The machine gun of the present day, the murderous weapon which has numbered its victims by the hundreds of thousands during the European war, had its origin in the mind of a man whose birth dates back to almost exactly one hundred years before this war began, that of Samuel Colt, born at Hartford, Conn., on July 19, 1814.
The small arm of the previous period, the old "Brown Bess," used in the British army for 150 years, was a muzzle-loading, flint-lock musket of the crudest make.
Custer's Last Stand The revolver played a large part in Indian warfare..
The only important improvement made in it during that long term of service was the substitution of the percussion cap for the flint lock. This took place in the last period of its use. A breech-loading rifle was also invented about this time. This was the "Needle Gun" of which 60,000 were issued to the Prussian army in 1841, and which was first used in 1848, in the German war with Denmark.
The Colt pistol had appeared before this date. The idea of it grew in the mind of young Colt when he left his father's silk mill and shipped as a boy sailor in the ship "Carlo," bound from Boston to Calcutta. While on this voyage the conception of a revolving pistol came to him, and he whittled out a rude model of one with a penknife from a piece of wood.
* Illustrations by courtesy of Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Co.
Single Action Army and Frontier Revolver - The "Cowboy's Friend".
The Original Patterson Model, 1836.
Old Model "Powder and Ball" Revolver Used in Mexican.
and Civil Wars this and the following year in the United States, Britain and France, and in 1836 he established the "Patent Arms Company" at Paterson, N. J., with a paid-in capita1* stock of about $150,000. This was a bold move by the young inventor, then just escaped from boyhood.
When he returned he sought in vain to interest his father and others in his idea of a pistol with a revolving cylinder containing six chambers to be discharged through a single barrel. This boyish notion won no converts. and at the age of eighteen he went on a lecture tour on chemistry, under the dignified title of Dr. Coult. These lectures met with success, and he used the money made by them in developing his pistol, which was in a shape to patent by 1835. Patents were taken out by him in
Gun Mounted on Landing Carriage With Shaft Attachment.
Pack Saddle for Carrying Automatic Machine Gun and Complete Equipment.
Automatic Machine Gun Mounted on Light Landing Carriage, Ammunition Chests Open, Showing.
How Feed Boxes, etc., are Carried
Young Colt tried in vain to interest government officials in his new weapon, their principal objection being that he used in it the new percussion caps instead of the time-honored flintlock. But success came during the Seminole War of 1837, when some of the officers, who had seen the new revolving pistol, decided to give it a trial and sent to the factory for a supply.
Its value was soon proved. The Indians looked on this weapon that could be fired six times after one loading, as something magical. It was too much for their philosophy and the war soon came to an end. At a later date it was used by the Texans in their war against Mexico, and from that time on every Texas ranger wanted a revolver. It has ever since been the favorite weapon of the cowboy and frontiersman.
But wars ran out, the market closed, and the "Patent Arms Company" failed. What put Colt on his feet again was the Mexican war a few years later. General Taylor offered Colt a contract for one thousand revolvers at $24 each, and though the young inventor was looked upon as a ruined man he took the contract, got together the necessary capital, and built a factory on the Connecticut at Hartford. From that time on there was no want of a market. The "Forty-Niners" took revolvers to California, foreign governments sent orders for them, and armories were built in England and in Russia for their manufacture. Colt died in 1862, but the Civil War had previously opened a great market for his pistols, and before the conflict ended the Colt factory at Hartford was in a highly flourishing state. • In the following years the revolver be-
Automattc Pistol - Government Model,.
In this model the slide remains open after firing the last cartridge. When reloading the arm in this position, insert the magazine, then press downward the slide stop (to the rear of the trigger as illustrated). The slide goes forward, inserting a cartridge without any movement of the slide by hand. The slide stop is operated by the thumb of the hand holding the pistol.
Adopted by the Police Departments of the principal cities of the United States and Canada.
Automatic Pistol - Pocket Model, Hammerless.
The action of this pistol is automatic except that he trigger must be pulled to fire each shot; continued lischarge will not result from one pull of the trigger.
Automatic Machine Gun Mounted on Tripod, Showing Belt Passing Out (Right Side).
came a prime necessity in dealing with the Indians of the West, and a school-book statement of that date was to the effect that: "The greatest civilizer of modern times is the Colt revolver." Another writer, speaking of the "Peacemaker," an effective weapon produced after 1870, said: "It has the simplicity, durability, and beauty of a monkey-wrench."
The revolving idea was applied to guns about 1861 by Richard J. Gatling, the first Gatling guns fitted for use with metalling ammunition being produced by the Colt Company in 1870. These guns had ten barrels revolving around a central shaft and in their developed form were capable of being fired at the rate of one thousand shots a minute. The first of these to be used prominently in warfare was the French mitrailleuse, used by France in the war of 1870-71. The Gatling soon made its way widely, and its rapidity of fire became a proverb. If anything moved quickly it was said to "go like a Gatling" or "sound like a Gatling."
Automatic Gun Mounted on Automobile.
Other guns of this type are the Hotchkiss, the Nordenfeldt and the Gardner, and a more recent one is the Maxim, which, after the first shot is fired by hand power, continues to fire shot after shot by means of the power derived from the explosion of each successive cartridge. In the early form of the revolver the empty cartridge cases had to be ejected from the cylinder singly by an ejector rod or handy nail. In 1898 a new type was introduced with a lateral swinging cylinder which permitted the simultaneous ejection of all the empty shells.
Near the time of the Spanish-American War appeared what is known as the Colt automatic gun, operated by the action of the powder gases on a piston and lever near the muzzle of the barrel. This could be fired at the rate of 400 to 500 shots a minute, and by reason of its light weight could be very easily carried. The British used it effectively in the Boer War.
Today the Colt Company manufacture revolvers in which the simultaneous ejection of the cartridge-cases and recharging of the chambers is combined with a strong, jointless frame; automatic magazine pistols in which the pressure of the powder gases, as above said, is utilized after giving the proper velocity to the projectile, it requiring only a slight continued pressure on the trigger for each shot; automatic machine guns firing at will single shots or volleys while requiring only a slight pull upon the trigger; and the improved manually-operated Gatling gun firing the improved modern ammunition. The cartridges are carried on a tape which feeds them with the necessary rapidity into the barrel.
What would be the history of the European War without the machine gun is not easy to state, but as a highly efficient weapon of war its quality has been abundantly proved.