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Gatling Gun History

More than 140 years ago Dr. Richard Gatling, from Indiana came up with an idea so horrifying that he felt it would hasten the end of the new and already bloody Civil War. How could any army charge into the face of a battery of weapons, each capable of the fire power of 100 men and expect to survive?  Unfortunately, many armies are not run by reason, but by politics.  Dr. Gatling wrote a letter explaining his idea.
With the advent of Richard Gatling's improved battery gun, patented November 4, 1862, warfare was forever changed. The era of the machine gun was born. Although only a handful of the original 1862 model Gatling Guns were ever built, it was enough for military visionaries of the 19th century. 

The first gatling guns were crude, very crude to be honest. Gun barrels had tapers up to 1/16th of an inch from the breech to the muzzle. Lead would shave, bullets tumble, and black powder spewed forth in all directions. But the battery guns would fire. The awesomeness of the gatling gun’s firepower, from 250 to 600 rounds per minute was truly incomprehensible. In 1863 General Benjamin Butler purchased a dozen gatling guns and 12,000 rounds of ammunition out of his own pocket for the then staggering sum of $12,000.00.  Although their usage was limited, the new  gatling guns were accorded great praise during the battle of Petersburg. Other battery gun deployments were reported but not documented. Admiral D.D. Porter also purchased a unit of the new firearms for the Mississippi River Squadron.  

By the Civil War's end, the War Department took keen interest in this technological marvel and rather than fading into obscurity as the Ager "Coffee Mill Gun" or the Ripley "Revolving Battery Gun" did, Gatling and his famous battery gun patent became an indelible part of US combat history.


A battery gun unit

We chose to copy the very first gatling gun model as this gun is considered a muzzle loaded, antique black powder weapon rather than a modern gun. Instead of a conventional rim or center fire cartridge, a special "chamber" was created that housed the standard military issue 58 caliber paper cartridge. The cartridge was inserted into the front end of this cylinder and a regular percussion cap was placed on a nipple at the rear. In essence, each "chamber" is a miniature muzzle loaded weapon all by itself. All battery gun models from 1865 onward fed conventional style cartridges. As a matter of fact, Gatling Guns were chambered in 29 different calibers for 25 countries during their 56 year history.

The one inch 1865 battery gun model was tested at length in July of 1866 by Captain T.G. Baylor who found, "The moral effect of the Gatling Gun would be very great in repelling an assault, as there is not a second of time for the assailants to advance between the gun’s discharges." For the next 40 years, the Gatling Gun became integral with armies around the world.

Russia became the first foreign purchaser of Gatling Guns in1862 with the purchase of 100 Guns at a cost of $1500 each.  Literally hundreds of Gatling's were later manufactured in Russia under license. Russia actually built and had more Gatling Guns in the service than any other country in the world.  There are reports that these battery guns were still in  service on the China border during World War II.

Scores of military conflicts around the world would have Gatling Guns  present during the next 40 years.  The Afgans using camel mounted gatling guns defeated a persian cavalry 3 to 4 times their size.The British at Alexandria owed their lives to one Gatling Gun battery wheeled down the streets by hand. Gatling Guns were also present in India and the Sudan. The Turks lost 800 men in battle in 10 minutes to Russian Gatling Guns at Shipka pass. The battles in Zuzuland in the late 1870's also saw these battery guns in action. The list goes on and on. Whole armies and indeed nations owed their lives Dr. Richard Gatling's most famous invention. The natives of the world also employed Gatling Guns both as ship mounted weapons and on very light hand maneuverable carriages. The U.S. used Gatling guns throughout the West during the Indian war era. By 1895 there were 494 Gatling Guns in use throughout the U.S. Military.


1865 Patent Drawing by
Richard Jordan Gatling 



Civil War Model 1862 Gatling Gun
( 1987 Photo by R. Hynes)


Without a doubt, the Gatling Gun’s finest moments in U.S. combat had to have been during the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, and the Boxer Rebellion in China at the turn of the century. At Santiago, the battle of Bloody Ford, three Gatlings were credited with laying down 18,000 rounds of ammunition in less than 8 minutes, saving countless American lives.

On February 26th, 1903 Richard Gatling died at the age of 84. His Gatling Gun company was to follow shortly thereafter. With the introduction of the Maxim machine gun, the death bell had also tolled for the Gatling Gun. In 1911, Colt produced the last gun. In 1915, the last US military manual was printed for them and they became obsolete by year's end. Most U.S. Gatling guns were eventually melted down for the brass scrap. The name Gatling nearly faded from history. However, in 1947, the U.S. Air Force commissioned General Electric to develop a rapid fire cannon for aircraft. Out of the mothballs came the Gatling Gun. Hooking up a pulley and electric motor, the venerable gun fired at an impressive rate of 5600 rounds per minute. By the time it was all over, General Electric produced the Vulcan Cannon system. The Vulcan Cannon was capable of 6,000 rounds per minute, a very big Gatling Gun! It is still the lead armament on a jet fighter to this day.

Help us preserve the history of this fine weapon. We ask you to join us in this. We offer the original 1862 Gatling Gun in FULL SCALE, both live and re-enactor models. There is no equal for history buffs or gun lovers. Millions of people around the world own guns of all kinds. Only a handful of people will ever own a Gatling Gun. Here is your opportunity to join an elite group of people.  Call us TODAY for more information at 810-678-8060 or 810-678-2449 or email us at info@batteryguncompany.com .


Battery Gun Company

27560 Groesbeck   Roseville, MI  48066