The idea of a gun that would keep up a continuous stream of fire attracted inventors early in the development of firearms. In 1718 James Puckle invented what he called his Defence Gun. Placed on a tripod it was a large revolver with a cylinder behind its single barrel. Although the cylinder had to be turned manually it could fire 63 shots in seven minutes.
The American Civil War provided an incentive to inventors and Wilson Agar was able to sell 54 of his Coffee Mill guns to the Union Army. The Billinghurst-Requa was also used by Union forces in the war. The gun comprised a wheeled frame carrying 24 rifle barrels. Once the gun was loaded a single percussion cap was placed on a nipple on the iron frame and fired by a hammer, the flash passing through the frame to ignite all 24 cartridges.
In 1861 Richard Jordan Gatling, a trained dentist from North Carolina, produced an effective mechanical gun. The Gatling Gun consisted of six barrels mounted in a revolving frame. The United States Army purchased these guns in 1865 and over the next few years most major armies in Europe purchased the gun. The British Army tested it at Woolwich in 1870, and found that the 0.42 Gatling Gun fired 616 shots in two minutes. Of these, 369 hit their intended targets.
In 1879 the Gardner Machine Gun was demonstrated for the first time. The gun fired 10,000 rounds in 27 minutes. This impressed military leaders from Britain and the following year the British Army purchased the gun. It also adopted the ten-barrel Nordenfelt Machine Gun.
In 1881 the American inventor, Hiram Maxim, visited the Paris Electrical Exhibition. While he was at the exhibition he met a man who told him: "If you wanted to make a lot of money, invent something that will enable these Europeans to cut each other's throats with greater facility."
Maxim moved to London and over the next few years worked on producing an effective machine-gun. In 1885 he demonstrated the world's first automatic portable machine-gun to the British Army. Maxim used the energy of each bullet's recoil force to eject the spent cartridge and insert the next bullet. The Maxim Machine-Gun would therefore fire until the entire belt of bullets was used up. Trials showed that the machine-gun could fire 500 rounds per minute and therefore had the firepower of about 100 rifles.
The Maxim Machine-Gun was adopted by the British Army in 1889. The following year the Austrian, German, Italian, Swiss and Russian armies also purchased Maxim's gun. The gun was first used by Britain`s colonial forces in the Matabele war in 1893-94. In one engagement, fifty soldiers fought off 5,000 Matabele warriors with just four Maxim guns.
The success of the Maxim Machine-Gun inspired other inventors. The German Army's Maschinengewehr and the Russian Pulemyot Maxima were both based on Maxim's invention. John Moses Browning produced his first machine-gun in 1890 and five years it was adopted by the US Navy. An Austrian, Count Odkolek, worked with the French company, Hotchkiss, to produce an effective gun that was adopted by the French Army in 1897.
By the outbreak of the First World War, the British Army had adopted the Vickers Machine-Gun. Fitted with interrupter gear, the Vickers was also standard armament on all British and French aircraft after 1916. During the war the British also used the Lewis Gun. Easier to produce and far lighter than the Vickers, it was used by soldiers on the Western Front and on armoured cars and aircraft.
In his book, A Private in the Guards (1919) Stephen Graham explained the impact that the machine-gun had on First World War battles: "The story of each man's death was plainly shown in the circumstances in which he lay. The brave machine-gunners, with resolute look in shoulders and face, lay scarcely relaxed beside the oiled machines, which if you understood you could still use, and besides piles of littered brass, the empty cartridge-cases of hundreds of rounds which they had fired away before being bayoneted at their posts. On the other hand, facing those machine-gunners one saw how our men, rushing forward in extended formation, each man a good distance from his neighbour, had fallen, one here, another there, one directly he had started forward to the attack, and then others, one, two, three, four, five, all in a sort of sequence, here, here, here, here, here, one poor wretch had got far, but had got tangled in the wire, had pulled and pulled and at last been shot to rags; another had got near enough to strike the foe and been shot with a revolver."
The fascination of going from dead to dead and looking at each, and of going to every derelict tank, abandoned gun, and shattered aeroplane was so great that inevitably one went on further and further from home, seeking and looking with a strange intensity in the heart. I saw a great number of the dead, those blue bundles and green bundles strewn far and wide over the autumn fields.
