"Blunderbuss" pistols - 1790s to 19th century

Discussion in 'Handguns' started by hyuzu, Jun 1, 2019.

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  1. Jun 1, 2019 #1

    hyuzu

    hyuzu

    hyuzu

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    I've come across several interesting examples of pistols (dated to the early 19th century or late 18th century) which could be described as having "blunderbuss" characteristics, namely the distinctive flared muzzle. A few examples from auctions below:

    https://northeastauctions.com/produ...-lock-flintlock-blunderbuss-pistol-1790-1810/

    https://www.whytes.ie/art/19th-cent...ID=&ArrangeBy=list&NumPerPage=1000&offset=226

    https://www.the-saleroom.com/fr-fr/...0020/lot-2907bee2-60b9-459c-ae43-a49d00cb11c1

    What I'm curious about (other than knowing how late pistols of this type were in production) is whether pistols of this sort were really intended to be used in a blunderbuss/shotgun type role? Or was the flared muzzle some kind of odd stylistic choice on certain pistols of the period? These all appear to be European or Middle-Eastern arms, so not my area of expertise...
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2019
  2. Jun 2, 2019 #2

    DaveC

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    Regicide Jakob Johan Anckarström fired a single shot from a smoothbore muzzle loader flintlock pistol into the lower left back of the bizarre Enlightenment-era Swedish absolutist monarch Gustav III at a masked ball. It had been loaded with two balls, five shot, and six bent nails. Gutstav III succumbed to sepsis.

    Smoothbore artillery and firearms are really pretty similar for the most part. The only benefit the flared muzzle really gave was the ability to load quicker--and more assuredly perhaps?

    Such blunderbuss pistols were used long into the 19th Century by French sea captains--what a great weapon to face down obstreperous would-be mutineers, or hostile tribal peoples, no?
    They were particularly common in Spain and Spanish America.
    Such blunderbuss pistols were also very widespread in India and South Asia.
    Also Turkey and the Caucasus.

    Usage was most often on the roads as a bandit and anti-banditry arm, and aboard ship as a boarding or repel all boarders weapon. At times it was used by mounted forces, and there are indications that its use was more widely considered by mounted troops because before breech-loading, it was thought to be easier to load while riding.
     
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  3. Jun 2, 2019 #3

    hyuzu

    hyuzu

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    Wasn't the flared muzzle also intended to produce a wider shot spread?

    Interesting, I hadn't heard of them being produced in South Asia. But then again, that's not a field I know much about either.

    Boarding parties and cavalry were two uses that jumped to my mind when I first saw pistols like this.
     
  4. Jun 2, 2019 #4

    rickystl

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    Hi Hyuzu
    Pistols with blunderbuss styled barrels were likely of European origin. They seemed to have become more popular around the turn of the 19th Century into the early 1800's for personal protection and limited military use as DaveC mentions above. But they don't seem to have really caught on in a big way in Europe.
    The one exception was the Ottoman Empire where they remained extremely popular at least through the mid 19th Century. Often referred to by collectors as Ottoman "knee" pistols due to the miniature shoulder stock grip design. Of course there is no real evidence these guns were fired from the knee while on horseback. LOL I believe the stock design was somewhat copied from early Spanish pistols.
    They were made in vast quantities throughout the many gun making centers in the Balkans. Why they remained so popular for so long in this Region is still somewhat of a mystery.
    As mentioned, the purpose of the bell shaped muzzle was to assist in faster loading.

    Rick DSC00253 (Medium).JPG
     
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  5. Jun 2, 2019 #5

    DevilsLuck

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    My earliest recollections of such a muzzle shape were the exaggerated cartoon depictions of early American pilgrims. I never understood why their guns were portrayed this way; and like others, I thought it effected the shot pattern...
     
  6. Jun 2, 2019 #6

    DaveC

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    I can tell you that in Spanish America such blunderbusses, with cropped stocks and short barrels, and even with just pistol stocks and flared muzzles were relatively common "anti-banditry" guns throughout Spanish America in the late 1700s through to the mid-19th century.

    Also, such weapons were relatively conventional among slave hunters--rancheadores or cuadrilleros--in 19th century Cuba.
     
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  7. Jun 3, 2019 #7

    Ranger Boyd

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    Flared muzzles DO NOT increase pattern spread. They were designed to ease loading on the move or in dynamic situations like riding"shotgun" on a moving coach (hence the coach gun), cavalry, shipboard use, etc.
     
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