Sunday, July 3, 2011

Billinghurst-Requa battery

Although the Gatling gun, patented on 4 November 1862, would prove a superior weapon, the Billinghurst-Requa battery, an advanced organ gun patented on 16 September 1862, predates it and is widely regarded as the first "practical" machine gun to be used during the American Civil War. It was the invention of the self-contained metal cartridge that made the organ gun (also known as the volley gun) a practical weapon. The cleverly arranged breech, which closed on a piano hinge, allowed for the ammunition strips to be loaded, fired, extracted, and reloaded quickly by the crew of three.

When the side-mounted loading levers were up, the breech was open. A powder train was laid behind the ammunition strip. Pushing the levers forward secured the breech. A musket cap was placed on the central priming nipple and fired with a simple flip-over hammer mechanism. The barrels, each 700mm/24in long, fired sequentially from the centre out with a characteristic rippling effect.
A Billinghurst-Requa battery gun from around 1862. The weight of the 25 musket barrels meant that the gun had to be mounted on a light artillery carriage, and many armies therefore mistakenly considered weapons on gun carriages as light artillery and not a support weapon for the infantry. The idea of a multi-barrelled weapon had first appeared in a design by the Italian Leonardo da Vinci in the late 15th century.

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