The story of each man's death was plainly shown in the circumstances in which he lay. The brave machine-gunners, with resolute look in shoulders and face, lay scarcely relaxed beside the oiled machines, which if you understood you could still use, and besides piles of littered brass, the empty cartridge-cases of hundreds of rounds which they had fired away before being bayoneted at their posts.
On the other hand, facing those machine-gunners one saw how our men, rushing forward in extended formation, each man a good distance from his neighbour, had fallen, one here, another there, one directly he had started forward to the attack, and then others, one, two, three, four, five, all in a sort of sequence, here, here, here, here, here, one poor wretch had got far, but had got tangled in the wire, had pulled and pulled and at last been shot to rags; another had got near enough to strike the foe and been shot with a revolver.
In other parts of the field one saw the balance of battle and the Germans evidently attacking, not extended, but in groups, and now in groups together dead. One saw Germans taking cover and British taking cover in shell-holes inadequately deep, and now the men stiff as they crouched. I remember especially two of the fellows in a shell-hole, fear was in their faces, they were crouching unnaturally, and one had evidently been saying to the other, "Keep your head down!" Now in both men's heads was a dent, the sort of dent that appears in the side of a rubber ball when not fully expanded by air.
Modern warfare, we discovered, was to a far greater extent than ever before a conflict of chemists and manufacturers. Manpower, it is true, was indispensable, and generalship will always, whatever the conditions, have a vital part to play. But troops, however brave and well led, were powerless under modern conditions unless equipped with adequate and up-to-date artillery (with masses of explosive shell), machine-guns, aircraft and other supplies. Against enemy machine-gun posts and wire entanglements the most gallant and best-led men could only throw away their precious lives in successive waves of heroic martydom. Their costly sacrifice could avail nothing for the winning of victory.
M60 machine gun
The M60, officially the Machine Gun, Caliber 7.62 mm, M60, is a family of American general-purpose machine guns firing 7.62×51mm NATO cartridges from a disintegrating belt of M13 links. There are several types of ammunition approved for use in the M60, including ball, tracer, and armor-piercing rounds. 
It was adopted in 1957 and issued to units beginning in 1959. It has served with every branch of the U.S. military and still serves with the armed forces of other states. Its manufacture and continued upgrade for military and commercial purchase continues into the 21st century, although it has been replaced or supplemented in most roles by other designs, most notably the M240 machine gun in U.S. service. 
Text: How the Machine Gun Changed World War I
Invented by Hiram S. Maxim in 1884, the first automatic machine gun was birthed in the United States. Maxim&rsquos machine gun was completely self-powered and worked by relying on the energy released in the firing cartridge that would then dislodge multiple bullets with nothing more than the pull of a trigger. This kind of technology was unheard of and it was what prompted this primitive powerhouse to be first demonstrated by the British armed forces. At this time, it released an initial 600 rounds per minute, what would be a detrimental number for the opposition in years to come. The &ldquoMaxim&rdquo gun had a water-cooled jacket that stretched round the barrel, holding one gallon of water and while this innovative technology was nothing short of epic, especially in its time, it had one peak pitfall&hellip it weighed a whopping 136.5 pounds. It was difficult to move in times when quick thinking was critical but its size and clunky demeanor did not stop it from doing its job and doing it well.
The Bailey Machine Gun was designed in 1874 by Fortune L. Bailey of Indianapolis, Indiana. The initial design had some issues, but by 1875, a reliable working model had been produced by the Winchester Arms Company. This design was submitted to the U.S. Navy for evaluation.
In January 1876, Commodore T. H. Patterson of the Navy Yard in Washington, D. C. ordered trials for the new weapon. These trials began on February 11, 1876. It was noted that the weapon was small in comparison to similar weapons, which Bailey explained was due to the fact that the weapon had been designed around the .32 caliber rifle round for demonstration and proof of concept. Initial testing of the weapon had been so successful that Bailey had chosen to demonstrate the weapon as-is, rather than scale the technology up to a larger round.
