The Gatling gun is one of the best-known early rapid-fire spring loaded, hand cranked weapons, and a forerunner of the modern machine gun and rotary cannon. Invented by Richard Gatling, it saw occasional use by the Union forces during the American Civil War in the 1860s, which was the first time it was employed in combat. It was later used in numerous military conflicts, including the Boshin War, the Anglo-Zulu War, and the assault on San Juan Hill during the Spanish–American War. It was also used by the Pennsylvania militia in episodes of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, specifically in Pittsburgh.
The Gatling gun's operation centered on a cyclic multi-barrel design which facilitated cooling and synchronized the firing-reloading sequence. Each barrel fired a single shot when it reached a certain point in the cycle, after which it ejected the spent cartridge, loaded a new round, and, in the process, allowed the barrel to cool. This configuration allowed higher rates of fire to be achieved without the barrels overheating.
The Gatling gun was an early form of rotary cannon, and today modern rotary cannons are often referred to as Gatling guns.
1876 Gatling gun kept at Fort Laramie National Historic Site
|Type||Rapid-fire gun, hand cranked Machine gun|
|Place of origin||United States|
|Used by||United States |
Empire of Japan
|Wars||American Civil War|
|Designer||Richard Jordan Gatling|
|Mass||77.2 kg (170 lb)|
|Length||107.9 cm (42.5 in)|
|Barrel length||67.3 cm (26.5 in)|
|Rate of fire||200 rounds per minute in .58 caliber, 400-900 rounds per minute in .30 caliber |
The Gatling gun was designed by the American inventor Dr. Richard J. Gatling in 1861 and patented on November 4, 1862. Gatling wrote that he created it to reduce the size of armies and so reduce the number of deaths by combat and disease, and to show how futile war is.
Although the first Gatling gun was capable of firing continuously, it required a person to crank it; therefore it was not a true automatic weapon. The Maxim gun, invented and patented in 1883, was the first true fully automatic weapon, making use of the fired projectile's recoil force to reload the weapon. Nonetheless, the Gatling gun represented a huge leap in firearm technology.
Prior to the Gatling gun, the only weapons available to military forces capable of firing many projectiles in a short space of time were mass-firing volley weapons, like the Belgian and French mitrailleuse of the 1860s and 1870s, and field cannons firing canister shot, much like an upsized shotgun. The latter were widely used during and after the Napoleonic Wars. Although the maximum rate of fire was increased by firing multiple projectiles simultaneously, these weapons still needed to be reloaded after each discharge, which for multi-barrel systems like the mitrailleuse was cumbersome and time-consuming. This negated much of the advantage of their high rate of fire per discharge, making them much less powerful on the battlefield. In comparison, the Gatling gun offered a rapid and continuous rate of fire without having to be manually reloaded by opening the breech.
The original Gatling gun was a field weapon which used multiple rotating barrels turned by a hand crank, and firing loose (no links or belt) metal cartridge ammunition using a gravity feed system from a hopper. The Gatling gun's innovation lay in the use of multiple barrels to limit overheating, a rotating mechanism, and a gravity-feed reloading system, which allowed unskilled operators to achieve a relatively high rate of fire of 200 rounds per minute.
The US Army adopted Gatling guns in several calibers, including .42 caliber, .45-70, .50 caliber, 1 inch, and (M1893 and later) .30 Army, with conversions of M1900 weapons to .30-03 and .30-06. The .45-70 weapon was also mounted on some US Navy ships of the 1880s and 1890s.
The Gatling gun was first used in warfare during the American Civil War. Twelve of the guns were purchased personally by Union commanders and used in the trenches during the siege of Petersburg, Virginia (June 1864 – April 1865). Eight other Gatling guns were fitted on gunboats. The gun was not accepted by the American Army until 1866, when a sales representative of the manufacturing company demonstrated it in combat.
On July 17, 1863, Gatling guns were purportedly used to overawe New York anti-draft rioters. Two were brought by a Pennsylvania National Guard unit from Philadelphia to use against strikers in Pittsburgh.
Captain Luis Germán Astete of the Peruvian Navy took with him dozens of Gatling guns from the United States to Peru in December 1879 during the Peru-Chile War of the Pacific. Gatling guns were used by the Peruvian Navy and Army, especially in the Battle of Tacna (May 1880) and the Battle of San Juan (January 1881) against the invading Chilean Army.
Lieutenant A.L. Howard of the Connecticut National Guard had an interest in the company manufacturing Gatling guns, and took a personally owned Gatling gun to Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1885 for use with the Canadian military against Métis rebels during Louis Riel's North-West Rebellion.
Early multi-barrel guns were approximately the size and weight of artillery pieces, and were often perceived as a replacement for cannons firing grapeshot or canister shot. Gatling guns were even mounted aboard ships. Compared with earlier weapons such as the mitrailleuse, which required manual reloading, the Gatling gun was more reliable and easier to operate, and had a lower, but continuous rate of fire. The large wheels required to move these guns around required a high firing position, which increased the vulnerability of their crews.
Sustained firing of gunpowder cartridges generated a cloud of smoke, making concealment impossible until smokeless powder became available in the late 19th century. When operators were firing Gatling guns against troops of industrialized nations, they were at risk, being vulnerable to artillery they could not reach and snipers they could not see.
The Gatling gun was used most successfully to expand European colonial empires by defeating indigenous warriors mounting massed attacks, including the Matabele, the Zulu, the Bedouin, and the Mahdists. Imperial Russia purchased 400 Gatling guns and used them against Turkmen cavalry and other nomads of central Asia. The British Army first deployed the Gatling gun in 1873-4 during the Anglo-Ashanti wars, and extensively during the latter actions of the 1879 Anglo-Zulu war. The Royal Navy used Gatling guns during the 1882 Anglo-Egyptian War.
Because of infighting within army ordnance, Gatling guns were used by the U.S. Army during the Spanish–American War. A four-gun battery of Model 1895 ten-barrel Gatling guns in .30 Army, made by Colt's Arms Company, was formed into a separate detachment led by Lt. John "Gatling Gun" Parker. The detachment proved very effective, supporting the advance of American forces at the Battle of San Juan Hill. Three of the Gatlings with swivel mountings were used with great success against the Spanish defenders. During the American charge up San Juan and Kettle hills, the three guns fired a total of 18,000 .30 Army rounds in 8 1/2 minutes (an average of over 700 rounds per minute per gun of continuous fire) against Spanish troop positions along the crest of both hills, wreaking terrible carnage.
Despite this remarkable achievement, the Gatling's weight and cumbersome artillery carriage hindered its ability to keep up with infantry forces over difficult ground, particularly in Cuba, where roads were often little more than jungle footpaths. By this time, the U.S. Marines had been issued the modern tripod-mounted M1895 Colt–Browning machine gun using the 6mm Lee Navy round, which they employed to defeat the Spanish infantry at the battle of Cuzco Wells.
The Gatling gun operated by a hand-crank mechanism, with six barrels revolving around a central shaft (although some models had as many as ten). Each barrel fires once per revolution at about the same position. The barrels, a carrier, and a lock cylinder were separate and all mounted on a solid plate revolving around a central shaft, mounted on an oblong fixed frame. Turning the crank rotated the shaft. The carrier was grooved and the lock cylinder was drilled with holes corresponding to the barrels.
The casing was partitioned, and through this opening the barrel shaft was journaled. In front of the casing was a cam with spiral surfaces. The cam imparted a reciprocating motion to the locks when the gun rotated. Also in the casing was a cocking ring with projections to cock and fire the gun. Each barrel had a single lock, working in the lock cylinder on a line with the barrel. The lock cylinder was encased and joined to the frame. Early models had a fibrous matting stuffed in among the barrels, which could be soaked with water to cool the barrels down. Later models eliminated the matting-filled barrels as being unnecessary.
Cartridges, held in a hopper, dropped individually into the grooves of the carrier. The lock was simultaneously forced by the cam to move forward and load the cartridge, and when the cam was at its highest point, the cocking ring freed the lock and fired the cartridge. After the cartridge was fired the continuing action of the cam drew back the lock bringing with it the spent cartridge which then dropped to the ground.
The grouped barrel concept had been explored by inventors since the 18th century, but poor engineering and the lack of a unitary cartridge made previous designs unsuccessful. The initial Gatling gun design used self-contained, reloadable steel cylinders with a chamber holding a ball and black-powder charge, and a percussion cap on one end. As the barrels rotated, these steel cylinders dropped into place, were fired, and were then ejected from the gun. The innovative features of the Gatling gun were its independent firing mechanism for each barrel and the simultaneous action of the locks, barrels, carrier and breech.
