Popular from around 1800-1900, these guns were designed to kill 50-100 water birds at once. Their name comes from the flat-bottomed punt boats they were originally secured on, and were positioned about one or two dozen meters from their target.
Typically, these massive guns could fire more than a pound of shot out of their 2-inch diameter barrels, but the largest, known as “Irish Tom,” was more than 14 feet long and weighed over 300 pounds. Firing over 3 pounds of shot at a time, Irish Tom was carried on a specially-made 24 foot long punt boat specifically designed to kill mass amounts of birds. Teams of eight to ten hunters would set out and kill as many ducks as possible for the market. Ray Todd, one hunter, once said he and three of his colleagues bagged 419 ducks at a time, made possible by the duck’s habit of quickly settling down after short distances to feed again. By morning, he had over 1,000 ducks, which could be sold at $3.50 a pair in Baltimore.
This, of course, had quite an impact on the duck population, and it quickly made mass waterfowl hunting and punt guns obsolete. By the 1860’s, the U.S. had outlawed punt guns, and they were completely extinct by the 1920’s through the Lacey Act of 1900 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
The U.K, however, never completely banned punt guns, and a few dozen are still used today with strict hunting permits.