The Gatling gun

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The History of the Gatling Gun

The original practical weapon first used by the American army in 1866 was the Gatling pistol. It had a rotating cluster of barrels filled automatically. The new machine gun is an adaptation of the Gatling gun, invented and named after Richard Gatling. It was used during armed battles, for example, in the Boshin War, following its use during the U.S. civil wars. Under the direction of the thesis sentence, this article would concentrate on the history of the Gatling gun: the invention of the Gatling gun led to reduced deaths.

The Gatling Weapons Tradition

Early in history, efforts to produce a machine gun began, with the signs of success beginning in 1718 when James Puckle made a rapid firing gun. He announced that he was ready to make ordinary round bullets to be used in shooting Christians and square ones for shooting the Muslims as a way of forcing them to embrace civilization. However, his machine failed to sell. After some years there was a development of battery guns which had many barrels on a wheeled mounting, which were followed with the development of cartridges which helped to hold the primer, propellant, and the bullet as a single object. The cartridges made could be loaded at a fast speed which also enhanced firing.

The Invention of the Gatling Gun

It was after some years that Richard Gatling invented the first machine gun. Sold well, it was also adopted by the US militaries. Richard patented his idea on November 4th, 1862, whereby he mentioned that the discovery was a way of reducing the number of deaths through reduction of the size of armies. The machine gun was more reliable than the previous developments, although it had its short comings. Its ability to fire successfully without overheating and its ease to load were the main factors that made the machine gun to sell. Even though the gun would make continuous shots, it required a person to continually crank it; hence, it was not a completely automatic weapon.

The Need for the Gatling Gun

Before the adoption of the Gatling gun, the armies only had access to mass-firing volley weapons, which were preferred due to their ability to fire some projectiles within a short space of time. The armies were also using field cannons which would fire canister shot, a model that resembled the present day upsized shotgun. The field cannons were greatly used during the Napoleonic Wars, although they had significant shortcomings. Their rate of fire was increased by firing many projectiles in a simultaneous order. The weapons had to be reloaded after every discharge, a process that was time-consuming and cumbersome. Considering the need for a quick action on the battlefield, these types of guns were not the best. However, the Gatling gun addressed this problem since it would be fired rapidly and continuously without manual reloading.

Features of the Gatling Gun

Gatling's first model had six barrels which revolved around a central axis with the ammunition on top allowing it to load each barrel automatically. The gun was centered on a cyclic multi-barrel operation, whereby every barrel would fire one shot once it reached a certain point in the cycle. Its cyclic design was meant to enhance cooling and ease the loading process. Once each barrel fired, it ejected the used cartridge which would be loaded again. The gun was advantageous during the American civil wars since it would fire approximately three thousand shots without overheating.

Richard Gatling's Discoveries

Richard Gatling's discoveries were facilitated by the information that he gathered while he helped his father in the invention of machines that were used to sow and grow cotton. In 1844 he started making machines that were in rice and wheat farming. In 1861 America started experiencing civil wars which diverted his mind from farming to making the machine gun. His invention was backed up by a strong desire to shift the desire of human beings from the war. Although this was the time when the Southerners experienced great discrimination and were not allowed to be part of the U.S. Army, he gave out the gun to the Union Army. A series of steps were followed by its approval since there was a suspicion considering a new weaponry making its adoption to take place in 1866 when the war was almost over.

Use of the Gatling Gun in American Civil Wars

The Gatling gun was of great use during the American Civil wars. In fact, its discovery was based on the reduction of deaths during the wars, since the use of the gun would reduce casualties. The use of the considerably automatic gun reduced the time wastage that was previously associated with loading, hence giving the U.S. army more time to concentrate in war, hence reducing the number of casualties.

Sales and Legacy of the Gatling Gun

It was during these wars that the first significant purchases of the Gatling gun were made. The Union commanders bought twelve guns which were used during the Petersburg's siege. Another purchase of eight guns followed whereby the guns were fitted on gunboats. The next major purchase that followed was on July 17th, 1863, whereby they were used to over-awe the New York anti-draft rioters. A national security officer in Philadelphia later bought two guns which were used to stop the strikers in Pittsburgh. The next major purchase was the one hundred guns which were bought by the U.S. Army. This purchase was followed by many other purchases throughout the model's lifespan.

The gun started making substantial sales after the war. Most of the sales were made to the U.S. Army and some to the foreign armies. In 1874 the British army received the Gatling guns, with France and Russia being a reliable market for the same. The last model was the 1903 version when Gatling died and was used until 1911.

Richard Gatling's Impact and Legacy

During the mid-1880s Richard had sold his enterprise to Colt firm, during the period when the lethal Maxim gun had been developed in Britain. This weapon was the first automatic gun; thus, it did not require a person to crank it to function consistently. Gatling made significant changes in the U.S. military power, representing a significant shift in machine technology and the word "gat" remains to be an American slang for a gun.


The Gatling gun invention was a positive shift in the weapon production industry. Its main features are the automatic loading as well as the fact that it could trigger many shots without overheating. Thus, increased demand being adopted in the US army and making repeated sales after that. The gun increased the effectiveness of the army since the time wastage and disruption on concentration that was caused by the manual loading of the previous weapons had been overcome. This leads to reduced casualties on the battlefield making the gun serve for the army in a better way.

October 25, 2022




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Army United States Army

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