General Electric

Vulcan Machine Guns
Vulcan's Stream of Fire


Vulcan was the ancient Roman "God of Fire." Vulcan today is the rightly chosen name given to the accepted and proven machine gun, the M61A1, by General Electric, that fires the most intense and sustained stream of projectiles ever produced by a single gun mechanism. It fires over 100 projectiles in one second.

The Vulcan is the re-invented and perfected stepson of the famous Gatling multi-barreled machine gun patented and first produced by Richard J.

Gatling in 1862.

History has it that the North was deprived of a great ordnance officer when Major General Gorgas joined the Confederacy, but this loss was more than offset when Richard Jordan Gatling moved to the North in 1844, to manufacture and market several of his mechanical inventions.

Richard Jordan Gatling
R J Gatling with a Six Barrel Gatling Gun
Machine Gun Gatling
A Section View Showing the Action of Gatling's First Model Gun.
1880s Crank Action Gatling Cannon
Steel Charger acting as Firing Chamber.
Muzzle Loader Main Charge Chamber
Steel Charger that acted as Firing Chamber in Richard Gatling's First Model Gun.

Gatling's first gun was crank-operatcd with six revolving barrels, having a bolt for each barrel. Cocking and firing were performed by cam action and the weapon was gear driven. By taking advantage of the machine tool progress, he was the first to have used successfully a method of camming to insure positive action and certainty of fire.

This model had many of the bad features of its forerunner, the Ager. it used paper cartridges and steel chargers that acted as firing chambers. The chargers were primed with percussion caps on nipples and the bolts acted as srikers to fire the caps. The chargers were supported during combustion by a cylindrical piece that housed the striker. A hopper gravity feed similar to that of the Ager was also used.

20mm Vulcan

M61A1 20mm Vulcan Gun

Catling was born in Hertford County, N.C. on 12 September 1818, descending irom parents who were of English colonists in North Carolina. He conceived plans for guns that were needed in defense of installations, bridges, etc. and patented his first gun in 1862. These first guns were soon perfected and they became some of the most remarkable firing mechanisms of all history—the Catling Gun.

The gun operation was simple, requiring one man to install loaded feeders, while the operator took aim ot the gun and turned it's crank. Hie crank revolved ten barrels. As the barrels turned, the cartridges were dropped into grooves in front ot the gun bolts. A spiral cam pushed the bolts and cartridge forward until the cartridges were chambered in the barrels and fired one at a time.

Catling lived to see his weapons progress from loose powder and percussion cap to primed metallic-cased ammunition, from black to smokeless powder, and to see tests that replaced his hand crank with an electric motor.

General Electric in 1946 recognized with the Ordnance Corp. the potential of Catling's "before-its-time" invention, and applied a high tech electric motor, coupled with modern gun mechanism design and high strength materials, to fire the resulting Vulcan gun at more than 6000 shots per minute in sustained bursts.

A new family of Vulcan guns soon came about that fired many different cartridges, the 37mm, 30mm, 27mm, 25mm, 20mm, calibre .60, calibre .50, 10mm, 7.62mm and 5.56mm, all firing at gun rates from 200 shots per minute (spm) to 10,000 spm. These new guns are of various configuration in response to military requirements. Some have seven barrels, others have six or five, four or three.

It is due to the Vulcan's high performances that these guns have been chosen to arm almost all of the U.S. Air Forces fighter aircraft for the past thrcc-and-one-half decades. The Vulcan and its variations have also been called to serve on bomber defense, on gun pods, on the famous 4'Puff the Magic Dragon''

Gorgas Machine Gun

An Original Gatling Machine Gun with an Accles Feed

(side fire), on U.S. Navy ships for missile and aircraft defense, on most all helicopters for all the services, and on the U.S. Army's Vulcan Air Defense Systems.

The Vulcan's firing sustainability, its field proven reliability and maintainability, and, its modern lightweight designs and materials have provided the U.S. Military and its allies with this family of guns and systems that have met every combat and environmental requirements and situation.

These various externally powered firing mechanisms and armament systems have been in production since 1957. Some are still in production in 1986, as is the M61A1. Other models were developed and tested for military' reasons, but never attained production status.

These guns are listed in the following table showing some of their variations, ammunition used and applications:

An Original Gatling Machine Gun with an Accles Feed


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  • Makda
    When was the gatling gun invented?
    7 years ago

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