Antique pirate blunderbusses star at Bonhams' London arms sale

Bonhams' next sale of Fine Antique Arms and Armour on November 30 in Knightsbridge features no fewer than 24 examples of a weapon much used to control pirates at sea - the blunderbuss.

They vary in pre-sale estimates from £1,500 to £5,000, intriguing objects that are also a talking point.

This weapon - in effect a sawn-off or shortened shotgun - made for easy handling, and provided a withering fire that spread shot across a deck, capable of killing many attackers.



'The weapon of choice for many men
facing a high odds threat at sea'

Its fearful reputation was such that a man in possession of a blunderbuss could control and if necessary dominate a fight.

David Williams, Head of Antique Arms and Armour at Bonhams, says: "These weapons would have been the weapon of choice for many men facing a high odds threat on land or sea.

"It is interesting that today's renewed threat of piracy on the high seas has not led to any new weapon to control pirates, other than the water cannon and safe rooms onboard ships, where crew can take refuge, although there is now some talk of arming ships."

The earliest use of the blunderbuss was in the 17th century, and continued until the middle of the 19th century, around the 1840s.

The heaviest use of the blunderbuss was during the mid 1700s, when piracy was at an all-time high. Many seamen were left unemployed after the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714) and turned to piracy to make a living.

This is often referred to as the "Golden Age of Piracy", during which time a large portion of maritime commerce was violated and plundered.

The British Royal Navy in particular waged a vicious war against piracy. Much later, blunderbusses were used by mail and stagecoach drivers to ward off attacks on the road by bandits and highwaymen.

Naturally, as is the way with weapons, the blunderbuss found a home with highwaymen and pirates.

The blunderbuss found use for other duties in which the shotgun-like qualities were desirable, such as defending homes, for protection while travelling in carriages and for guarding prisoners or defending a mail coach, and its use for urban combat was also recognised.

Blunderbusses were also commonly carried by naval warships, privateers and pirates for use in close-quarters boarding actions.


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