John Moses Browning, sometimes referred to
as the “father of modern firearms,” was born January 23, 1855 in Ogden, Utah to Jonathan and Elizabeth
Child Browning. Elizabeth was one of Jonathan's three wives and John Moses one of his father's nineteen children. Many of the guns manufactured by companies whose names evoke
the history of the American West-Winchester, Colt, Remington, and Savage-were
actually based on John Moses Browning’s designs.
As a western historical author, I've learned a lot from researching John Browning. I thought he would be a good Western-style inventor to use for this blog. I found he was incredibly versatile and responsible for dozens of firearms concepts, many of which are still used today.
In addition, my current work in progress is BLESSING, a romance set in Utah. Coincidentally, that's where John Moses Browning was reared. BLESSING is book two in the exciting new series, Widows of Wildcat Ridge, and is now up for pre-order. BLESSING will be released on October 1st. The link is http://Getbook.at/blessingWOWR
. The first book, PRISCILLA, by Charlene Raddon, will be released September 15, after which new books will be released every two weeks through spring. Series coordinator Charlene has designed all the covers for the series.
John Browning worked
in his father's Ogden shop from the age of seven, where he was taught basic
engineering and manufacturing principles, and encouraged to experiment with new
is said to have created his first gun in his father’s shop when he was–depending
on the whose report is referenced—ten or thirteen or fourteen. Allegedly, this gun was made for his
|John Moses Browning|
The year 1879 was eventful for the Browing family. Jonathan Browning died
on June 21 and, soon thereafter, John Moses and his brothers started their own
shop. They first used steam powered tools, tools that were originally
foot-powered but were converted by John Moses to get power from a steam engine.
In that year, John
Moses Browning married Rachel Teresa Child. Eventually, they had three sons: Val,
John, and Louie.
The year 1879 was also the
receipt of his first gun patent for the Breech-Loading Single Shot Rifle. He
was twenty-four at the time and this was the first of his 128 patents during
John and his brothers began
producing this rifle in their Ogden shop but customer demand soon exceeded
their shop's production capacity. They were unable to expand their Browning
Gun Factory because they lacked the capital
required. Although John Moses Browning was very satisfied with the
sales of his guns he was also very unhappy that the production chores and the
daily work prohibited him from working on his new ideas.
(This reminded me of us authors who just want to write but have to engage in social media, ads, formatting, choosing covers, editors, housework, errands, etc. I just want to write!)
A salesman for the
Winchester Repeating Arms Company named Andrew McAusland happened to see one of
John's Single Shot rifles in 1883. McAusland immediately bought one and sent it
to Winchester's headquarters. The gun drew Winchester's interest and T. G.
Bennet, Winchester's vice president and general manager, went to Ogden to buy
the rights to Browning's gun. When Bennet arrived in Ogden, it didn't take long
for the men to agree on the sale and Winchester paid John Moses $8,000 for the
rights to produce the gun.
The agreement was
beneficial to both parties. Winchester was happy because they turned competitor
into a benefactor, plus they added an excellent rifle to their product line.
John was equally happy because the money
from the sale and the ensuing relationship with Winchester allowed him to
concentrate on inventing things instead of manufacturing them.
John Browning was usually
working on more than one project at one time. He started working on automatic
pistols before 1900. He was the first to invent the slide which encloses the
barrel and the firing mechanism of a pistol. Pistols of his invention were
produced by both FN and Colt and they range from baby .25 caliber pistols to
the .45 Government Model. The first automatic pistol designed by Browning was
produced by FN as FN's .32 caliber Model 1900. The most famous pistols of
John's design, however, were Colt's .45 ACP M1911 Government Model and FN's
Browning High-Power Model P-35 in 9mm Parabellum.
manufactured several popular small arms designed by John Moses Browning. For
decades in the late 19th Century-early 20th Century, Browning designs and
Winchester firearms were synonymous and the collaboration was highly
successful. This came to an end when Browning proposed a new long recoil operated
semi-automatic shotgun design, a prototype finished in 1898, to Winchester
management, which ultimately became the Browning Auto-5 shotgun.
