Western IT and the Non-Western Way of War

Friday, January 30th, 2015

Mao’s style of war relied on dispersed troops coming together when the time was right:

In perhaps one of the strangest potential ironies of the future, Western information technology may well provide non-Western armies solutions to two vexing problems. First, cellular technology and the internet may allow them to maintain a concert of action for long periods among widely dispersed units. Second, these same technologies will allow them to orchestrate the rapid massing of dispersed units when opportunities arise to transition to the offensive.

(From Adaptive Enemies: Dealing with the Strategic Threat after 2010, from 1999.)

Leatherman Tread

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

The Leatherman Tread bracelet comes out this summer:

The Leatherman Tread is crafted of high strength, corrosion resistant 17-4 stainless steel links that include two to three functional tools each, making a total of 25 usable features like box wrenches and screwdrivers available at a moment’s notice.

Leatherman Tread Bracelet

“The idea originated on a trip to Disneyland with my family,” said President Ben Rivera. “I was stopped at the gate by security for carrying a knife, when what they had actually seen was my Skeletool. I was unwilling to give it up, so they made me take it all the way back to my hotel room. I knew there had to be another way to carry my tools with me that would be accepted by security.” When he returned from his trip, Rivera, who began his tenure at Leatherman Tool Group 24 years ago as an engineer, began by wearing a bike chain bracelet to see how it would feel. As his thoughts took shape, he brought his idea to the engineers at Leatherman who helped fast track his plans.

The Tread bracelet began taking shape. Each complex link was metal injection molded for strength and intensity. The bracelet was crafted to be fully customizable with slotted fasteners, so the user could rearrange links, add new ones, or adjust for wrist size to ¼”. Even the clasp is functional with a bottle opener and #2 square drive. Other link tools include a cutting hook, hex drives, screwdrivers, box wrenches, and a carbide glass breaker.

Leatherman Tread Parts

“I began wearing prototypes myself to test comfort and usability, and to ask for feedback,” said Rivera. “Folks immediately associated the bracelet design with a watch and asked, where’s the watch? We decided to make a timepiece an optional part of the Tread.”

A version of the Tread bracelet that includes a watch will be available in Fall 2015. The Leatherman TreadTM QM1 will feature a unique Leatherman-designed and Swiss-made timepiece with precision quartz movement. A shock resistant sapphire crystal ensures scratch resistance for heavy duty wear, and the curved watch limits reflection and increases outdoor visibility.

Leatherman Tread Watch

My first thought: Does it come in Reardon metal?

My second though: Batman wants his bracelet back.

Cycles of War

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

I was not impressed with Bob Scales’ attack on the AR, but I decided to go back to his Future Warfare Anthology, from when he was Commandant of the Army War College back in 2000. In the second chapter, he looks at cycles of war:

Signs foretelling how the defensive’s return to dominance might turn the cycles of war a third time began to appear as early as the closing days in Vietnam. A few laser-guided bombs destroyed targets that had previously required hundreds of unguided dumb bombs. In World War II, an average of 18 rounds was needed to kill a tank at a range of 800 yards. During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the average was two rounds at 1,200 yards, and by Desert Storm one round at 2,400 yards.

The ability to see and strike deep using ground and aerial platforms served to expand the battlefield by orders of magnitude. What was once a theater area for a field army now became the area of operations for a division or a corps. Just as an army moving at two miles per hour could not cross a killing zone dominated by long-range, rapid-firing, rifled weapons in 1914, the precision revolution made it prohibitively expensive for an army moving at seven times that speed to cross an infinitely more lethal space a hundred times as large. Thus, in a conflict involving two roughly equal — or symmetrical — forces, evidence seems to show convincingly that the advantage goes to the defender.

TechCrunch on TrackingPoint

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

Techcrunch tries out the TrackingPoint rifle:

It was a location that was straight out of the opening scene of Iron Man. Sitting there was an AR-15 overlooking the endless desert expanse.

The targets sat 300 and 500 yards away and I was supposed to be able to hit them with the TrackingPoint Precision-guided Semi-Auto 5.56.

The company’s spokesperson, Anson Gordon, gave me the run-down, highlighting the basics of the system. It seemed easy enough. Designate the target with the red button, pull the trigger and find that dot again to fire the gun.

TrackingPoint Precision-guided Semi-Auto 5.56

It was that easy. I hit my mark on the first try. The system works as advertised.

