Monday, April 18, 2011

Punt Guns

Punt guns were enormous shotguns used to hunt waterfowl in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. They were so heavy that they were normally attached to small boats called punts and the boats were then pointed as birds resting on the water’s surface:

Punt guns were usually custom-designed and so varied widely, but could have bore diameters exceeding 2 inches (51 mm) and fire over a pound (0.5 kilos) of shot at a time.

A single shot could kill over 50 waterfowl resting on the water’s surface. They were too big to hold and the recoil so large that they were mounted directly on the punts used for hunting, hence their name. Hunters would maneuver their punts quietly into line and range of the flock using poles or oars to avoid startling them.

Generally the gun was fixed to the punt; thus the hunter would maneuver the entire boat in order to aim the gun. The guns were sufficiently powerful, and the punts themselves sufficiently small, that firing the gun often propelled the punt backwards several inches or more. To improve efficiency, hunters could work in fleets of up to around ten punts.

The practice faded as wild waterfowl stocks were depleted. It was eventually banned in the United States, though I gather it is still legal in the United Kingdom.


  1. Mikeb302000:

    He doesn't mention Punt Guns in his book, but Farley Mowatt's, "Sea of Slaughter" chronicles the depradations on marine, mammalian and avian species between the 15th c and today in and around the oceans of the world and the landmass that of North America.

    As has been the case throughout much of man's history older subsistence hunter/gatherer populations were displaced/eradicated and replaced by market hunters with much more lethal means for "harvesting" wildlife.

    What is not mentioned in most of the contemporaneous accounts such as the one you referred to is the egregious wastefulness that such methods caused. It has been estimated that prior to the advent of the explosive harpoon and steam injection method of whaling (pumping whales full of air in order to keep them from sinking) that over 80% of the animals killed were not recovered as they sank into the ocean's depths.

    The book is an eye-opener and quite disturbing.

  2. This would be a nice gun for Dick Cheney to fire with a remote control joystick.

  3. Hunting is sick. Hunting a century ago with the punt gun was really sick.

  4. Mike - are you a vegetarian? If you eat meat, what makes hunting sick vs. simply slaughtering an animal to eat?

    I agree that trophy hunting is wasteful and cruel. But of you process your kills and eat the meat or donate it to others then I see nothing wrong with hunting. It is no different than growing cows and pigs on a farm for harvest.

  5. Jim, It's very different from raising livestock to be butchered. Pulling the trigger yourself is the sick part. In fact I'd say that a non-vegetarian can be against hunting on moral and ethical grounds without condemning the entire meat industry. It's the personal involvement that's especially repulsive.

    I actually can't do that. I am a vegetarian for ethical reasons. I oppose hunting for any reason and I also oppose factory farming and the mass production of meat and meat products.

  6. I take it you feel all butchers and meat proccessing employees are sick in the head then?

    At least you are consistent with your feelings by being a vegetarian.