For a lengthy stretch of time, the vaunted General Electric/Dillon Aeros M134 Minigun operated on an age-old configuration of the multi-rotating-barrel Gatling gun, albeit rotating barrels by way of an electric motor. The earliest such guns were operated by a hand crank mechanism and fed ammunition by a top-mounted box gravity feed system to keep the beast well-fed. The primary advantage was a high volume of fire to suppress enemy maneuvers and essentially hold them at bay.

How many barrels do you count?

All-in-all, it was an entirely analog mechanical event that is much credited with saving the day of Theodore Roosevelt’s charge against the Spanish army up the San Juan Heights, Cuba. These early models of Gatling guns had a cyclic rate of ~450 rounds per minute, or as fast as the guns could be ‘cranked.’ The participation of 6 — 10 rotating gun barrels served well to allow each barrel to cool off before it chambers again.

Miniguns pods configured on a C-47 Dakota during the Vietnam war. Together the trio can launch a combined total of 1,800 RPM. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Machine guns, submachine guns (SMG), and fully automatic assault rifles evolved quickly through modern engineering that brought on several innovative cyclic performance designs. To recognize a few: recoil, blow-back, delayed blow-back, gas tap, gas direct, and short stroke piston used by the venerable H&K-416. The 416 is the primary weapon of choice adopted by the modern-day Delta Force.

The H&K 416 has a cyclic rate of ~900 rounds per minute. Cyclic rate is the calculated rate of fire of a machine gun (fully automatic) if it had an infinite supply of ammunition fed to it. If the trigger were pulled and held down for one full minute, the number of bullets send down range would then be calculated as the cyclic rate of fire for the weapon.