One of the most important technologies of the past 100 years, according to most historians, is the machine gun. it was probably what contributed most to the development of both World War I and World War II, and set the tone for future, local wars.
It only took one soldier equipped with this machine gun to start firing thousands of bullets per minute, thus effectively knocking down entire platoons and squadrons in only a few minutes. this is what forced military forces around the world to start developping heavy battle equipment, like modern tanks, just to withstand this sort of barrage. This may be only one type of weapon, but it may have had the most prolific influence on the way modern wars are fought.
It all started in the beginning of the 19th century, when most weapon manufacturers started wondering how to make a weapon that could fire many rounds in a short time. A lot of these early machine guns were in fact combinations between multiple barrels and firing hammers into a single unit. The Gatling gun was one of the most appreciated models, named after its inventor Richard Jordan Gatling.
This particular weapon, was actually the first of its kind to achieve widespread popularity, and it was made up of 6 to 10 gun barrels positioned in a cylinder. Every barrel had its own breech and firing pin system.
A crank revolves the barrels inside the cylinder, and it's all soldiers had to do to open fire. Each barrel was passing under an ammunition hopper, as it reaches the top of the cylinder. A new cartridge would then be falling into the breech, and the barrel was reloaded.
Each firing pin has a small cam head that catches hold of a slanted groove in the gun body. As each barrel revolves around the cylinder, the groove pulls the pin backward, pushing in on a tight spring. Just after a new cartridge is loaded into the breech, the firing-pin cam slides out of the groove, and the spring propels it forward. The pin hits the cartridge, firing the bullet down the barrel. When each barrel revolves around to the bottom of the cylinder, the spent cartridge shell falls out of an ejection port.
The XM214 Automatic Gun (aka the Minigun) was developed for use mounted in and on helicopters and light aircraft.
Like most G.E. Gatling gun type weapons, it has six rotating barrels and the potential for an absolutely incredibly high rate of fire. The weapon was driven by an electric mechanism, and had a firing rate that could be adjusted to fire at a rate of 1000 rpm all the way up to an unbelievable 10,000 rpm. That was not all, as it was programmable to fire bursts from 30 to 1000 rounds.
A real drawback to the higher rates of fire is of course the huge ammunition usage (166 shots per second), and the power requirements, because firing it at full power requires some 3.2 hp to drive the barrel assembly.
First seen in the movie "Predator" in 1987, and made even more famous by "Terminator 2", the hand-held Minigun has captured the hearts and minds of viewers everywhere, be it in games or in real life.
The very image of Arnold Schwarzenegger, spraying bad guys with a veritable hail of bullets that issued forth from his Minigun Painless was so powerful that the weapon has been seen in both countless other movies and in games.
Apparently, some of America's Special Forces guys saw Predator and realized that a hand-held Minigun would be a great asset for clearing out landing zones real fast.
If you want to experience firing this superweapon, you must know that it's highly restricted to civilian use (the military guards its Miniguns like they are made of solid gold...), and that firing such a weapon with any degree of accuracy should also take inordinate amounts of skill, and the physique of a strong athlete.
For all the Terminator wannabes, here are some technical specifications for the General Electric XM214 Minigun:
Gun Weight: 30 lbs (14 kg)
Ammo Weight: 35 lbs (16 kg) per 1000 rounds
Battery Weight: 7 lbs (3.5 kg) for 1000 rounds fired
Caliber: .223 NATO.
Overall Length: 39 inch (100 cm).
Action: Electrically Powered Gatling.
Mode of Fire: Full Auto Only.
Range: 1,000 feet (300 meters).
Magazine: 1000 round backpack.
Cost: $ 25,000 (ammo not included)