Richard Jordan Gatling was an inventor from an early age, developing a ship propeller and a machine that sewed rice seeds. In 1862, Gatling received a patent for his most famous invention, the Gatling gun. Gatling's gun had from six to ten gun barrels 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 received 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 prior 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 Gatling 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 Confederate state of North Carolina, causing some government officials to suspect his motives. While a few Gatling guns were used during 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. The success of the Gatling gun inspired other gun manufacturers to create rapid-fire guns. In 1884, Hiram Maxim created the Maxim 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 Spanish-American War and World War I, eventually becoming a standard weapon of warfare.

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