The Poles developed vodka in the 1500s. A Frenchman discovered rubber in 1736. The English invented the first modern clock, the steam engine and the flush toilet. But while all of these inventions are indeed impressive in their own right, they pale in comparison to what we conjured up here in the U.S. In addition to the electric light bulb, the telephone and the airplane, an American invented the Gatling gun. For better or for worse, we Americans have always been trendsetters.
Dr. Richard J. Gatling developed the first multi-barrel rotary Gatling gun in 1861 and received a patent for his device on November 4, 1862. Gatling was a physician by trade who sincerely felt that his novel contrivance would be so devastating that it would reduce the size of standing armies and subsequently lessen the inevitable suffering of war. An honorable goal, to be sure, but apparently the good Dr. Gatling had not spent much time around any real humans. Once the politicians and soldiers laid their hands on his nifty new weapons, they started shooting them at everything that moved.
These diabolical new guns were first used in combat by Union forces during the American Civil War. They later found their legs in the Zulu wars as well as the various English colonial forays that demanded bloodshed to quell insurrection or discord.
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The earliest Gatling guns fed loose rounds via gravity from hopper-feeding mechanisms. When properly serviced and run by a determined operator, these hand-cranked monsters could comfortably churn out 200 rounds per minute, a simply breathtaking volume of fire for the day.
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