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#1
Old 04-08-2008, 12:22 PM
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Was The "gatling" gun an Effective Weapon?

From what Ii read, this gun (precourser to the machine gun) was of limited use. it weighed close to 700 lbs., and had to be transported by a horse-drawn wagon. It could not be easily aimed, and was quite innacurate at ranges beyond 100 feet or so. It did have a high rate of fire, and was fairly reliable. Yet, in instances where it was used 9mostly against indian warriors in the far west), it seems to have had mixed results.
Anybody know more?
#2
Old 04-08-2008, 12:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ralph124c
From what Ii read, this gun (precourser to the machine gun) was of limited use. it weighed close to 700 lbs., and had to be transported by a horse-drawn wagon. It could not be easily aimed, and was quite innacurate at ranges beyond 100 feet or so. It did have a high rate of fire, and was fairly reliable. Yet, in instances where it was used 9mostly against indian warriors in the far west), it seems to have had mixed results.
Anybody know more?
I don't have an answer, but wouldn't 700 lbs. be pretty light compared to field artillery of the day?
#3
Old 04-08-2008, 12:35 PM
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The Gatling Gun was an effective weapon, but was rarely used effectively.

FIrst off, forget the weight. It weighed as much as an artillery piece and so we ought to judge its usefulness against an old-timey field cannon. The cannon had a much longer range, but (using solid shot) was not too lethal at long ranges. At close range, it used canister, which was very deadly. At all ranges, it was limited by its slow rate of fire. Infantry could not rush a gun between shots, but horses could sometimes.

The Gatling Gun had a short range, about the same as a rifled musket. But at those ranges it was just as deadly as canister, but with no gap between shots.

Military men are by our nature conservative. We do not like new things. The Gatling Gun was not readily adopted. (See John Ellis' The Social History of the Machine Gun.) The Gatlings were rarely used to stiffen the infantry line and were often posted to guard fixed installations like bridges. An innovative officer could have made a real difference with these guns during the American Civil War.
#4
Old 04-08-2008, 12:39 PM
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Quote:
The Gatling Gun had a short range, about the same as a rifled musket. But at those ranges it was just as deadly as canister, but with no gap between shots.
Nitpick: when the Gatling was invented, rifled muskets and muzzle-loading mobile artillery had approximately the same range. During the American civil war, this made life unhappy for artillery crews.
#5
Old 04-08-2008, 01:20 PM
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Quote:
It could not be easily aimed, and was quite innacurate at ranges beyond 100 feet or so.
Who cares? Your target isn't any particular soldier; your target is a mass of thousands of soldiers. You're bound to hit a few of them if you just point in the right general direction.
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#6
Old 04-08-2008, 01:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
Who cares? Your target isn't any particular soldier; your target is a mass of thousands of soldiers. You're bound to hit a few of them if you just point in the right general direction.
Plus you could walk your fire onto the target.

The prep time for a gatling was one of it's major weaknesses. Every shot it fired had to be hand-loaded into a casing and those casings stacked into sleeve-like magazines for loading into the gun. Hours of loading time would be expended in minutes (if not seconds) of firing.
#7
Old 04-08-2008, 02:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scumpup
Nitpick: when the Gatling was invented, rifled muskets and muzzle-loading mobile artillery had approximately the same range. During the American civil war, this made life unhappy for artillery crews.
Just basically erroneous.

The rifle-musket of the American Civil War had an effective range of perhaps 500 yards, meaning a reasonably skilled marksman could be reasonably sure of hitting a target at that range. Experienced officers discouraged formation firing at more 250 or 300 yards. On the other hand, muzzle loading artillery of the period had significantly longer effective ranges. Rifled cannon were effective just about as far as the gunners could see and smooth bore guns (mostly the 12 pounder bronze gun-howitzer, the Napoleon) were effective to at least 1800 yards when firing shot, shell or spherical case. The problem was keeping skirmishers far enough away from your gun line that the gunners could do their work and, just as importantly, your horses, the battery’s draft animals, were relatively safe. The solution was to send out your own skirmish line to keep enemy skirmishers at a distance.

What the rifled musket did do was put an end to the Napoleonic tactic of running your artillery forward to cannister range, 300 to 200 yards, and blowing huge holes in your opponents infantry formations from close range. Once artillery got within cannister range it was extremely vulnerable to rifled musketry and might not even unlimber let alone lay down effective fire before the gun crews and the battery draft were shot down.

