Museum Minute: A Different History To The Gatling Gun

Jan 2, 2020

Gatling Gun


The Gatling gun is usually associated with the American West, but Danny Micheal, the assistant curator of the Cody Firearms Museums at the Buffalo Bill Museum of the West, said there is a unique history to the Model 1883 Gatling gun.

“It actually has roots in World War II and Cold War history, even though it's a model from the 1880s,”

The model was used as a proof of concept for the Vulcan Project. That was the name of a World War II initiative to design new armament for jet fighters.

“Army and Air Force designers realized that jets were moving too fast for conventional guns and they needed something that fired a lot faster,” said Micheal.

So, the Army acquired the 1883 Gatling gun and hooked it up to an electric motor.

“They got it up to a cyclic rate of 5,500 rounds a minute. The reported failure in the test was eventually the gun broken extractor, which is a relatively small part,” said Micheal. “But it's kind of crazy to think of a black powder gun that we think of as the Old West as being the basis for what is on all of modern America's jet fighters.”