Flintlock duck hunting
It has been a long time of waiting. And now I am standing on the banks of a small lake in the southern part of Hungary. It is early in the morning, with moderate wind and light rain, slowly drenching my hat and coat. Little drops of rain roll along between the two barrels from the muzzle towards the flint lock. This year autumn was gracious. Probably this is the first real winter-like morning sending constantly shivers down my spine. But still it is an enchanting moment to see the sun appearing on the horizon.
Both barrels are loaded with 85 grains of 2Fg Swiss black powder, a 0,5 cm thick felt wad, 32 grams of 2.4 mm shot and a cardboard over shot wad. The hammers are both in safety as I am waiting for the ducks to appear above the lake. They will be returning from a corn field nearby and I am planning to catch a few, this time with a special tool: the new Pedersoli flintlock double shotgun. Not easy task even with a modern shotgun as duck are the fastest flying birds here, and they have a good eye for avoiding human intruders holding strange smoke poles.
I have been in love with this little elegant 20 ga flintlock double shotgun since the first time I held it in my hands in Gardone, Italy. I am not a shotgun shooter as all year long I punch holes in paper targets fighting for the steadiest hold as possible. Shooting moving targets is something I do not often practice, as during the competition season it can have a negative effect on your target shooting skills. Shooting clay or birds needs entirely different techniques: in target shooting you support the rifle on your bone structure rather then hold it with your muscles. Your goal is to stop its movements and have a slow and controlled pull on the trigger. After placing the shot the good shooters will still hold the rifle aiming to the target for a few seconds. In contrary shotgun shooting is a dynamic activity. Your muscles will aid you in swinging the barrel of the shotgun accelerating from zero to “duck speed” in a second. A good swing will be controlled and continuous and must not stop at the moment of firing. The trigger pull will be just as different. The shotgun shooter has less control on the trigger finger and hand as recognizing the target, shouldering the shotgun, moving with the target and firing will all happen in 1-2 seconds only. The shotgun shooter therefore is rather shooting by instinct. To be successful he will need a perfectly fitting gun that immediately jumps to the right position and there is no need to adjust the hold to have a proper sight alignment. This is especially important when you are shooting such tricky game as wild ducks. And it is super important when you are using a flintlock shotgun.
What makes the difference? Of course a muzzle loading shotgun is slower to load, but the patterns of a well made gun like the Pedersoli flintlock double has just as good patterns as any premium modern shotguns on the market meaning that the shot leaving the muzzle will be just as effective also. The only difference will be the lock time. Lock time is the time between pulling the trigger and moment when the shot left the bore. Now this is longer. Much longer than with a percussion gun or a modern breech loading shotgun. So the Trinity of successful flintlock shotgun shooting will be: a good shotgun, a well developed load and a good swing.
How a good swing looks like? Follow the path of the game with the barrel with proper sight alignment. Before shooting increase the speed of the movement so the muzzle will pass through the game to the desired distance. The lead is depending on the velocity and distance of the game. Now it is time to pull the trigger, but do not stop the swing! Continue moving with the target until you see it fall. This follow through will be a key element in the swing.
The Pedersoli shotgun fits well my needs. Many would choose a 12 ga for shooting and hunting, but I like challenges, and I have to confess that I not always make logic decisions when I buy firearms. Ok, I never make logic decisions buying smoke poles… But who cares? I am not after killing as many birds as possible but to really enjoy the ones I shoot for the kitchen. This little beauty is one of the most balanced shotguns I ever held. The weight is 3.5 kg with 700 mm barrels. The right barrel is cylinder the left is modified. I am basically a target shooter so I am especially grateful for the rear sight like ornament on the breech. The shotgun has a very comfortable hold for me.
Let’s go back now to my rainy early morning duck hunt now. The sunrise is over, and I already see many lazy ducks on the water. Good start indeed. I am hiding behind a bush not to disturb them. And suddenly the ducks began to quake. Hundreds are coming in to the lake in 5-10 groups. This is an excellent place and excellent time. The game keepers of the area did an excellent job in caring for the ducks and organizing the hunt. I always have a chance to choose the ones at a comfortable distance. I start with quite a few misses until I adapt finally to the fast flight of the game. I cannot stop smiling after the first bird falls to the lake. In a short 45 minutes another five will follow him.
My mates with modern shoguns are excellent shots. More than a hundred ducks are collected from the lake. Not bad for 9 hunters. We finish the event with the presentation of the fallen game. Giving respect is an important and unmissable part of a hunt. The hunt ends with sharing memories and celebrating the best shots. But even if the flintlock shotgun was not the most successful among the modern relatives, still nearly each of my friends are asking for a tryout. We all agree that there is no difference in efficiency is the hunter has a good swing. The firing rate is less of course, but we are already planning another hunt, when the muzzle loading shotgunners will act in pairs: one continuously loading the two shotguns and handing it to the shooter, one hunting. What a beautiful friendly event that will be!
Balázs Németh, 2018.
Please check our film about the Pedersoli Flintlock double shotgun: