M134 Minigun: The Modern Gatling Gun (Video)

The General Electric M134 “Minigun” is essentially an electrically-powered Gatling gun – the conceptual operation of the gun is identical to Dr. Gatling’s original creation. What has changed, however, is the chambering (it’s in 7.62 NATO), the power source (an electric motor), and the feed mechanism (belt-feed using M60 links instead of the Gatling’s Accles, Broadwell, or Bruce feeds). The weapon was a scaled down version of a 20mm rotary powered cannon devised for aircraft armament after WW2, hence the “mini” name. It was used primarily as helicopter armament, although it has found its way only ground vehicles as well. Firing between 3000 and 6000 rounds per minute, the Minigun is ideal for aerial engagements where the gunner only has a brief moment on target and needs to fire as much as possible during that moment.

It is a truly awe-inspiring weapon, and quite an experience to fire! In addition to destroying a truck with it, we will look at disassembly and functioning of the minigun – the delinking mechanism is really the most complex part of the weapon, and a very interesting device.

Thanks to Modern Arms of Tempe, AZ for providing the Minigun for this video! They offer the gun for rental, if you are interested in trying it out yourself.

33 Comments

  1. There are gas-opreated gatlings too, althru i do not know if the general electric or anyone in US makes them. For sure at least Russians do.

    • “For sure at least Russians do”
      Most Soviet aviation autocannons and machine guns are self-propelled rather than requiring external power source.
      For starting ГШ-6-23 uses пиропатрон which was basically 6,18×60R blank cartridge with electric primer, which fired give powder gases which was used to give motion to barrels cluster
      http://www.airwar.ru/weapon/guns/gsh623.html

      • One of early Soviet self-propelled Gatling-style weapon was developed by Слостин. You can see here experimental Слостин 7.62-mm gas-operated 8-barrel machine gun from 1939:
        http://raigap.livejournal.com/341023.html
        in this model barrels move forward (notice proprietary belt), during trials it achieve Rate-Of-Fire 3300, but was unreliable and has low accuracy.

        • Despite problems Слостин don’t abandon idea of multi-barrel-rotary machine gun, you can see later machine gun here:
          https://topwar.ru/4540-shkvalnye-pulemety-slostina.html
          It has (real) Rate-Of-Fire of 1760-2100. It proved to be far less accurate than SG-43 machine gun, but this accuracy was considered good enough for weapon of squall fire.
          In 1949 year 8-barrel 14.5×114-mm variant was considered as weapon for IS-7 heavy tank, unlike smaller version barrels can’t go forward/backward, but it don’t work as intended.

        • “versions”
          Some clean-up
          ГШ-30-1 (or ГШ-301) – 1-barrel, short-recoil
          ГШ-30-2 (or ГШ-2-30) – 2-barrel, Gast principle
          ГШ-6-30 – 6-barrel, rotary barrel cluster

          “3(…)barrel”
          I have not any information about 3-barrel weapon of 30mm caliber and designed by Gryazev and Shipunov.

          “Those two people were master cannon designers”
          Their cannons might be most awe-inspiring, but they designed also other weapons. Each of them earned high awards: Hero of Socialist Labour (Shipunov – 1979, Gryazev – 1984) and twice Order of Lenin (Shipunov – 1979 and 1984, Gryazev – 1971 and 1984).
          From smaller armament they designed ГШ-18 automatic pistol, ГШГ-7,62 machine gun (co-designed with Глаголев hence first Г in designation)
          Gryazev designed following small-arms (incomplete list) most contain innovative solutions:
          A-91 – combined avtomat-grenadelauncher, bull-pup, can be used as right-hand or left-hand weapon without any modification (throw spent cases forward)
          ПП-9-М – sub-machine gun
          ПП-93 – sub-machine gun, derived from ПП-90, lacking folding capability
          ПП-90М1 – sub-machine gun, unrelated to ПП-90 (despite similar designation), can use box 32-round magazine (via adapter) or 64-round helical magazine, it has charging button, polymers and metal stampings are widely used
          ПП-2000 – sub-machine gun (however close to category of machine pistol), 44-round magazine can be used as stock, it has also folding charging handle
          9А-91 – small-dimension avtomat
          ВСК-94 – sniper rifle
          В-94 – 12.7mm sniper rifle
          ОСВ-96 – 12.7mm sniper rifle
          АГС-30 – machine grenade launcher
          ЛПО-97 – machine grenade launcher
          6Г30 – hand-held grenade launcher
          П-96С and П-96М – automatic pistols, short-recoil/barrel-rotate
          Беркут – hunting rifle
          As main constructor (главный конструктор) he make 38 designs of weapons and cartridges which enter production.

