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From the History Books

Punt Guns

by Garry James   |  July 13th, 2011 3

Back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, commercial hunter employed large bore  muzzle and breech-loading shotguns to harvest large numbers of waterfowl at one go. The guns were mounted in low skiffs or “punts” (special boats with minimal freeboard)  and often were so large and heavy that aiming could only be accomplished by maneuvering the boat into the desired position.

Holland & Holland punt gun

The commercial punt gun shown was offered by the prestigious English gunmaking firm of  Holland & Holland in the 1880s and ’90s, and was available in bores up to 2 inches. It was designed to handle special paper or brass shotshells. Effects on local waterfowl populations (it was not unusual to kill 50 or more birds with one shot) by hunters using punt guns was devastating, and eventually the practice was outlawed in the United States, much to the relief, no doubt, of indigenous edible winged critters.

Garry James

About Garry James

Garry was born in Los Angeles, CA, in 1944. At age 11 he was given a Civil War vintage Remington revolver, and this began his passion for firearms. After graduating from college with a degree in journalism, he joined the U.S. Army, eventually becoming an Ordnance ammunition officer. After discharge, he joined the staff of "Guns & Ammo" magazine in 1971, where he eventually served as Editor for several years. As well as acting as Arms & Armour Expert for the auction firm of Sotheby Parke Bernet, Garry has been a technical advisor for films and television, including the popular series, “Story of the Gun,” "Tales of the Gun"(for which he was series advisor,) "Mail Call," ”Unsolved History,” “Lock n’ Load,” “American Rifleman Television,” and “Top Shot.” Garry is currently Senior Editor at “Guns & Ammo,” and a contributor to “Guns & Ammo Television” and other Intermedia Outdoors TV productions. He is acknowledged as one of the world’s foremost experts on the history and the technology of firearms, and has a first-hand knowledge of everything from medieval hand-cannons to the most modern full-autos.

  • robert38-55

    Holy cow !!!!!!!!!!! Gary where in the world do you find all this old and wacky stuff at??? hahha Man you come up with some gun stuff most of us probably never knew existed!!!! This "punt gun" thing is about as wacky as that breast plate and the retro retro… hahahha Man this looks like something Reverand Forsythe came up with for duck hunting, before he figured out the precussion cap. ahhhahah This thing is twice the size of double barrel 10 gauge shotgun! I knew H & H made some big guns in there day,,,but wow!!!!

  • old vet

    Remember reading in a very old Rifleman mag. about these and how they could wipe out large flocks with one discharge. Like you mentioned they were mounted in bow of small boats and when fired moved entire boat back. Whoa Nelly!

  • NWNCMike

    There are still a few of them being used in England today. There are restrictions on where they can be used to hunt ducks.

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