The ammunition that Gatling eventually implemented was a paper cartridge charged with black powder and primed with a percussion cap, because self-contained brass cartridges were not yet fully developed and available. The shells were gravity-fed into the breech through a hopper or simple box "magazine" with an unsprung gravity follower on top of the gun. Each barrel had its own firing mechanism.
Despite self-contained brass cartridges replacing the paper cartridge in the 1860s, it wasn't until the Model 1881 that Gatling switched to the 'Bruce'-style feed system (U.S. Patents 247,158 and 343,532) that accepted two rows of .45-70 cartridges. While one row was being fed into the gun, the other could be reloaded, thus allowing sustained fire. The final gun required four operators. By 1886, the gun was capable of firing more than 400 rounds per minute.
The smallest-caliber gun also had a Broadwell drum feed in place of the curved box of the other guns. The drum, named after L. W. Broadwell, an agent for Gatling's company, comprised twenty stacks of rounds arranged around a central axis, like the spokes of a wheel, each holding twenty cartridges with the bullet noses oriented toward the central axis. This invention was patented in U. S. 110,338. As each stack emptied, the drum was manually rotated to bring a new stack into use until all 400 rounds had been fired. A more common variant had 240 rounds in twenty stands of fifteen.
By 1893, the Gatling was adapted to take the new .30 Army smokeless cartridge. The new M1893 guns featured six barrels, later increased to ten barrels, and were capable of a maximum (initial) rate of fire of 800–900 rounds per minute, though 600 rpm was recommended for continuous fire. Dr. Gatling later used examples of the M1893 powered by electric motor and belt to drive the crank. Tests demonstrated the electric Gatling could fire bursts of up to 1,500 rpm.
The M1893, with minor revisions, became the M1895, and 94 guns were produced for the U.S. Army by Colt. Four M1895 Gatlings under Lt. John H. Parker saw considerable combat during the Santiago campaign in Cuba in 1898. The M1895 was designed to accept only the Bruce feeder. All previous models were unpainted, but the M1895 was painted olive drab (O.D.) green, with some parts left blued.
The Model 1900 was very similar to the model 1895, but with only a few components finished in O.D. green. The U.S. Army purchased a quantity of M1900s. All Gatling Models 1895–1903 could be mounted on an armored field carriage. In 1903, the Army converted its M1900 guns in .30 Army to fit the new .30-03 cartridge (standardized for the M1903 Springfield rifle) as the M1903. The later M1903-'06 was an M1903 converted to .30-06. This conversion was principally carried out at the Army's Springfield Armory arsenal repair shops. All models of Gatling guns were declared obsolete by the U.S. military in 1911, after 45 years of service.
After the Gatling gun was replaced in service by newer recoil or gas-operated weapons, the approach of using multiple externally powered rotating barrels fell into disuse for many decades. However, some examples were developed during the interwar years, but only existed as prototypes or were rarely used. The concept resurfaced after World War II with the development of the Minigun and the M61 Vulcan. Many other versions of the Gatling gun were built from the late 20th century to the present, the largest of these being the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger autocannon.