Gordon explained the system that consists of four parts. Housed inside the scoop are the brains of the operation. It features a laser rangefinder, gyroscopes, an accelerometer, and a magnetometer. The shooter targets on an LCD screen. This system is linked to a custom trigger system, which also consists of the target designation button and zoom buttons housed on the trigger guard. Everything is powered from batteries housed in the stock and TrackingPoint encourages its shooters to use ammo loaded specifically for their guns.

The technology works like this: A shooter designates a target using a small button on the rifle’s trigger guide. This target can be moving up to 30 mph. Once the target is mapped, a Linux-based system housed in the optics casing calculates all the variables needed to hit that mark. When the shooter is ready to fire, they pull the trigger all the way back, yet the gun fires only when they line the crosshairs up with designated mark one more time. The system assesses the effects of gravity and Coriolis force. When the bullet leaves the barrel it always hits its mark. The shooter cannot miss.

Everything seen by the optics can be streamed live to a smartphone, tablet or even online. Either for coaching or sharing the hunting experience, TrackingPoint built a social shooting system.

This wasn’t cobbled together by hobbyists:

Founder John McHale sold his first company to Compaq in 1995 for $372 million. The deal netted McHale $24 million. In the following years McHale went on to found and sell companies to Cisco and 3Com. TrackingPoint is familiar ground for the serial entrepreneur.

Backed by $33 million in financing in part from McHale himself, the young Texas-based company released its first product in 2013. It cost $22,000 to $27,000. This model didn’t hit its mark. Early testers reported inconstant performance, yet videos demonstrating the smart gun went viral. While not perfect, this first model put the company on the board.

McHale recruited impressive talent to build the products. He stole engineers and executives from Remington, Amazon and enlisted the help of a design firm that had built software for Siemens and Motorola. Yet after the early unreliable reports, the CEO, Jason Schauble, previously a Remington vice president, was replaced by John Lupher who had led the development of the first gun.

The first product was clearly priced too high for average hunter or gun enthusiast. The company demonstrated the system to the US Military and later the Canadian military. Gordon told me that the U.S. Military has ordered six units and the Canadians five.

Yet the company kept developing the system and driving down the price. The system I tried, a modified AR-15, only cost $7500. This model has a range of a third of a mile and can track an object moving up to 10 miles an hour. Spend more money to net additional range, stopping power and the ability to hit faster moving targets.

TrackingPoint is about to introduce a .338TP called the Mile Maker, and as the name suggests, it can hit a target a mile away. Think about that. A person, with very little skill or training, will soon be able to accurately hit a target a mile away.

Energy Sidearms

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Sci-fi stories often feature ray guns but rarely consider the nature of energy sidearms:

The main advantages of laser weapons include: weapon bolt travels at the speed of light, excellent accuracy, damage inflicted by the bolt can be dialed up or down, lasers have no recoil, and the “ammunition” (i.e., electricity required per bolt) is much more inexpensive than the equivalent conventional bullet.

The main disadvantages of laser weapons include: it still requires huge amounts of power, bullet ammo takes up far less space than power generators, it has far more of a waste heat problem than a conventional firearm, and the energy in a given bolt is severely reduced by dust, smoke, clouds, or rain.

Pretty much zero science fiction stories, movies, or TV shows mention that laser sidearms have the ability to permanently blind anybody closer to the weapon than the horizon. If the beam is in the frequencies that can penetrate the cornea of the eye, and the beam reflects off a door nob or other mirrored surface, anybody whose eyes get flashed by the beam is going to need a seeing-eye dog. There are more hideous details here.

Laser pistols don’t make sense though until you have a portable power source.

I got a kick out of this excerpt from Robert Heinlein’s 1942 story Beyond This Horizon, where Monroe-Alpha notices that Hamilton is “armed with something novel… and deucedly odd and uncouth”:

“What is it?” he asked.

“Ah!” Hamilton drew the sidearm clear and handed it to his host. “Woops! Wait a moment. You don’t know how to handle it — you’ll blow your head off. ” He pressed a stud on the side of the grip, and let a long flat container slide out into his palm. “There — I’ve pulled its teeth. Ever see anything like it?”

Monroe-Alpha examined the machine. “Why, yes, I believe so. It’s a museum piece, isn’t it? An explosive-type hand weapon?”

“Right and wrong. It’s mill new, but it’s a facsimile of one in the Smithsonian Institution collection. It’s called a point forty-five Colt automatic pistol.”

“Point forty-five what?”

“Inches.”

“Inches… let me see, what is that in centimeters?”

