The history of shotguns

Many types of hunting weapons have appeared over time in our regions.

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Although the history of Canada officially begins with the arrival of Jacques Cartier in 1534, we do not find hunting weapons before the beginning of the 18th century. Rather, these are weapons of war converted for harvesting activity.


The Lower Canada Weapons Collectors Association (ACABC) is a group of hunters, precision shooters and enthusiasts of old and modern weapons that meet four times a year at exhibitions open to the public. ACABC organizes events in Saint-Hyacinthe and the next meeting will be on September 10 at the Lachute flea market. For more information, visit or call 514 591-1835

In addition to caring for movies, Pierre Gagné is an avid collector and a good connoisseur. He wanted to teach us more about the history of hunting weapons.

Here are the main points of his comments and photos of the models in question:

flintlock rifle

Our first hunting weapons used flint to fire. Developed in the 1630s, it remained in use until 1830. Pulling the trigger, the flint struck the battery and sent sparks into the basin containing the explosive powder. The basin is connected to a hole in the load of the barrel that explodes and allows firing. At the end of the 17th century, starting from the 18th century, the introduction of more resistant damask barrels made it possible to achieve a certain refinement. The described flintlock rifle was made by gunsmith Lebeau of Lille, France. Such a quality of a weapon was aimed at the nobility, at least a class of very rich people.

The lever-action repeating rifle

By lowering a lever located behind the trigger, the cartridge that has been fired is fired and the next one is loaded by raising the lever. This rifle has a magazine located under the barrel that can hold several cartridges. The number of cartridges varies mainly depending on the caliber of the rifle. The rifles you often see in cowboy movies are usually of this type. The rifle pictured is unusual. Winchester did it. This is the 1897 model offered in 10 or 12 gauge.

Swing-barrel shotgun

In the 1860s, the patents protecting the new center and annular primer cartridges expired. This is the explosion of new inventions. In this case, loading such a rifle is done by tilting the barrel, exposing the barrel chamber. It remains only to insert the cartridge and close the barrel. The hammer is then cocked and the gun is ready to fire. The shotgun pictured was manufactured by the WW Greener company around 1900. It has automatic ejectors, a safety catch and a locking system with 3 locks.

The bolt-action repeating rifle

Instead of a lever, a lock is used. After a cartridge is fired, the bolt is pulled back to eject it. By pushing back the bolt, a cartridge is pushed up by a spring and inserted into the barrel chamber. The rifle pictured is very common among hunters in Quebec. This is a modified version of the Enfield caliber .303 British rifle. Millions of these rifles were put on the market after the war. They are usually modified to be lighter for hunting.

Percussion rifle

Developed in the early 18th century, this system simplified firing. There is a small chimney and an explosive primer. By striking the primer with the hammer, the fire activates the explosive charge. The shotgun pictured has two barrels and was made by William & Powell in Liverpool, England. This is a high quality rifle with a silver band on the top of the barrels. The percussion system remained the most popular until the early 1860s. This rifle was recognized for its simplicity, hunters continued to use it after the turn of the 20th century.

The repeating rifle

This system was developed at the end of the 18th century. Ejecting and loading a cartridge is similar to a bolt action rifle. However, it is the barrel that is operated by pulling it back to eject a cartridge and pushing it back to reload a new one. The rifle pictured is manufactured by Colt. This is the Lightning model developed in 1884. The example shown is very unique, as it is an “Express” model in .45-85 caliber. It is used to hunt large game.

The semi-automatic rifle

Invented at the end of the 18th century, it became especially popular in the 19th century. The main feature of this system is the automatic reloading of a new cartridge after firing the first one. These weapons can be found with fixed or removable magazines. The rifle pictured is a John Browning design from 1914. It was made by the Fabrique Nationale de Herstal in Belgium. It was known as the “Browning Semi-Auto Rifle” in .22 caliber.

Pinfire gun

In 1833, Casimir Lefaucheux developed and implemented a rocker-operated rifle that fired with a cartridge containing primer, powder and an explosive charge. A pin protrudes from the cartridge. The hammer, by striking the tip of the spit, crushed the primer, causing it to explode. This system is considered dangerous, as dropping a cartridge can cause it to explode. The rifle pictured was made by French gunsmith Leclerc. This is a very high quality rifle on which is written, in gold, the following inscriptions: “Canons de Leclerc Bté du Roi”.

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