The Gatling gun, created by Richard John Gatling, patented in 1861, is the first well-known and mass produced rapid-fire weapon, with the ability of firing about 200 rounds per minute. Six years later, in 1867, Gatling improved his gun to use a metallic cartridge, a cartridge is basically gunpowder surrounded by a metal (typically brass) with a bullet on one side and a percussion cap opposite it. Below is a diagram.
Though not officially accepted by either side during the American Civil War, the weapon first saw battle under General Benjamin Butler during the siege of Petersburg, Virginia in 1864. It was also used by the Peruvian Navy, during the Pacific War, and the Canadian Army during Louis Rielís North-West Rebellion. European powers also used them to great effect in their foreign possessions.
Ironically, Gatling wanted his invention to result in fewer soldiers to be deployed, resulting in fewer casualties. While noble in cause, his weapon did not result in any significant drop in casualties, sort of like the Cotton Gin resulted in more slave labor.
Due to the increased destructive nature of the Gatling gun more soldiers were deployed, resulting in more casualties. Another result of this increased destruction is it also allowed smaller armies to hold against a much large opponent.
The Gatling gun is not considered an Automatic weapon because someone has to crank it.
The Gatling gun is operated by a soldier pulling a crank, which rotates the 10 barrels; each round is loaded in the barrel as it rotates. Then each round is fired as a firing pin hits a groove sending backwards which the causes the spring to react to the force and move back into place with some degree of force. The spent cartridges are then ejected at the bottom of the guns rotation.
The Gatling gun was significant because it was the first gravity fed crank weapon. Also, the rotary design of the barrels allowed them to gain heat significantly slower then if it had a single barrel. This boon led its design to be used on the M134 Minigun.
The M134 has 6 barrels and works very much like the Gatling gun, only it uses electricity. The M134 was created during the vietnam war to protect helicopters from enemy troops during landing. It fires 7.62 NATO rounds at 4,000 rpm. This extreme speed is acheived mainly because of the rotary barrel design.
The Barrels would each be loaded, unloaded, and fired seperatly allowing fo less time inbetween shots. This differs from the system on any guns pre-dating the M134. These guns, if automatic, are limited on the speed that they can shoot because one system is ejecting, reloading, firing and the ejecting again, while on the M134 it is done almost similtanously in different barrels.
More photos to come. Please check the significance section, I don;t have time atm to look it over.
[This message has been edited by Scenter102 (edited 10-13-2012 @ 01:00 PM).]