Rotary machine gun is a term used to describe a type of multiple-barreled, gatling-derived rotary gun with a high rate of fire that is usually powered externally, with typical power supply methods being electrical, hydraulic or pneumatic. Rotary guns of rifle caliber or below are often collectively referred to as Miniguns, though this name is only correctly applied to the American M134 as it was intended as the smallest weapon installed on aircraft (hence the name Mini). Autocannon-scale versions are usually called rotary cannons.
While they are chambered in various calibers, they are usually not named according to the normal light/medium/heavy machine gun groupings, largely because they are not employed as infantry weapons and so cannot be meaningfully placed in the light or medium/GPMG categories.
They are typically only used in high volume of fire roles, with firing from aircraft being the most common.
Depiction as an infantry weapon in media
The M134 Minigun has been portrayed as a man portable infantry weapon in media. This is only really achievable through some degree of "movie magic," a combination of firing blanks, reducing the rate of fire (since if the weapon fires at more than 24 rounds per second the barrel cluster will not visibly rotate on 24 frame per second movie film) and hiding piles of truck batteries off-screen.
While there have been attempts to produce small man-portable rotary weapons chambered for intermediate cartridges, such as the XM214 "Six Pak" Microgun, none have ever been adopted by any military due to a lack of perceived need for such a high volume of fire in an infantry weapon.
List of rotary machine guns
- M134 Minigun
- "Jian She Minigun"
- Komodo Armaments Eli gun
- Panchenkov machine gun
- Slostin machine gun
- XM133 Minigun
Split breech rotary guns
Intermediate and pistol caliber