The Gatling gun was designed by the American inventor Dr Richard Gatlin in 1861. Although the first Gatlin gun was capable of firing continuously, it had to be hand-cranked unlike the later Maxim gun, the first fully-automatic gun. However, the early Gatlin could fire 200 rounds per minute and was developed to fire up to 1200 rounds per minute. It had six barrels revolving around a central shaft.

The ammunition was initially a steel cylinder charged with black powder and primed with a percussion cap. The shells were gravity-fed into the breech through a hopper or stick magazine on top of the gun. Each barrel had its own firing mechanism. Later brass cartridges were used.

Each barrel fired once per revolution. The barrels, a carrier, and a lock cylinder were separate and all mounted on a solid plate revolving around a central shaft, mounted on a fixed frame. The carrier was grooved and the lock cylinder drilled with holes corresponding to the barrels. Each barrel had a single lock, working in the lock cylinder on a line with the barrel. The lock cylinder was encased and joined to the frame. In front of the casing was a cam with spiral surfaces. The cam imparted a reciprocating motion to the locks when the gun rotated. Also in the casing was a cocking ring with projections to cock and fire the gun.

Turning the crank rotated the shaft. Cartridges, held in a hopper, dropped individually into the grooves of the carrier. The lock was simultaneously forced by the cam to move forward and load the cartridge, and when the cam was at its highest point, the cocking ring freed the lock and fired the cartridge. After the cartridge was fired the continuing action of the cam drew back the lock bringing with it the spent cartridge which then dropped to the ground.

This model of a Gatlin gun was shown by Philip Wickenden-Taylor at the 2013 Sandown Park exhibition.

Philip Wickenden-Taylor’s