Book Review
The Gatling Gun
The Gatling Gun
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]

This is a review of the Osprey Publishing LTD book The Gatling Gun by author Peter Smithurst, illustrator Johnny Shumate and series editor Martin Pegler.

A critical chapter in the history of firearms, the multibarrelled, hand-cranked Gatling gun was one of the very first practical rapid-fire weapons to be used in anger. It revolutionized warfare by introducing the capability to project deadly, high-intensity fire on the battlefield, and foreshadowed the devastation that automatic weapons would wreak in World War I. During its 50-year career, it saw service with US, British, and other forces on a host of battlefields through conflicts in Zululand and the American West, to the Spanish-American War. Though widely used in the hands of industrialized nations against groups of indigenous native warriors, it was famously left behind by Custer at the battle of the Little Bighorn, where some argue it could have made all the difference. This study investigates the origins, development and combat use of the formidable Gatling gun, exploring the lasting legacy of the key precursor to the modern machine gun.**
** Quoted from the back cover of the book.

“(Gatlings’) are worthless for Indian fighting, the range is no longer than the rifle and the bullet so small that you cannot tell where the strike”. - Colonel Nelson Miles during the American Plains Indian Wars.

“Altogether, we cannot wish the Ashantees worse luck than to get in the way of a Gatling well served”. – Sir Garnet Wolseley during the Third Anglo-Ashanti War.


Osprey Publications Ltd have released The Gatling Gun as Number 40 in their Weapon series, this is a softcover book with 80 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs and color photographs, color illustrations, cut-away views, informational charts and detailed captions. It has a 2015 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-0597-3. The book details the development, use and impact of the world famous Gatling gun throughout military history.


  • Introduction
  • Development - A new species of weapon is born
  • Use - The Gatling at war
  • Impact - ‘A terrible gun which shoots all day’
  • Conclusion
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • Index

The text in the book is nicely written and well detailed. Peter Smithurst covers the Gatling gun from its development and introduction and its use by various nations throughout military history. As one can guess by the title the main focus is on the Gatling gun and its progress through history. Discussed are the many versions of the Gatling gun such as the Model of 1865, Model of 1869, Model of 1871, Model 1877 ‘Bulldog’, and their upgrades and improvements and the various types of ammunition used that lead to the now famous Gatling gun that is known throughout the world. The history of the Gatling gun and its use throughout military history is discussed and some of the conflicts discussed are: The American Civil War, the Red River War, the Nez Perce War, the Bannock War, the Spanish-American War, the Franco-Prussian War, the Third Anglo-Ashanti War, the Second Anglo-Afghan War and the Anglo-Zulu War. In addition to the various conflicts, the various countries that included the Gatling gun into their military’s weapon inventories are also discussed and detailed such as the United States, Russia and Great Britain as well as various locations of use such as the South Pacific and Egypt and the Sudan. As I read through the text I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings. I feel that if the text is well written then it shows that the author has taken the time to be a professional with their writing. Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on the Gatling gun from its development and introduction and its use by various nations throughout military history to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and interesting book.

There are a total of 55 black and white photographs and 20 color photographs. The photographs range from wide angle photographs to close-up detailed photographs. 38 of the black and white photographs are of original patent illustrations and illustrations from period periodicals. I would say that the photographs that were chosen for this book were for the most part lesser known photographs as opposed to photographs that are featured in many other titles that deal with the same subject matter. The majority of the photographs are clear and easily viewable, however a few have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark, and others appear too light. This is typical for the discussed periods of history and consideration needs to be given to the fact that some of the photographs are several years old and the quality of the photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book. I appreciate the fact that there are several photographs of just the weapons themselves as opposed to photographs that feature the weapons in a broad generalized military photograph. In my opinion it makes it much easier to study the various weapons and their details and variations. Author Peter Smithurst stuck to the title of the book and chose photographs that are specific to the Gatling gun and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. The majority, if not all, of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information to the military firearm enthusiast and military modeler due to the details they contain.

Some of the variations of the Gatling gun shown and discussed are:
  • Ager “Coffee Mill” gun, 58in caliber
  • Model 1862 Gatling Gun II
  • British Army .45in Gatling gun
  • Model 1874 ‘camel gun’
  • Model 1877 ten-barreled ‘bulldog’
  • Dr. Josephus Requa .52in caliber volley gun
  • Two-barrelled Gardner gun
  • Hotchkiss revolving Cannon on a field carriage
  • Royal Artillery Gatlings fitted with Broadwell drum magazines
  • 20mm Vulcan gun from a F/A 18F Super Hornet

Some of the photographs that I found to particularly interesting contain subjects such as:
  • The Ager ‘Coffee Mill’ gun
  • A close-up photograph showing the details of the right hand portion of a 45-70 feed box
  • A cascable-plate wrench used on the .30in-calibre Gatling gun in US service
  • The Dr. Josephus Requa .52in caliber volley gun
  • The various types of ammunition used in the various Gatling guns
  • Members of the US 7th Cavalry posing with Gatling guns. As I look at the photograph I wonder if any of the men shown survived the famous Battle of the Little Big Horn
  • US soldiers moving a Gatling gun by hand somewhere in Cuba during the Spanish-American War
  • Royal Artillery Gatling guns fitted with the Broadwell drum magazines
  • A US police patrol in a wagon equipped with a ‘Bulldog’ Gatling gun


There are 4 color illustrations including 3 by illustrator Johnny Shumate. The illustrations are of:
  • How the Gatling works - A cut-away view of the Gatling gun showing the process of how the firing mechanism works.
  • Red River, 30 August 1876 - The first use of the Gatling gun in combat in America showing Colonel Nelson Miles’ 5th Infantry firing Gatling’s at Native American Cheyenne warriors.
  • San Juan Hill, 1 July 1898 - Gatling guns firing upon the Spanish position on San Juan Hill ahead of the US Army’s advance.
  • Nyezane, 22 January 1879 - A Gatling gun crew in action against Zulu warriors during the Anglo-Zulu War.

There are 3 notes included in this volume and they are:
  • The NRA Museums
  • Acknowledgments
  • Editor’s Note

The captions are well written and are greatly detailed and explain the accompanying photographs and illustration in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown and taking place in the accompanying photograph. The captions go into very specific detail as to weapons and their variations and modifications, locations and dates, military units shown and other such pertinent information. I was very impressed by Peter Smithurst’s captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions I have seen that are very brief and lack detail.

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing Ltd. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.

As with the other Osprey Publishing weapons series titles I was impressed with this volume. This is a very nice reference book that contains many close-up detailed subject specific photographs and illustrations and well detailed captions. It details the Gatling gun from its development and introduction and its use by various nations throughout military history. I would have no hesitation to add other Osprey Publishing titles to my personal library nor would I hesitate to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal military reference library.

Little Big Horn 1876
Custer's Last Stand
Campaign 39
Peter Panzeri

Search inside the book on the Osprey web site Live links

Look inside the book on the Amazon web site Live links

Look inside the Kindle Edition of the book on the Amazon web site Live links
Highs: Well written text and captions Subject specific photographs and illustrations
Lows: Nothing to mention
Verdict: Another excellent volume in Osprey Publishing’s Weapon series. Definitely beneficial to the military small arms enthusiast and military modeler.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 978-1-4728-0597-3
  Suggested Retail: US $18.95 / UK £12.99
  PUBLISHED: May 16, 2015
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. All rights reserved.


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