The Guns of John M. Browning - By Richard L. Baird

John Moses Browning

John M Browning was the greatest firearms designer who ever lived or ever will live. Bold statement, huh? By the end of this piece I hope you will agree.

I started collecting Browning’s designs without knowing it. My first love in guns was semi-auto pistols. I bought several without knowing they were Browning’s. Then in 1999 I visited the Browning Firearms Museum in Ogden, Utah, and I was hooked. I then set about to collect every pistol design of Browning’s that was sold to the public. Unfortunately, I could never afford every variation or prototype that exists.

Browning’s first pistol to go into production was the FN (Fabrique Nationale) Model 1899. That model beat the Colt 1900 by one year. FN also produced the Models 1900, 1903, 1906, 1910, and High Power or P35 of Browning design. John Browning’s influence in gun design in Europe is so great that the word “browning” is defined as any semi-auto pistol.

Colt also produced the Models 1902 Military, 1903 Pocket Hammer, 1903 Pocket Hammerless, 1905, 1908 Pocket Hammerless, 1908 Vest Pocket, 1911, and .22 Automatic Target Pistol (Woodsman). I displayed his pistols at the exhibition show for two years and then decided I had to have his rifles.

From 1885 until Browning’s split with Winchester in 1902, every rifle and shotgun brought out by Winchester was Browning’s. Considering the popularity of the previous Winchester rifles, that was quite a feat. Browning gave Winchester the prototype for the Auto 5 or Remington Model 11 to you Remington fans, in 1900. They refused to give Browning a royalty deal to acquire the model, so Browning picked up his gun, took it across the ocean to FN, and the rest is history. Winchester never bought another Browning design. My guess is that Winchester is still kicking itself over that decision!

Browning’s rifles include the Winchester Models 1885, 1886, 1890, 1892, 1894, 1895 and 1900 as well as the Remington Models 8 and 24 and the FN Patent 1900 (same as the Remington Model 8), FN .22 Caliber Automatic Rifle (same as the Remington Model 24), and the FN Pump Action .22 Caliber Repeating Rifle (Trombone Model). I displayed his pistols and rifles for two years and then had to get his shotguns also.
This year I added his shotguns to my display. These include the Winchester Models 1887, 1893, and 1897; the Remington Models 11 and 17; the Stevens Model 520; and FN Auto 5 and Superposed. The Superposed shotgun was Browning’s last gun design. He was working on getting it into production when he died at FN in 1926.

In addition to the guns in my display, Browning also designed five full auto machine guns. These are the Colt Model 1895 Machine Gun, the Model 1917 .30 Caliber Machine Gun, the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), the Browning .50 Caliber Machine Gun, and the 37 mm Aircraft Cannon. After all these years, the Browning .50 Caliber Machine Gun is still widely used by our military. These guns plus the Colt 1911 made a clean sweep for Browning. Every gun submitted to US Military trials won out over all competition and was accepted for military use.

Richard L. Baird of Ohio has been a member since 1994 and has been kind enough to set up his ever-evolving and expanding display at recent display shows. Knowing he could not be with us this May, Richard volunteered to do a Featured Display at the March meeting.
For more information on doing a display at an upcoming meeting, contact Laura Knotts, Business Manager or any officer, director or past president.