The Navy Board found that Bailey had brought an insufficient number of ammunition belts for a thorough reliability and endurance test, and because of this, they refused to officially take the weapon under consideration. They did allow Bailey to fire off as many rounds as he desired for unofficial consideration, however. The ammunition belts that Bailey had provided held 100 rounds each, and a second belt could not be loaded after a burst of fire had been initiated. The sustained rate of fire was therefore found to be inadequate for Naval requirements. Bailey did manage to demonstrate a very high rate of fire, firing off a complete 100 round belt in 6 seconds for an official firing rate of 1,000 rounds per minute.
Commander Sicard, the officer in charge of the evaluation, wrote that "The test that was made for rapidity of fire was, however, truly astonishing. One hundred rounds being fired in about 6 seconds, the gun appearing to be almost in a continual blaze, the whole number ran off smoothly."
Superficially, the Bailey Machine Gun resembled the Gatling gun, as it also had multiple barrels and was hand cranked. The similarity was only superficial though, as the firing mechanism of the Bailey Machine Gun was significantly different than that of the Gatling gun.
The Bailey Machine Gun used a belt feed system that did not remove the cartridges from the belt as the weapon was fired. Other rapid-fire weapons of this era used a drum or hopper to hold the ammunition. The belt-feed was considered to be very innovative, and many later machine guns would end up using belt-feed mechanisms of some sort.
When the handle was cranked, the barrels as well as the firing mechanism rotated. The round was fired from the top barrel, and the weapon was designed so that a round could not be fired until the round and its associated barrel reached the top position on the weapon. This prevented accidental premature discharges.
"The Machine Gun, History, Evolution, and Development of Manual, Automatic, and Airborne Repeating Weapons" by George M. Chinn, Lieutenant Colonel, USMC. Prepared for the Bureau of Ordnance, Department of the Navy, 1951
The most noticeable feature of Lewis’ gun was the aluminum barrel shroud, which provided forced air draft cooling. While this casing was meant to use the muzzle blast to pull air into the gun for cooling, many doubted its usefulness and speculated that perhaps its sole purpose was one of appearance, as the gun functioned flawlessly in the field without it. Many of the shrouds were removed, especially on those aircraft mounted guns, a tactic which also saved several pounds from the weight of the gun.
The gun featured raised blade and tangent leaf sights, a front-mounted folding bipod, a wooden rear stock that could be replaced by a handle for maneuverability, and was listed to have an effective range of 800 meters and a maximum range of 3,200 meters.
Though Lewis’ machine gun remained significantly more expensive to manufacture than the Vickers, it could be put together twice as fast. In addition, while the Vickers required a water siphon cooling tank and the less-compact belts of ammo, Lewis guns were more mobile and versatile given the weight, air cooling system, and 97-round drum magazines. Lewis’ adjustable clock-type recoil spring allowed the gun’s firing rate to be regulated. Though it was capable of 500 to 600 rounds per minute, shorter bursts of fire were most common.
Authored By: Dan Alex | Last Edited: 06/14/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.
Very few machine guns in the history of the world own a legacy such as that of the famous Browning M2 heavy machine gun series. Born out of a World War 1 requirement of 1918 which saw American authorities attempt to copy the success of the French Hotchkiss M1914 11mm medium machine gun for the anti-aircraft role, engineers John Browning and Fred Moore went to work on developing a large-caliber version of their existing M1917 .30-06 caliber machine gun. The resulting effort became the "US Machine Gun, Caliber .50, M1921" of 1921 chambered for the mammoth 12.7mm cartridge.
Debuting well past the war in 1921 (the war had ended in 1918), the new machine gun was classified as a "heavy machine gun" and operated from the "short recoil" principle through a closed bolt function. It was initially a water-cooled weapon system which allowed for long-running bursts of fire and used to prevent the barrel from overheating (this obviously requiring a consistently cool water supply to be used). The weapon was chambered for the .50 BMG ("Browning Machine Gun") cartridge (otherwise known as the 12.7x99mm NATO in the post-WW2 world) and fed via an ammunition belt running through the upper receiver. The .50 BMG was itself a massive cartridge shaped like a traditional bullet and featuring a rimless bottleneck casing. It was also debuted in 1921 and attributed to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, a firm which John Browning partnered with in the years prior to his collaboration with the Belgian firm of Fabrique Nationale. The weapon/cartridge combination went on to become one of the most lethal, ferocious weapon systems of all time, seeing use within dozens of national armies and irregular forces around the world through countless notable conflicts. With the water jacket and water-cooling system in place, the M2 weighed in at 121lbs and rate of fire was approximately 450 to 600 rounds per minute.
