What is A Blunderbuss Pistol? – A Complete Guide

Key Point: The blunderbuss pistol is a short-barreled firearm that evolved from the blunderbuss, a type of early shotgun. It features a wide, flared muzzle, allowing for the firing of shot (pellets or scraps) over a broad area.

This article will give you everything you need about the Blunderbuss pistol. What it is, how it works, and why it was used. So, by the time you finish this article, you will know everything there is to know about this beautiful piece of firearm history.

Before we begin, you need a firm grasp of what a Blunderbuss pistol is. So, what is the Blunderbuss pistol?

A blunderbuss pistol was a short-barreled firearm used primarily in the 17th and 18th centuries. It had a flared muzzle and fired a large lead shot, making it a highly effective weapon at close range. The blunderbuss pistol was typically used by naval officers, privateers, and pirates for close-quarters combat, as its wide blast pattern made it useful for clearing the decks of enemy ships. What separates it from the ordinary Blunderbuss is that it is smaller in size.

Now, for the detailed breakdown of the Blunderbuss pistol. From its history to how it worked and how it was used.

The History And Origin Of The Blunderbuss Pistol

The blunderbuss pistol originated in the early 18th century and was a modification of the larger blunderbuss. It was a compact version of the blunderbuss. So it became quite popular due to its portability and effectiveness. It could deliver a big punch in a small form.

It was often used by naval officers and sailors as a personal defense weapon.

How It Was Used

The pistol was designed to fire a large caliber shot that could effectively take down multiple targets at once. The blunderbuss pistol was also used by privateers and pirates during the golden age of piracy. The pistol was a versatile weapon that could be used in close-quarters combat or at longer ranges.

Despite its effectiveness, the blunderbuss pistol fell out of favor in the mid-19th century with the advent of more accurate and powerful firearms. You will see what factors led to its demise a little later.

How Was The Blunderbuss Pistol Loaded And Fired?

Here are the 7 steps everyone that used a Blunderbuss pistol had to follow to load and fire the pistol.

  1. First, the user would need to ensure that the blunderbuss pistol is unloaded and safe to handle.
  2. Next, they would remove the ramrod located under the barrel and use it to clean the barrel of any debris or residue from the previous shot.
  3. They would then select the appropriate amount of gunpowder, pour it into the barrel, and follow it up with a wad of paper, cloth or other material.
  4. After loading the projectile, which was usually in the form of multiple small lead balls, the user would carefully place it into the barrel.
  5. The blunderbuss pistol would then be primed by pouring a small amount of gunpowder into the priming pan located near the hammer.
  6. The user would then close the priming pan cover and cock the hammer back.
  7. Finally, they would take aim at their target and pull the trigger, causing the hammer to strike the priming pan and ignite the gunpowder, which would then ignite the main charge and fire the projectile out of the barrel.

After the first 6 steps the gun was in the state you can see in the short 35 second video below:

Video showing shooting a Blunderbuss pistol.

Those were the 7 steps to load and fire the Blunderbuss pistol. Now, let’s take a look at what exactly was used as a projectile for the Blunderbuss pistol.

The Ammo Used In The Blunderbuss Pistol

The Blunderbuss pistol mostly used lead shot as its projectile. Okay, before we continue, let’s establish what a “shot” is.

What is a shot?

Shot pellets made of lead were used with gunpowder in the barrel of the Blunderbuss pistol. The purpose of a “shot” was to inflict maximum damage by scattering in a wide pattern upon leaving the barrel.

The shot was poured into the barrel through the muzzle and then rammed down with a ramrod. The amount of shot used varied depending on the bore size of the pistol and the intended range of the shot. It was usually held in place by a wad made of paper or cloth.

This also helped to create a seal between the shot and the barrel. After the shot and wad were loaded, a priming charge of gunpowder was added to the pan on top of the pistol.

So, when the trigger was pulled, the priming charge ignited and the resulting flame traveled down a touchhole to ignite the main charge of gunpowder behind the shot, propelling it out of the barrel.

Now, that we took a look at its history, how the Blunderbuss pistol worked, and what it shot out of its barrel it’s time … Time for what you ask? It’s time to see why it fell out of use.

Why Did The Blunderbuss Pistol Fell Out Of Use?

The Blunderbuss pistol fell out of use due to advances in technology that allowed for the production of more accurate and reliable firearms. What advances were those?

The advent of rifling changed the game. Rifling imparted spin on bullets for increased accuracy, making smoothbore firearms like the Blunderbuss obsolete. In addition, the introduction of the percussion cap in the early 19th century made it easier to ignite gunpowder.

This eliminated the need for a cumbersome and unreliable flintlock mechanism. Also, the Blunderbuss pistol’s limited range and unwieldy size also contributed to its decline in popularity.

Due to the fact that smaller and more portable firearms became more desirable.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you learned a thing or two. And if you wish to continue learning I suggest taking a look at my article on the Boxlock pistol right here.

Or, if you want you can take a look at my other article on a 19th-century darling pistol used by the Brits. The Beaumont-Adams pistol! You can see the article here.

Take care!

Sources: “Pistols: An Illustrated History of Their Impact” by Jeff Kinard