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.

Technology somewhat along the line of Metal Storm has surprisingly been around since as early as the 1500s, seen here as the French Mitrailleuse [machinegun] volley fire field piece, meaning to say that the principle is the same though the details are very different. Credit to Wikimedia Commons
To date, the Minigun has been touted as the fastest cyclic rate of all fully automatic weapons and weapons systems. Enter in the ‘next generation’ of cyclic speed. Enter Metal Storm, a technology that boasts a cyclic rate of a cool one million (that’s right — one million[!]) Rounds Per Minute (RPM)! ‘Hogwash’ and ‘poppycock’ are the first two antiquated expressions that came to my mind at the introduction of the apparatus. But hear me out.

That is 27,000 RPM in the configuration that I postulate. You see, the Metal Storm is limited by the number of barrels packed next to each other. In the simplistic model I reference, there are 36 barrels packaged in a single configuration. The projectiles involved are stacked nose-to-end in each barrel with propellant in between each, all electrically fired in sequence — much like the principle of the Roman candle.

This is all good news if you reside on the side of the Metal Storm but terrible news if you affiliate with the opposition. How many bullets are loaded in each barrel? That would depend, of course, on the length of the barrel. On the one hand, I am very impressed; on the other, I see such technology residing in the very vortex of hell.

The good or bad news, depending on your personal point of view, is that this weapon from hell is far too expensive to warrant a role of tactical or even strategic value. With that level of contribution to a military role, it becomes somewhat of a hum-dinger or whiz-bang tchotchke, or perhaps just for that one gomer on your assault team who is just innately a crappy shot — can’t hit the side of a German barn.