Jul 1, 2013

John Moses Browning: America's Most Famous Gunsmith

John Moses Browning, January 23rd 1855 to November 26th 1926 was born in Ogden, Utah and was an American firearms designer who developed military and civilian firearms, cartridges, and gun mechanisms that are still used around the world. When it comes to automatic and semi-automatic firearms, he is still the king with 128 firearm patents credited to his name. He made his firearm at the age of 13 in his father's gun shop, and was awarded his first patent on October 7th 1879 at the age of 24. Browning was a great influence in almost all categories of firearm design, inventing or improving the single-shot, lever-action, and slide-action rifles and shotguns; as well as pistol bolts and shrouds and pistol slides. He developed the first gas-operated machine gun, the Colt-Browning Model 1895. He also designed the M1911 pistol, the Browning Hi Power pistol, the Browning .50 caliber machine gun, the Browning Automatic Rifle, and the Browning Auto-5 that was an original semi-automatic shotgun. Most of these firearms are still produced today with some minor changes and cosmetics and his guns are the most copied in the world.

Browning Workshop - Ogden, Utah
The M1911 is a single-action, semi-automatic, magazine-fed, recoil-operated pistol chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge designed by John Browning. It served as the US Armed Forces side arm from 1911 to 1985. It was used in World War I, World War II, Korean War, and the Vietnam War. A variant, tactical model is still used by the US Special Forces, the US Navy, and the US Marine Corps. Browning invented the short-recoil, blowback, and various automatic weapon systems.
The Browning family were Mormons and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and John served two-years in missionary work in Georgia in 1887. His father, Jonathan Browning was among the pioneers who went on a mass exodus to escape persecution from Nauvoo, Illinois and established a gunsmith shop in Ogden in 1852. John Moses' mother was the second wife of J. Browning. He worked in his father's gunsmith shop beginning at the age of seven and was taught the basics of engineering and manufacturing principles. His education was only fifth-grade level, but he had a natural ability in engineering and design. He made his first custom, single-shot rifle with falling block action when he was ten years old.
When John Browning was 24 years old, he received his first patent for a rifle that Winchester manufactured as its Single Shot Model 1885. Winchester was impressed with the young gunsmith/inventor and asked Browning if he could design a lever-action-repeating shotgun. He said he could and did. But after tinkering, Browning was convinced that a pump-action mechanism would work better, and so he patented his first pump model shotgun in 1888. Browning's manually operated rifles and shotguns were designed to improving speed and reliability and allow shooters to fire multiple rounds whether shooting at game or people. Lever and pump actions allowed the operator to fire a round, operate the lever or pump to quickly eject the spent shell and insert a new cartridge, and then fire again in seconds. It was the design that “won the West”, as Winchester's ads proclaimed.
When at a shooting competition, Browning noticed that gas that escaped the muzzle would blow reeds violently aside. He used that observation to try using the force of escaping gas to automatically work the repeating mechanism. This idea was formulated in 1889. Three years later, he received a patent for his first automatic weapon that captured the gases at the muzzle and used them to power a mechanism that automatically reloaded the next bullet. Refining his invention, his automatic design was used by US soldiers who went to Europe in WWI, carrying the Browning Automatic Rifle.
video

They also used Browning's deadly machine guns.
Browning was a master gunsmith and firearm designer for fifty years and they became the classic American West's and US military's deadly tools. Since his death in 1926, little of his inventions have been changed – making him the most remarkable gunsmith and firearm designer in history.
It is no wonder that Browning has been memorialized in the state of Utah by making his firearm the state's firearm icon.
The video at YouTube produced by Tales of the Gun series is an excellent story of John M. Browning and his firearms.



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