The “Puckle” Gun

Noted historians have deemed this gun, “The First Machine Gun” – certainly, the first patented machine gun of it’s kind, which was patented by James Puckle on July 25, 1718 in England.

  1. But was Puckle the inventor of this gun?
  2. Did he have a background in gunsmithing or machining?
  3. Was he forward-thinking as the gun insinuates?
  4. Or did he, as a financier and man of influence, make a deal for the gun or steal it, as some historians believe?

These are four questions I will let you answer for yourself.

 James Puckle (1667 – 1724) was an English lawyer, writer, Notary Public (at that time, a requirement for the submission of patents) and an influential gentleman. He promoted schemes for commerce and his own profit. Mr. Puckle made his living as a notary public and member of the London Guild called the Worshipful Company of Scriveners. He received fees from his clients which sustained his noble lifestyle and allowed him to promote inventions with his earnings. This Guild gave him a degree of access to influence and knowledge of bureaucracy to perceiver the system to eventually achieve the signing of the patent by King George I. This is not the hands of an inventor, as many suggest.

Some historians say that there was a master mathematician, or a master gun maker and /or a master innovationist in the background. It has been noted in the October / November 1721 Daily Courant newspaper that Peter Hartopp, Esq. would be paid two shillings per share for the number of guns sold. Could this be the mysterious “other person” necessary to create James Puckle’s gun? Or was it Matthew Bagley and his son, who died in an explosion of a damp mold at his foundry and shop in Whitecross Alley, Moorfield, London in 1718, just before the patent was approved. Bagley’s office was listed as the office of Inventor James Puckle.

Question: If you were an inventor of an object, knowing the time and effort to develop it, would you not patent the entire invention? Why wouldn’t the first collapsible tripod be patented either together or separately? If that had happened, James Puckle could have claimed the first patented collapsible tripod and today’s tripod would be the result of his efforts! Lots of questions and no definitive answers.  You be the judge!

Another case in point that historians question . . . Thomas Edison had power, influence and money.  According to my father who knew him, he was also ruthless. Could Edison’s electric inventions be the result of Tesla’s work, like Puckle with Bagley’s work?

Author: Joe McClain, IMT Director
Photography: Michael Fullana


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