“Huh? Let’s see — three inches make a yard and a yard is about one meter. No, that can’t be right. Never mind, it means the size of the slug it throws. Here… look at one.” He slid one free of the clip. “Damn near as big as my thumb, isn’t it?”

“Explodes on impact, I suppose.”

“No. It just drills its way in.”

“That doesn’t sound very efficient.”

“Brother, you’d be amazed. It’ll blast a hole in a man big enough to throw a dog through.”

Monroe-Alpha handed it back. “And in the meantime your opponent has ended your troubles with a beam that acts a thousand times as fast. Chemical processes are slow, Felix.”

“Not that slow. The real loss of time is in the operator. Half the gunfighters running around loose chop into their target with the beam already hot. They haven’t the skill to make a fast sight. You can stop ‘em with this, if you’ve a fast wrist.

Shooters make the same point about laser sights today.

A Nerd for Our Times

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

The Imitation Game exploits Alan Turing’s status as one of the relatively rare gay-nerd intersections to create a victim for our times, Steve Sailer suggests:

It’s hard for 21st-century audiences, who have been instructed that the past was one long featureless nightmare of homophobia, to make sense of the last two years of Turing’s life. The old stereotype of the English elite as prone to homosexuality has been forgotten, but it’s useful in understanding what happened to Turing.

After the war Turing did important work on early computers at the University of Manchester. But in 1952, his taste for rough trade brought him embarrassment when some mates of Turing’s teenage boyfriend burgled his flat. Turing called the police, only to be surprised when the Manchester coppers took an unsporting interest in why the distinguished academic was entertaining lowlife youths.

A snob of superb pedigree (his parents were from the meritocratic Indian imperial civil service that had attracted such outstanding families as the Mills), Turing evidently hadn’t realized that in the working-class-dominated postwar era, his open homosexuality would be less tolerated as a Brideshead Revisited-like foible and treated more as obsolete upper-crust decadence.In a new biography,Alan Turing: The Enigma Man, Nigel Cawthorne explains that back when Turing had gone up to university in 1931:

At Cambridge at that time, homosexuality — though illegal — was largely tolerated. It was generally assumed that public [i.e., private] schoolboys were basically bisexual. Many who had youthful homosexual dalliances went on to marry and be solely heterosexual. Others would remain, or become, fully gay. Turing barely hid his interest in that quarter. The walls of his rooms were hung with pictures of young bodybuilders in swimming trunks…. Somewhat reminiscent of Sebastian Flyte’s teddy bear Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited, Turing asked his mother to send him a teddy…

As Waugh’s 1945 bestseller had predicted, the triumph of the leftist masses briefly rendered unfashionable the homoerotic culture fostered by top-drawer English educational institutions.

[...]

Philosopher Jack Copeland, who directs the Turing Archive, has argued that considering Turing’s upbeat mood over the last year of his life and the lack of any suicide note, his mother’s conclusion that he died from accidentally ingesting the cyanide he was using to do gold electroplating in his spare room makes as much sense as the standard story that he killed himself with a poisoned apple in some kind of tribute to Disney’s Snow White.

Making Bets All Along

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Henry Blodget interviews Jeff Bezos, opening with, what the hell happened with the Fire phone?

First of all, it’s really early. We’ve had a lot of things we’ve had to iterate on at Amazon. You may remember something called Auctions that didn’t work out very well. Z Shops morphed out of that. Then we launched Marketplace, which became our third-party seller business, which now represents 40% of units sold on Amazon. That’s a great business.

If you look at our device portfolio broadly, our hardware team is doing a great job. The Kindle is now on its seventh generation. The Kindle Voyage, the new premium product, is just completely killer. Fire TV, Fire TV Stick — we’re having trouble building enough. Amazon Echo, which we just launched. So there’s a lot of activity going on in our device business. With the phone, I just ask you to stay tuned.

So, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Move along.

Bezos segues into how one of his jobs is to encourage people to be bold:

It’s incredibly hard. Experiments are, by their very nature, prone to failure. A few big successes compensate for dozens and dozens of things that didn’t work. Bold bets — Amazon Web Services, Kindle, Amazon Prime, our third-party seller business — all of those things are examples of bold bets that did work, and they pay for a lot of experiments.

What really matters is, companies that don’t continue to experiment, companies that don’t embrace failure, they eventually get in a desperate position where the only thing they can do is a Hail Mary bet at the very end of their corporate existence. Whereas companies that are making bets all along, even big bets, but not bet-the-company bets, prevail. I don’t believe in bet-the-company bets. That’s when you’re desperate. That’s the last thing you can do.

