Blunderbuss - the Thunder Gun
Blunderbuss - the name itself brings up all kinds of images. It's true, a blunderbuss can be defined as a person who blunders and fumbles with words. The word is taken from anglicized version of the Dutch, "donderbuss" which translates to "thunder gun". It is the predecessor to the modern shotgun. We associate this weapon with pirates (the old kind) and it is often seen depicted with a pilgrim carrying it. This is a mistaken depiction as the blunderbuss was not introduced for almost 50 years after the pilgrims arrived. In the late eighteenth century, British stagecoach mail carriers carried the blunderbuss and other weapons to ward off robbers. The weapon proved quite effective.
The blunderbuss is a smooth-bore gun with a trumpet shaped muzzle. Because of the shape of the muzzle, it is meant to be used at close range. Accuracy was not it's strong point, though later scientific theory proved that shot did not disperse as much as once thought. The muzzle on some blunderbusses spanned four inches. Lead shot was loaded through the muzzle. Blunderbusses come in short and long muskets, pistols and swivel. Though the romanticized image of the blunderbuss was its use by the swashbuckling pirate (and they did use them), the weapon was also used by soldiers, sailors and civilians. George Washington once considered the blunderbuss as an alternative to the carbine for the Continental Dragoons. It was also used for ceremonal purposes as it was louder and gave off more smoke than other weapons.
The blunderbuss is still around. It is a favorite in war reenactments, and stage play. There are bands and beers named after this historical weapon. I have even come across a man who has built a very fancy version of the blunderbuss (see link). Perhaps modern ships should keep the blunderbuss on board to ward off the pirates of today.
French 1750 Blunderbuss
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