A punt gun is a type of extremely large shotgun used in the 19th and early 20th centuries for shooting large numbers of waterfowl for commercial harvesting operations.
A punt gun is a type of extremely large shotgun used in the 19th and early 20th centuries for shooting large numbers of waterfowl for commercial harvesting operations. These weapons are characteristically too large for an individual to fire from the shoulder or often carry by themselves, but unlike artillery pieces, punt guns are able to be aimed and fired by a single man from a mount.
In this case, the mount is typically a small watercraft. Many early models appear similar to over-sized versions of shoulder weapons of the time with full-length wooden stocks with a normal-sized shoulder stock. Most later variations do away with the full-length stock—especially more modern models—and have mounting hardware fixed to the gun to allow them to be fitted to a pintle.
Punt guns were usually custom-designed and varied widely, but could have bore diameters exceeding 2 inches (51 mm) and fire over a pound (0.45 kg) 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 was so large that they had to be mounted directly on punts used for hunting, hence their name. Hunters would manoeuvre 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 manoeuvre 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.