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Blunderbuss - the Thunder Gun

Updated on December 6, 2014

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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    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Hi Johnsams - Thanks for stopping by.

    • johnsams profile image

      johnsams 7 years ago

      I am so fond of history of weapons and combat techniques that this hub served me well by providing some interesting facts. An enjoyable read!

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      William - what a great discovery. It's great that you followed its history. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Trsmd - thanks for the info.

    • profile image

      William 7 years ago

      I found a blunderbuss in my grandfathers basement and a barrel full of ammo and I looked back in my history and to find that my ancestors were french military men.

    • Trsmd profile image

      Trsmd 8 years ago from India

      The blunderbuss used by the British mail service during the period of 1788 - 1816