Gatling gun

The Gatling gun is one of the best-known early rapid-fire weapons and a forerunner of the modern machine gun. Invented by Richard Gatling, it is known for its use by the Union forces during the American Civil War in the 1860s, which was the first time it was employed in combat. Later it was used in the Boshin War, the Anglo-Zulu War and still later in the assault on San Juan Hill during the Spanish–American War.

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 somewhat. This configuration allowed higher rates of fire to be achieved without the barrel overheating.

Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1862
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
France View
Japan View
Korea View
Russia (USSR) View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) View
United States of America 1862 1911 View

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 militaries, capable of firing many projectiles in a short space of time, were mass-firing volley weapons like the French Reffye mitrailleuse in 1870–1871, and field cannons firing canister shot, much like a very large 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.

Type Rapid-fire gun
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1862–1911
Used by United States
Russian Empire
British Empire
Empire of Japan
France
Korean Empire
Wars American Civil War
Anglo-Zulu War
Boshin War
Donghak Peasant Riots of 1894
Northwest Rebellion
War of the Pacific
Spanish–American War
Philippine–American War
Boxer Rebellion
Russo-Japanese War
1895 Counter-revolution in Hawaii
Production history
Designer Richard Jordan Gatling
Specifications
Weight 27.2 kg (60 lb)
Length 107.9 cm (42.5 in)
Barrel length 67.3 cm (26.5 in)
Crew Four-man crew
Rate of fire 350 rounds per minute[citation 

End notes