Killer Bees! The American 180 on Forgotten Weapons

If one cannot find a minigun to go shoot, a fully-automatic 22LR is a very close second. While the tiny little can-do cartridge can pack a tiny wallop with well-placed shots, there is something to be said to hitting with a swarm of the rimfire rounds. One, perhaps two can be ignored, but at nearly 1200 RPM for most full-autos, getting multiple hits on target is a breeze.

Designed and manufactured to this line of thinking is the American 180, a rotary-drum fed fully-automatic buzzsaw. Unfortunately a relative rarity due to the machine gun ban over three decades ago, we civilians get to live vicariously through Ian at Forgotten Weapons, who takes a look at one example available for sale at an upcoming James D. Julia auction. 

The weapon has a fantastic and interesting history, as it was developed primarily for law enforcement under the assumption that with low overpenetration risk of the 22LR, quite a few of them can cause quite a bit of damage. A few departments actually did purchase the firearm and it was used in one notable shooting in 1974 where the weapon acquitted itself admirably and effectively.

With magazine capacities available over 270 rounds, the American 180 (named as originally had a capacity of ~180 rounds), its an excellent “fun” machine gun. With shooting 22LR to boot, its actually affordable for an extended range session, emphasis on extended, as loading the magazine is a time-consuming affair.

For details including tear-down of the weapon, check out Ian’s video over at Forgotten Weapons. 

 





Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • Ralph Napier

    Sufficient Brap.
    Death by 1,000 paper cuts comes to mind.

  • Rick O’Shay

    Strikes me as basically a Tommy Gun in .22LR. As for the reloading, that’s why I have kids!

    • It’s sort of a Tommy Gun meets 10/22 meets FN SAW type of weapon aka pretty much the coolest machine gun out there.

  • datimes

    My gun was in Val Coopers shop last year for a tune up. It was returned with a print out, sealed in plastic, of the firing rate prior to returning the gun. The top lines of the strip says ” https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c0457872c428b27be7aaeff92284b629305c046478cc1dfc923bd109e1cadc23.jpg 59 rounds in 2.530 sec. Cyclic rate : 1375 rnd/ min.

    • clampdown

      How picky is it on ammo? I would imagine Stingers with their slightly-off dimensions are off limits, but I prefer Velocitors anyway…

      Anyway, when I see the videos of folks rattling these things off in seconds, it makes me mad because it’s often a chore to get through a 25 round magazine on my 10/22, especially with something like a Velocitor (more specifically the Winchester SuperX 40gr JHP). I don’t get to shoot much (it’s only been to the range 3-5 times), so I think my magazine springs are just stiff…borrowed a worn-in magazine at the range and it worked well. I’d really like to be able to trust 25 rounds of this hot stuff for my bump in the night gun. Guess I just need to wear ’em in. Thankfully, the .22lr shortage seems to be abated here in Middle GA.

      • datimes

        Cooper advises these guns are particular and require high velocity ammo to operate reliably. CCI Blazer was one suggested and I find works very well.

        • iksnilol

          How do they work with CCI standard?

          Would be amazing with a suppressor.

          • datimes

            I was told to use Federal Lightning or CCI Blazer as ammo that has proven reliable in the gun. That doesn’t preclude testing other quality high velocity ammunition for function.

  • Bean Guy

    Put some .22 Ratshot in that. Then you’ll really see what a planet killing weapon looks like

  • Stephen Shallberg

    This was used to kill two suspected criminals in Pompano Beach, Florida sometime between 1968 and 1970 or so. In those days, whites and blacks were literally separated by the railroad tracks: all the whites lived east of the tracks and all the blacks lived west of the tracks in Collier City (but part of Pompano Beach).
    As I remember reading in the Fort Lauderdale News at the time, two Pompano Beach police officers were patrolling at night with a newly acquired American 180 machine gun when they noticed two black men in a car behaving suspiciously. A robbery had been reported earlier so the police followed the suspects and at some point used the machine gun to shoot them through the back windshield, killing them both.
    As I recall, the police said they found weapons on the suspects and the shooting was deemed justified from the get-go. As a youngster of 12, I was much more interested in the machine gun than anything else, and I distinctly remember the article stating it was a .22 and capable of firing 1200 rounds per minute.
    Unfortunately, my belief today is that the cops involved were probably just looking for an excuse to use the American 180, and most likely could have resolved the situation without using the level of force they did. But that was Pompano in the 60s.

    • Auslander Raus

      Thanks for sharing.

      I think I read about that in an article in Soldier Of Fortune magazine in the ’70’s., from what I remember the 50+ round burst chewed through the trunk, back seat then the front seat and out one of the perps chests. …unless it was embellished.

  • Stephen Shallberg