The Peripheral

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

William Gibson’s new novel, The Peripheral, explores two futures:

The second future takes place in a 22nd-century post-singularity London, where a recently disgraced publicist navigates a surveillance state ruled by a kleptocracy. Today, the singularity is a theoretical point at which artificial intelligence becomes smarter than us and lies outside our control. According to singularity devotees, we cannot predict what happens at this juncture, but some ideas include mankind uploading our consciousness into computers or causing our own end by runaway nanotechnology. Gibson’s vision of the singularity is a “nerd rapture,” and it’s different and more human than any other singularity depiction I’ve encountered.

“I’ve been making fun of the singularity since I first encountered the idea,” he says. “What you get in The Peripheral is a really fucked-up singularity. It’s like a half-assed singularity coupled with that kind of neoreactionary, dark enlightenment shit. It’s the singularity as experienced by Joseph Heller. We’re people, and we fuck up. We do a singularity, we’re going to fuck it up.”

Indeed, in the novel, we do. An apocalypse Gibson refers to only as “the Jackpot” devastates Earth’s population, and Gibson’s “half-assed singularity” comes along in time to save only the moneyed elite. Gibson’s vision is a multicausal apocalypse, one that refutes the idea of the single-trigger apocalypses (an epidemic, a nuclear holocaust, an asteroid) that have preoccupied man since before the Bible. I asked him why the people with money survived. His response: “Why wouldn’t they?

In The Peripheral, while those with money survive “the Jackpot,” they have no more control over that technology than the poor do. They merely have more access to it.

I’m more than a little curious about his use of neoreactionary and dark enlightenment.

Looney Balloons

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Google’s far-fetched Project Loon seems to be working:

[A]s you read this, some 75 Google balloons are airborne, hovering somewhere over the far reaches of the Southern Hemisphere, automatically adjusting their altitudes according to complex algorithms in order to catch wind currents that will keep them on course. By next year, Google believes it will be able to create a continuous, 50-mile-wide ring of Internet service around the globe. And by 2016, Project Loon director Mike Cassidy anticipates the first customers in rural South America, Southern Africa, or Oceania will be able to sign up for cellular LTE service provided by Google balloons. (Google is starting in the far Southern Hemisphere, which is relatively sparsely populated, before expanding elsewhere.)

It took a while to get going though:

On the first try, the balloon burst not long after liftoff, the nylon fabric overmatched by the 100,000 pounds of pressure within. The same happened on the second try, and the third—and the next 50 after that. The team kept tweaking the fabric and reinforcing it with more Kevlar-like ropes, but the balloons kept bursting until they got the length of the ropes exactly right. (They had to be shorter than the fabric to relieve the pressure, but not too much shorter.)

“We knew it was hard to make a super-pressure balloon,” Cassidy recalls. “We didn’t think it would take us 61 attempts until we succeeded.”

Even then, the success was short-lived. Instead of bursting, the balloon slowly leaked helium, bringing it down after just a day or two in flight. “Even a millimeter-sized hole will bring a balloon like this down in a couple days,” Cassidy says. “And that’s what happened to the next 40 or 50 balloons we made.”

Google’s engineers spent weeks trying to isolate the problem. They took balloons out of their boxes and inflated them in a cavernous hangar at Moffett Field in Mountain View, shined polarized light through them, and even sniffed for helium leaks using a mass spectrometer. Each balloon that went down was subjected to a “failure analysis” that included poring over meticulous records of who had assembled it, where, and using what equipment, and how it had been transported.

Eventually they pinned the leaks on two sets of problems. One was that the balloons had to be folded several times over to be transported, and some developed tiny tears at the corners where they’d been folded repeatedly. Google set to work finding ways to fold and roll the balloons that would distribute the stress more evenly across the fabric.

The second problem was that some balloons were ripping slightly when workers stepped on the fabric with their socks. The solution to that problem? “Fluffier socks,” says Cassidy. “Seriously, that made a difference. Softer socks meant fewer leaks.”

As the team cut down on the leaks, the balloons started lasting longer: four days, then six, then several weeks at a time. As of November, Cassidy says, two out of every three balloons remain in the sky for at least 100 days.

But keeping the balloons airborne is only the first of the monumental problems that the project presented. Keeping them on course may be even harder.

Why do this again?

Providing Internet via a fleet of algorithmically directed balloons might sound prohibitively expensive, but Cassidy says it’s actually an order of magnitude cheaper than setting up and maintaining cell towers, making it more economically viable in remote regions.

