Hunting with shotguns began in the 17th century with the matchlock shotgun. Later flintlock shotguns and percussion cap guns were used. Shotguns were loaded with black powder and lead shot through the muzzle in the 17th century to the late 19th century. The transition from flint to “detonating” or percussion lock firearms and from muzzle to breech loading guns was largely driven by innovations made by English gun makers such as Joseph Manton, at which time wildfowling was extremely popular in England both as a pastime and as a means of earning a living, as described by Peter Hawker in his diaries. Damascus barrels are safe to shoot (where proofed) only with black powder charges. When smokeless powder was invented in the late 19th century, steel barrels were made. Damascus barrels which were made of a twisted steel could not take the high pressure of smokeless powder. Fred Kimble, Tanner, and Adam, duck hunters from Illinois, invented the shotgun choke in 1886. This is a constriction at the end of the barrel. This allowed for longer range shooting with the shotgun and kept the pattern of shot tighter or looser according to which type of choke is being used. Until 1886, shotguns had cylinder bore barrels which could only shoot up to 25 yards, so duck hunting was done at close range. After 1886, market hunters could shoot at longer ranges up to forty five yards with a full choke barrel and harvest more waterfowl. Shotguns became bigger and more powerful as steel barrels were being used, so the range was extended to sixty yards.
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