Staff Writer (Updated: 1/23/2016):
The Blunderbuss existed in two distinctly notable forms - a short, pistol-like form (the aforementioned "Dragon") and the more identifiable medium-sized, shotgun-like version. Both versions were muzzle-loading firearms - that is, loaded from the barrel end as opposed to an open breech at the rear of the gun body. Blunderbuss operation was actuated by a flintlock arrangement requiring use of a swiveling "cock" that held a piece of flint stone. Loading involved filling the barrel with an appropriate level of gunpowder, forcing cotton wadding down the barrel and adding shot (lead balls) before finally stamping the contents down with the supplied ramrod. Shot could be made up of lead balls or any sort of projectile that easily fit the caliber of the barrel. Gunpowder was then supplied to the open pan along the side of the gun body and the weapon was "cocked" for firing. With a pull of the trigger, the cock-containing flint was scrapped against a metal fixture to generate sparks, these sparks falling into the pan of gunpowder and igniting the contents within. The force of the internal explosion would send the projectiles out of the flared end of the barrel in a "spread" fashion.
Construction of Blunderbusses, of course, varied throughout its decades of use and each were based on regional construction methods, user requirements and field usage. Some were completed with brass barrels while others were finished with steel versions and, still others, particularly navalized versions, were covered over in heavy protective finishes to help combat the corrosive effects of the salty sea against the temperamental wood and metal construction of these guns.