Once in operational service, the design was furthered to produce the improved "M1921A1" designation under the Colt brand (John Browning had died in Belgium in 1926, his existing work being carried on by others). It was not until the 1930s that a new Browning machine gun mark was released in the form of the "Browning M2" though this early form still utilized water-cooling for the barrel but instituted a new water circulation system along the barrel jacket. Large-scale Browning machine gun production was undertaken by Colt beginning in 1933. In the same decade (leading up to World War 2), an air-cooled variant was developed for use in aircraft and this, too, was confusingly designated as the "Browning M2". It would be this production form that would become the definitive entry in the Browning heavy machine gun line.
While the air-cooled version proved capable of firing the .50 BMG cartridge, it could not manage firing beyond 75 rounds before overheating the barrel to the point of fracture. An attempt to rectify the issue produced the M2HB ("Heavy Barrel") guise and this form was applicably given a stronger barrel assembly to help dissipate the inherent heat build-up. This made for a heavier weapon system (84lbs) but a weapon that could nonetheless be fired for longer periods of time. To help further relieve the barrel heating issue, a "quick change" function was added to the barrel assembly allowing an operator to replace the heated barrel with a cool one (this function came to be known as QCB - "Quick Change Barrel").
The M2 ultimately proliferated the American military inventory prior to and during World War 2. It was utilized in all manner of ways as a defensive and offensive offering. The type served in fixed and flexible mountings within fighter and bomber aircraft of the US Army Air Force (as the AN/M2) while also being the weapon of choice in combat vehicles including tanks. The machine gun functioned extremely effectively in the anti-aircraft/anti-armor role and could decimate personnel unfortunate enough to cross its firing path. Specialized vehicles mounting multiple Browning heavy machine guns in traversing turret mounts were produced as ad hoc anti-aircraft/anti-infantry measures as the war progressed. The weapon could further be implemented as an infantry fire support measure for suppression fire though this required multiple crew to manage its cumbersome operation (gunner, ammunition handler, transport crew). The M2 was further installed as an anti-aircraft measure on countless naval ships without loss of effectiveness. Range was out to 2,000 yards though targets could be reached as far out as 2,200 yards with some care (and sometimes a bit of luck). Muzzle velocity was rated at 2,900 feet per second, providing for excellent penetration values at range. Aircraft versions could achieve 800 to 1,200 rounds per minute.
The M2 also saw widespread use during the war by Britain and her Commonwealth nations including Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand. These were employed in similar ways and with great success to the point that the Browning design largely replaced the British BESA series machine guns then in use. In the British Army nomenclature, the weapon received the L2A1, L6, L11, LO21, L111 and M3M designations to mark their various types in service. The Soviet Army received some 3,100 M2s through Lend-Lease during the war.
After the war, the M2 maintained a very healthy existence and saw use through an increasing user base the world over. After World War 2, the M2 was in combat with American forces once again during the Korean War of the early 1950s as well as during the Vietnam War of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. It also went on to see extensive actions in other notable wars elsewhere and in less publicized conflicts. In some instances, troopers found the M2 suitable for the long-range sniper role and modified their M2s with appropriate optics. This modification was used to good effect in the Vietnam War by US Marine Carlos Hathcock (1942-1999).
Despite its World War 1 origins, the excellent Browning M2 remains in widespread use today and is/has been produced by General Dynamics and US Ordnance in the United States as well as Fabrique National in Belgium and Manroy Engineering of the UK. It is estimated that some 3 million M2 units have been manufactured since 1921. Many of the newer generation heavy machine guns developed by US allies owe much to the tried-and-true design that was the M2 Browning developed by master gunsmith John Browning and proven by war.
Beyond World War 2, Korea and Vietnam, the M2 has been featured in the 1st Indochina War, the Suez Crisis, the Six Day War, the Yom Kipper War, the Cambodian Civil War, the Cambodian war with Vietnam, the Falklands War, the South African Border War, the US invasion of Panama, the 1991 Gulf War, the Somali Civil War of the 1990s, the Yugoslav Wars, the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan and, most recently, in the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.