designed the lever action Winchester Model 1887 and the Model 1887 pump shotgun, the falling-block
single-shot Model 1885, and the lever-action Model 1886, Model 1892, Model 1886, Model 1892, Model 1894, Model 1895 rifles as well as the long recoil operated
semi-automatic Remington Model 8 rifle, many of which are
still in production today in some form; over six million Model 1894s had been
produced as of 1983, more than any other sporting rifle in history.
He is regarded as one of the most successful firearms designers
of the 19th and 20th centuries, and pioneered the development of modern automatic and semi-automatic firearms. Impressed by the young man’s
inventiveness, Winchester asked Browning if he could design a
lever-action-repeating shotgun. Browning could and did, but his efforts
convinced him that a pump-action mechanism would work better, and he patented
his first pump model shotgun in 1888.
Browning’s manually-operated repeating
rifle and shotgun designs were aimed at improving the speed and reliability with which gun users
could fire multiple rounds-whether shooting at game birds or other people.
Lever and pump actions allowed the operator to fire a round, operate the lever
or pump to quickly eject the spent shell, insert a new cartridge, and then fire
again in seconds.
As was the
custom of the time, Browning's earlier designs had been licensed exclusively to
Winchester (and other manufacturers) for a single fee payment. With this new
product, Browning introduced in his negotiations a continuous royalty fee based
upon unit sales, rather than a single front-end fee payment. If the new repeating
shotgun became highly successful, Browning stood to make substantially more fee
income over the prior license fee arrangements. Winchester management was
displeased with the bold change in their relationship, and rejected Browning's
Remington Arms was also approached, however
the president of Remington died of a heart attack as John waited for his
answer. Remington would later produce a copy of the Auto-5 as the Model 11
which was used by the US Military and was also sold to the civilian market.
John packed a sample of his
shotgun into his luggage, crossed the Atlantic, and negotiated an agreement for
Fabrique National de Belgique (FN) to produce his gun. He couldn't do that today, of course, but FN was then a young
company in dire need of products to produce. Browning's automatic shotgun
revolutionized the hunting market.This same shotgun was later produced in
U.S.A. by Remington, as their Model 11. Still later, variants of this shotgun
were produced by almost all of the large shotgun manufacturers, including
Savage, Franchi, and Breda.
recently successfully negotiated firearm licenses with Fabrique Nationale de
Herstal of Belgium (FN), Browning took the new shotgun design to FN; the
offer was accepted and FN manufactured the new shotgun, honoring its inventor,
as the Browning Auto-5. The Browning Auto-5 was continuously manufactured as a
highly popular shotgun throughout the 20th century.
influenced nearly all categories of firearms design. He invented, or made
significant improvements to, single-shot, lever-action,
and pump-action rifles
and shotguns. His most significant contributions were in the area of
autoloading firearms. He developed the first reliable and compact autoloading pistols by inventing the telescoping bolt,
then integrating the bolt and barrel shroud into
what is known as the pistol slide. Browning's telescoping bolt
design is now found on nearly every modern semi-automatic pistol, as well as several
modern fully automatic weapons.
developed the first gas-operated firearm, the Colt-Browning Model 1895 machine gun —
a system that surpassed mechanical recoil operation to
become the standard for most high-power self-loading firearm designs worldwide.
He also made significant contributions to automatic cannon development.
By the late 1880s, Browning had perfected
the manual repeating weapon. He wanted to make guns that fired faster, but that
would require eliminating the need for slow human beings to actually work the
mechanisms. Browning discovered the answer during a local shooting competition
when he noticed that reeds between a man firing and his target were violently
blown aside by gases escaping from the gun muzzle. He decided to use the force of
that escaping gas to automatically work the repeating mechanism.
