Legends: John Moses Browning

John Moses Browning gets to work on a vintage firearm

John Moses Browning is the most famous designer in the history of firearms. His work, spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries, revolutionized the firearms industry and set the standards for reliability, efficiency, and sheer ingenuity.

Browning’s inventive genius led to the creation of a series of firearms that have become iconic, not just for their historical significance but for their enduring utility. A lot of his work lives on to this day in modern tribute acts, or outright reproductions.

Early Life and Career

John Moses Browning was born in Ogden, Utah, in 1855, into a gunsmithing and mechanically minded family. From a young age, Browning showed a remarkable aptitude for mechanical design and a fascination with guns. His father, Jonathan Browning, was a skilled gunsmith and an inventor in his own right, but his son would totally outshine him before long.

Beginning with enhancements to existing firearm designs, Browning soon ventured into the realm of original invention. At 24, he achieved a significant breakthrough with the patent of the Browning Single Shot Rifle in 1879, kickstarting a prolific career that would leave an indelible mark on firearm history.

Browning’s influence on the industry is profound, holding 128 patents that each represented significant advancements in firearm technology and design. His philosophy centered on simplicity, reliability, and efficiency, driving him to produce weapons that were ahead of their time.

His portfolio spans a wide array of firearm types, including handguns, rifles, shotguns, and machine guns, showcasing his versatility and foresight in addressing the needs of soldiers, law enforcement, and civilians alike.

Browning’s Best Designs

John Moses Browning’s portfolio of designs is vast and varied, but several stand out for their innovative features and lasting impact on the world of firearms.

The basic 1911 recipe, refined and yet basically unchanged.

1. The M1911 Pistol

The M1911 is Browning’s most famous designs. Introduced in 1911, this semi-automatic pistol was revolutionary for its time, offering unmatched reliability, ease of use, and stopping power.

The M1911 became the standard-issue sidearm for the U.S. Armed Forces for nearly 75 years and remains popular to this day among military personnel, law enforcement, and civilians.

Elite professionals hung on to their 1911 long after the polymer pistol revolution for a reason. Now you can get the 9mm double stack 1911, or 2011, and you can still buy new guns that follow the traditional John Browning recipe loaded with good ol’ 230gr hollowpoints.

Its design has influenced countless other handguns, and its longevity is a testament to Browning’s genius.

2. Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR)

Developed during World War I, the BAR was a lightweight, automatic rifle designed to be carried and operated by a single infantryman. It provided soldiers with a powerful automatic weapon that combined the firepower of a machine gun with the mobility of a rifle. The BAR saw extensive use in both World Wars and various conflicts afterward, praised for its reliability and effectiveness.

Browning Hi Power

3. Browning Hi-Power Pistol

The Browning Hi-Power, introduced in the 1930s, was one of the first high-capacity semi-automatic pistols, holding 13 rounds of 9mm ammunition. It was also one of the last designs Browning worked on before his death.

The Hi-Power has been used by military and police forces in over 50 countries and the first Wonder 9 is still with us in spirit thanks to a number of modern recreations.

Browning M2 Machine Gun

4. Browning M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gun

The M2 Machine Gun, or Ma Deuce, is a heavy machine gun designed towards the end of World War I, although it didn’t see action until World War II. Its design has remained largely unchanged since its introduction, a testament to its effectiveness and reliability. The M2 is capable of firing .50 caliber rounds at a rate of up to 600 rounds per minute, making it devastating against vehicles, aircraft, and infantry.

5. Winchester Model 1894

The Winchester Model 1894 lever-action rifle is one of the most successful hunting rifles of all time. Designed by Browning, it was the first rifle to chamber the smokeless powder cartridge. The Model 1894’s smooth action and accuracy made it popular among hunters and frontiersmen of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It remains in production today, further emphasizing Browning’s lasting influence on firearm design.

6. Remington Model 8

This semi-automatic rifle, introduced in 1906, was one of the first to use a long recoil action. The Model 8 was a hit with law enforcement and civilians alike. It was also famously used by Frank Hamer, the Texas Ranger who tracked down Bonnie and Clyde.

7. Superposed Shotgun

The Browning Superposed was the first over-and-under shotgun design to gain widespread popularity. Introduced in the 1930s, the Superposed featured a single trigger mechanism that could fire both barrels in succession and was known for its durability, balance, and aesthetic appeal.


John Moses Browning’s designs have stood the test of time, not only in their mechanical ingenuity but also in their impact on military, law enforcement, and civilian use. His guns are carried for active service, personal protection and just for pleasure all round the world to this very day.

Browning is simply the greatest firearms designer of all time and the first name into our USA Gun Shop Hall of Fame.


  • Nick Hall

    Nick is a lifelong gun enthusiast who has a simple mission. He wants to find the best deals for guns online and help you make the best choices with weapons your life may depend on one day.Nick won a minor league shooting competition at the age of 11 and it all went from there. Now he runs one of the biggest firearms websites on the net and his work has featured in Playboy US, Tatler Asia, Forbes and a whole host of national magazines and websites.

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