The M2HB's formal designation is "Browning Machine Gun, Caliber .50, M2, HB". The HB model has seen service since 1933.
The .50 BMG (12.7x99mm NATO) cartridge has proven useful in the long-range sniper role when utilized in anti-material rifle guises. This is embodied perfectly by the Barrett series of heavy rifles deployed by the United States and others. The anti-material rifle has since become a standardized part of many armies around the world for its effectiveness in dealing with enemy personnel and armor at range.
In October of 2010, the US Army formally created the M2A1 designation in response to an improved form of the M2 Browning. The M2A1 initiative was born out of the failed XM806 program of 2012, a General Dynamics heavy-caliber (50 BMG) development being considered for replacing the original Browning design. The M2A1 brings about use of a new flash suppressor, revised bolt assembly, manual trigger block safety, a Quick-Change Barrel (QCB) feature and an optional carrying handle. Existing US Army M2HB machine guns will undergo the modification to the new M2A1 standard which number some 45,000 individual units.
Variants [ edit | edit source ]
A Marine performs maintenance on an M240 pintle mounted machine gun, mounted on an LAV.
A M240B in use by a U.S. Army soldier.
The manufacturer's name for the weapon is the MAG 58. The M240 adheres to FN MAG-58 specifications, allowing parts to be interchanged with other standard MAG-58s. ΐ] This has significant advantages in training, logistics support, tactical versatility, and joint operations. For example, a US unit with attached British troops could supply replacement parts for the L7s, and vice versa. ΐ]
M240 [ edit | edit source ]
This was adopted in 1977 by the Army to replace the M73 and M219 7.62 mm machine guns, and the M85 .50 cal. In the 1980s, the Marines adopted the M240 and M240E1 for use on vehicles like the LAV-25.
M240E4/M240B [ edit | edit source ]
The M240B is the standard infantry medium machine gun of the U.S. Army. It is also in service with the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard. It comes configured for ground combat with a buttstock and bipod, though it is also mounted aboard ships and small boats. It is almost always referred to as an "M240 Bravo" or even just "240" verbally, but always written as M240B.
The M60E4 (Mk 43 as designated by the U.S. Navy) was pitted against the (then called) M240E4 in Army trials during the 1990s for a new infantry medium machine gun, in a competition to replace the decades-old M60s. The M240E4 won, and was then classified as the M240B. This led to 1,000 existing M240s being sent to FN for an overhaul and a special kit that modified them for use on ground (such as a stock, a rail, etc.). This led to procurement contracts in the late 1990s for all-new M240B. However, a new feature was added, a hydraulic buffer system to reduce the felt recoil as incorporated in the M60. [ citation needed ] While the M240B had been more reliable in the tests, it was a few pounds heavier than the M60E4, which led to the development of the lighter M240L machine gun. The Army M240 converted to the M240B configuration should not be confused with the large numbers of M240/E1 converted to the M240G configuration for the Marine Corps.
In the Marine Corps, the M240G is the predecessor to the M240B. [ citation needed ] The main differences between the two machine-gun variations is the picatinny rail system, hydraulic buffer inside of the butt stock to reduce the amount of recoil felt by the gunner, and only one gas setting on the gas regulator plug. Where as the M240G had three different gas settings allowing for the Machine-Gun to fire between 650–950 rounds per minute depending on the gas setting selected the M240B only allows for one rate of fire of 650–750 rounds per minute. The reason the gas setting have been limited on the M240B is to slow down the rate of fire to allow for the longevity of the machine-gun.
The M240B is being tested with a new adjustable buttstock that may replace the current stock of the M240B. Β] The lighter M240L may replace the M240B in U.S. Army service. Γ] The Marine Corps is observing the progress of the M240L, but feels it is too expensive for adoption. The Corps is instead looking to upgrade the M240B barrel through several ways, including carbon fiber coatings, new alloys, or ceramic liners, to lighten and strengthen the barrel. The goal would be a barrel that would not need to be changed, would weigh the same, but decrease heat retention, lessen warping, and eliminate cook offs. They are also interested in incorporating a suppressor into the barrel, rather than having to attach one, to reduce the sound of shots and make it difficult to determine where the gunner is located. Δ]
M240C [ edit | edit source ]
The M240C is a variation on the original coaxial (installed alongside the main weapon) M240, but with a right-handed feed for use on the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle and LAV as the coaxial machine gun. It is fed from the left on the M1 Abrams and other M1 variant (M1A1, M1A2, M1A2 SEP) tanks. The 240C uses a charging cable instead of a charging handle, has a cut off pistol grip and has a special paddle assembly that allows the trigger to be actuated by means of a solenoid. Since the machine gun is not meant to be handled during use, the barrel is fully exposed and must be handled with asbestos mittens during barrel changes.
