Back in the American Civil War, in the 1860s, the armies of the Union and Confederacy were looking for ways to increase firepower beyond the muzzle-loading rifled muskets of the time. Several less than successful creations came out. The best of the bunch was Richard Jordan Gatling’s six-barreled crank operated gun. This early machine-gun was fed initially from a round magazine and in later iterations, straight magazines. It was the size of a small cannon, mounted on a caisson and prone to jamming. There was minimal traverse in the barrels. Its cumbersome nature prompted Lt. Col. Custer to leave his behind in the last days of his fateful expedition in June 1876. It was still in use in Cuba during the Spanish American War of the late 1890s, but soon was replaced by the early modern machine-guns from Maxim, Browning and others.
Fast-forward to the 1950s when GE developed the 20mm Vulcan Gatling Gun. They then scaled this down to 7.62 mm for use in helicopter gunships, such as the AH-1 Cobra. Other helicopters carried these in pods or door mounts. It was used in pods and fixed mounts in a number of aircraft, most famously in the AC-47 gunships. Gun truck crews scavenged and liberated these guns for use in their modified transports for convoy duty. Currently, these guns are used in naval patrol boats, on various wheeled vehicles and a can be set up on a tripod.
To date, all the M134 kits have been in plastic or resin, usually as part of a kit, though Legend’s resin kits of the early XM134 and the more recent M134 with flash suppressor are sold as separate kits. All of these present the problem of molding six barrels as one piece of plastic or resin. Enter RB Models of Poland with their M134 brass barrel kit.
The kit consists of three each of two very slightly different barrels, two pins whose exact purpose is unclear, an optional flash suppressor with vents, and a ring extension for one of the barrel guides. These guides are represented with PE brass. There are three guides with a slit for three of the barrels. (One of these is a spare) and three more barrel guides, each a different size to be used small to large, front to rear.
The kit is packed in a zip lock bag. I got mine from an EBay dealer and it arrived very well packed. Lucky Model also caries this at a retail of about $10. There are no instructions with the kit, though Lucky Model has several photographs suggesting assembly.
One must first identify the three initial barrels…these have slightly more gap in the two middle flanges. You’ll need magnifiers to identify these. These are attached into slits of two of the guides. I used Zap-A-Gap, but a more flexible adhesive would be better. Once these are locked into place, the remaining three barrels are added to the locator holes. A note of caution here: the holes are slightly undersized requiring a very small drill bit be used to increase their diameter. Test fitting before beginning assembly would be good. Learn from my difficulties. I’d strongly recommend using something to hold the tiny parts down, a commercial product called Dycem would work though I have some semi-adhesive pads from a show several years ago that I used. Also, I was working in a large tray to reduce the probability of dropping the tiny parts to the floor.
Once the second set of three barrels are secure, add the two front guides and the extender to the furthest back ring before attaching the barrels to the base ring. I added the shorter of the two pins to the inside of the base guide to help splay out the barrels to fit the base.
In working with this, I had to disassemble it about 2/3 of the way through as the barrels weren’t aligning right. In doing this, I bent a couple of the first set of barrels, but was able to get them straightened using a set of needle nose pliers. In total, it took me maybe two hours to get this completed.
Is it worth the money, time and effort? The final results have a much more realistic appearance than any plastic or resin Minigun I’ve seen, so for me, yes.
Highs: Excellent representation of a six barreled gunLows: Fiddly parts, undersized holes in the guides, no real instructions included.Verdict: Overall, a great improvement over any of the plastic or resin representations of the Minigun barrels.