|When gunpowder became a
propellant of missiles, the machine gun principle followed right on its
Thus, you have the earliest
of machine guns appearing in the 15th century. They were known as "Ribaudequins"
or "orgues" - or more plainly organ guns. There were a lot of "stops" in
their shattering recitals. It is to be gathered that it was almost as dangerous
being the organist as it was the target.
They are mentioned in the
histories of sieges in the 15th and 16th centuries and were groups of musket
barrels attached to a frame and, ingeniously enough, set off by a match-lock
arrangement so that each barrel was fired in succession rather than in
one loud bang.
The first recorded appearance
of the "revolver" principle came in this same 15th century. A revolving
butt, however, did not, owing to the lack of precision in boring chambers,
fit closely enough to the end of the barrel and the resulting escape of
gas quickly wore away the barrel and made them tricky, nasty and dangerous
weapons to handle.
However, progress, you may
note, was slowly grinding on.
In the 10th century the arrows,
you will recall, took flight simultaneously. Five centuries later,
groups of muskets were being fired in succession.
There seems to have been
a prolonged "stoppage" in the evolution of the machine gun from the 16th
century until well on into the 18th.
On May 15th, 1718, there
was patented by one James Puckle, in London, a revolving gun. As described
in the patent application, this was "a portable Gun or Machine called a
Defence, that discharges soe often and soe many Bullets and can be soe
Quickly Loaden as renders it next to Impossible to Carry any Ship by Boarding."
It was also mentioned as
another quaint feature of the gun that it was adapted for "shooting square
Bulletts against the Turks and round Bulletts against Christians."
The Puckle revolving gun,
mounted on a tripod of surprisingly advanced design, in appearance is said
to have strongly resembled the Gatling.
Before the American Civil
War broke out in 1861, there had been a "Requa battery" added to the national
armament. It was used in one of the forts at Charleston. It was a multiple
barrel weapon with a swinging breech to which was attached a strip of special
cartridges, containing both bullet and powder. A hole in the end of each
cartridge coincided with a vent in the breech block and these successive
vents were connected by a channel filled with black powder. A single percussion
cap was used to detonate the priming charge and the barrels were thus discharged
in succession and with fair rapidity.
It earned little official
notice, but it may have had something to ...