One of the more prominent firearms at the J.M. Davis Museum is the 7 ½ feet long Chinese wall gun. Visitors have marveled at it and wondered about it for decades.
This particular firearm was built in China in the latter half of the Nineteenth century and was originally used to repel invaders from attacking walled fortifications, thus the name Wall Gun. Chinese and Indian gunsmiths copied many different kinds of European and American firearms and enlarged them to make these arms. British troops collectively called Chinese and Indian-made wall guns “Jingal” guns, however, the Chinese name is Taiqiang. The Taiqiang in the J.M. Davis Museum is modeled after the US Model 1861 Springfield Rifle Musket.
Jingal guns, as a whole, were rather accurate and thus very successful at the job for which they were designed. It was not uncommon for these arms to hit a target the size of common sheet of writing paper at a distance of 600 yards. Originally, Jingals were muzzleloaders, but as firearms technology evolved and traveled to India and China, local gunsmiths made breechloading, cartridge-firing Jingals as well.
The J.M. Davis Museum’s Taiqiang used to be described as a commercial waterfowling punt gun. A punt is a small boat similar to a johnboat, and a punt gun is a very large bore guns placed horizontally on the punt and loaded with shot intended to shoot lots of birds while they rested on the water’s surface. Very unsportsmanlike.
Another museum that owns a Taiqiang, the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York, claims commercial waterfowl hunting provenience for their artifact. This leads me to two possibilities: 1. Taiqiang and Jingal guns were sometimes repurposed when they were brought to Europe and North America, or 2. People of European background, not fully appreciating the original purpose of these guns, presumed they were intended for a profession known to them in late Nineteenth century Europe and North America, that of a commercial waterfowl hunter.
Commercial waterfowling at that time was done on a massive scale to provide clothiers with diverse plumage. There was a problem with this kind of commercial hunting however; it killed too many birds too quickly. Concern of the over-harvesting of waterfowl and their greatly decreased populations lead to the Weeks-McLean Act of 1913, later replaced by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Because of early laws such as these, huge developments in the wildlife management sciences, and the monetary benefits that hunting license fees give wildlife management, waterfowl have seen strong increases in their populations.
To see the Chinese Wall Gun, other small-artillery-type firearms, as well as lots of ethical waterfowling guns, visit the J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum, on historic Route 66 in Claremore, OK. Admission is free, but donations are gladly accepted. Open Monday through Friday 8:30 to 5:00, Saturday 10:00 to 5:00, and Sunday 1:00 to 5:00. For more information call (918) 341-5707 or visit our website: www.thegunmuseum.com.