Machine Guns

Historic machine gun display in the Theater
The display in the Theater illustrates more than a century of machine gun development.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

Machine Guns Many attempts have been made to increase the volume of fire on the battlefield. The trend, until the Civil War, was to increase the number of infantry soldiers facing each other across the field. The increased range and accuracy of the rifle-musket spelled the end of such tactics and many of the soldiers as well. Machine guns are an attempt to reduce the number of soldiers while increasing fire power.

It is not always a case of reinventing the wheel, but weapons designs often revive earlier concepts. One of the first successful machine guns was the Gatling, with its revolving barrels. Later, this concept was superseded by belt-fed, high-speed, single-barrel weapons. Recently, however, machine guns like the Vulcan and mini-guns have returned to the revolving principle of the Gatling. One reason for the establishment of the Armory weapons collection was to provide a “reference library” in which designers could study earlier approaches to similar problems.


Gatling gun, Model 1862
Cat.# SPAR 5613

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

Gatling Rapid-Fire Gun

Model 1862 type II, cal.: .58”
Gatling gun, Model 1877
Cat.# SPAR 1530

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

Gatling Rapid-Fire Gun, s.n. 335

Model 1877 “Bulldog”, cal.: .45”-70

Vulcan gun prototype
Cat.# SPAR 5631

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

T171E2 Vulcan M-61 prototype

Mfg.: General Electric, cal.: 20mm, 6,000 rpm

Ager rapid-fire gun
Cat.# SPAR 5612

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

Ager Rapid-Fire Coffee Mill Gun

Mfr.: Woodward & Cox, cal.: .58”, 120 rpm

The breech assembly rear -

Close-up of the breech cams -

Ager gun with Union soldiers
The Regimental commander, Col. Henry L. Cake, has the feather in his hat and stands to the right.

Library of Congress

Ager "Coffee Mill" gun in the hands of the 96th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment, Camp Northumberland, northern Virginia, February 1862.
Nordenfelt rapid fire gun
Cat.# SPAR 5616

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

Nordenfelt Rapid-Fire Gun

Mfr.: Maxim & Nordenfelt, cal.: .45”, 500 rpm

Gardner rapid-fire gun
Cat.# SPAR 5615

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

Gardner Rapid-Fire Gun prototype, Model 1877

Mfr.: Pratt & Whitney, cal.: .45”, 500 rpm

Colt-Browning, Model 1895
& Maxim, Model 1904
Cat.# SPAR 1103 & Cat.# SPAR 1255

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

Colt-Browning Machine Gun, Model 1895

Mfr.: Colt, cal.: .30”40 Krag, 400-500 rpm


Maxim Machine Gun, Model 1904

Mfr.: Colt, cal.: .30”, 450-600 rpm

Browning, Model 1917 & German, Model MG-42
Cat.# SPAR 1 & Cat.# SPAR 816

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

Browning Machine Gun, Model 1917, s.n. 1

Mfr.: Westinghouse, cal.: .30”, 450-600 rpm


German Machine Gun, Model MG-42, s.n. 1136

Mfr.: Alkett, cal.: 7.92mm, 1,350 rpm

US, Model M39A2
Cat.# SPAR 5627

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

U.S. Machine Gun, Model M39A2

Mfr.: Pontiac, cal.: 20mm, 750 rpm

Last updated: February 26, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Springfield Armory National Historic Site
One Armory Square
Suite 2

Springfield, MA 01105


(413) 734-8551

Contact Us