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Nordenfelt Gun

Sailor operating 10-barrel rifle calibre gun, with right hand on lever

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The Nordenfelt gun was a multiple barrel organ gun that had a row of up to twelve barrels. It was fired by pulling a lever back and forth and ammunition was gravity fed through chutes for each barrel. It was produced in a number of different caliber's from rifle up to 25 mm (1 inch). Larger caliber's were also used, but for these caliber's the design simply permitted rapid manual loading rather than true automatic fire. This article covers the anti-personnel rifle-calibre (typically 0.45 inch) gun.


The weapon was designed by a Swedish engineer, Helge Palmcrantz. He created a mechanism to load and fire a multiple barreled gun by simply moving a single lever backwards and forwards. It was patented in 1873.

Nordenfelt gun
Royal Marines with a Nordenfelt 5-barrel rifle calibre guns, 1890.

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Production of the weapon was funded by a Swedish steel producer and banker (later weapons maker) named Thorsten Nordenfelt, who was working in London. The name of the weapon was changed to the Nordenfelt gun. A plant producing the weapon was set up in England, with sales offices in London, and long demonstrations were conducted at several exhibitions. The weapon was adopted by the British Royal Navy, as an addition to their Gatling and Gardner guns.

During a demonstration held at Portsmouth a ten-barreled version of the weapon, firing rifle calibre cartridges fired 3,000 rounds of ammunition in 3 minutes and 3 seconds without stoppage or failure.

However, with the development of the Maxim gun the weapon was eventually outclassed. Nordenfelt merged in 1888 with the Maxim Gun Company to become Maxim Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Company Limited.

At least one Nordenfelt was re-activated for the 1966 film Khartoum and can be seen firing in the river boat sequence.


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