While the machine gun has become a fixture of 20th and 21st Century warfare, its roots lie as far back as the mid-1800’s. The Gatling gun is one of the earliest examples of a rapid-fire hand-cranked weapon, and it is often cited as a predecessor to iconic First World War firearms such as the Vickers machine gun and the Lewis gun.
It first appeared in the 1860’s, when Richard J. Gatling – from whom the name is derived – designed the early prototypes. Ironically, he claimed that his intention was to reduce the number of deaths on the battlefield, as he hoped his invention would mean that armies could consist of much smaller numbers. Little did he realize, his creation would later be recognized as the root of some of the most deadly firearms in history.
These iconic weapons first saw action in the American Civil war, when the Union forces purchased a number of them and turned them on the Confederate forces. However, as well as being used during that conflict, they have also been brought to bear upon civilians on several occasions, including the New York draft riots in 1863.
Numerous other nations, such as Britain and Russia, subsequently bought Gatling Guns for their own armies and, as a result, these weapons have been deployed throughout the globe. From Afghanistan to the Philippines, Richard J. Gatling’s gun certainly did little to reduce the casualties of war.
In this video, a high-quality reproduction of a Gatling Gun is put to use. Viewers can watch it being assembled and fired, in real-time and then in slow motion. Forgotten Weapons, the YouTube channel behind the demonstration, post a wide range of informative and entertaining content, covering many different firearms from numerous historical periods.
Like the rest of their work, this video provides an insight into the historical context of the weapon and a technical rundown of the equipment.