M240E1 and M240D [ edit | edit source ]
The M240D has two possible configurations: aircraft and egress (ground). The aircraft configured M240D has a front and rear sight and a trigger group which accommodates the spade grip device. The ground configuration involves the installation of an Egress Package or "infantry modification kit" which is designed to provide downed aircrew personnel with increased firepower. The M240D is an upgrade of the M240E1, primarily in the addition of an optical rail on the receiver cover. The M240E1 is also fitted with spade grips for flexible use.
M240G [ edit | edit source ]
The M240G allows for commonality throughout the Marine Corps whether the weapon is used in an infantry, vehicular, or airborne role. The M240G is the ground version of the original M240 or M240E1, 7.62 mm medium class weapon designed as a coaxial/pintle mounted machine gun for tanks and LAVs. The M240G can be modified for ground use by the installation of an "infantry modification kit" (a flash suppressor, front sight, carrying handle for the barrel, a buttstock, infantry length pistol grip, bipod, and rear sight assembly). The M240G lacks a front heat guard, and as such is a few pounds lighter than the M240B, weighing in at 25.6 lb. The M240G has three gas settings, allowing this weapon to fire between 650 and 950 rounds per minute. On gas setting one the weapon will fire 650–750 rounds per minute, on gas setting two the weapon will fire 750–850 rounds per minute, and on gas setting three the weapon will fire 850–950 rounds per minute.
M240E5/M240H [ edit | edit source ]
An improvement of the M240D, the M240H features a rail equipped feed cover, an improved flash suppressor, and has been configured so that it can be more quickly converted to infantry standard using an Egress Kit. The M240H is 41.2 in long with a 23.6 in barrel, and weighs 26.3 lb empty.
M240L [ edit | edit source ]
Weight reduced short-barreled M240L, the newest variant in service.
The M240L (or M240B Weight Reduction Program, formerly the M240E6), reduces the weight of the existing M240B by 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg). Ε] To achieve 18% weight savings the M240L incorporates titanium construction and alternative manufacturing methods for fabricating major components. The resulting improvements reduced the soldier's combat load while allowing easier handling and movement of the weapon. The M240L may replace the M240B in U.S. Army service. Γ] It was type classified in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2010. Ζ] Η]
M240L 7.62mm Medium Machine Gun (Light) Specifications: [ citation needed ]
- Operation: Gas-operated (full-auto)
- Length: 48.5 inches (44.5 inches with short barrel)
- Weight: 22.3 pounds (22.3 lbs)
- Caliber: 7.62mm NATO (7.62x51mm NATO)
- Maximum effective range: 1,100 meters with tripod and T&E
- Maximum range: 3,725 meters
- Tracer burnout: 900 meters
- Cyclic rate of fire (hydraulic buffer): 550–650 rounds per minute
The Army initially bought 4,500 M240Ls, and plans to buy 12,000 total. Δ]
Others [ edit | edit source ]
At the 2012 SHOT Show, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing showed off their prototype improved M240 version, called the M240LW. The M240LW is a lighter version of the M240, like the M240L, but achieves it without using alternate or expensive materials or different manufacturing techniques. It instead trims off as much metal as possible from the receiver, which is made in two pieces and then bolted together. This removes about six pounds from the original M240B. ⎖]
Along with bank robbing, Kelly made several attempts at kidnapping. With his wife and longtime associate Albert L. Bates, Kelly hatched a plan to kidnap wealthy Oklahoma oil man Charles F. Urschel. On July 22, Bates and Kelly entered the Urschel&aposs Oklahoma City home and abducted Urschel and one of his friends, Walter R. Jarrett, leaving their wives behind. Jarrett was soon let go, but Urschel was held for ransom. Kelly and his gang wanted $200,000 for the oil man.