The Gatling Gun saw little service in the Civil War, and maybe none at all. It was, however, used with good effect in Cuba during the Spanish-American war (1898) – mostly to lay suppressing fires on prepared field fortifications, as at Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill. Of course, the Maxim Gun was coming into use then and proved to be a much superior weapon for all purposes. Among other things the Maxim Gun did not require four or six horses and a limber to haul it around.
#8
Old 04-08-2008, 06:38 PM
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Like others have said,
The Gatling gun was such a new invention, It wasn't utilized to it full potential.
The modern day Minigun is a testament on the Gatling design.
http://kitsune.addr.com/Firearms...14_Minigun.htm
#9
Old 04-08-2008, 08:24 PM
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H. Rider Haggard's novel King Solomon's Mines, written in 1885, has one of the protagonists facing a native army and saying: "Oh, for a gatling! I would clear the plain in twenty minutes." So it must have been a relatively well known weapon.
#10
Old 04-08-2008, 09:01 PM
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How stuff works has a pretty good animation. But it is for a more modern cartridge gun.

http://science.howstuffworks.com/machine-gun4.htm
#11
Old 04-08-2008, 09:53 PM
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There were several Gatlings. The 1st had all the problems the OP and others mentioned. Later versions used a common caliber, were lighter and could be fed by a hopper or by a sort of magazine:

http://inventors.about.com/gi/dynami...a/aagatlin.htm
Model 1862. Its key elements were a lock cylinder containing six strikers which revolved with six gun barrels, powered by a hand crank. The gun used separate .58 cal. paper cartridges and percussion caps, which resulted in gas leakage. The model 1862 Gatling gun attained a very high rate of fire of 200 spm (shots per minute) for that time.

Model 1865. By changing to a unitary cartridge, Gatling overcame the problem with gas leakage only to encounter problems in the ammunition feed mechanism. Gatling designed a new breech mechanism which fixed the feed problem, leading to the development of the much improved model 1865 six-barrel 1 inch Gatling gun, the forerunner of all later model Gatling guns.
Model 1866. After successful trials at Frankford Arsenal and Fort Monroe, the U.S. Army ordered 50 1 inch cal. and 50 .50 cal. model 1866 six-barrel Gatling guns. All but five of the .50 cal. guns were converted to .45 cal. beginning in August 1866. The gun used a simple tin box to hold cartridges. These guns were all fixed-mounted on an artillery carriage.

Model 1871 had improved breech bolts that could be easily removed for maintenance in the field used a new curved cartridge magazine. In 1872 a new hopper design permitted use of a 400 round Broadwell drum. The Broadwell drum was a circular cluster of 20 vertical feed magazines containing 20 cartridges each. When a magazine emptied, the gunner manually turned the drum to align the next full magazine.

Models 1874-1877

Model 1874 featured a shorter, lighter bronze breech that resulted in a lighter and sturdier .45 cal. gun. The gun had an automatic or manual traversing mechanism and for the first time, an adjustable set screw which permitted head space adjustment. A right hand mounting sight permitted the feed hopper to be shifted from 45° to a vertical feed, using a new box magazine. ...

Model 1875 had an improved hopper, new magazine, and a beveled bolt face to correct some jamming problems experienced with the model 1874 gun. A new vertical feed 40 round magazine, trapezoidal in cross-section, was introduced at this time. ....
....
Model 1877 "Bulldog" was the first Gatling gun to feature a fully enclosed bronze housing over the barrels and breech. The "Bulldog" was a five-barrel .45 cal. tripod mounted weapon. A few were mounted on a light cavalry cart. A rear mounting hand crank permitted a very high rate of fire of up to 1,000 spm, almost twice the rate of a typical World War II machine gun.

Back to Top

Models 1879-1881

Model 1879 was the first Gatling gun with a flexible mount that could traverse through an arc like a true machine gun. Head spacing could be adjusted using a notched adjusting knob without using any tools. Most model 1879 guns were mounted on artillery carriages, but a few were mounted on tripods. The model 1879 was a ten-barrel .45 cal. fully encased gun using the standard 40 round trapezoidal magazine. ...

Model 1881 was similar to the model 1879, but had a modified feed hopper to accept the new Bruce feeder. The U.S. Army bought 27 model 1881 guns.

Bruce feeder, named after it's inventor, L.F. Bruce, permitted the Gatling gun to be loaded directly from 20 round cardboard cartons into a two slot vertical bar. When one slot emptied, gravity forced a full slot over the feed hopper. By alternately loading the empty slot, a continuous fire could be sustained. The Bruce feeder was a favorite of the U.S. Army.

