Making a Gardner Gun

    The Gardner Gun is one of an entire generation of all-but-forgotten* manually operated proto-machine guns. GunLab has begun a series of posts documenting the effort of one Papa Joe (who receives a regular mention there) to reconstruct a Gardner Gun from scratch. Since no blueprints are available, he had to track down an existing Gardner and take precise measurements of every dimension of every part, create his own (electronic) prints, and then construct each piece himself. As if that wasn’t enough, Papa Joe decided that his Gardner would be scaled down and chambered for .22 LR!

    The Gardner Gun very much resembles a manually operated machine gun in operation. The gun has a reciprocating breech block with a familiar-looking extractor, ejector, and firing pin, all of which are actuated via a cam track acted upon by the crank; a very ingenious design from the time when black powder and immature metallic cartridge technology made true self-powered machine guns extremely problematic to design. Gardners often had multiple barrels; up to five.

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    The Gardner mechanism. Image source: ibiblio.org.

    With the advent of the Maxim, the Gardners, Nordenfeldts, Gatlings, and other designs became obsolete almost overnight. They are, however, a very cool piece of late 19th century history that isn’t given nearly enough attention!

    For those wanting to learn more, Firearms History, Technology & Development has a very good post on the Gardner Gun to go along with GunLab’s series.

    *With the exception of the Gatling, of course.

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]


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