Richard Jordan Gatling was an inventor from an
early age, developing a ship propeller and a machine that sewed rice
In 1862, Gatling received a patent for his most famous
invention, the Gatling gun. Gatling's gun had from six to ten gun
set in a circle, with ammunition loaded into a central
drum above the barrels. As an artilleryman turned a hand crank, the
barrels of the gun rotated. Ammunition entered each
gun barrel; the barrel fired a shot, expelled the used shell, and
a new bullet. The Gatling gun fired very rapidly, up
to 200 rounds every minute. Other inventors had created rapid-fire guns
before Gatling, but these guns were often heavy,
difficult to load, and prone to overheating. Gatling improved on these
designs, and his gun gained prominence.
Gatling developed his gun during the American
Civil War. Seeing dead and wounded soldiers return from the war inspired
to design a gun that would require fewer soldiers to
fight battles. Despite Gatling's best efforts, the government did not
purchase his gun. The U.S. Army was resistant to
making changes in armaments. Also, Gatling had been born in the
state of North Carolina, causing some government
officials to suspect his motives. While a few Gatling guns were used
the war, the U.S. Army would not officially adopt the
gun until 1866.
In addition to the United States, Gatling sold
his guns to France, Great Britain, Russia, and other European nations.
success of the Gatling gun inspired other gun
manufacturers to create rapid-fire guns. In 1884, Hiram Maxim created
gun. The Maxim gun used the force of recoil after each
shot was fired to load the next round. Maxim guns did not require a
crank to fire, and thus were the first truly automatic
weapons. Rapid-fire machine guns gained prominence during the
War and World War I, eventually becoming a standard
weapon of warfare.