Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 90.djvu/682

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The Story of the Machine Gun

Peace-loving Americans invented the deadliest of modern weapons

By Edward C. Grossman


���The water -jacketed Maxim. The cartridges are fired by means of webbing belts. They fire at the rate of from 300 to 600 shots per minute. No machine gun is fired very long

��THE machine gun is purely an American weapon, from the Gatling of black powder days to the latest feather- weight Lewis and Hotchkiss and Maxim. It is frankly and brutally a man-killing weapon. In Civil War days Dr. Gatling of Chicago evolved a seven-barrel gun to fire the army .45 caliber cartridge at the rate of four hundred or five hundred shots a minute. By the grinding of a crank, the seven barrels and the mechanism were revolved around their long axis. A barrel was loaded as it left the top position, the loading and closing of the breech being done on the half revolution from top to bottom position. At the bottom position the cartridge was fired, and on the upward turn the breech was opened, the cartridge extracted and the barrel left ready for the fresh cartridge by the time it came to the top. The operation was the same for each barrel, and the seven spun furiously around and around, spitting fire and death at a rate unheard of in those days. The cartridges were fed from a drum or a hopper above the gun, dropping down for each barrel by the force of gravity into the grip of the loading mechanism. Later an improved feed was designed, the Acles, which fed in cartridges by positive motion, even though the magazine was olaced at the side of the gun.

��The gun was used at different times in our Civil War but always manned by employees of the Gatling Company. Because of the poor ammunition of those days, the gun was often jammed, but it was extremely successful and formidable with good ammu- nition, and was the first machine gun of history. Even as late as the fight at San Juan in 1898 the Gatling was used, its fire helping to take the blockhouse on the hill. But our army was always suspicious of the gun, not knowing just how to use it. It was too heavy to accompany infantry, and its range was not long enough to be used with artillery.

The French in 1870 had the same trouble learning what to do with their first machine gun, the mitrailleuse. That frightful

weapon was as heavy as a field gun, and looked like one, so the French used it with their batteries in spite of its short range. Then the Prussian long range field guns would knock the mitrailleuse clear over into the next county without having to fear a reply from the faulty infantry cartridges which were its food.

The mitrailleuse — which means merely a "grape-shooter" from the fancied re- semblance of the strike of its bullets to the impact of a charge of grape-shot — had thirtv-seven barrels mounted in an iron


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