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Swivel Blunderbuss

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With its flared muzzle, the unique shape of the blunderbuss makes it easily recognizable. The intent of the design was to spread out shot to cover a wide area, akin to a modern shotgun, making it a deadly weapon at very short range against an enemy ship’s crew. Both pistols and smooth-bore muskets could be made in the blunderbuss style. In the case of larger blunderbusses, like this example, the thick-walled, heavy barrel often required a swivel mount to stabilize the gun on a ship’s or boat’s rail. Placing the gun in a mount made it easier to handle and reload, and also helped absorbed the strong recoil when the gun was fired.

This swivel blunderbuss was manufactured by French, Blake & Kinsley in 1814. Based in Canton, Massachusetts, the firm of Thomas French, R. E. Blake, and Adam Kinsley was one of the foremost naval contractors in the United States, and probably the largest contractor for blunderbusses during the War of 1812. While there are a number of French, Blake, & Kinsley blunderbusses and musketoons (muskets with wide or oval muzzels), the wide variety of designs suggests there was no set model for these guns. This gun bears a number of markings: an American eagle and “T. French” are stamped in front of the lock, with “Canton” stamped in an arch behind it. On top of the barrel are the Massachusetts proof marks “P”, “PC,” “M,” and “1814,” along with the name “Kinsley.” The muzzle is flared significantly for the last quarter of its length, ending in a wide oval shape. The gun underwent significant repairs during its service career, including the addition of a brass plate and screws to hold together a major crack in the stock. In 1986, the stock was repaired by a conservator, who also extended the swivel post (which had previously been shortened) and repaired the broken ramrod.

French, Blake & Kinsley

Date Created

Wood, Metal

[H]20 in. [W]4 1/2 in.

Catalog Number

Credit Line
USS Constitution Museum Collection.

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