The Battle of El Caney was fought on 1 July 1898, during the Spanish–American War in southeastern Cuba. Lawton succeeded in capturing the town, fort and blockhouses and protected the right flank of the main American attack on the Heights of San Juan to the south.GAU-19
The GAU-19/A (GECAL 50), is an electrically-driven Gatling gun that fires the .50 BMG (12.7×99mm) cartridge.GAU-8 Avenger
The General Electric GAU-8/A Avenger is a 30 mm hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-style autocannon that is typically mounted in the United States Air Force's Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. Designed specifically for the anti-tank role, the Avenger delivers very powerful rounds at a high rate of fire. The GAU-8/A is also used in the Goalkeeper CIWS ship weapon system, which provides defense against short-range threats such as highly maneuverable missiles, aircraft, and fast maneuvering surface vessels.Gatling Gun (film)
Gatling Gun (Italian: Quel caldo maledetto giorno di fuoco, Spanish: La ametralladora, also known as Damned Hot Day of Fire and Machine Gun Killers) is a 1968 Italian-Spanish Spaghetti Western film directed by Paolo Bianchini and starring Robert Woods.Goalkeeper CIWS
Goalkeeper is a Dutch close-in weapon system (CIWS) introduced in 1979. It is an autonomous and completely automatic weapon system for short-range defence of ships against highly maneuverable missiles, aircraft and fast maneuvering surface vessels. Once activated the system automatically undertakes the entire air defense process from surveillance and detection to destruction, including selection of the next priority target.John Henry Parker (general)
Brigadier General John Henry Parker aka "Gatling Gun Parker" (September 19, 1866 – October 14, 1942) was a brigadier general in the United States Army. He is best known for his role as the commander of the Gatling Gun Detachment of the U.S. Army's Fifth Army Corps in Cuba during the Santiago campaign in the Spanish–American War.M197 electric cannon
The M197 electric cannon is a 20 mm three-barreled electric Gatling-type rotary cannon used by the United States military.M61 Vulcan
The M61 Vulcan is a hydraulically, electrically or pneumatically driven, six-barrel, air-cooled, electrically fired Gatling-style rotary cannon which fires 20 mm rounds at an extremely high rate (typically 6,000 rounds per minute). The M61 and its derivatives have been the principal cannon armament of United States military fixed-wing aircraft for fifty years.The M61 was originally produced by General Electric. After several mergers and acquisitions, it is currently produced by General Dynamics.Minigun
The M134 Minigun is a 7.62×51mm NATO six-barrel rotary machine gun with a high, sustained rate of fire (2,000 to 6,000 rounds per minute). It features a Gatling-style rotating barrel assembly with an external power source, normally an electric motor. The "Mini" in the name is in comparison to larger-caliber designs that use a rotary barrel design, such as General Electric's earlier 20 mm M61 Vulcan, and "gun" for the use of rifle caliber bullets as opposed to autocannon shells.
"Minigun" refers to a specific model of weapon that General Electric originally produced, but the term "minigun" has popularly come to refer to any externally powered rotary gun of rifle caliber. The term is sometimes used loosely to refer to guns of similar rates of fire and configuration, regardless of power source and caliber.
The Minigun is used by several branches of the U.S. military. Versions are designated M134 and XM196 by the United States Army, and GAU-2/A and GAU-17/A by the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy.Mitrailleuse
A mitrailleuse (French pronunciation: [mitʁajøz]; from French mitraille, "grapeshot") is a type of volley gun with multiple barrels of rifle calibre that can fire either multiple rounds at once or several rounds in rapid succession. The earliest true mitrailleuse was invented in 1851 by Belgian Army captain Fafschamps, 10 years before the advent of the Gatling gun. It was followed by the Belgian Montigny mitrailleuse in 1863. Then the French 25 barrel "Canon à Balles", better known as the Reffye mitrailleuse, was adopted in great secrecy in 1866. It became the first rapid-firing weapon deployed as standard equipment by any army in a major conflict when it was used during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71. A steel block containing twenty-five 13 mm (.51 calibre) centre-fire cartridges was locked against the breech before firing. With the rotation of a crank, the 25 rounds were discharged in rapid succession. The sustainable firing rate of the Reffye mitrailleuse was 100 rounds per minute. The maximum effective range of the Reffye mitrailleuse was about 2000 yards; a distance which placed their batteries beyond the reach of Prussian Dreyse needle rifle fire. Reffye mitrailleuses were deployed in six gun batteries and were manned by artillery personnel. They were not infantry support weapons, but rather a form of special artillery.
Although innovative and capable of good ballistic performance, the Reffye mitrailleuse failed as a tactical weapon because its basic concept and operational usage were flawed. Furthermore, only 210 Reffye mitrailleuses were in existence at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Their field use was discontinued by the French Army after 1871. After the Gatling gun was replaced in service by newer recoil- or gas-operated weapons, the approach of using multiple barrels fell into disuse for many decades. However, some examples were developed during the interwar years, but only existed as prototypes, or were rarely used. The word mitrailleuse nonetheless became the generic term for a machine gun in the French language because of its early appearance in the field of weapons, although the mitrailleuse itself was manually operated.Multiple-barrel firearm
A multiple barrel firearm is a firearm of any type with more than one barrel, usually to increase the rate of fire/hitting probability and to reduce barrel erosion/overheating.Richard Jordan Gatling
Richard Jordan Gatling (September 12, 1818 – February 26, 1903) was an American inventor best known for his invention of the Gatling gun, which is considered to be the first successful machine gun (though it is not a true machine gun by modern definitions).Rotary cannon
A rotary cannon, rotary autocannon, or Gatling-type cannon is a rapid-firing weapon that utilizes multiple barrels in a rotating cluster to provide a sustained rate of fire and saturation greater than single-barreled machine guns or autocannons of equivalent caliber. The loading, firing, and unloading functions are performed simultaneously in different barrels as they rotate, and the rotation also permits the barrels some time to cool. The rotating barrel cluster on most Gatling-type guns is powered by an external force such as an electric motor, although gas-operated versions have also been developed.
