One of J.M. Davis’ most popular firearms has always been his Gatling gun.
What can be cooler than ten cold-steel barrels rotating in a shining brass receiver as .45-70 cartridges slide down a top-loaded vertical box magazine, firing as fast as you can turn the crank?
If Tim Allen were a gun guy, he would be grunting and howling like a madman!
Well, that Gatling gun has been the favorite of thousands of visitors to the Museum for the past 50 years and of visitors to J.M. Davis’ Mason Hotel for decades before that.
The Gatlin gun was often the first thing greeting people entering the hotel. Not only did it hold a prominent position near the entrance to the lobby, IT IS A GATLING GUN!
Dr. Richard Gatling patented his weapon in 1862 as a way to reduce the number of soldiers required on a battlefield.
He thought this would actually save lives in wars. Sadly, it did not. The rapid rate of fire just sent more soldiers to their graves more quickly.
Almost everyone has some idea what a Gatling gun is.
But do we all really understand it? It’s a machine gun with lots a barrels, right?
It has lots of barrels, but it is not a machine gun. In a machine gun, the mechanism (or “machine”) makes the gun keep firing until the operator releases a trigger.
A Gatling gun is manually operated. The crank has to be physically and continually turned for the gun to fire.
The only way to make a Gatling gun become a machine gun is to attach a machine that turns the crank.
And that happened pretty quickly. By 1890, someone got the bright idea to attach an electric motor to the crank.
However, that just couldn’t keep the Gatling gun at the top of military leaders wish lists. As less-complicated self-loading machine guns became popular around the world, the Gatling gun’s use waned for quite some time.
It was not until the 1950s that we see a return of the motorized Gatling gun in such artillery as the 20mm M61 Vulcan, the 30mm GAU-8 (the gun that makes the A-10 jet a real “Warthog”), and the .308 Minigun which is usually mounted onto a helicopter, a ship, or a buff movie action hero.
Why today you can even purchase an easy-to-handle electric motor Gatling gun that shoots the same 5.56mm ammunition as most AR-style firearms.
All you need is a bank loan to pay for the gun, the federal machine gun tax stamp, and the ammunition the thing eats up. Oh, you will also need an extension cord!
These days, Mr. Davis’ Gatling gun keeps quiet guard over J.M. and Genevieve as they rest in peace surrounded by the collection they both worked so hard to amass and keep in Claremore.