What is a gatling gun

Gatling (weapon class)


Gatling guns are automatic firearms whose reloading mechanism is operated by rotating the barrel set around an axis of rotation. The Gatling principle was developed in 1861 by the American inventor Richard Gatling and used in the Gatling Gun. Later, both machine guns and machine guns were developed based on this principle.

The Gatling design combines a simple charging process with high cadence and high reliability.

A Gatling weapon is basically constructed differently from a revolver cannon, despite its similar functionality.

All Gatling guns today are further developments of the Gatling Gun, which was invented in 1861 during the American Civil War. The United States government at first had no interest in it; Nevertheless, the Union General Benjamin Butler bought 12 pieces and used them on the front near Petersburg.

 mmrpmm / skg
Gatling guns
XM214 MicrogunUnited StatesExternal driveMG5,566.00099012,25
MinigunUnited StatesExternal driveMG7,624.00085416
M61 VulcanUnited StatesExternal driveMK206.0001.050112
Gryazev-Schipunow GSch-6-23RussiaGas pressure chargerMK2310.00074576
GAU-12 equalizerUnited StatesExternal driveMK254.2001.040122
GAU-8 AvengerUnited StatesExternal driveMK303.9001.067281
Gryazev-Schipunov GSch-6-30RussiaGas pressure chargerMK306.000845149
The original Gatling had six barrels that prevented the rifle barrels from overheating. These rotated around a central axis. The cartridges were fed into the cannon by gravity from above. Gatling wasn't the first to consider combining multiple runs. Appropriate ideas existed as early as the 18th century and the French Mitrailleuse von Nordenfelt also had several barrels.

It took four men to operate the Gatling machine gun. The lightest models weighed over 45 kilograms. The 1876 model was theoretically capable of firing 1,200 rounds per minute; under operating conditions it was still around 400 rounds per minute. Before the introduction of the low-smoke powder, there was also the problem that a large cloud of powder vapor formed when firing, which obstructed the shooter's view.

A similar weapon is the 37mm Hotchkiss cannon, albeit with a larger caliber.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the armies converted to recoil-loading machine guns and so the Gatling principle was initially forgotten.

Gaitling GAU-8 complete

Automatic firearms, which are based on the Gatling principle, are used on a large scale in the military today because of their firepower, for example for infantry support or air defense. With 10,000 rounds per minute, the Russian automatic cannon Grjasew-Schipunow GSch-6-23 reaches the highest rate of fire of the Gatling constructions currently in use. Both Gatling machine guns and Gatling cannons are manufactured.

Compared to Gatling guns, conventional, single-barrel, automatic firearms require pauses in fire to cool down because of the heating of the individual barrel after the bursts of fire, or the barrel needs to be replaced at regular intervals or complex cooling systems for the barrels. The disadvantage of the higher weight of the Gatling guns is not so important, since they are mounted on mounts or in vehicles or aircraft with a corresponding load capacity for the usual applications.

The trend is towards caseless ammunition (caseless), in which the propellant is cast with the projectile and electrical ignition can take place. As a result, the ignition point can be adhered to even more precisely at such an enormous rate (100 rounds per second) and the hit position can be improved enormously. However, the continuous fire time is reduced for thermal reasons, since the metal casings of conventional ammunition can absorb a large part of the waste heat and are no longer ejected

The first Richard Gatling models were still driven with a hand crank. The cadence of the weapon was therefore strongly dependent on the strength of the operator. Modern Gatling guns are mostly externally powered; d. H. the energy for the rotation of the barrels is realized by an electric, hydraulic or pneumatic drive. Gatling guns are not always externally powered, however. It is customary for the US 'Gatlings' to equip them with electric or hydraulic drives. Russian developments, on the other hand, are self-propelled via gas pressure; i.e. they are gas pressure chargers. The advantage of self-propulsion is the shorter start-up time to set the pipes in rotation, based on self-propulsion. This means that this weapon fires more projectiles than an externally powered Gatling in the first second of the burst. Furthermore, these weapons are not dependent on an external energy source. The functional reliability is a disadvantage. Externally powered Gatlings simply eject cartridges that have not been ignited, while gas pressure chargers stop because the missing gas pressure does not charge the next cartridge. Remedy here Pyrotechnic cartridges. These small charges charge the weapon (cocking or releasing the weapon) and thus eject the misfired cartridge. When the cannon fires again, this is done again by the gas pressure of the ignited cartridges.

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Date of the last change: Jena, 30.06. 2019