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A revolver cannon is a type of autocannon, commonly used as an aircraft gun. It uses a cylinder with multiple chambers, like those of a revolver handgun, to speed up the loading-firing-ejection cycle. Some examples are also power-driven, to further speed the loading process. Unlike a Gatling gun, a revolver cannon has only a single barrel, thus its spun weight is lower, lending itself to gas operation. Automatic revolver cannons have been produced by many different manufacturers.
(The Hotchkiss Revolving Cannon of the late 19th century was not a revolver cannon in the modern sense, being of a Gatling type.)
In 1905, C. M. Clarke patented the first fully automatic, gas-operated rotary chamber gun, but his design was ignored at the time. Clarke's patent came as reciprocating-action automatic weapons like the Maxim gun and the Browning gun were peaking in popularity.
It wasn't until the mid-1940s that the first practical revolver cannons emerged.
The archetypal revolver cannon is the Mauser MK 213, from which almost all current weapons are derived. In the immediate post-war era, Mauser engineers spread out from Germany and developed similar weapons around the world. Both the British and French made outright copies of the 30 mm versions of the MK 213, as the ADEN and DEFA, respectively. Switzerland produced the Oerlikon KCA. While the U.S. used the 20 mm version, re-chambered for a slightly longer 102 mm cartridge, intermediate between the 213's 82 mm and Hispano-Suiza HS.404's 110 mm. Several generations of the basic ADEN/DEFA weapons followed, remaining largely unchanged into the 1970s.
Around that time, a new generation of weapons developed, based on the proposed NATO 25 mm caliber standard and the Mauser 27 mm round. A leading example is the Mauser BK-27. In the 1980s, the French developed the GIAT 30, a newer generation power-driven revolver cannon. The Rheinmetall RMK30 modifies the GIAT system further, by venting the gas to the rear to eliminate recoil.
Soviet revolver cannons are less common than Western ones, especially on aircraft. A mechanism for a Soviet revolver-based machine gun was patented in 1944. The virtually unknown Rikhter R-23 was fitted only to some Tu-22 models, but later abandoned in favor of the two-barrel, linear action Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23 in the Tu-22M. The Rikhter R-23 does have the distinction of being fired from the space station Salyut 3. The Soviet navy has also adopted a revolver design, the NN-30, typically in a dual mount in the AK-230 turret.
With a single barrel mated to a cylinder with multiple chambers, this type of autocannon uses the revolver principle to accelerate the cycle of loading, firing and ejecting multiple rounds of ammunition, achieving a very high rate of fire compared to conventional cannons of the same calibre.
Compared to Gatling Guns
Automatic revolver cannons generally have a lower maximum sustained rate of fire than Gatling guns, as all the rounds are fired through a single barrel, which suffers from much higher heating loads. Some cannon caliber Gatling guns have a rate of fire of up to 10,000 rounds per minute (such as the Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-6-23), while revolver cannons typically have a rate of fire no more than 2,000 rounds per minute. On the other hand, revolver cannons generally have a higher initial firing rate, due to the lower moving mass involved (only the chambers are being spun). Gatling type guns spin the whole multiple barrel and breech assembly, which in equal caliber versions can weigh hundreds of kilograms. Also, the external power source of US Gatling guns provides less power in a burst than the gas-operation of a revolver cannon, requiring about half a second of spin-up time before the maximum rate of fire is reached. As it avoids the additional weight of multiple barrels, a revolver cannon can fire a larger caliber projectile than a Gatling gun of the same weight.
- ShVAK cannon
- ShKAS machine gun
- Mauser MK 213
- MANTIS - The German Army's new very short range protection system
- Rheinmetall RMK30
- ADEN cannon
- DEFA cannon
- M39 cannon
- GIAT 30
Notes and references
- George M. Chinn (1951). The Machine Gun, History, Evolution and Development of Manual, Automatic and Airborne Repeating Weapons, Vol. 1. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 46.
- Chinn, p. 182
- Болотин, Давид (1995). История советского стрелкового оружия и патронов. Полигон. p. 235. ISBN 5-85503-072-5. (Russian)
- Anthony G. Williams (2002). Rapid Fire: The Development of Automatic Cannon, Heavy Machine-Guns and Their Ammunition for Armies, Navies and Air Forces. Airlife. p. 50. ISBN 978-1-84037-435-3.
- Anthony Williams, "The Red Queen and the Vigilante"
- Пулемет с барабанным камерным питанием А.И. Коновалова. 1944 г.Авторское свидетельство 66799 МВС.
- George M. Chinn (1955). The Machine Gun: Design Analysis of Automatic Firing Mechanisms and Related Components, Volume IV, parts X and XI. Bureau of Ordnance, Department of the Navy, US Government Printing office. pp. 178–209.