The Power of the Punt Gun

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There was a time in America when market hunting was a popular endeavor, and some hunters went out armed with a Sharps rifle to follow a buffalo herd and pick off a "stand" of animals in the course of a day's shooting. But the best example of getting the most return for one's single shot had to be the punt gun.

Paddling out to a flock of ducks resting on the water, a stealthy punt-gunner would have prepared his gun with a hefty charge of powder and an equally formidable load of shot. Enough of a load was placed into this muzzle-loading arm's barrel so that up to a hundred ducks might be harvested in a single blast. On the Chesapeake Bay, the thunderous roar of punt guns came to an end in 1900 with the passage of the Lacey Act, which outlawed the transport of wild game across state lines.

This relic example of a punt gun in the National Firearms Museum collection was hidden away in a quarry and was recently donated by the William Salem family of Ohio. This 6 1/2-foot-long piece, which weighs in at about 40 pounds, can be traced through this family back to 1893.

Reprinted from America's 1st Freedom, Jan. 2008.