          • That is very impressive list Daweo;

            in time I will look at individual designs in detail.
            Btw, I read just yesterday on this page https://topwar.ru/ about some Czech arms; they seem to have quite respect for them. Now the Russian language they packed in my head start to make some sense. 🙂

          • About ZB47 (I can relate to that year, haha) I know and probably seen it in museum elsewhere.

            It is kind of unusual and Holek apparently wanted to produce something extremely compact. I do not think it ever saw service as a standard issue. There were already manuals made for it. I have seen plenty of v.24 by Holecek (interesting similarity of names) however, as it was used by border-guards; that time still with DDR.

            Interestingly enough, CZUB seem to have success with the latest creation, Skorpion EvoIII. So there is continuous tradition going on.

  2. In 1966 I was stationed at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds to be trained as a small arms repairman. Some time in May or June we kept hearing a roar in the area. We asked what it was but they told us it was classified. None of us identified it as a firearm. The last weekend I was there they gave an exibition to show off the weapon. Unfortunately, I lived off post and was unable to attend. Thanks to this video I now understand much more about the electric Gatling gun. Some of the people that got to attend stated that at one point they shot at a plywood target and so many tracer rounds went through it that it caught on fire. I suppose the barrel life suffered from this, but they wanted to show the speed. Luckily, At the last minute my orders were changed from Viet Nam to Germany so I never saw one again except in movies. Thank you for this video. I don’t think I could keep up with it with my Dillon XL-650…

  3. Ho HO BRRRRRRRRRRRT, Merry Christmas!

    Thanks for the close-ups on the feed mechanism Ian. Most people who show these off are too busy salivating to show off the interesting technical details that actually make these crazy things work.

    • And they are way too expensive for ordinary folks. Thankfully an old-style Gatling gun is PERFECTLY legal to own, even with the stupid ATF rules. The reason? Gatling guns require external power sources in order to cycle, thus they are not defined as automatic weapons! Oddly enough, flame-throwers are also perfectly legal to own without a license!

      • Flamethrowers are actually used for agriculture in some areas. Usually they are purpose built ones for the task that are not like military models, but you would be surprised what you see occasionally.

  4. Regarding “handheld miniguns”: Per the IMFDB, the minigun used in Predator was heavily modified to make it somewhat man-portable, but its ROF was slowed to about 1,250 RPM, and it still could only carry about 4 seconds worth of ammo in its backpack (and no batteries, which were always on the ground and connected by a hidden cable for the firing scenes). All the sustained fire scenes used separate ammo supplies and camera trickery.

    The gun used in Terminator 2 was apparently an entirely fake Airsoft weapon.

  5. On general note: I try to comprehend, so far without break-through, why some gun enthusiasts are so “magnetised” by full automatic fire (the bigger the volume the better). It is likely they never saw military service.

    I personally consider all machineguns as “stupid” devices (part of those for air-air application). If you can score with 1-2 shots, you are master of trade; if you need salvo you are a slop. I know tis will not sit well with many people and they will talk about “suppressive fire” and so on. Just consider, in true combat situation – how many supply trucks are on standby for you…

    And yes, believe me, I have done good amount of auto-fire as part of job.

    • ““magnetised” by full automatic fire (the bigger the volume the better)
      (…)
      all machineguns as “stupid” devices”
      I would say machine guns with reasonable rate-of-fire are feasible. Notice that most machine gun in usage fire 600 rpm or similar, even if it is technically possible to have bigger rate-of-fire.

      “air-air application”
      Rifle-caliber machine-gun for this application are long outdated. It work with era of plywood-canvas aeroplane, with introduction of all-metal aeroplanes with self-sealing fuel tanks, it become too weak.

      • You are right, if very short burst with ROF at around 8-10 shots per second is considered, there is hardly argument against it. I just wanted to stir the pot a bit.

  6. The weight penalty for high volume systems is high.
    Look at an example of GAU-8 used on A10:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GAU-8_Avenger

    Weapon weighs 600lbs while whole system 4,000lbs. Would you like o carry in on your back? I apologize if it sounds provocative, it is not intended so; just for correct understanding. I know, I will hear that it “gets job done”, but it is gross overkill to be true.

      • You know Daweo,

        I understand there is amount of experience behind each statement (such as you quote). But at the same time, I am aware that technical level of available armaments and their efficiency has multiplied in recent decades. Now we can with degree of ‘comfort’ even talk about ‘measured’ efficiency; that how far we made it (missing emoticon for sadness).

  7. For me personally the only time I’ve fired an auto loading firearm was a PPS-41 SMG many years ago. It was a cool and memorial experience because it was a one time event. As far as ammo wastage and resupply and accuracy goes back I’m quite sure that goes back to arguing over carrying two smaller rocks or one big one.

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