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Gatling Gun: A History

Updated on December 22, 2011

The Gatling Gun


The History of the Gatling Gun

The Gatling Gun was designed by Dr. Richard J. Gatling based on the mitrailleuse design of the Belgians. The mitrailleuse was a cannonade concept, and describes any weapon which fires in rapid succession, including modern machine guns.

However, the mitrailleuse that is referenced by Dr. Gatling looks like a weapon with many barrels, where all barrels fired at once, thereby, creating a linear grapeshot affect. The Gatling gun was designed to fire only one round at a time, with a rotating barrel.

The Gatling was used during the American Civil War, and the Spanish-American War, but had limited use otherwise. It would quickly be replaced by more modern machine guns at the turn of the century.


The specifications of the original Gatlings were custom to order, however one thing is linear about all of them. Though the Gatlings were rapid-fire cannons, they were not fully automatic, as they required continual action on the part of the operator to continue use. 


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