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The first effective rotary gun was the Gatling Gun, invented in 1861 and it was a brutally effective weapon that had the advantage of high quality steel, rifling, and percussion caps. But for most of their history firearms didn’t have these features. For centuries firearms were but a metal tube and a touchhole.

In my setting firearms are still throughly at this stage of development, but a mad lord has created a new design that’s meant to put the firepower of a whole squad of arbaquesiers into two man crews.

The design consists of a wooden frame, cog and pinyon, and ten gun barrels attached to a wooden holder that is spun by cranking. The barrels can be pulled out by hand from the holder and are manually reloaded.

The crew consists of a shooter and reloader. The shooter rotates the barrels via the crank, and fires them with a match and touch hole. The reloader then pulls out the barrel and begins to reload as the shooter rotates to the next barrel.

These crews are used in both pitched battles and sieges, and their tactics vary accordingly. During sieges the crews fire through embrasures and on the field they are placed either in war wagons with cannon crews to form a mobile artillery unit, or within pike squares.

So is it viable to have a rotating matchlock? Obviously it would not be an ideal weapon, but could it be put to use on a battlefield where guns are just starting to make a showing and all kinds of experimental weapons and techniques are being used?

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    $\begingroup$ Deep madness indeed. No wonder the history didn't record that lord. Battlefield? Makes a heavy contraption from a firearm that was meant to be portable. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ iam not knowledgeable with gun but do you mean something like this ? eight shot matchlock revolver the full imageor something like thisor this ? $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ there also this volley gun $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't it be easier just to have ten matchlocks and have five people firing and five people reloading? $\endgroup$
    – NomadMaker
    Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 23:19
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    $\begingroup$ See also the various models of pepper-box pistols (and occasionally long guns) that have been built over the last several centuries: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pepper-box $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 3:24

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This sounds more like a volley gun or a rather primitive revolver than a Gatling gun. The most important part of the Gatling mechanism is not that you have multiple barrels, but that they get automatically reloaded during firing.

Volley guns were experimented with basically since the invention of the gun. But they always had the same problems. The reloads were too long and the weapons were too heavy. Some primitive guns were also designed as breach-loaders to speed up the reload and make preloading easier, but they had the problem that the breach was never really airtight. It is often said that the first useful volley gun was the French Mitrailleuse in the 1860s but in the end it was way too late and the Gatling gun was already invented.

Revolvers, on the other hand, were officers' weapons for close-ranged combat. As other pistols they weren't meant to be reloaded in battle. Instead, when shot empty, their user would switch them for his sword.

I think your design could be of mild effect against storming enemies during sieges. Wait till you can reliably hit your enemies and try to kill as many of them with your two available salvos, hoping that this will break their assault. In field battles I don't really see an advantage for them.

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    $\begingroup$ Korea used hwacha, which is described as volley/rocket launcher guns, apparently successfully against Japanese invasion in 16th century: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hwacha "Some East Asian historians believe this technological breakthrough, alongside the turtle ship in the mid-16th century, had a distinctive effect during the war" $\endgroup$
    – Gnudiff
    Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 22:16
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I don't think that it makes sense manpower or shot amount wise, mostly because reloading speed is limited and the point of diminishing returns is very rapidly reached.

For example, take one man with a gun. Every shot, they need to manually reload. Now, if they have a friend who's preparing the reloads and takes the gun from the shooter the moment the shot is fired, then I think it would be reasonable that the team achieves a higher rate of fire than a single person.

Here's the problem though: is one two man team faster at shooting than two one man teams? I don't think so because I doubt that delegating the act of reloading to a team member can cut over 50% off of the shot to shot cycle time. Even if this is the case, there is no way that adding a third member would increase the rate of fire with only a single gun.

In summary, everything your rotary flintlock team can do can be done with much less complexity by just having two guns and swapping them between the reloader and the shooter. Furthermore, I'm not sure if this handing-off-the-gun-to-reload strategy really makes sense when you compare it to simply giving everyone a gun and having them reload by themselves.