Browning began experimenting with his idea
in 1889. Three years later, he received a patent for the first crude fully
automatic weapon that captured the gases at the muzzle and used them to power a
mechanism that automatically reloaded the next bullet. In subsequent years,
Browning refined his automatic weapon design. When U.S. soldiers went to Europe
during WWI, many of them carried Browning Automatic Rifles, as well as
Browning’s deadly machine guns.
most-famous designs were the Winchester Model 1886 lever-action rifle, the
Remington Model 1905 semiautomatic shotgun, and the Colt Model 1911 semiautomatic
The Browning automatic rifle was
adopted by the U.S. Army in 1918 and used until the late 1950s. From about
1920 until the 1980s the U.S. armed forces used Browning-designed automatic and
semiautomatic weapons almost exclusively, including the .45-calibre Model 1911 auto-loading pistol; the
Model 1918 .30 calibre Browning automatic rifle (BAR); crew-served .30-
and .50-calibre machine guns, in several variations and modifications for air,
naval, and land use; the .45-calibre auto-loading pistol; and the 37-mm
automatic aircraft cannon.
The first two arms saw
regular U.S. issue over 40 and 75 years, respectively. In the 21st century,
improved variants of those military weapons remained in use around the world.
priced Browning Superposed shotgun, an over-under
shotgun design, was his last completed firearm design and possibly his most
elegant. It was marketed originally with twin triggers; a single trigger
modification was later completed by his son, Val Browning. Commercially
introduced in 1931 by FN, Browning Superposed shotguns, and their
more affordable cousins, the Browning Citori made in Asia, continue to be manufactured into the 21st century, and come with
varying grades of fine hand engraving and premium quality wood.
Browning was known as a dedicated and tireless innovator and experimenter who
sought breakthrough consumer-oriented features and performance and reliability
improvements in small arms designs. He did not retire from his career in his
later years, but dedicated his entire adult life—literally to his last day—to
these pursuits. On November 26, 1926, while working at the bench on a
self-loading pistol design for Fabrique Nationale de Herstal (FN) in Liege,
Belgium, he died of heart failure in the design shop of his son Val. Even
the 9 mm semi-automatic pistol he was working on when he died had great
design merit and was eventually completed in 1935, by Belgian designer
During a career spanning more than five
decades, Browning’s guns went from being the classic weapons of the American
West to deadly tools of world war carnage. Amazingly, since Browning’s death,
there have been no further fundamental changes in the modern firearm industry.
Priscilla: The Widows of Wildcat Ridge Series Book 1
That was a fascination post Caroline. The Widows of Wildcat Ridge sounds as if it will be a great series.ReplyDelete
I think the series will be great, Margaret. Really good authors are involved.Delete
Caroline, Browning's weapons were--and still are--amazing. Thanks for a great blog. And best of luck on Blessing! I'm excited to be a part of the series with you.ReplyDelete
I was surprised, Tracy. I thought he invented that rifle and had no idea he was so prolific. Must have been an interesting man.Delete
My grandpa had a Browning twin-trigger 12-gauge. I had a Browning single-trigger 20-gauge. Lots of Brownings around! So reading about John Moses Browning was really interesting.ReplyDelete
Best of luck with your new series!
Great post, Caroline! I look forward to reading Blessing. :-)ReplyDelete
As a gun enthusiast, my husband is familiar with and a fan of Browning guns. We visited the Browning Gun museum in the Ogden Union Train Depot museum several years ago, and the home and shop of the first Browning in Nauvoo, Illinois this past summer. Thanks for your post that added so much detail to what we saw.ReplyDelete
Quite a thorough and extensive article on John Browning, Caroline. I had to chuckle at your comparison of Browning's complaint about other tasks getting in the way of his inventions just like they do with your writing. My feelings exactly!ReplyDelete
Good luck with the new series.
John Browning had such an interesting life. It says a lot about him as an inventor that since his death the modern firearm industry hasn't changed substantially.ReplyDelete