The Puckle Gun is considered one of the first machine guns ever built. Join us for a closer look at this incredible weapon that set the stage for modern firearms seven decades before the 2nd amendment was written.
History Of The Puckle Gun
The Puckle gun (aka the Defence gun) was patented by James Puckle, a British inventor, in 1718. Technically a repeating rifle, not a machine gun as we know it, this flintlock weapon features a manually operated revolving cylinder that could be loaded with round bullets, square bullets, or shot.
Ian from Forgotten Weapons takes a closer look at full sized replica of an original Puckle Gun in the video below.
Although the Puckle gun bears some resemblance to the early Gatling guns, it was not intended for use against infantry on an open battlefield.
The British Empire struggled to protect their merchant and naval vessels from pirates of the Ottoman empire. Turkish pirates would attack larger ships from tiny boats that were too fast and too maneuverable to defend against.
British ships were equipped with broadside cannons meant for naval combat with a vessel of equivalent size. What they needed was a smaller weapon that could be rapidly fired and re-positioned to engage a moving target.
James Puckle found a solution with his “Defence Gun.”
Loading And Firing
In Machine Guns: An Illustrated History of Their Impact, author James H. Willbanks describes the weapon’s unique mechanics in greater detail. Depending on how it was configured, the cylinder could hold 6 to 11 rounds. Once detached from the weapon, the cylinder was hand-loaded with powder and shot. In the shot configuration, 16 musket balls were fired with each discharge.
The weapon was based on the same mechanics of a flintlock musket. A small piece of flint was used in a striking mechanism to ignite black-powder and discharge the projectile. The Puckle gun was fired from a trigger mechanism. Next, a hand crank was used to manually advance the cylinder to the next chamber, which was locked in place. Finally, the flintlock was reset and the weapon could be fired again. This process was repeated until the cylinder was empty or the threat was eliminated.
Although slow by today’s standards, the Puckle gun was capable of firing an impressive 9 shots per minute while the average musketeer could fire just 2 to 5 shots per minute. Unfortunately, the weapon barely made it out of the prototype phase due to mechanical problems.
According to Charles Ffoulkes’ 1937 book The Gun-Founders of England: With a List of English and Continental Gun-Founders from the XIV to the XIX Centuries, Puckle’s design was not well received by the English Board of Ordnance. According to Willbanks, the Puckle gun suffered from a “clumsy and undependable flintlock ignition” among other mechanical failures.
The video below features a working 1/2 scale replica of the Puckle gun.
While the Puckle gun was not a huge success on the battlefield, it does prove that gunsmiths were actively seeking a weapon with a higher rate of fire than the common musket.
Many members of the anti-gun community in the United States argue that the founding fathers could not have anticipated modern weaponry’s rate of fire when they wrote the 2nd Amendment. The existence of weapons like the Puckle Gun and the Girandoni air rifle prove that the gunsmiths of the 18th Century not only anticipated semi and fully-automatic weapons, they were actively trying to build them.