John Moses Browning, Gunsmith

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John Moses Browning

Birthdate: (71)
Birthplace: Ogden, Weber County, Utah, United States
Death: November 26, 1926 (71)
Liege, Liege, Walloon Region, Belgium (Heart Failure)
Place of Burial: Ogden, Weber County, Utah, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Johnathan Browning and Elizabeth Caroline Browning
Husband of Rachel Theresa Browning and Rachel Theresa Browning
Father of Val Allen Browning; Carrie Browning; Elsie Ballantine; Monida Cummings; Kenneth Sandifer Browning and 5 others
Brother of Elizabeth Caroline Browning and Mathew Sandefur Browning
Half brother of David Elias Browning; Barbara Jane Browning; John Wesley Browning; James Allen Browning; Asenath Elizabeth Carling and 6 others

Managed by: Private User
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About John Moses Browning, Gunsmith

John Moses Browning (January 21 or January 23, 1855 – November 26, 1926), born in Ogden, Utah, was an American firearms designer who developed many varieties of firearms, cartridges, and gun mechanisms, many of which are still in use around the world. He is arguably the most important figure in the development of modern automatic and semi-automatic firearms and is credited with 128 gun patents. He made his first firearm at age 13 in his father's gun shop, and was awarded his first patent on October 7, 1879 at the age of 24.

Browning influenced nearly all categories of firearms design. He invented or made significant improvements to single-shot rifles, lever-action rifles, and slide-action firearms. 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, integrating the bolt and barrel shroud into what is known as the slide. Browning's telescoping bolt design is now found on nearly every modern semi-automatic pistol, as well as several modern fully automatic weapons.

He also developed the first gas-operated machine gun, the Colt-Browning Model 1895—a system that surpassed mechanical recoil operation to become the standard for most high-power self-loading firearm designs worldwide.

Browning's most successful designs include the M1911 pistol, the Browning .50 caliber machine gun,the Browning Hi-Power, the Browning Automatic Rifle, and a ground-breaking semi-automatic shotgun, the Browning Auto-5. These arms are nearly identical today to those assembled by Browning in the 1920s, with only minor changes in detail and cosmetics.


Browning was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served a two-year mission in Georgia beginning on March 28, 1887. His father Jonathan Browning, who was among the thousands of Mormon pioneers in the mass exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois to Utah, established a gunsmith shop in Ogden in 1852.

Jonathan had built a gunsmith in Nauvoo, developing and refining advanced (for the time) repeating firearms and manufacturing techniques. The Browning gunsmith in Nauvoo is now operated as a museum, and is open to the public at no charge.

John Moses worked in his father's Ogden shop, where he was taught basic engineering and manufacturing principles, and encouraged to experiment with new concepts. He developed his first rifle, a single-shot falling-block design, then founded his own manufacturing operation and began to produce this firearm.

Production examples of the Browning single-shot caught the attention of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, who dispatched a representative to evaluate the competition. Winchester bought the design and moved production to their Connecticut factory. From 1883, Browning worked in partnership with Winchester and designed a series of rifles and shotguns, most notably the Winchester Model 1887 and Model 1897 shotguns, the falling block single shot Model 1885, and the lever-action Model 1886, Model 1892, Model 1894 and Model 1895 rifles, most of which are still in production today in some form; over seven million Model 1894s have been produced, more than any other centerfire sporting rifle.

Perhaps the single most infamous Browning-designed firearm was a FN Model 1910 handgun, serial number 19074. In 1914, Gavrilo Princip used the .32 ACP pistol to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophia. This event arguably sparked World War I. The pistol was rediscovered in 2004.

A deluxe takedown Winchester Rifle Model 1894On November 26, 1926, while working on a self-loading pistol design for FN in Liège, he died of heart failure in the office of his son Val A. Browning. The 9 mm self-loading pistol he was working on when he died was eventually completed in 1935, by Belgian designer Dieudonne Saive. Released as the Fabrique Nationale GP35, it was more popularly known as the Browning Hi-Power. This name reflects the 13-round magazine—at the time, the largest pistol magazine in the world—not the pistol's 9mm cartridge, which is less powerful than the .45 ACP round of the M1911, developed two decades earlier.[citation needed] The Superposed shotgun was his last firearm design, marketed originally with twin triggers. A single trigger modification was later completed by his son, Val.

Throughout his life, Browning designed weapons for his own company, as well as for Winchester, Colt, Remington, Savage, and Fabrique Nationale de Herstal of Belgium. In 1977, FN acquired the Browning Arms Company which had been established in 1927, the year after Browning's death.


