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The U. S. Firearms Industry Today: A John M. Browning Viewpoint

By George E. Kontis, PE

Early Browning

John Moses Browning was the greatest firearms designer in the history of the world. A man with a unique design philosophy whose products were sleek, effective, and reliable. He had a storied career, but faced many of the same challenges we do in the small arms industry today. Examining his history offers us an effective insight to the path forward.

Born in 1855, John—or Jack as he preferred to be called, was a member of a large Mormon family. His father was a gun designer, gunsmith, and blacksmith who built and repaired firearms on the Utah frontier. Little Jack loved playing in his father‘s scrap pile. The parts and pieces he found were used to build toys—mostly guns. Jack had a keen eye for detail. Through examination of failed gun parts found in the scrap pile, Jack received an early education on the weaknesses in gun design. These were important lessons which became useful to him in his later years.

One day, when Jack was a teenager, he found himself in a barn with his family and friends. They had harvested apples that day and the group’s chore was to peel them. It was tedious and boring. By noon, Jack had enough. He slipped a few apples in his bag and headed for home, or to be more accurate, his father’s blacksmith shop next door. Just after lunch, Jack showed back up at the barn carrying an odd looking contraption. He sat it on a table, loaded an apple onto it and proceeded to turn a hand crank. The device peeled the apple then removed the core when it was done. This was the mark of John M. Browning. He could visualize, design, build, test, and deliver faster than anybody.

John and his father both made attempts to design a repeating rifle. The task was complicated by the fact that both rifles were muzzle loaders. John’s father admitted that his son’s design was better than his, but both agreed neither one was all that great. There was no...

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