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Why Is It Called A Minigun? The Gatling Gun’s Descendant


Why Is It Called A Minigun

If you have seen an M134 Minigun, you are wondering why it has Mini in its name. The gun is not small. It packs a lot of power and fires a lot of rounds.

The Minigun is a weapon that has changed tides in a lot of wars. It is a high rate, 7.62mm caliber machine gun. It has 6 barrels that are electronically driven.

A Minigun can fire up to 6000 rounds per minute. At optimal performance, it would have a barrel rotation of 3200 rpm.

With a 7.62 8 51mm NATO cartridge, this is a gun that will give you an edge on the battlefield.

So why is it called a Minigun?

The Mini in the name is because of the gun’s small size as compared to other guns using the same firing mechanism. The other guns have larger shells and barrels.

For instance, the 20mm M61 Vulcan was an earlier and larger design. Miniguns are smaller compared to the initial machine guns that inspired their design.

Details On The M134 Minigun

It uses an American-made 7.62 by 51mm NATO cartridge.  It is a rotary machine gun that has a firing rate of 2000 to 6000 rounds per minute. It has been in service since its creation in 1963.

It has 6 barrels of 558.8 mm each. The gun itself is 801.6mm long. This helps the gun attain a muzzle velocity of 2,800 feet per second. At this velocity, the maximum firing range is 1000 meters.

A gun that is this powerful and fast needs a good loading system. It uses a link-less feed or disintegrating M13 linked belt.

The feeding mechanism will depend on the installation. There is a range of 500 rounds to 5000 round belts to select from. The sights are dependent on the gun’s installation.

Militaries have used it in almost all nations.  This is a product that General Electric designed well. Garwood industries armed a lot of wars by manufacturing the Minigun.

Some of the most known wars in which Miniguns have been used include; Gulf war, US Invasion of Panama, Afghanistan War, US Invasion of Grenada, Vietnam War, and Falkland wars.

There are even times when militaries used PVC pipes to scare hostiles. This was done by painting the pipes and arranging them to look like Miniguns.

This has kept soldiers safe even when they are ill-equipped.

Origin And History Of The Gatling Gun

Richard Gatling is the inventor of what became the Minigun’s ancestor. He invented a hand-cranked mechanical gun in the 1860s. Later on, improvements were made on the Gatling gun to add an electric motor.

This improvement gave the gun a theoretical firing rate of 3000 rounds per minute. That is almost thrice that of a modern single barrel machine gun.

The Gatling gun soon fell out of use. This was mostly because of the invention of gas-operated machine guns. They were cheaper and lighter than the Gatling gun.

In the 1960s, the American armies started exploring electric-powered Gatling guns. American forces during the Vietnam War mostly utilized Helicopters for transportation.

The problem was the helicopters could easily get shot down by RPGs. The Single barrel machine guns that were on board didn’t help much. This is because they overheated when fired for long in the dense forests.

General Electric decided to scale down the Vulcan cannon to be used for 7.62 x 51mm NATO ammunition. The produced weapon was named M134.  Afterwards, it was commonly referred to as the Minigun.

It could fire a maximum of 6000 rounds per minute without getting overheated. It also had an adjustable fire rate since most of its use was between 3000 and 4000 RPM.

The Minigun was commonly mounted on helicopter doors and pylon pods of Cobra attack helicopters. Other larger aircraft were fitted with Miniguns. Their main purpose was to provide troops with close air support.

In the late 1990s, Dillon Aero procured a large number of worn-out Miniguns. The company made a decision to amend the issues the guns had. This resulted in an improvement in the general design of the Minigun.

By 2002, all the components of the Minigun had been well upgraded. Dillon Aero started to produce weapons with completely improved parts. Major buyers quickly purchased the gun.

In 2003, the gun was approved for military use in the US army. Improvements were made, such as using titanium instead of steel in the core.  This reduced the Minigun’s weight from 28kg to 19 kg.

At this point, many aspects of the Minigun made it better than the machine gun. For example, the gun housing lifespan. That of a machine gun was 40,000 rounds while a Minigun’s was 500 000 rounds.

The Minigun has continued to get upgraded, and its capabilities keep on increasing. The danger posed by this weapon is known all over.

It is known that hostiles intentionally avoid military vehicles with Miniguns. This has helped keep a lot of American forces safe by reducing the number of ambushes.

Do Miniguns Overheat?

Having gunpowder in an overheating gun is something that might become disastrous pretty fast. Miniguns have been designed to avoid overheating.

Despite the incredible firing rate, a Minigun will not overheat.  This is because of the spinning barrels.

The barrels absorb heat as the rounds get released. By rotating them, each barrel gets a short break to cool down.

This helps keep the gun from overheating. Without this, the gun would overheat, and the barrels could even melt due to the heat.

Can An American Citizen Legally Own A Minigun?

You might have been impressed by this gun, and you want to own one.  Guns are dangerous; inevitably, they are diligently regulated and difficult to get.

There is a possibility to own a Minigun if you meet all the requirements. First of all, you cannot be a ‘prohibited person.’

Prohibited people are; felons, fugitives, mentally ill people, illegal aliens, dishonorably discharged ex-military personnel, and unlawful drug users.

You can also not own a Minigun that was made after 1986. The Minigun you buy should also be registered before 1986, so its ownership can be changed.

Some states do not allow civilians to own Miniguns and machine guns. States like Illinois, New Jersey, and California do not allow the selling, possession, or manufacture of Miniguns and machine guns.

To own a machine gun, you would have to apply for approval from the federal government. The FBI will conduct a deep background check on you.

This is to ensure that you are not a threat to public safety. You will also have to pay 200 dollars for the NFA tax stamp for every weapon transaction.

Suppose you succeed with the process; you will get a permit. This will legally allow you to own the specific machine gun.

What Is The Difference Between A Gatling Gun And A Minigun?

Gatling guns and Miniguns work with the same basic concept. This is because Gatling guns inspired miniguns. They both use rotation as a means of losing heat to prevent overheating.

The Gatling gun was operated using a hand crank. A Minigun uses an electric motor. But they both have a standard of 6 barrels. The only difference between the guns is the automation aspect.

The Gatling gun needed humans to rotate it for it to fire while the Minigun is automated.  The firing rate of Minigun is much higher than that of a Gatling gun.

The highest recorded rate for a Gatling gun is 1500 rpm, while a Minigun gets to 6000 rpm.  Miniguns use smokeless gunpowder, while Gatling’s gun used black powder.

Miniguns are an improvement of the Gatling gun. It is far much superior and different from the Gatling gun.  But in some ways, they are similar.

Is There A Handheld Minigun?

The Minigun was designed to be mounted on helicopters. They might have been scaled down over the years to fit smaller vehicles. But they are not made to be handheld.

Considering the firing rate, barrel size, and recoil. It would be very impractical for a soldier in the battle to carry a Minigun. Even the ammunition needed to be fired would be a problem carrying around.

Nevertheless, the idea is very common in games and movies. This gets a lot of fans excited by the destruction the gun can cause. But it is all fictional. Miniguns have to be mounted for use.


The Minigun is a gun that has made a lasting statement on battlefields. The army has adopted it, and it has served its purpose well. Nearly all Humvees out on the battlefield have a Minigun mounted onto them.

Helicopters and other battle aircraft also have Miniguns. This goes to show how effective Miniguns are. With continuing upgrades, this is a weapon that will soon become even more lethal.

You can legally own one. It would be best if you went through a serious lesson on gun safety and use. This is a very powerful gun that could easily kill innocent people if misused or wrongly handled.

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