Several of Browning's designs are still in production today. Some of his most notable designs include:


U.S. M1895 Colt-Browning machine gun

FN Browning M1899/M1900

Colt Model 1900

Colt Model 1902

Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammer (.38 ACP)

Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless (.32 ACP)

Colt Model 1905

Remington Model 8 (1906), a long recoil semi-automatic rifle

Colt Model 1908 Vest Pocket (.25 ACP)

Colt Model 1908 Pocket Hammerless (.380 ACP) FN Model 1910

U.S. M1911 pistol (.45 ACP)

Colt Woodsman pistol

Winchester Model 1885 falling-block single shot rifle

Winchester Model 1886 lever-action repeating rifle

Winchester Model 1887 lever-action repeating shotgun

Winchester Model 1890 slide-action repeating rifle (.22)

Winchester Model 1892 lever-action repeating rifle

Winchester Model 1894 lever-action repeating rifle

Winchester Model 1895 lever-action repeating rifle

Winchester Model 1897 pump-action repeating shotgun

Browning Auto-5 long recoil semi-automatic shotgun

U.S. M1917 water-cooled machine gun

U.S. M1919 air-cooled machine gun

U.S. M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR)

U.S. M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun of 1921

Remington Model 8 semi-auto rifle

Remington Model 24 semi-auto rifle (.22) Also produced by Browning Firearms (as the SA-22) and several others

Browning Hi-Power (Grand Puissance or GP), the standard sidearm of many military and police forces

The Browning Superposed over/under shotgun was designed by John Browning in 1922 and entered production in 1931


In addition, the cartridges he developed are still some of the most popular in the world. They include:

.25 ACP

.32 ACP

.38 ACP

9mm Browning Long

.380 ACP

.45 ACP

.50 BMG

Military weapons

The Colt 1911, Browning 1917/19, and the BAR saw action with US forces in World War I, World War II and the Korean War, with the 1911 going on to serve as the U.S.'s standard military side arm until 1985; a variant is still used by special operations units of the United States Marine Corps and the design remains very popular amongst civilian shooters. The Browning Hi-Power would have a similarly lengthy period of service outside the United States, and remains the standard side arm of the Australian, British, and Canadian armed forces. The M2 Browning machine gun, which was developed in 1918, entered service with the US Armed Forces in 1921, and remains in service with armed forces across the world in a variety of roles. The M4 cannon, a 37mm autocannon, was initially designed by Browning in 1921, and entered service in 1938; it was used both in aircraft and on the U.S. Navy PT boat during World War II.

Selected patents

U.S. Patent 220,271 Winchester 1885 single-shot rifle, Browning’s first patent

U.S. Patent 306,577 Winchester 1886 and Model 71 lever action rifles

U.S. Patent 336,287 Winchester Model 1887/1901 lever action shotgun

U.S. Patent 385,238 Winchester 1890 pump action rifle

U.S. Patent 441,390 Winchester 1893 and 1897 pump action shotguns

U.S. Patent 465,339 Winchester 1892 lever action rifle

U.S. Patent 524,702 Winchester 1894 lever action rifle

U.S. Patent 544,657 Colt-Browning Model 1895 machine gun

U.S. Patent 549,345 Winchester 1895 lever action rifle

U.S. Patent 580,924 Colt 1900 automatic pistol

U.S. Patent 632,094 Winchester 1900 bolt action single shot .22 rifle

U.S. Patent 689,283 Browning Auto-5 shotgun, also Remington Model 11 and Savage 720

U.S. Patent 659,786 Remington Model 8 semi-automatic rifle

U.S. Patent 678,937 M1917 Browning machine gun

U.S. Patent 747,585 Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless automatic pistol

U.S. Patent 781,765 Stevens 520 pump action shotgun

U.S. Patent 808,003 Colt Model 1905 in .45 ACP (predecessor to the M1911)

U.S. Patent 947,478 FN Model 1906 and Colt Model 1908 Vest Pocket in .25 ACP

U.S. Patent 984,519 Colt 1911

U.S. Patent 1,065,341 Browning 22 Semi-Auto rifle and Remington model 24

U.S. Patent 1,143,170 Remington Model 17 and Ithaca 37 pump action shotguns

U.S. Patent 1,276,716 Colt Woodsman

U.S. Patent 1,293,022 Browning Automatic Rifle Model of 1918

U.S. Patent 1,424,553 FN "Trombone" pump action .22 caliber repeater (Rare in USA)

U.S. Patent 1,525,065 37 mm automatic cannons, M1 and M4

U.S. Patent 1,578,638 Browning Superposed over/under shotgun

U.S. Patent 1,618,510 FN and Browning Hi-Power pistol

U.S. Patent 1,628,226 M2 Browning machine gun in .50 BMG

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John Moses Browning, Gunsmith's Timeline

January 23, 1855
Ogden, Weber County, Utah, United States
January 22, 1880
Age 24
Ogden, Weber, UT, United States
October 12, 1881
Age 26
Ogden, Weber, UT, United States
November 9, 1883
Age 28
Ogden, Weber, UT, United States
August 3, 1885
Age 30
Ogden, Weber, UT, United States
December 12, 1887
Age 32
February 1, 1890
Age 35
Ogden, Weber, UT, United States
June 21, 1892
Age 37
Ogden, Weber, UT, United States
Age 39
Ogden, UT, United States
August 10, 1898
Age 43
Ogden, Weber, UT, United States