- Gatling gun
The Gatling gun is considered by some to have been the first
machine gun: although it did not automatically reload under its own power, it was capable of firing continuously. Each barrel fires a single shot as it reaches a certain point in the cycle after which it ejects the spent cartridge, loads a new round, and in the process, somewhat cools down. This configuration allowed higher rates of fire without the problem of an overheating single barrel. The Maxim gun, invented in 1884, was the first self-powered machine gun. The first Gatling gun relied on a hand crank for external power. Some time later, Gatling-type weapons were invented that diverted a fraction of gas from the chamber to turn the barrels. Later still, electric motors supplied external power. The gun was designed by the American inventor Dr. Richard J. Gatling in 1861 and patented in 1862.
The original Gatling gun was a
black powderfield 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 neither in the rotating mechanism (featured by many revolvers of the day) nor the use of multiple barrels to limit overheating (used by the Mitrailleusegun); rather, the innovation was the gravity feed reloading mechanism, which allowed unskilled operators to achieve a relatively high rate of fire.
The Gatling gun was first used in warfare during the
American Civil War. The gun was not accepted by the Union Armyuntil 1866, but a "sales engineer" of the manufacturing company demonstrated it in combat.Emmott, N.W. "The Devil's Watering Pot" "United States Naval Institute Proceedings" September 1972 pp.70] 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 Saskatchewanin 1885 for use against the Métis during Louis Riel's North-West Rebellion.Early multi-barrel guns were approximately the size and weight of artillerypieces, and were often perceived as a replacement for cannon firing grapeshotor cannister shot. Unlike earlier weapons such as the Mitrailleusewhich required manual reloading, the Gatling gun was more reliable, easier to operate, and had a higher firing rate. The large wheels required to move these guns around required a high firing position which increased the vulnerability of their crews. Sustained firing of gunpowdercartridges generated a cloud of smoke making concealment impossible until Smokeless powderbecame available in the late 19th century.Emmott, N.W. "The Devil's Watering Pot" "United States Naval Institute Proceedings" September 1972 pp.72] When fighting troops of industrialized nations, Gatling guns could be targeted by artillery they could not reach and their crews could be targeted by snipers they could not see.
The Gatling gun was used most successfully to expand European colonial empires by killing warriors of non-industrialized societies including the
Matabele, the Zulu, the Bedouins, and the Dervish. Imperial Russiapurchased 400 Gatling guns and used them against Turcoman cavalry and other nomads of central Asia.Emmott, N.W. "The Devil's Watering Pot" "United States Naval Institute Proceedings" September 1972 pp.71] The Royal Navyused Gatling guns against the Egyptians at Alexandriain 1882.
Gatling guns were used by the US side during the
Spanish-American War, most notably during the battle of San Juan Hill. [ [http://www.spanamwar.com/Gatling.htm Gatling ] ]
Modern Gatling-style guns
After Gatling guns were replaced by lighter, cheaper blowback-style weapons, the approach of using multiple rotating barrels fell into disuse for many decades. However, Gatling gun-style weapons made a return in the 1940–50s, when weapons with very high rates of fire were needed in military
aircraft. For these modern weapons, electric motors are used to rotate the barrel, although systems that derive power from their ammunition do exist such as the GSh-6-23, which uses a gas-operateddrive system.
One of the main reasons for the resurgence of the Gatling gun-style design is the weapon's tolerance for continuous high rates of fire. For example, if 500 rounds were fired at a high rate from a conventional single-barrel weapon, this would likely result in the barrel overheating (distorting in extreme cases) or a weapon jam. In contrast, a five-barreled Gatling gun-style weapon firing 500 rounds, only fires 100 rounds per barrel, an acceptable
rate of fire. Ultimately the limiting factor is the rate at which loading and extraction can occur. In a single barrel design these tasks must alternate, a multiple barrel design on the other hand lets them occur simultaneously, with different barrels at different points in the cycle. Their high rate of fire also makes them useful in systems that have little time to engage their targets, such as CIWSwhich defend against fast-moving anti-ship missiles.
M61 Vulcan20 mm cannon is the most prolific member of a family of weapons designed by General Electricand currently manufactured by General Dynamics. It is a six-barreled rotary cannon capable of more than 6,000 rounds per minute. Similar systems are available ranging from 5.56 mm to 30 mm (there was even a 37 mm Gatling on the prototype T249 VigilanteAA platform); the rate-of-fire being somewhat inversely-proportional to the size and mass of the ammunition (which also determines the size and mass of the barrels).
Another Gatling design well-known among aviation enthusiasts is the
GAU-8 Avenger30 mm cannon, carried on the A-10 Thunderbolt II(Warthog) attack aircraft. It is a seven-barreled cannon designed for tank-killing and is currently the largest bore Gatling weapon active in the U.S. arsenal.
Vietnam War, the 7.62 mm caliber M134 Minigunwas created as a helicopter weapon. Able to fire 6,000 rounds per minute from a 4,000-round linked belt, the Minigun proved to be one of the most effective non-explosive projectile weapons ever built and is still used in helicopters today.
They are also used on USAF
AC-47, AC-119and Lockheed AC-130gunships, their original high-capacity cargo airframes able to house the items needed for sustained operation. With sophisticated navigation and target identification tools, Miniguns can be used effectively even against concealed targets. The crew's ability to concentrate the Gatling's fire very tightly produces the appearance of the 'Red Tornado' [ [http://www.ac-119gunships.com/scrapbooks/stgrphotopages/stgrphl001.htm AC-119K Stinger Gunship Photo 1 ] ] from the light of the tracers, as the gun platform circles a target at night.
Osan Air Base, Korea.]
minigunfeatures in several action movies including " Terminator 2" and "Predator", but in reality they are unusable as unmounted personal weapons, the high rate of fire (with accompanying recoil), mechanical and power-supply complexity and heavy weight making them impractical compared to a light machine gun. [Mischa & Kitsune [http://www.kitsune.addr.com/Firearms/Machine-Guns/GE_XM214_Minigun.htm] General Electric XM214 Minigun]
Citations and notes
* Mischa & Kitsune, The Netbook of modern firearms, http://www.kitsune.addr.com/Firearms/Firearms.htm
* [http://www.canit.se/~griffon/aviation/text/akandata.htm List of Military Gatling & Revolver cannons]
* -- "Gatling gun"
* -- "improved Gatling gun"
* -- "revolving battery gun"
* -- "improvement in revolving battery guns"
* [http://www.geocities.com/maj314159/Colt1900.html "Colt 30 Cal Gatling Gun Model 1900 Army" drawings]
* [http://science.howstuffworks.com/machine-gun4.htm Description of operating principle (with animation) from HowStuffWorks]
* [http://www.techeblog.com/index.php/tech-gadget/feature-cg-animation-shows-gatling-gun-cycle-of-operation CGI animated GAU-17/A]
* [http://www.scientificamericanpast.com/Scientific%20American%201870%20to%201879/2/lg/sci321872.htm THE GATLING BATTERY GUN ON A CAMEL 1872]
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