The only real situation I can imagine where handing a designated shooter pre-loaded single-shot guns is if the shooter is so skilled that having anyone else shoot would be the waste of a shot or there is only space for one person to shoot out of, like a narrow window or ambush hole.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't know, with 10 barrels you'd have a bigger buffer if the reloader had a problem. $\endgroup$
    – Spencer
    Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Spencer sure, but the same buffer could be achieved with more regular guns. Having the reloader be so close to a firing gun also isn't very safe and requires them to expose themselves to enemy fire if shooting from cover. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ Sure, one shooter (of regular firearms) and a team of reloaders would outpace OP's contraption - and be more mobile. $\endgroup$
    – KlaymenDK
    Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 7:05
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With "historical" matchlocks, no.

I think that you have a bit of a misconception. It appears to me that you are asking for a standard rifle-shell that's ignited via a matchlock. Such things were never used; the much better flintlocks and percussion caps were already around when the cartridge was invented.

Now, in case that you really were asking about a Gatling gun with real-life matchlock technology, let me dispel you of that notion.

Regardless of numerous other problems (flash powder falling out, etc.) the reload on a historical matchlock is much too long.

It's pretty much impossible to create an autoloader for matchlocks with the technologies which were contemporary at the time. Without autoloading, your minigun would just be a weird-looking volley gun. Unfortunately, volley guns (e.g. the Mitrailleuse) aren't very good in field combat. They're just as bulky as a cannon, and take significantly longer to reload. While armies did use them historically, it was primarily as a specialized weapon to deal with cavalry charges. Being subject to the same excessive reloading times but with a much smaller number of barrels, your matchlock minigun would be quickly supplanted by more conventional volley guns.

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While the weapon as described seems rather improbable, the Puckle Gun was a flintlock "revolver" gun patented in 1718.

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Puckle gun

There were several other early automatic weapons from that period as well. The Chambers machine gun from 1792 also used a flintlock mechanism, but a series of touch holes connected the barrels allowing for a volley to be fired at once.

enter image description here

Chambers machine gun

Something like this would be workable as a matchlock weapon, and seems to be an extension of actual rapid fire weapons developed as far back as the late 1400's

enter image description here

Rapid fire weapons as envisioned by Leonardo da Vinci

So for a matchlock fired weapon, Leonardo da Vinci seems to have found a solution to your problem in the real world. the gunner can fire one barrel, one at a time or sweep the match across the touch holes and fire all the barrels in a volley. Presumably, a battery of guns is emplaced so when one gun fires, the crew can swab the barrels and reload while another gun provides fire.

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  • $\begingroup$ Other flintlock repeaters were made even earlier (Kalthoff, etc.). Still, they remained only a curiosity (or a nobleman's hunting weapon) because they were too expensive to produce and maintain, preventing their widespread adoption. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 18:13
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As long as there's only one person reloading, you can only sustain a rate of fire equal to the rate at which that person can complete reloads. If it takes him 60 seconds to reload a barrel, then you can still only sustain a fire rate of one shot every 60 seconds. While you could fire off ten shots in less than 60 seconds (assuming your matchlocks fire within 6 seconds of the match being applied), you would then have an empty gun and not be able to fire again until the loader catches up.

Also, gun barrels tend to get rather hot when shots are fired. I wouldn't expect matchlock barrels to get nearly as hot as modern barrels for a variety of reasons, but grabbing the barrels out of the rotary gun would still be extremely uncomfortable and have a potential for burns unless you're wearing some kind of heat-resistant gloves... but such gloves would limit manual dexterity and impede the reloading process.

So, overall, it seems that it would be much less complex, and probably a good deal safer, to just have a line of ten standard guns for the shooter to cycle through rather than combining them all into a single rotary monstrosity. The ten guns approach would also be more flexible, as it would allow the shooter's comrades to pick up guns themselves if the need arose.

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