Shotgun Section

History

Flintlock: At the beginning of the 17th Century, the flintlock, which uses a knapped flint stone striking a steel face to generate sparks for ignition was firmly established.

This was an improvement on the more primitive ignition types mainly using smouldering cord (matchlock). The early flintlock shotguns tended to have very long barrels and were often used for shooting wildfowl sitting on the water. These guns were sometimes fired from rests such as a fork stick and were referred to as ‘Bank Guns’. As time went on shooting flying birds became popular on the continent and this idea was brought to Great Britain by visiting sportsmen.

These long barrelled guns, with their slow ignition, were unwieldy for shooting flying birds. The new fashion of shooting flying birds brought about the gradual shortening of barrel length to assist the handling of the gun. At this time the first double barrel guns appeared and the Holy Grail of the gun makers was to produce a gun lock with a very fast ignition time. At the end of the flintlock era, around 1820, the use of patent breeches, roller frizzens and rain proof pans provided the ultimate in flintlock design. It is these later examples of flintlock guns that are much sought after by the modern muzzle loader.

Percussion: A Scottish clergyman, the Reverend Alexander Forsyth, invented a detonating system in the early 1800’s. He used a compound of fulminate of mercury (originally, dangerously as a propellant), which would explode instantly upon being struck. The final stage of development was a small copper cap containing this compound. A hollow nipple was screwed into the breech end of the gun and the cap would be placed on top of the nipple. The barrel, loaded with a charge of powder, wad and shot would be ignited by the fall of the cock onto the percussion cap. The speed of ignition, even on poor quality guns, was far superior to even the best flintlocks. Given that this ignition system dates back to the early 1800’s, the speed of ignition is only slightly less than that of a modern nitro powder shotgun as anyone who has shot a percussion gun will confirm. It is the percussion sporting gun, either original or replica, that is the most practical type for shooting clay pigeons. Military type smooth bore muskets are generally unsuitable for shooting clays due to their poor handling characteristics.

Black Powder: Black powder is believed to have been around in India and the Far East by the 11th century. It appeared in Europe in the 13th century and was not used in firearms until the 14th century. Black powder is made up of a compound of charcoal, sulphur and saltpetre. Black powder is readily available in different grades to suit all types of muzzle loading guns.