David Lyle and his Life Saving Gun
Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS
David A. Lyle
After graduation from West Point in 1869, David Lyle, a specialist in ordnance, began his military career with duty at San Francisco’s Benecia Arsenal. When the Secretary of the Treasury, who was responsible for the Life Saving Service, asked for the Army’s assistance in improving lifesaving apparatus, Lyle was assigned the task “in addition to his regular duties.”
Lyle transferred to Springfield Armory where he spent two years reviewing and experimenting with the various devices available. By 1878 he had developed an accurate light weight gun which was put into service at lifesaving stations along the Nation’s coasts. As testimony to the effectiveness of Lyle’s work, it has been estimated that by 1906 the gun was responsible for saving approximately 4500 lives. Lyle’s life saving gun remained in production through World War II.
David Lyle was a person of varied interests. Although his best known contribution was the development of the life saving gun, he also published studies on the manufacture of leather, rasps and files, and scientific papers on ornithological and geological subjects.