Quick Quips: 5 Fun Facts About the Gatling Gun

Contrary to popular belief, so-called “high-capacity” firearms have been in existence since as early as 1718 with the invention of James Puckle’s infamous Puckle Gun. Machine guns, though, are a bit newer with the first machine gun, the Gatling Gun, introduced by Richard Gatling in 1862. The Gatling Gun is a fixed, hand-cranked, and fully automatic firearm, designed to fire some 200 rounds/minute from a removable magazine. 200 rounds/minute in 1862?! Did you know that?

Here are five additional fun facts about the Gatling Gun you may or may not have already known.

ind drawing of a Gatling Gun
The Gatling Gun. Photo courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica.

1. The gun was ready for use on the battlefield by 1863, but it was rarely used in the Civil War.

Though the Gatling Gun design was incredibly successful and could have played a pivotal role early in the war, the US War Department refused to “test” the gun on the battlefield. Only one Union General purchased and deployed the Gatling Gun in battle, but not until 1864 or 1865. In fact, it was not formally adopted by the Army until after the American Civil War ended.

2. The Gatling Gun used a removable magazine.

While the original Gatling Gun featured a brass hopper mounted to the side of the crank system, the later models (1871) used removable 40-round box magazines, which increased the fire rate from roughly 200 rounds/minute to somewhere closer to 400 rounds/minute. Later models were equipped with electric motors that drove the fire rate well beyond 1,000 rounds/minute.

3. The Gatling Gun was used by militaries across the globe and remained in use until 1911.

Armies across the globe, including Russia, Japan, and Great Britain, purchased the Gatling Gun in droves, mounting them to Navy vessels and deploying them on the battlefield. However, the Gatling Gun inspired armorers across the world to develop newer, lighter, and more affordable machine guns and by 1911, it was obsolete and was removed from the U.S. arsenal after less than 50 years in service.

4. Richard Gatling developed the Gatling Gun in hopes of avoiding war, rather than waging war.

A staunch supporter of the Union, Richard Gatling developed the Gatling Gun as a deterrent to war. He had hoped that by seeing the incredible firepower and casualties it could cause, we could discourage large-scale battles and reduce the loss of life in war. It didn’t work, however, as it only inspired newer, faster, and more powerful automatic weapons.

5. Only a few authentic Gatling Guns remain in the world today.

After it was declared obsolete in 1911, many armies began melting down and scrapping the Gatling Gun to develop newer weapons. It is estimated that less than 20 authentic Gatling Guns exist today.

With more than 15 years of firearms education and professional firearms experience, Corey is a passionate 2A supporter and educationalist, avid sport shooter, firearms collector, and creative writer. When he's not glued to his computer or scouring through the latest edition of the AP style book, he spends most of his time coaching his son's sports teams, exploring our wonderful country, and traveling to European WWII battlefields with his family and English pals from across the pond. Our Editor-in-Chief and self-proclaimed "professional nobody," and "world's okay-est shooter," Corey is based out of Kansas City, Missouri, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from Drury University. Feel free to flood his inbox with expletives and other indecencies; if he even notices, he'll likely respond in kind.

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