Why do Gatling cannons spin

Revolver cannon


A revolver cannon is a special type of automatic cannon. The principle includes a drum, similar to a "classic" revolver, with one barrel and several cartridge chambers. Automatic cannons with multiple barrels (bundle revolvers), on the other hand, are known as Gatling cannons.

The loading-shooting-ejecting cycle, which follows one after the other with normal automatic weapons, is carried out in parallel with a revolver gun. With such a construction, the cadence can be increased significantly.


Revolver cannons were developed by Mauser towards the end of the Second World War as on-board weapons for fighter planes. The impetus was the fact that the cadence could not be increased with the classic automatic cannons.

The first revolver cannon was the Mauser MG 213, from which all later developments are derived. In the post-war period, the British built copies of the MG 213 in 30 mm caliber with the ADEN and the French with the DEFA. The Americans also initially built a revolver cannon based on the MG 213, the M39 cannon, but later focused on the Gatling cannon for new developments. The German Mauser BK-27 is currently the best revolver cannon. The largest is the 35/1000 revolver cannon, for example in the Millennium naval cannon is installed. The Rheinmetall RMK30 is an innovative new development.


In a normal automatic gas pressure gun, the powder gases from the propellant charge of the ignited cartridges are used to drive the breech in translation. With a revolver cannon, the breech does not exist in this form. The revolver drum is set in rotation with the powder gases. The rotational movement takes place incrementally, i.e. in no uniform, continuous rotation but from chamber to chamber. After the shot has been fired, the drum rotates one chamber further and the next shot can be fired. At the same time, in the chamber or chambers, a cartridge is previously inserted into the drum. In the chamber or chambers afterwards, the empty cartridge case is ejected. This spatial separation of the individual steps of the self-loading process results in higher rates of fire than with conventional designs, in which the process of loading-shooting-ejecting takes place one after the other.

In addition to the classic gas drive, revolver cannons can also be externally driven, either electrically, pneumatically or hydraulically. The GIAT 30, for example, is electrically powered externally. The advantage is higher reliability and cadence, the disadvantage is higher weight.

Compared to the Gatling cannon

Revolver cannons inherently have a lower maximum rate of fire than Gatling cannons, since all grenades are fired through a barrel, which means that it quickly overheats. Gatling cannons can reach a rate of fire of up to 10,000 rounds per minute (Grjasew-Schipunow GSch-6-23), while revolver cannons typically remain below 2,000 rounds per minute. With short bursts of fire (up to one second), as they normally occur in air combat, the number of projectiles fired is greater with a revolver cannon than with a Gatling cannon. The reason for this is that the mostly externally driven, heavy barrel bundles of the Gatling cannons reach their full speed, and the associated maximum rate of fire, only after a short start-up time.In contrast, the full rate of fire is available from the first shot on the revolver cannon, conditionally by small moving masses. Most revolver cannons with 27-30 mm have a larger caliber than the 20-25 mm of the Gatling cannon. Gatling cannons are, due to the external drive and the larger number of gun barrels, also much heavier than revolver cannons.


 mmrpmm / skg
Revolver cannons
M39United States201.5001.03081
MK 213Germany20/
Mauser BK-27Germany271.7001.025102,5
GIAT 30France302.5001.015120
RMK 30 (recoilless MK)Germany30n.n.300n.n.
Oerlikon 35mm twin cannonSwitzerland/
(per run)

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Date of the last change: Jena, the: 20.09. 2018