A New Laser Age

Monday, December 15th, 2014

The nature of directed energy weapons — lasers — favors surface troops, Jonathan Jeckell explains:

The U.S. and Israel have had increasing success lately testing lasers to intercept missiles and artillery. We could be entering a new laser age — with huge implications for American military power.

But it could be a mostly defensive, ground-based laser age, to begin with. Aerial energy weapons need a lot more work and could lag far behind.

In December, the Army shot down 90 mortar rounds and several drones using a truck-mounted laser. The Navy is adding an experimental laser gun to its Persian Gulf base ship Ponce. The Army and Navy weapons work today. The Air Force, by contrast, is planning to install an energy weapon on jet fighters around the year 2030.

[...]

Unlike missile defenses using projectiles — which must fight against gravity and require storage space and sophisticated manufacturing — lasers require only the requisite energy and the ability to shed excess heat.

Lasers also move at the speed of light, meaning the target would have no warning or opportunity to maneuver before it strikes. Suddenly the energetics that have favored air power are reversed.

Historically the high ground lent decisive advantages in combat because gravity works in your favor. Anti-aircraft shells and missiles flying up to intercept aircraft must struggle against gravity to approach their target. They lose energy, and the ability to maneuver, as they ascend.

Meanwhile, air-launched ordnance uses gravity to its advantage, increasing its range so it can often strike first and from a standoff distance. This has been a major factor in helping aircraft fend off increasingly sophisticated air-defense systems.

Lasers will level that field, as surface forces will have effective lasers first. Placing energy weapons on planes runs up against serious constraints on the weight and space needed for shedding waste heat and providing energy to the laser. The Air Force Airborne Laser project, for example, used up nearly all the interior space in a 747 for a laser capable of shooting down just a handful of ballistic missiles.

Better lasers might eventually solve these aerial problems with more compact cooling and improved energy generation — but these advancements will also enhance ground-based systems that don’t suffer gravity’s constraints. With energy weapons, the conditions are set for air defense to leap ahead of air attack.

Solar Stickers

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Xiaolin Zheng’s research team at Stanford is reimagining solar panels:

Because conventional thin-film solar cells are manufactured on glass or silicon wafers, they are rigid, heavy, and quite limited in how and where they can be used. Plastic or paper would be far more flexible, but it cannot withstand the high temperatures and chemicals required for fabrication.

“Our new technique lets us treat the solar cells like a pizza,” explains Zheng. “When you bake pizza, you use a metal pan that can tolerate high temperatures. But when it’s time to distribute the pizza economically, it’s placed in a paper box.”

Working with her students, Zheng set out to fabricate solar cells on a silicone or glass surface as usual, but she inserted a metallic layer between the cell and the surface. After some trial and error, the team was finally able to peel away the metallic layer from the surface after soaking the whole structure in water for just a few seconds.

The result was an active solar cell that is only a couple of microns thick—about one-tenth the thickness of plastic wrap, Zheng says. “It’s extremely flexible, so it can be attached to any surface—the back of a mobile phone, a skylight, a wall, a curved column.”

The skinny, bendable cells can produce the same amount of electricity as rigid ones, and they offer cost benefits as well, according to Zheng. “The silicon wafers come through the process clean and shiny,” she says. “So just like a pizza pan, they can be used again and again, which translates to savings.” And because the solar stickers are lighter than conventional panels, they will be easier and less expensive to install.

The stickers might be able to reduce manufacturing costs too, Zheng says. In traditional solar-cell production, the foundation materials account for 25 percent of the cost. The new method will enable that base layer to be removed or replaced with a cheaper material. For example, the windows of a building provide a ready-made base layer, so all that’s needed is the solar cell itself. A cell that could simply be peeled and applied enables that economical shortcut.

World’s Simplest Electric Train

Friday, December 5th, 2014

The world’s simplest electric train is made from magnets, a battery, and coiled copper wire:

Nordenfelt Gun

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

The multi-barrel Nordenfelt gun was hopelessly behind the times, but the firm did introduce one innovation far ahead of its time:

The Nordenfelt multibarrel guns as a whole were clumsy contraptions when compared with American-designed weapons of this era. However, the firm did one thing that justified its existence by introducing the rifle caliber armor-piercing bullet years ahead of its time. In fact, it was so revolutionary that it was rediscovered nearly 40 years later. Nordenfelt left no doubt that he had the modern-day AP round in mind when he described his projectile as follows: “The bullet of this kind of cartridge is formed of hardening cast steel with a sharp pointed head. Over this projectile, for the purpose of a gas check and for rotating the bullet, is placed an envelope of brass, which is choked into a cannelure around its base. Also on the base are several radial cuts, into which the envelope is set on firing. In place of a brass envelope a coating of copper may be deposited on the projectile by the electro-galvanic process, and thus any possibility of altered flight due to the stripping of the brass envelope is rendered impossible.”