Models 1883-1889

Model 1883 was a ten-barrel .45 cal. gun fully encased in a bronze jacket. A side mounting hand crank produced a rate of fire of up to 800 spm, but could be rear mounted to increase the rate up to 1,500 spm. Internal components were strengthened to withstand the punishment from the higher rate of fire. The model 1883 had a new flexible yoke that permitted a wider angle of traverse and elevation than previous models. However, the vertical feed magazine did not work as well with wider range in elevation. A new flat donut-shaped Accles mechanical drum feeder was developed for use with this gun. The standard mount was a heavy steel Army carriage, but it could also be mounted on a light folding steel tripod. The Accles feeder was a complex mechanism subject to jamming. In 1898, the U.S. Army refitted it's model 1883 Gatlings with a Bruce feeder adapter.
Blue arrow Model 1883 with Accles feeder on flexible yoke on Army steel carriage
...

Model 1889 went back to an improved version of the model 1881 that could use either a Bruce feeder or the older style gravity feed magazine.
.....

Models 1893-1903

Model 1893 was similar to models 1889-1892, but the caliber was changed to the new Army standard .30/40 cartridge. A new horizontal strip feeder was introduced with the model 1893. The strip feeder fed from the left side. Wedges in the hopper stripped each round from its retaining prongs into the hopper. The empty feeder ejected to the right side. The U.S. Army bought 18 ten-barrel .30 cal. model 1893 guns. The strip feeder was also subject to jamming. In 1897 the Army converted all of it's .30 cal. Gatlings to accept the Bruce feeder. In 1893 the Gatling Gun Company introduced a six-barrel version of the model 1893 that was the smallest of all the Gatling guns.
#12
Old 04-09-2008, 04:24 AM
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I can't beat what Dr Deth has said, but I would add they were extremely effective against the native peoples- in a place like Africa.

And has been said you don't want a machine gun to be overy accurate- not much use 5oo rounds all going to exactly the same spot.
#13
Old 04-09-2008, 07:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cicero
I can't beat what Dr Deth has said, but I would add they were extremely effective against the native peoples- in a place like Africa.
The sand of the desert* is sodden red,
Red with the wreck of a square that broke.
The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel's dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of Death has brimmed its banks,
And England's far and honour a name.
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks,
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

*The Sudan, presumably.

From Henry Newbolt's Vitai Lampada, 1897.
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#14
Old 04-09-2008, 08:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cicero
...And has been said you don't want a machine gun to be overy accurate- not much use 5oo rounds all going to exactly the same spot.
I believe that the .50 caliber round was modified to be less stable in order to address this. It had to be re-redesigned back to it's original configuration for use in the .50 sniper rifle. I wish I could remember the source for this info.

That said, I've seen video of a .30 Browning water-cooled being used to cut down a 4x4 post in order to demonstrate its accuracy. In order to do this, it was on a tripod mount with 11 sandbags piled around and on the legs. The gunner used the micrometer knob on the tripod to adjust the fire just enough to saw the post down.
#15
Old 04-09-2008, 10:12 AM
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It would have been terrifically effective if deployed properly up until the advent of the true machine gun (Maxim gun).

It wasn't deployed well though, so it doesn't look particularly great. Keep in mind though, that as late as World War One, militaries looked at machine guns as more akin to artillery than rifles, and deployed them in accordance with that concept.

It basically took World War Two and the German MG34 and MG42 to break that type of thinking and get machine guns integrally placed within infantry units instead of in their own separate units.


As a weapon though, the gatling gun is WILDLY successful. Every US fighter aircraft from the F-104 Starfighter (1958) forward has been armed with a M61 Vulcan 20 mm gatling gun. The reason is the terrific rate of fire- they can be fired at 6000 rounds per minute.

In addition to the fighters, the A-10 Warthog uses the GAU-8 Avenger 30 mm gatling, the AV-8B Harriers and other planes use the GAU-12 25mm gatling gun pods.

Helicopters routinely field the GAU-19 50 cal gatling, and GAU-2/GAU-17/M134 7.62 gatling (Minigun), which is also used on the ground and on ships.
#16
Old 04-09-2008, 10:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bump
It would have been terrifically effective if deployed properly up until the advent of the true machine gun (Maxim gun).

It wasn't deployed well though, so it doesn't look particularly great. Keep in mind though, that as late as World War One, militaries looked at machine guns as more akin to artillery than rifles, and deployed them in accordance with that concept.

It basically took World War Two and the German MG34 and MG42 to break that type of thinking and get machine guns integrally placed within infantry units instead of in their own separate units.


As a weapon though, the gatling gun is WILDLY successful. Every US fighter aircraft from the F-104 Starfighter (1958) forward has been armed with a M61 Vulcan 20 mm gatling gun. The reason is the terrific rate of fire- they can be fired at 6000 rounds per minute.

In addition to the fighters, the A-10 Warthog uses the GAU-8 Avenger 30 mm gatling, the AV-8B Harriers and other planes use the GAU-12 25mm gatling gun pods.

