An Imitation Gatlin Gun


Cree Vicar Dave – SASS Life # 49907

The 1800’s produced a multitude of inventions unique to that time. The steam engine, the paddle wheel, and the steam locomotive rail system to name a few. People are drawn to exhibits where they can examine and even experience the excitement of one of these grand ole mechanical wonders of our past. Amidst the backdrop of all the sparks, smoke and animation the Gatling Gun came into existence. It was named after R. J. Gatling (1818-1903) who was an American inventor.

The Vicar’s Wife and I visited the museum at Fort Riley Kansas when our son-in-law was stationed there with our daughter and grandkids. The old cavalry building has a large display of nineteenth century military items. One of the objects that grabbed my attention was an 1883 Gatling Gun. The caption written on the wall beside it read: "THIS .45 CALIBER CAVALRY GATLING GUN WAS USED DURING THE INDIAN WARS. CRANKED BY HAND, IT FIRED UP TO 1500 ROUNDS PER MINUTE". Being part American Indian I can imagine the intimidation and dread this gun must have produced. In Micah 4:3 it says that in the Last Days the LORD will "…judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." I look forward to that time; however, we live in the here and now.

It’s amazing how much firepower the Gatling had. But what really held my attention was the craftsmanship of the piece. It was plain but elegant, small but menacing. It looks more like a work of art than an old arsenal relic.

The simple design gave it good mobility. It has two wood spoke wheels of around 4 ft diameter, a cross axle with the gun and two ammo boxes mounted in place. Connected to the bottom of the cross axle was a tongue around 4 ft. long. The gun, mounted on a yoke with an arc passing through it, swivels horizontally and vertically. The barrel assembly O.D. appeared to be 5 inches and the length around the same as the wood spoke wheel diameter. The magazine inserted into the top of the barrel a little less than a cubit from the breech and was round 1-foot diameter.


The real attention grabber was the exterior of the gun. It was brass; all polished and poised it really stood out as a treasure of workmanship from the Victorian Period. A time when things were made as much for looks as for function and purpose.


I took a couple pictures of this old beauty musing to myself that I might build an ersatz Gatling someday. It took a little over a year but this faux Gatling finally came to fruition. You might remember the article on making wood spoke wheels. Well when the wood chips and dust cleared, there were six wheels in all. Four were placed on the "Buckboard Look Alike", that left two for this Gatling Gun imitation.


The counterfeit Gatling was made around three-quarter scale. Most props used for Cowboy Action Shooting™ look just fine in this scale. The wheels are 3’ diameter. A three quarter inch by 36" long threaded rod sandwiched in the middle of 3 boards around 3/4" by five inches or so wide make up the cross axle. The tongue, made of 2" stock, tapers from 4" to 2" and is 42" long. The cross axle and tongue were made out of oak, finished with Min Wax golden oak stain and given three coats of varnish. The yoke is made out of 2" oak with a slot in it for an arc. The arc is three quarter inch thick by 2" and is also oak. The yoke and arc are painted black. The barrel was made out of 4-inch O.D. thin wall galvanized metal pipe cut 3 feet long. You could use plastic pipe, I just used a piece of exhaust pie from the scrap pile. The magazine (around 9" diameter) and the plugs for each end of the barrel are made of 2" wood. I used a brass color aerosol paint can for the barrel and magazine. A half inch threaded rod was used to attach the barrel to the yoke. A hole was drilled through the barrel up around one and a quarter inch from the bottom and 13 inches from the breech for the threaded rod. A wood plug was placed in the barrel at this spot and the 1/2" hole drilled through it to give support. The magazine was placed around 9" to center from the breech. The arc passes through the yoke and attaches to the under side of the barrel with sheet metal angles. It takes a little head work to fit the arc properly. I put a rubber damper and a stop on the arc to control vertical movement. The hole for the crank was drilled 1" from the breech and horizontally on the barrel center. I made a crank with a wood handle and placed it in the crank hole. A brass knob from an old hame was mounted on the breech plug for a aiming handle and holes were drilled in the muzzle end plug to simulate multiple barrels. The yoke, with arc inserted in it and attached to barrel, was mounted in the center of the cross axle on a stud. Ammo boxes, made to fit, were mounted on each side of the gun. Measurements are not real critical on this project. I just tried to balance it out and have the gun look as real as possible.



It appears almost real and would be an asset to any Cowboy Action town. The Gatling should be kept out of the elements when not in use. This type Gatling Gun uses readily available, impossible to find stealth cartridges produced by: R. U. Goofy CEO of Oxymoron Incorporated, located in Nowhere USA. However, the average Cowboy Action shooter can obtain an ammo box full of nostalgia with props such as these. Always make sure to follow all safety rules when building projects and playing with em.


Hope ta see ya on the trail

God Bless,

Cree Vicar Dave