The Reel Deal – Miniguns and the Movies – A mini-history of Project Vulcan and its off-shoots

Interest in the development of a 7.62mm NATO version began in 1957. GE initiated an independent research and development project in 1960, and had the basic design of the Minigun ready by 1962. At this time, the USAF awarded a contract for further development. The M134 (later designated the GAU-2/A by the USAF) was designed for use in aircraft gun pods such as the SUU-11/A; however, GE did not receive any significant orders until US involvement in the Vietnam War increased. Once the M134 was proven successful in gunship conversions of the C47, CH47, and UH1, it was only a matter of time before ground applications were envisioned for the M134.

Admittedly, the M134 were meant for mounted use and were never intended to be hand-held. Stembridge Gun Rentals, which provided firearms for film productions from 1916 to 1999, modified at least two real M134 for use in films such as Predator and Terminator 2. The cyclic rate was reduced to 1700 rpm in order to reduce torque and to lower the voltage required to power the motor that rotates the barrels. When Stembridge quit the gun rental business due to the oppressive legal climate in California, their set of modified M134 were placed up for sale. For $125,000, a qualified individual could buy one, including the associated movie props, spare parts, and live barrels. (For blank cartridge use, the Stembridge M134 was equipped with constricted barrels for the purpose of enhancing the muzzle flash.) For additional money, Stembridge’s Minigun wrangler Dan Sprague would provide instruction on its use and maintenance.

Note: Some folks are convinced that the Minigun in Predator is the M134’s little brother: the 5.56x45mm XM214 “Six Pak.” However, the XM214’s barrels offer a far more tapered profile when assembled. In addition, the XM214 can be distinguished by its use of only two barrel clamps.

by , Small Arms Historian
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Document History
Publication: 05/27/2003
Last Revised: 09/29/2008Author’s Note
This article was originally published at The Gun Zone — The Gunperson’s Authoritative Internet Information Resource. My friend and mentor Dean Speir has graciously hosted my articles at TGZ for nearly 16 years. These articles would likely have never appeared online without his constant encouragement and assistance.

With TGZ’s closure in early 2017, Dean encouraged me to find a new home for my scholarship so it wouldn’t be lost in the dustbin of the Internet. Loose Rounds has welcomed me with open arms. In the future, I intend to expand my legacy TGZ articles and add new contributions here at Loose Rounds.