This high-velocity armor-piercing projectile that had a speed in excess of 2,000 feet a second and penetrated 2 inches of solid iron plate at 300 yards was a distinct contribution to the field of ordnance.

A Whiff of Grapeshot

Monday, December 1st, 2014

As a young Brigadier General, Napoleon once dispersed a mob of Royalists with “a whiff of grapeshot” — although it’s not quite clear how to translate that very Anglo-Saxon phrase back into French. Une bouffée de mitraille?

The phrase likely sounds so Anglo-Saxon because it was coined by Scottish essayist and historian, Thomas Carlyle, in The French Revolution: A History.

Mitraille is the French word for grapeshot, and it is also the root of the French word for machine gun, mitrailleuse, because the original French proto-machine gun was a multi-barrel affair meant to deliver a volley of rifle rounds, as a new and improved form of grapeshot, and the term stuck, even as true machine guns arrived on the scene.

Mitrailleuse Reffye

To a modern audience, it’s always surprising that the European armies going into the Great War didn’t see the potential of the machine gun, but there’s a reason for that. The English hadn’t faced a civilized army with their Gatling guns, and the French experience with the mitrailleuse had been a failure, when they deployed it — as a kind of artillery — against the Prussians in 1870, where it was no match for actual artillery — Krupp guns.

Testing the Gatling Gun

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

The Gatling Gun underwent strenuous testing around the world:

The development of this type of weapon divided military men into two schools of thought. One believed that it should be an artillery support; the other considered it a special objectives gun for bridges or street defense. Neither recognized its true mission as an infantry weapon.

Many of the trials included its being fired in competition with howitzers and cannon. In each instance the Gatling placed more bullets in the target than did the artillery if allowed to fire as many bullets as the number of grapeshot fired. On the basis of these results, the gun was officially adopted by the United States Army on 24 August 1866.

[...]

Some of the European governments, in order to prove certain tactical points, subjected the weapons to most unusual competitive events. For instance, in Carlsbad, Baden, in 1869 there were pitted against the rifle-caliber Gatling, 100 picked infantry soldiers, armed with the celebrated needle gun and trained to fire by volley. The machine gun was to fire the same amount of ammunition as the 100 riflemen at a distance of 800 meters. The results showed that the Gatling put 88 percent of its bullets into the target, while the soldiers succeeded in scoring only 27 percent hits. Doubtless the difference would have been even greater had the firing taken place during the heat and smoke of battle.

[...]

The endurance of the Gatling gun seems almost phenomenal when judged by modern standards. On 23, 24, and 25 October 1873, at Fort Madison near Annapolis, Md., 100,000 rounds of center-fire caliber .50 ammunition were fired from one gun to test not only the durability of the 1865 model gun, but also the quality of the cartridges. Lt. Comdr. J. D. Marbin supervised these trials under the auspices of Commodore William Nicholson Jeffers, Chief of the Navy Bureau of Ordnance. Excerpts of the official report are given below:

October 23, 10:33 a. m., commenced firing in the presence of Chief of Bureau of Ordnance and others. Ten drums, each holding 400 cartridges (making 4,000), were fired rapidly, occupying in actual time of firing ten minutes and forty-eight seconds. The firing was then discontinued to witness experimental firing of the 15-inch Navy rifle. The firing of the Gatling gun was resumed in the afternoon, when some 28,000 cartridges were fired. Commenced firing at 8:50 a. m., October 24, the gun having been cleaned.

One hundred and fifty-nine drums, of 400 cartridges each, making a total of 63,600 cartridges, were fired without stopping to wipe out or clean the barrels. At the close of the firing, which extended over a period of five hours and fifty-seven minutes, although the actual time of firing was less than four hours, the barrels were not foul to any extent; in proof of which a very good target was made at 300 yards range before cleaning the barrels. On the 25th day of October the remainder of the 100,000 cartridges were fired. The working of the gun, throughout this severe trial was eminently satisfactory, no derangements of any importance whatever occurring.