During the European wars of the 1700s, the blunderbuss was used as a shotgun in military formation, largely to protect the colors. There’s be a couple of grenadiers, ensigns holding the colors, and a couple of sergeants holding spears.

That’s not the whole story of the blunderbuss, though.



Literally ‘Blunderbuss rifle’, modification of the Gras Mle1874 11mm rifle with a large Viven-Bessière type grenade discharger cup c.1914~15.

The weapon fired the Mle1847/1914 grenade, a 1,2kg cast iron spherical projectile with internal fragmentation grooves and a 5~6sc time fuse, with a payload of 110g of cheddite.

The grenade was propelled by a blank 11mm Gras cartridge, giving it a range of 33m at a 5° angle up to 190m at a 45° angle.

An interesting early modification of the old Gras rifle, similar in usage to the Guidetti launcher -also a Gras conversion- when on its base, but also usable as a VB grenade launcher when fired from the shoulder, like the hand mortars of the 18th century.

Although initially conceived as a way to recycle old rifles and old grenades into a new small piece of trench artillery, grenade discharger cups became extremely popular in the French army as a way to provide mobile infantry support across no man’s land. There is no indication that this specific model survived long enough to reach that point of the war, but it is an interesting progenitor of the concept.

Range chart of the Fusil-Tromblon, listing the firing angle, corresponding setting on its two different base mount, and resulting ranges. Note that even in its manual the weapon is never given a longer designation than ‘blunderbuss rifle’.


Lefaucheux Pinfire Blunderbuss

Manufactured in France c.~1830′s for the Argentinian market. 20~30mm single shot, underlever break action, rifled octagonal barrel with round flared muzzle.

I don’t know why South American people specifically would want that kind of weapon, but apparently, it was enough of an opportunity for Casimir Lefaucheux to make guns for it.


French Naval Blunderbuss

Initially, a Charleville musket made at the Manufacture Royale de Mutzig, converted into a blunderbuss c.late 18th century.

.69 caliber at the chamber, the barrel is made of bronze and flares up along its entire length for a total weight of 6kg/13.5lbs, flintlock, single shot. Naval blunderbuss made of brass or bronze were a staple of the colonial era, when investment bankers daring adventurers would trespass on a sovereign nation’s territory discover exotic lands and invade the country and enslave its population establish trading posts with the natives.


      • Maybe.

        They carried a heavy charge and the bell barrel certainly gave you a wide pattern. But when you have two (or three) ounces of shot, it’s going to do its work at 0-10 feet, whether or not rifling is involved. As a coach gun, you’re talking that range, and in a melee to get the colors, it would be close to that range profile too. Then the grenadier drops the blunderbuss and goes to his cutlass. There would be no time to reload.

        • I’m not convinced the flared barrel adds appreciably to the shot dispersion. The short barrel ensures wide dispersion even without the bell. I suspect it was a hold-over from the muzzleloading era, when random, expedient junk could be stuffed in the barrel.
          FWIW: http://sittingfoxmuzzleloaders.com/k-4/

          I agree with your comments regarding the use of blunderbuss in combat.
          A double barreled coach gun or lupara would be twice as effective, a trench gun even more so…

          I should have said “centrifugal” in my comment above.

          • Many blunderbusses weren’t bell-muzzled. Many were just straight up wide barreled scatterguns. You also see fan-barrelled blunderbusses, where the fan is horizontal.

            It’s really about having a large amount of shot fill the shot area.

  1. Were the various blunderbusses the best weapons that could be made with the metallurgy available in that time? By WWI that wasn’t the case but you go to war with what you have and know how to use.

    • The evolution of weapons during great wars when money is poured into the projects and the brightest engineers are retained for the purpose always tells out.

      The difference between aircraft, land armor, small arms, artillery, etc. in 1938 and 1945 is astonishing. Bi-Planes to jets.

  2. Bomb-tossing guns are one of those constant needful things. And using up old surplus is another needful thing. Making bomb-tossing guns out of surplus? Wow, 2 problems counteract each other.

    I like indirect artillery. Always have. Grenade launchers, mortars, howitzers. Get it from my dad, who crewed a Louisiana Nat Guard 8″ howitzer in college.

    • I liked the old M-79, which had a lot of direct and indirect fire options, and thus the M-203, which offered the best of both worlds. The ammo options for the M-79 included the shotgun and flechette rounds and to that extent, I considered it/them a type of blunderbuss.

      • Works for me. And now almost every cop shop has access to 40mm or 37mm grenade launching revolver guns. In quantity. And they say they only have less lethal and smoke and bean bag rounds and stuff. But the same companies that sell those rounds also sell incindiary and explosive and solid shot (both one hard round and cannister or shot rounds.)

        Me wanna.

        Whether it’s the original bloop gun or one of the M203 replacements that can be used by themselves or an M203 or, dammit, I want a grenade launcher!

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