Helicopters routinely field the GAU-19 50 cal gatling, and GAU-2/GAU-17/M134 7.62 gatling (Minigun), which is also used on the ground and on ships.
Nitpick: the Phalanx CIWS system on our ship was built around the M61 Gatling, not the other variants noted in your other paragraph.

It generally was set to fire a 20 mm projectile at 3000 rounds per minute as an antimissile defense. The gun could also engage conventional air targets and even surface targets.
#17
Old 04-09-2008, 11:45 AM
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Were any of Gatling's patents In Effect

..when GE developed the VULCAN high speed gun?
I'd be interested to know.
#18
Old 04-09-2008, 02:31 PM
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I don't think any patent lasts for a century.
#19
Old 04-09-2008, 03:26 PM
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Patents last for 17 years.
#20
Old 04-09-2008, 03:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Moto
Nitpick: the Phalanx CIWS system on our ship was built around the M61 Gatling, not the other variants noted in your other paragraph.

It generally was set to fire a 20 mm projectile at 3000 rounds per minute as an antimissile defense. The gun could also engage conventional air targets and even surface targets.

I know... I forgot about the Phalanx. The reason I said that miniguns are on ships is because the Royal Navy uses them from the rails.

http://royal-navy.mod.uk/upload/...Baxter-tak.jpg
#21
Old 04-09-2008, 04:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scissorjack
The sand of the desert* is sodden red,
Red with the wreck of a square that broke.
The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel's dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of Death has brimmed its banks,
And England's far and honour a name.
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks,
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

*The Sudan, presumably.

From Henry Newbolt's Vitai Lampada, 1897.
Whatever happens we have got
the Maxim gun and they have not

I believe that's quoted in King Leopold's Ghost.
#22
Old 04-10-2008, 06:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hypno-Toad
I believe that the .50 caliber round was modified to be less stable in order to address this. It had to be re-redesigned back to it's original configuration for use in the .50 sniper rifle. I wish I could remember the source for this info.

That said, I've seen video of a .30 Browning water-cooled being used to cut down a 4x4 post in order to demonstrate its accuracy. In order to do this, it was on a tripod mount with 11 sandbags piled around and on the legs. The gunner used the micrometer knob on the tripod to adjust the fire just enough to saw the post down.
Was that for use against infantry? Or was it being mounted as an anti aircraft weapon where I would think more accuracy would be required.
#23
Old 04-10-2008, 07:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cicero
Was that for use against infantry? Or was it being mounted as an anti aircraft weapon where I would think more accuracy would be required.
The type of mount described doesn't sound like an AA mount. In either use, dispersion of shots is desirable. Google machinegun + "beaten zone" for details.
#24
Old 04-10-2008, 08:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cicero
Was that for use against infantry? Or was it being mounted as an anti aircraft weapon where I would think more accuracy would be required.
It was a standard anti-infantry mount. Like this one but for the Browning M1919 water cooled MG. The demonstration was about WWI MGs and their effect on the battlefield. The greater accuracy meant greater effective range. A skinnier beaten zone means that the "Fat" part of the cone of fire can engage targets much farther away. Remember that once trench warfare set in, the defending MGs would usually be engaging targets all the way across no mans land. If your beaten zone was too fat, you'd have no chance of hitting your targets at that range.

But the problem of too tight grouping was recognized in WWI. If you get the chance, look at some footage of Germans firing a heavy MG. Occassionally, the gunner will slap the side of the gun as he's firing. This was to make the gun waver and spread the beaten zone.

Last edited by Hypno-Toad; 04-10-2008 at 08:14 AM.
#25
Old 04-10-2008, 08:21 AM
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I have to correct myself. I believe the Model 1917 is the watercooled MG, Not the 1919.
#26
Old 04-10-2008, 08:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hypno-Toad
It was a standard anti-infantry mount. Like this one but for the Browning M1919 water cooled MG. The demonstration was about WWI MGs and their effect on the battlefield. The greater accuracy meant greater effective range. A skinnier beaten zone means that the "Fat" part of the cone of fire can engage targets much farther away. Remember that once trench warfare set in, the defending MGs would usually be engaging targets all the way across no mans land. If your beaten zone was too fat, you'd have no chance of hitting your targets at that range.

But the problem of too tight grouping was recognized in WWI. If you get the chance, look at some footage of Germans firing a heavy MG. Occassionally, the gunner will slap the side of the gun as he's firing. This was to make the gun waver and spread the beaten zone.
Without going to far as we are getting off topic, I believe towards the later years of WW1 greater accuracy was required as they would want to effectively be able to target any holes in the barbed wire.
#27
Old 04-10-2008, 08:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hypno-Toad
I have to correct myself. I believe the Model 1917 is the watercooled MG, Not the 1919.
.

Geez- I was about to pick that up
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