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Gatling Gun Shoots Past Estimate

May 24, 2024
All-original, high-condition US Army-purchased Colt Model 1875 ‘Long Model’ Gatling gun on original field carriage in display case. One of 44 such guns purchased by the Army. Serial #130

Colt Model 1875 Gatling gun

The Gatling gun, invented by Richard Gatling in the 1860s, marked a significant advancement in firearm technology due to its innovative design featuring multiple rotating barrels. It is regarded as one of the earliest practical machine guns and was actually meant to dissuade people from waging war. Richard Gatling designed the gun to fire so rapidly and cause so much bloodshed that it would make people hesitant to use it. Or, in his words, it was meant to “supersede the necessity of large armies” and greatly reduce “exposure to battle and disease” (so much for that, I guess). During the latter half of the nineteenth century, the Gatling gun played a pivotal role in various conflicts, including the American Civil War and colonial wars waged by the British in Africa and Asia. Its impact on the battlefield was profound, solidifying its status as a game-changing weapon. Despite the evolution of machine guns with automatic firing mechanisms and other enhancements, the Gatling gun remains an enduring symbol of early rapid-fire weaponry, marking a crucial milestone in the trajectory of modern firearms development.

The May 8th-10th Firearms & Militaria sale held at Morphy’s Auctions in Denver, Pennsylvania, had several impressive pieces up for grabs. These included a 1921 Tommy Gun, a nineteenth-century American Bowie knife, and a German MG-42 machine gun (a model nicknamed “Hitler’s buzzsaw” by American GIs). However, the star of the sale was a Colt Model 1875 Gatling gun, which drew widespread attention and secured an auction record. In preparation for the auction, Morphy’s experts undertook meticulous verification procedures to ensure the authenticity and integrity of each component, including confirming the matching assembly numbers on all the bolts. After ensuring the weapon’s authenticity, Morphy’s concluded that this Gatling gun was one of the forty-four acquired by the US Army, several of which accompanied General George Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.

The Gatling gun’s illustrious and bloody history further enhances its appeal. Originally gifted to Lafayette College’s class of 1952 by William Simon, who later ascended to the position of Secretary of the Treasury, the firearm carries a rich legacy. This distinguished ‘Long Model,’ identified by the serial number ‘130,’ fetched an impressive $310K (or $381.3K w/p), shooting past the $200K  to $300K estimate. While the identity of the successful bidder remains undisclosed, this acquisition represents a significant addition to the realm of historical firearms, amplifying the legacies of the weapon and its esteemed previous owner.