John Moses Browning

It can be argued that John M. Browning was pre-destined to his future title as the "Father of Modern Firearms." John's father Johnathan was an accomplished gunsmith in his own right, with numerous original designs to his credit. John, along with third-generation Brownings, would build upon that legacy.

John Moses Browning was born on January 23, 1855, in Ogden, Utah.
At the age of ten, John built his first gun from his dad's scraps. He received his first patent at age 24 for a rifle that Winchester manufactured as its Single Shot Model 1885. Impressed by the young man's inventiveness, Winchester asked Browning if he could design a lever-action-repeating shotgun. Browning could and did, but his efforts convinced him that a pump-action mechanism would work better, and he patented his first pump model shotgun in 1888.

In 1889, Browning began experimenting with his idea of harnessing the force from the gas emitted from the muzzle when a gun was fired. Three years later, he received a patent for the first crude fully automatic weapon that used those gases to power a mechanism that automatically reloaded the next bullet. Shortly thereafter, U.S. soldiers went to Europe during WWI carrying Browning Automatic Rifles, as well as Browning's deadly machine guns.

The following are just a few of the John Browning inventions not only significant to the firearms industry, but to our country's history:

Single-Shot Rifle: The first invention patented by Mr. Browning was this single shot rifle. The special design of this firearm was the sliding block or dropping block.

Gas Operated Automatic Firearms: A major break-through in the progress of firearms in the 19th century. A small amount of the expanding gases, resulting from the burning of the powder in the cartridge, is used to eject the spent shell and to move a new cartridge into the firing chamber. The gas-operated automatic firearms contributed to the security of our country in no less than three major conflicts.

Recoil Operated Semi-Automatic Firearms: The Browning Model Automatic 5 Shotgun is still in production today. In this firearm, the recoil of the projectile leaving the barrel of the gun is utilized to reload it.

Lever Action Repeating Firearms: Beginning with the Model 1886 and improved in five subsequent Models, the lever action rifle has been widely used in the West. This principal utilized the action of the lever behind the trigger to remove the spent shell and to load a new shell into the chamber of the rifle. The design used a sliding block to seal the chamber when the gun was fired. Each of the designs modified the sliding block principle to some degree.

During a career spanning more than five decades, Browning's guns went from being classic weapons of the American West to deadly tools of world war carnage. Amazingly, since Browning's death in 1926, there have been no further fundamental changes in the modern firearm industry.



  • Beginning on March 28, 1887, John Browning spent two years as a Mormon missionary

  • John Browning was one of 22 children fathered by Jonathan Browning

  • By 1900, over 75% of the repeating sporting arms on the United States market, both lever and pump, were of John’s invention

  • Browning designs were so reliable that not a single invention ever failed to perform or to become the most effective and reliable in its class or type

  • Browning's guns are still among the most copied guns in the world

  • Browning intended to offer the Auto 5 to Remington, but the company's president died of a heart attack on the day of their scheduled meeting and the offer was made to Fabrique Nationale

  • John Browning held 128 American patents covering 80 separate and distinct firearms

  • Val Browning, John's son, received 48 gun patents during his career


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