The Man Who Changed the Modern Firearms Industry

Firearms are an everyday part of American life. Ask any foreigner what they generally associate the United States with. Firearms will generally be the first things they mention. From hunting to self-defense, firearms have become hallmarks of American culture. Firearms are ubiquitous thanks to, in large part, firearms designers such as John Moses Browning.

Browning was born on January 23, 1855 in Ogden, Utah to a family of Mormons. Like most of the high-profile inventors of the 19th century, Browning had a knack for invention as a child. Browning’s father, Jonathan was a gunsmith. During his youth, the young Browning would work alongside his father and learn the basics of engineering and manufacturing. The elder Browning actively encouraged John to experiment, which helped him develop an inventive streak.

At the age of 13, Browning developed his first firearm in his father’s gun shop. When he reached the age of 18, John Browning took over his father’s business. In 1879, he was able to patent a self-cocking single-shot rifle. From there, he and his brother Matthew sold the rifle model to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.

Browning subsequently found consistent employment with Winchester where he worked until 1902. During his time working for Winchester, Browning created several high-profile weapons such as lever-action rifles and pump-action shotguns.
Some of Browning’s most notable works include:

  • The single-shot Winchester 1885
  • The lever-action Winchester 1894
  • The lever-action Winchester 1895
  • The pump-action Winchester 1897
  • The bolt-action Winchester 1900

Following his departure from Winchester in 1902, Browning moved to Belgium and started working with firearms manufacturer Fabrique Nationale de Herstal. In his new position, he would create the first semi-automatic shotgun — the Browning Auto-5.

Browning’s inventions were well-received by the elite classes in the West. In 1905, he received the John Scott Medal. Subsequently, in 1914, Browning was awarded the Order of Leopold medal. All things considered, Browning was one of the most instrumental figures in the mass production of small arms and automatic weapons.

Browning worked with Fabrique Nationale until he died on November 26, 1926.
Browning’s designs were used by mainstays in the firearms industry such as Colt, Remington, and Winchester. His firearms contributions also helped out the US and Allied militaries during World War I.

Browning is one of the most pivotal figures in the mass production of modern firearms. One could say he was the father of that sector. The late 19th century was a truly amazing time in human history. The level of innovation, from modern-day electronics to firearms manufacturing, was truly breathtaking.

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