|ACW Rapid Fire Guns
'They Couldn't Hit an Elephant' Optional Rule
My interest in the ACW centres mostly upon 1862, and McClellan's Peninsular campaign in
particular. The campaign is remarkable for, amongst other things, the fact that what are best
described as rapid fire guns, and machine guns, were used for the first time in combat, albeit in
very small numbers.
QRF/LKM make a 15mm Freikorps model of the Agar 'Coffee Grinder' machine gun used by the
Union, and the Confederate Williams gun. They also make the very early Billingshurst Requa
Volley Gun and Gatling Gun of legend. I used Peter Pig crew in the examples below as in my
opinion they are much nicer, cleaner cast figures.
Agar 'Coffee Grinder' Machine Gun
This was the first gun in history to have a gun shield. Firing up to 400 .58 'Minie' ball type rounds
per minute, though more usually 120 due to barrel overheat and jams, and effective at up to 1,000
yards. The ammunition was placed in the brass hopper at the top and fell into the chamber as the
crank handle was turned.
Robin Stirzaker of the TFL Yahoo group had some useful ideas regarding how to replicate MG's in
the ACW. I have posted his advice below.
In 'Elephant' if they are deployed independently base them as artillery. They have a range of 8”.
1D6 per section (2 guns) using the small arms column but count +2 bonus for Repeating
If they roll any doubles then the firing unit takes a hit as well (guns jam). Alternatively, don’t give
them the +2 for repeating weapons but they don’t jam either (the crews would often fire a lot slower
than the maximum rate of fire in order to avoid jams and conserve ammunition.
They were quite often attached directly to an infantry regiment. Represent the machine guns as a
1” base and consider them an integral part of the unit, counting for overlap purposes, and
counting the whole unit as Superior Weapons in firing and in Firefight combat results. The
machine guns can’t be targeted directly but if the regiment routs then the machine guns are lost.
Known Battles in which the Ager gun was used:
• Seven Pines / Fair Oaks
• Harpers Ferry
• Golding’s Farm
• Harrison’s Landing
Units known to have had the Ager Gun
• 96th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment
• 28th Pennsylvania Regiment Volunteers
• 49th Pennsylvania Regiment Volunteers
• 56th New York Volunteers
This was the first rapid fire type weapon used in combat in history, first seeing action at Seven
Pines in spring 1862.
The Confederate Williams Gun was actually a mechanical, rapid fire, rifled cannon firing a 1pdr
(1.57") shell up to 2,000 yards and said to be capable of up to 65 rounds per minute. Actually the
rate of fire was probably much less however due to barrel overheating resulting in jams.
I decided to use similar rules as used for the Agar machine gun for the Williams'.
Deployed independently as a battery, of six guns, they have an effective only range of up to 18”
and an extreme range of 30". I decided not to give it a bonus for close range as the weapon was
difficult to aim when firing rapidly and also not able to fire a cannister round.
I look forward to trying them out soon....