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The Puckle Gun & 2 Other Guns that Existed in 1776

  • Guns
puckle gun

Have you ever heard that the Second Amendment doesn’t apply to modern guns? That the Founders couldn’t possibly have anticipated the evolution of weaponry? Not only is that argument logically flawed, but it is also historically inaccurate. Behold, the Puckle Gun.

The Puckle Gun

The Puckle Gun
The Puckle Gun illustration from the original patent.

The Puckle gun was patented in 1718 by inventor James Puckle. The original patent, found here, gives this description for the gun:

A portable gun or machine called a defence, thatt discharges soe often and soe many bullets, and can be soe quickly loaden as renders it next to impossible to cary any ship by boarding.

In plain English, the Puckle gun is a mounted, portable, crew-served revolving machine gun. It was intended to be used on ships to rapidly fire at boarding parties. The Puckle Gun could fire up the three times faster than a musket. However, due to an unreliable flintlock firing mechanism, the gun was rejected by the government and was ultimately a commercial failure.

That being said, James Puckle did in fact create a working crew-served machine gun in the early 18th century. While certainly primitive, the Puckle Gun’s manually operated revolving cylinder enabled a significantly improved rate of fire.

Did Machine Guns Exist When the Second Amendment Was Written?

Machine guns existed well before the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment was ratified in 1791, a full 73 years after the Puckle Gun was invented. Although modern machine guns are vastly more effective than the Puckle Gun, it nevertheless demonstrates that humans were contemplating rapid-fire weaponry nearly a century before the Founders guaranteed that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

If concepts like the Puckle Gun existed well before the founding of the nation, how could the Founders possibly not consider such weaponry when writing the Second Amendment? It is inconceivable that they wrote “shall not be infringed” but were really thinking “shall not be infringed (except when the weapons are like the Puckle Gun).” If the historical reality were different, an argument that the Second Amendment doesn’t apply to modern guns might be more salient, but the facts are otherwise; just ask James Puckle and his mounted machine gun.

Did Automatic Weapons Exist in 1776?

True automatic weapons did not exist in 1776. However, there were a variety of weapons that had high rates of fire and repeating firing mechanisms. Of course, the Puckle Gun is one of them, but there are others as well.

The Kalthoff Repeater

Close-up of the Kalthoff Repeater
Close-up of the Kalthoff Repeater

Designed in 1630, the Kalthoff Repeater was a flintlock rifle that could fire between 30-60 rounds per minute. It went through multiple variations, some able to fire 29 shots without reloading, similar to the standard magazine capacities of the Colt AR-15.

The Cookson Repeater

The Cookson Repeater was a repeating rifle designed in the late 17th century. It used a rotating drum magazine and had a fourteen shot capacity. The gun could fire all fourteen shots without reloading, a feat which was only surpassed by the Kalthoff Repeater.