John Moses Browning

John Moses Browning

John Moses Browning, the son of a Mormon gunsmith, was born in Ogden, Utah in 1855. He produced his first gun from scrap metal when he was thirteen. He patented a breech-loading single-shot rifle in 1879.

Inspired by the work of Hiram Maxim Browning began work on an automatic machine-gun in the 1890s. Unlike Maxim used propelling gas as a motive force. He drilled a hole in the gun barrel to divert some of the gas behind the bullet into a cylinder to drive a piston, which performed the various tasks of extracting the cartridge case, reloading and firing. In 1895 the Browning machine-gun was purchased by the US Navy.

In 1910 Browning produced a new 0.30-inch machine gun. However, the gun was not ordered by the United States Army until 1917. Over the next eighteen months 57,000 of these guns were produced for soldiers fighting on the Western Front.

Browning also produced an automatic rifle which fired a 20 round magazine. Over 52,000 of these were purchased by the United States Army and deployed as a support weapon for the light machine-gun.

John Moses Browning died in 1926.

John Moses Browning with his machine-gun
John Moses Browning with his machine-gun
© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) William Browning wrote an account of the first time he demonstrated his new machine-gun to the US military.

On reaching the firing range I quit wishing that Charlie and I had changed our shirts that morning, and before anyone had time to say much, we had the gun on the mount, banging away into one of the firing tunnels. I ran the two hundred rounds through so fast nobody could think. When the last empty shell spanged on the floor, with not a hitch in two hundred, Hall and his men were bug-eyed. The changed expression of Hall and his men put a pound of fat on my ribs.