History of the Gatling Gun

In 1861, Doctor Richard Gatling patented the Gatling Gun

A sketch of a civil war gatling gun

Illustrated London News/Stringer/Getty Images

In 1861, Dr. Richard Gatling patented the gatling gun, a six-barreled weapon capable of firing a (then) phenomenal 200 rounds per minute. It was a hand-driven, crank-operated, multi-barrel machine gun. The first machine gun with reliable loading, the gatling gun had the ability to fire multiple sustained bursts.

Inventing the Gun

Gatling created his gun during the American Civil War. He sincerely believed his invention would end the war by making it unthinkable to use because of the horrific carnage it would cause. At least, Gatling thought, the gun's power would reduce the number of soldiers required to remain on the battlefield.

The 1862 version of the gatling gun had reloadable steel chambers and used percussion caps. It was prone to occasional jamming. In 1867, Gatling redesigned the gatling gun again to use metallic cartridges. This version was bought and used by the Army.

Life of Richard Gatling

Born Sept. 12, 1818, in Hertford County, North Carolina, Gatling was the son of planter and inventor Jordan Gatling, who held two patents of his own. Besides the gatling gun, Gatling also patented a seed-sowing rice planter in 1839 that was later adapted into a successful wheat drill.

In 1870, Richard Gatling and his family moved to Hartford, Connecticut, home of the Colt Armory where the gatling gun was manufactured.

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Bellis, Mary. "History of the Gatling Gun." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/history-of-the-gatling-gun-1991839. Bellis, Mary. (2021, February 16). History of the Gatling Gun. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-the-gatling-gun-1991839 Bellis, Mary. "History of the Gatling Gun." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-the-gatling-gun-1991839 (accessed April 11, 2021).