Opening Shot: Model 1883 and No. 353 Gatling Guns

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posted on November 5, 2019
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Those words, from Rudyard Kipling’s 1890 poem “Gunga Din,” served as the inspiration for a 1939 movie by the same name starring Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Victor McLaughlin and Sam Jaffe. In the classic film’s final battle scene, two Gatling guns and their field carriages are offloaded from elephants, set up and put into action by the soon-to-be victorious British troops. Both of those guns now reside at NRA’s National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Va. They are Model 1883s, Serial No. 341 (shown here) and No. 353, chambered in .45-70 Gov’t, and they were made by “Colts Pat. F.A. Mfg. Co. Hartford Conn. USA”—as most were. Part of the Robert E. Peterson Collection, they were previously in the J.S. Stembridge gun rental collection at Paramount Studios.

The manually operated gun has 10 barrels that are fully encased in brass, and on its top is an Accles 104-round, positive-feed drum, patented by James G. Accles on Dec. 18, 1883. Unlike previous Gatlings, the crank could be mounted on either the right side or at the rear—providing direct drive—with an impressive cyclic rate of up to 1,500 rounds per minute, provided there were no issues with the finicky Accles system.

Serial No. 341 is part of the museum’s “Hollywood Guns” exhibit, and thanks to the Robert Peterson Estate, you can see Serial No. 353 (in its original box) as well as seven more Gatlings in chamberings from .30-40 Krag to .50-70 Gov’t at the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Va.

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