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GUNS Magazine February 2013 Digital Edition - Page 26
SurpluS, ClaSSiC and TaCTiCal FirearmS HOLT BODINSON love Those BlunderBusses! perhapS the moSt iConiC oF FirearmS. he Germans named it the “donderbuchse” (thunder gun), the dutch, the “donderbus,” the Italians, the “trombone,” the French, the “tromblon.” Finally, the english, after mixing it up with the donderbus-armed dutch ships for control of the high seas, gave it the familiar phonetic name of “blunderbuss.” It’s the stuff of myth and of cartoons with little bands of blunderbuss toting Pilgrims streaming across the pages of popular literature. From the 1550s through the 1800s, the belled muzzle blunderbuss appears in the form of pistols, carbines and larger swivel guns, sometimes even t the first national blunderbuss match required period clothing. mounted with wicked looking, integral, spring bayonets. So when the National Muzzleloading Rifle Association announced that it would hold its first, historic blunderbuss competition at the Western Nationals in Phoenix, Ariz., I grabbed my old blunderbuss and headed to Phoenix. The blunderbuss is really a fascinating firearm. In particular, the English adopted the design more than any other country and produced thousands for civilian and military use. In 1654, documents reveal that “100 Brass Blunder Bushes” were carried by the Hispaniola Expedition. In 1670-71, Sir James Turner writes: “The Carabineers carry their Carabines in Bandileers of Leather about their neck, a far easier way than long ago, when they hung them at their Saddles. Some instead of Carbines carry Blunderbusses, which are short Hand-guns of a great bore, wherein they may put several Pistol or Carabine-Balls, or small Slugs of Iron.” In 1684, “An Account of Allowance of Ordnance to H.M. Shipps” documents that blunderbusses were issued to naval vessels based on the number of cannon on board. “Thus a ship of with 100 cannon was entitled to 10 blunderbusses.” Even General George Washington was impressed with the blunderbuss. Writing to the Board of War, he stated “It appears to me that Light Blunderbusses on account of the quantity of shot they will carry will be preferable to Carbines, for Dragoons, as the Carbines only carry a single ball especially in case of close action.” The Board disagreed, and the carbine remained. The 18th century was the heyday of the blunderbuss. The blunderbuss proved very popular as a common home defense weapon. It was indeed the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 of its day. In an age when people traveled by stagecoach, horseback and foot and were constantly victimized by highwaymen, the blunderbuss proved its mettle in clearing the roads of brigands. In fact, the coaches of the Royal Mail Services were protected by an official “Shooter” sporting an issued blunderbuss and a brace of pistols. The issued blunderbuss was loaded with “10-12 pea size shot” and to insure it would perform on demand, it was reloaded once a week. The blunderbuss served the city constabulary as the sawed-off shotgun of the day and was commonly seen in the hands of bank, prison and estate gate guards and gamekeepers. 26 W W W. G U N S M AG A Z I N E . C O M • F E B R UA RY 2 0 1 3