50 active punt guns still in use. UK law limits punt guns to a bore diameter of 1.75 inches (44 mm) (1 1/8 pounder).[2]

I have to admit that I have never seen an underhammer punt gun before and have no idea who could have made it. If any of you readers can identify it, please Post a Comment below to share your info with all of us.

Thanks, Jim, for sharing your unique and unusual prize with us.

It should be remembered that those of days of old who used these methods were not sportsman as we consider ourselves. They were market hunters and cared little about the balance of nature and no concept of conserving the resource. It was an attitude that prevailed at the time and resulted in the near extinction of many animals including our beloved bison.

A note in passing: it was Teddy Roosevelt who understood the dangers of this type of market slaughter and warned of the follies of such practices and worked diligently to stop market hunting. In that respect, he was one of the vanguard conservationists to whom we modern hunters owe a tremendous debt of gratitude.




Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just the grey, but I'm wondering if this has a military/naval background as an on-board swivel gun or rail gun. It all looks pretty "professional," and not quite what I associate with market hunting. Too bad there's no markings. That's the one thing that says non-military to me.

Anonymous said...

it would have markings if it was miltary

jg452 said...

To Jim Marsh Re: Punt guns. Dear Underhammer members and Jim my friend has just bought a muzzle loading punt gun which was originally flintlock and at some time converted to percussion. It has a barrel length of 87". My friend is a gunsmith here in Northern Ireland and we hope to restore this beautiful gun. It is so difficult to obtain info. on flintlock punts which would be pre 1800. There are no visible markings although underneath there is a square carved out which must have been for a plate. The wood is of course fairly rotten and we want to id that too. At the muzzle the barrel is 1". Barrel is affixed to forend with two metal straps only. We can,t work out the type of stock that it had originallyas it has all but gone below the hand grip Any help on all this from Jim Marsh and underhammer members would be most deeply appreciated. I hail from Omagh, Co. Tyrone Northern Ireland Thanks and God Bless you all. I am determined to restore this artefact to former glory and your help would make it possible if you can All the best Joe Gubbins. My E Mail address is josephgubbins@talktalk.net

Anonymous said...

I wonder if it wasn't origonally built as a whaling gun?

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Roger Renner

Hi. I've been a student, admirer, and designer/builder of underhammer guns for over 30 years. In that span I've built over 200 semi-custom underhammers exploring the possibilities from the ordinary to the exotic. In 1996 I founded Pacific Rifle Company to explore the market's interest in a high-quality underhammer rifle. Thankfully, that interest was, and still is, there. I sold PRC in 2006 but continue to craft high-end underhammers as I am truly afflicted with underhammeritis - which can be contagious!