Were they used on geese? I thought that punt guns were mostly used on passenger pigeons.
Punt guns got their name from punt boats. They were mainly used against waterfowl, so basically ducks and geese. You’d quietly row your punt (boat) out onto the lake where a flock of birds was resting on the water, point the bow of the punt at the flock, and fire off a shot from ye ol handy punt gun. A single shot could easily take out a couple dozen birds. You then row around and pick up the dead birds, wait for the flock to land on the water again, quietly row up towards them, and repeat. Quick and easy hunting.
Most punt guns were fixed to the punt. You aimed the punt gun by steering the entire punt (boat) left and right. You might have some adjustments for elevation, but not much. There’s no need to adjust the elevation in the gun if you’re always aiming for a flock on the water’s surface.
A light one, in a very large cartridge, firing a very big bullet, and taking a lot of gas to do so. No muzzle brake to redirect the exhaust gasses backwards, and thereby lower the recoil impulse. The momentum of both a 2 ounce or so projectile, and about not quite a third of an ounce of gunpowder converted to high speed gas, is all available to impel a 8 pound rifle into the shooter’s shoulder. Hilarity ensues.
The lower rifle is likely 20-25 pounds plus, and the brake is redirecting some of those fast moving gasses backwards, which lowers the recoil impulse a great deal. Nothing in life is free, however, and muzzle brakes can be extremely hard on the person and hearing of anyone to the immediate sides of the shooter. Which is why you usually wouldn’t see them on a safari rifle, like a classic double in one of the big Nitro Express cartridges. The blast can cause damage to even those wearing ear protection, if the observer is in the wrong spot…
Aside, the reason the stock is the way it is on the first rifle is that the rifle is meant to be fired from a standing position, with the body able to move with the recoil impulse. Versus firing from a much more rigid position on a bench or prone. Straight line stocks, like those on the AR line of rifles, often do not allow for the entire buttplate of the stock to be firmly placed upon the shoulder. Fine with 5.56. Not fine with .577 Tyrannosaur.
Standing is less accurate than prone or off a bench. Doesn’t matter, for the type of shooting contemplated by such a rifle: 150 meters, and usually much less, on a quickly moving hostile target. Nowadays, we’d slap a red dot holographic sight on such a rifle. Back then, it was either a V-notch rear and front bead “Express” sight, or if you were really cutting edge, a ghost ring rear.
Stopping power doesn’t mean sufficient momentum to arrest the animal’s movement. Good luck on that without anything using a lanyard to fire. Rather, it means penetrating the animal’s body with a large diameter, thickly built projectile, in order to destroy the heart, central nervous system, or major shoulder and hip bones of the animal. Before it kills you and your client. This may require a half inch or so hole, drilled through upwards of 36 inches (or more!) of dense skin, muscle, and bone. Which a well-built 800 grain or so, solid bullet from the likes of Woodleigh, Trophy Bonded, or A-Square can do.
There was a good description of these guns and how they worked in Michener’s book, Chesapeake.