Heritage, 2011, Volume 1 Page: 30
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Detail from a drawing entitled The
Battle of the Alamo by Gary Zaboly
showing one of the Alamo defend-
ers with a double barrel flintlock
shotgun. Notice the Tejas/Coahuila
flag flying over the Alamo, a histori-
cally accurate detail.
THE DOUBLE BARREL SHOTGUN
By Tom Power
Previous columns have given attention to the importance of rifles in firearm history; how-
ever, there is a different type of arm that deserves attention: the shotgun.
A shotgun is a weapon that has a barrel or barrels with a
smooth bore; they lack rifling, the spiral grooves cut on the
inside of barrels that cause spin, which imparts stability to
the bullet in flight. The shotgun does not have the range or
accuracy of a rifle, but it is much easier to load and has the ca-
pability of firing a multi-projectile load or shot. This load of
shot can consist of either a large number of smaller lead balls
or a lesser quantity of larger ones, depending on the intended
use. A single ball, slightly smaller than the bore, could also
be fired but with limited accuracy. This made the shotgun a
very versatile weapon that could be used for anything from
bird hunting to self-defense.
Early shotguns were called fowlers because of their primary
use as bird guns, although wing shooting didn't catch on until
the introduction of the percussion cap with its quick ignition.
(Editor's Note: Wing shooting is explained in text below.) Most
fowl were killed on the ground or water, not in flight. These
same fowlers were loaded with heavy shot known as buck and
ball, which consisted of one bore-sized ball and three small-
er buckshot; these were used against the British during the
American Revolution. A musket is simply a heavy military
fowler with a provision for a bayonet.
Above: A New England fowler from the Revolutionary War period.
During the period of westward expansion in America, pio-
neers had to arm themselves, and the weapon of choice most
frequently was a shotgun. It could be used for defense, espe-
cially at close range, but it could also help put meat on the
table. The odds of hitting a moving target are much greater
using a shotgun as opposed to a rifle, which also required a
degree of skill that the average pioneer did not possess. More-
over, efficient use of a shotgun was more easily acquired, and
the multitude of projectiles in each shot increased the chance
of a hit. If a person could only afford one gun, then the shot-
gun was the best choice for an all-purpose weapon. So, con-
30 TEXASHERITAGE I Volume 1 2011
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2011, Volume 1, periodical, 2011; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254220/m1/30/: accessed May 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.