The Puckle gun was a British manually operated flintlock cannon with a revolver-style cylinder designed by James Puckle.
The Puckle gun first emerged in 1717, when a prototype was demonstrated at Woolwich before ordnance officers of the British Army. A year later, on the 25th of July 1718, James Puckle obtained a patent for the design. In 1721 he set up the Puckle Machine Company to promote and produce the gun, and acquired funding for the project through third-party investors. Puckle marketed his gun as a "Defence", writing that it was intended to be used for defending "Bridges, Breaches, Lanes and Passes, Ships, Boats, Howses, and other Places". He also marketed two different types of cylinder for the weapon - one with round chambers for conventional munitions, and the other with square chambers to be loaded with rectangular munitions, which were claimed to cause more severe wounds to opponents. Puckle, a devout Protestant, intended the square-chambered version to be deployed against Muslim Turks, to "convince them the benefits of Christian civilization". The chambers could also be preloaded with shot, each able to accommodate about sixteen musket balls.
The gun received positive publicity in the Daily Courant and London Journal; the latter wrote that "one man discharged it 63 times in seven Minutes, though all while Raining,; and it throws off either one large or sixteen Musquet Balls at every discharge with great force". However, in spite of this, the Puckle gun did not sell well. The only sale known is the order of two models placed by the Duke of Montagu, who took them on an ill-fated expedition in 1722 to capture St Lucia and St Vincent; there is no evidence that they were actually ever discharged in combat. Shortly thereafter, the Puckle Machine Company went bust and its investors lost their money; a contemporaneous journalist wrote of the Puckle gun: "Fear not, my friends, this terrible machine, they're only wounded who have shares therein."
Only two examples, the models bought by the Duke of Montagu, exist today - these indeed may have been the only models ever built. One is housed at Boughton House and the other is displayed at the Palace of Beaulieu, both former Montagu estates. The example at Beaulieu is built from brass and is fired by match rather than using a flintlock mechanism. Both surviving models have square chambers. A number of replicas have also been built, some displayed in museums and some in private ownership.
The Puckle gun was a manually-operated cannon with a revolving cylinder. It used a single barrel and a flintlock mechanism. The cylinder had nine chambers, each of which pre-loaded with gunpowder, and was rotated by hand. The cylinder was fixed in place by a rotating crank; rotating the crank 180° would bring the concurrent chamber forward in contact with the barrel, creating a secure gas seal. After discharging, the crank would rotated backward to release the empty chamber and the cylinder would be manually rotated to the next chamber.
- Guns And Rifles Of The World, H.L. Blackmore, 1965
- The Illustrated World Encyclopedia of Guns, Fowler & North, 2011