The cyclic multi-barrel design synchronizes the firing/reloading sequence. Each barrel fires a single shot when it reaches a certain point in the cycle, after which the spent cartridge is ejected and then a new round loaded. During the cycle, the barrel transfers some heat to the surrounding air.
Due to the size and weight of rotary cannon, they are typically mounted on aircraft or ships.
Rotary cannons are often used in close-in weapon systems.T249 Vigilante
The T249 Vigilante was a prototype 37 mm self-propelled anti-aircraft gun (SPAAG) designed as a replacement for the Bofors 40 mm gun and M42 Duster in US Army service. The system consisted of a 37 mm T250 six-barrel Gatling gun mounted on a lengthened M113 armored personnel carrier platform.
In the early 1960s, the Army decided that gun-based systems were outdated, and canceled further development in favor of the MIM-46 Mauler missile system that also failed to enter service. The designer, the Sperry Utah Engineering Laboratory, later revived the Vigilante, rechambering it for NATO-standard 35x228mm rounds and mounting it on a M48 tank chassis for the DIVADs contest. However, it ultimately lost to Ford's M247 Sergeant York that also failed to enter service.The Gatling Gun
The Gatling Gun originally titled King Gun is a Western shot in 1969 in New Mexico that features then New Mexico Governor David Cargo in a small role. The final film of director Robert Gordon, was not released until 1971.Thomas Sharpe (politician)
Thomas Sharpe (14 March 1866 – 10 May 1929) was a Canadian politician, the 20th Mayor of Winnipeg from 1904 to 1906.Sharpe was born in County Sligo, Ireland and worked as a bank clerk in his teens. He moved to Canada in 1885 initially working in Toronto as a pavement contractor, then in 1892 moved to Winnipeg. He was a Winnipeg city alderman since 1899 before becoming mayor.
When a rise in cases of typhoid fever in Winnipeg was discovered in 1904 by the municipal Department of Health, mayor Sharpe responded with an aggressive program to develop and enforce sewage and water services. His work as mayor also led to the establishment of Winnipeg's first Board of Control in 1906.In March 1906, he responded to a strike by employees of the Winnipeg Electric Railway Company with strikebreakers and then with armed militia, earning the mayor the nickname "Gatling Gun Sharpe". This incident was considered a precursor to the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.After 1906, Sharpe did not seek another term as mayor and returned to business interests.Type 730 CIWS
The Type 730 is a Chinese seven-barrelled 30 mm Gatling gun CIWS. It has a PLA-N designation H/PJ12. It is mounted in an enclosed automatic turret and directed by radar, and electro-optical tracking systems. The maximum rate of fire is 5800 rd/m, and the effective range is up to 3 km.USS Gatling
USS Gatling (DD-671) was a Fletcher-class destroyer of the United States Navy, named after Richard Jordan Gatling, the inventor of the Gatling gun.
Gatling was laid down 3 March 1943 by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Kearny, New Jersey; launched 20 June 1943; sponsored by Mrs. John W. Gatling, wife of the inventor's grandson; and commissioned 19 August 1943 at New York Navy Yard, Lieutenant Commander Alvin H. Richardson in command.XM301
The XM301 Cannon is an externally powered, three-barrel 20 mm Gatling gun made by General Dynamics for the U.S. Army. Developed for use with the RAH-66 Comanche stealth helicopter, it is the world's lightest 20 mm Gatling cannon. The XM301 was designed to be a versatile and accurate lightweight cannon that could serve both an air-to-air and air-to-ground role. Development and manufacture of the XM301 was cancelled in 2004 along with its parent RAH-66 program.
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