With all due respect to the likes Sammy Colt, Hiram Maxim, Gene Stoner, Gaston Glock, Mikhail Kalashnikov, and Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov, the greatest firearms inventor of all time is undoubtedly the late great John Moses Browning.
As noted on the official website for the biographical book titled “The Guns of John Moses Browning: The Remarkable Story of the Inventor Whose Firearms Changed the World,” authored by Nathan Gorenstein:
“From his workbench in Utah, where he was born in 1855, Browning invented firearms that ranged from single-shot rifles to five-foot long aerial machine guns. He invented the modern semi-automatic pistol and the first successful pump-action shotgun. His lever-action rifles are legendary. Tens of millions of Browning firearms have been sold world-wide … Browning died in 1926, yet his inventions from decades earlier proved decisive in World War II, starting at the Battle of Britain and ending with the defeat of Imperial Japan. Browning machine guns armed every American and British fighter plane and bomber. American infantry units in Europe and the Pacific fought with his tripod-mounted machine gun, his Model 1911 pistol and the Browning Automatic Rifle. His firearms are still used in the 21st century.”
In a myriad of individualized firearms reviews and the 5 Best/5 Favorite Guns Lists, I’ve mentioned JMB’s inventions more times than you can shake a stick at.
Accordingly, what better time than now to do a Top 5 list of this iconic gunmaker’s finest concoctions?
M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gun AKA “Ma Deuce
Might as well start with the biggest and baddest boy on the Browning block.
This legendary heavy machine gun has seen action in every American armed conflict from WWII to the present day.
As I stated in my standalone review of “Ma Deuce,” “ Fittingly enough, the M2 is the second-longest-lasting firearm in the U.S. Armed Forces arsenal, exceeded in longevity only by, well, the M1911 [more on this latter gun in a bit].”
And as I also noted in that article, I myself have merely fired the semiauto-only version of the M2, not the full-auto, but boy was it ever a memorable range experience nonetheless!
Model 1903/1908 Pocket Hammerless .32/.380 ACP Autopistol
Okay, so now we go from one extreme to another, in terms of gun size and cartridge size alike. Whilst many gun experts deride these sub-caliber pistols as mere wimpy “mouse guns,” they still serve a purpose and can get the job done in a deadly fashion if the shooter does his/her part.
Indeed, no less a manly man that General George S. Patton Jr. chose these as backup guns to his beloved and more famous ivory-handled revolvers (the Colt Single Action Army [SAA] “Peacemaker” .45 Colt and Smith & Wesson Model 27 .357 Magnum).
And no one in their right mind is going to label Gen. Patton a wimp.
M1911/M1911 .45 ACP
Okay, unlike in one of my other recent 5 Best Lists, I won’t save the best for last. This perennially popular and powerful pistol – indeed the most powerful sidearm to ever become standard issue to a sovereign nation’s armed forces – is still going strong after 102 years.
As is well known, the gun was adopted by the U.S. Army after surviving a 6,000-round torture test. What might not be as well known is a little story behind the story of Mr. Browning’s demeanor as he was attending those pistol trials and awaiting the results. The story comes to us courtesy of Dean A. Grennell in “The Gun Digest Book of the .45”:
“After a time, with his cool severely frayed, [Colt employee Fred] Moore accosted Browning and wanted to know, ‘John, haven’t you got a nerve in your body?’ ‘Fred,’ John replied, as Fred later told it, ‘I’ve got lots of nerves in my body and they are all standing on end, like this.’ He held up both hands, with fingers writhing furiously. ‘But not ******* soul except you and me is ever going to know about it.’”
Well, obviously, Fred spilled the beans and we do know about it, but with 20/20 hindsight we also know that all was well that ended well for Fred and John alike.
Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR)
“I don’t want a B.A.R., honey/I don’t want a B.A.R., baby/I don’t want a B.A.R./I’ll get me a babe with a candy bar, honey, baby mine.” Those humorous lyrics notwithstanding, the BAR proudly served American GIs in WWII and the Korean War alike. It served with bad guys too; contrary to what you say in old mobster movies, it was actually used by Depression-era gangsters far more often than the Tommy Gun.
Auto 5 AKA A-5 Shotgun
I gotta have at least one “scattergun” on this list, right? Especially considering that it was the first successful semi-automatic shotgun design, devised by JMB in 1898. As noted by the manufacturer’s official info page, “The Browning A5 is built to be the most reliable, fastest cycling, best performing and softest shooting recoil-operated autoloader on the planet. The A5 will work come **** or high water.”
Honorable Mention: P-35 Hi-Power 9mm
So then, why does the most widely used military, police, and counterterrorist pistol in the world only rate Honorable Mention as opposed to true top-five billing? Well, to be honest, a simple technicality, really: JMB’s aforementioned death in 1926 transpired nine years before the P-35 design was finalized, thus leaving it to Belgian gun designer Monsieur Dieudonné Saive to carry on Mr. Browning’s legacy and apply the finishing touches on the “Grande Puissance” gun.
Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.
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