They set up an elaborate system for the handling of their captive and the delivery of the ransom. But they didn’t count on Urschel’s sharp mind and the authorities keeping track of the ransom money’s serial numbers. The ransom was delivered on July 30 in Kansas City and Urschel was released the next day. He was unharmed and, although blindfolded some of the time, he was able to provide a number of clues to authorities. From Urschel’s descriptions of what he heard and saw while being held hostage, the authorities were able to figure out that he must have been near Paradise, Texas. Earlier there also had been a tip that the Kellys were involved.
May 15, 1718: First Machine Gun Patented by James Puckle!
On May 15, 1718, Englishman James Puckle patented his machine gun, the world’s first! You may have thought the Gatling gun or the Maxim machine gun was the first machine gun, but depending on how you define “machine gun” James Puckle, Esq. (yes, he was a lawyer) got there first.
Puckle’s invention was a flintlock, the form of firearm ignition at the top of technology of the time. It consisted of a single barrel and a cylinder pre-loaded with 11 separate firing chambers of a musket ball and powder charge in each. Puckle intended regular musket balls for use against Christians, while for fighting Muslims a different cylinder would be used to fire special cubical bullets, which he perceived as extra deadly.
Flier for James Puckle’s 1718 patent revolving firearm, shows various cylinders for use with round and square bullets.
The so called “Puckle Gun” was capable of firing 9 rounds per minute, pathetic by comparison to the 500 to 3000 rounds per minute of today’s machine guns, but not bad when compared to the 2 rounds per minute (3 rounds per minute only by the best musketeers) of musket wielding soldiers of the day.
Puckle intended his gun to be used aboard ships as defense against enemy sailors attempting to force a boarding. Although never mass produced and certainly not a commercial success, Puckle did manage to sell a few to john Montagu (later the Master-General of the Ordnance) for use in an expedition to capture St. Lucia and St. Vincent (islands in the Caribbean Sea). Montagu was a notorious practical joker although there is no evidence he bought the “machine guns” as a joke.
The 2nd Duke of Montagu by Godfrey Kneller, 1709
Unlike previous attempts at rapid fire guns, such as lining up many loaded barrels and firing them either all at once or one after the other, the Puckle Gun could be quickly loaded again and again by using pre-loaded cylinders. As with other efforts at rapid fire, firearms really were not suited to become machine guns until metallic case self-contained ammunition was invented.
Since Puckle’s invention did not really serve in any numbers or effectively and was not an evolutionary step in the progression of modern automatic weapons it is more of an historical curiosity rather than a milestone. There certainly are some extremely interesting firearms inventions throughout history, and the Puckle Gun is one of them. Question for students (and subscribers): Which ones do you find fascinating? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Replica Puckle gun from Buckler’s Hard Maritime Museum
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Popular Mechanics has called the Maxim “one of the best firearms ever made,” writing about the incredible structural integrity of the weapon.
In its review, the magazine referenced a 1963 test in Yorkshire by a class of British army armorers. The evaluation employed a Vickers that was no longer considered fit for military use. Using no less than 5 million rounds, the team took turns firing the entire stockpile over the course of a week.
After seven days of nearly continuous fire, the Vickers was broken apart for inspection. The results were mind-boggling. The gun was ruled to be within service spec across every dimension.
Throughout the years, the Maxim has been reconsidered and rebuilt several times – just like today’s Maxim Firearms‘ official slogan, which reads: “Back to the drawing board.” In 2017, the Maxim brand produces AR-15 assault rifles, along with replacement parts and accessories.
The AR-15 is and always has been an impressive weapon in its own right, but when it comes to ingenuity and intricacy of design, nothing quite measures up to the classic Maxim. There’s a reason it has long been a mainstay in the modern world of Steampunk.
With its pintle latch lever, cradle clamping handle, traversing dial, water jacket, belt feed slide, drive spring rod, cradle pintle socket, iron sights, elevating arc and traversing handwheel, it looks like the stuff of pure imagination. But it couldn’t get more real if it tried.
Sam Bocetta is a writer at Gun News Daily where he covers US gun news and reviews the latest firearm products and gear.