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The Blunderbuss was a sturdy, short-barrelled, muzzle-
loading firearm with a bore of up to 50 mm which flares into a bell at the muzzle.
The large caliber of the blunderbuss enabled it to hold many balls or slugs, which scattered when fired. It was an effective weapon for shooting at close
range and for the defense of narrow passages.
The barrel was commonly brass, and its muzzle was usually, but not always, flared for easy loading. The blunderbuss originated in Holland in the early 1700's. Its name is a corruption of the Dutch donderbus, "thundergun".
A heavy powder charge was poured into the gun's muzzle, followed by a handful of irregular slugs snipped from sheet lead. These were retained by a wad of linen tow, pushed down upon them with a ramrod. Squeezing the trigger allowed a piece of flint, held in a spring-loaded clamp, to strike a downward glancing blow on the curved steel lip of the priming-pan cover. This action opened the cover and generated a shower of sparks to ignite powder in the pan. Part of its flame flashed through a touchhole in the side of the barrel and fired the charge.
The weapon became popular in 18th century England as a "cottage gun" for protection against intruders. Stagecoach guards also carried blunderbusses to stand off highwaymen. It was an inaccurate weapon, but it was lethal at short range. Few American colonists used blunderbusses; they needed to stop intruders at a distance.