The Gardner guns were early crank type rapid fire arms which were invented in 1874 by William Gardner, a Civil War Union Army captain. Versions were designed with one or two barrels. This example has two barrels which are encased in an outer cylindrical jacket that could be filled with water to prevent overheating. These guns were fed with gravity driven magazines and operated by hand turning a crank which moved bolts back and forth to fire the action as well as extract the spent case. This reciprocating motion system is used in many of today's machine guns. In the two gun model cycling the action alternated firing from both barrels in an effort to reduce overheating. After producing a handmade prototype, Gardner sold the manufacturing rights to Pratt & Whitney of Hartford, Connecticut, who made improvements to Gardner's original design such as adding a safety mode that allowed an operator to run ammunition through without firing the weapon. From the mid-1870s to early 1880s Pratt & Whitney manufactured an estimated 21 guns for U.S. War Department trials. Per the consignor only 11 out of the 21 guns are known to have survived, and this example, no. 14, is one of those rare survivors. Although the U.S. Navy purchased a limited number, the U.S. Army was not interested and never adapted the Gardner gun, preferring the Gatling gun to fulfill current needs. Eventually the Gardner gun gained the attention of the British government who ordered it for all branches of their military and purchased the manufacturing rights. Thousands were produced. The weapon saw action with British forces in a few African wars in Sudan and the Upper Nile. The Nepalese Bira gun chambered in .577/450 Martini-Henry caliber was based on the Gardner gun with two barrels and a drum magazine. With the exception of “14” stamped on the receiver, receiver cover, and a few internal components, this Gardner gun is unmarked. An elevation adjustable rear sight is mounted on the left side of the receiver. A blade front sight is mounted on the left side of the barrel jacket. The left side of the receiver also features a safety device. Includes a total of two magazines and original tripod. Several of the tripod components are numbered to the gun. Provenance: Firearms for Freedom Collection
Extremely fine, with a pleasing untouched aged appearance showing a bright area where an identification label was once adhered to the top of the receiver. The crank handle retains 85% bright original high polished blue finish. Mechanically excellent. The tripod is also very fine with an attractive appearance on the left in the white components and retaining 75% original blue finish on the remaining surfaces. A true survivor of 19th century American innovation, the Gardner gun is a key firearm in the evolutionary development of the machine gun and is missing from even the most advanced public or private collections. A definite must have for the serious collector.
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