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  #1  
Old 02-26-2020, 02:32 PM
bluedodger bluedodger is offline
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John Browning and the 1911

after watching many videos about the 1911, it has been through a lot of changes , especially to become the a1 version and even some after adoption by the army. My question is was John Browning involved during all these changes or when did he turn that over to colt etc.?
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  #2  
Old 02-26-2020, 03:12 PM
fnfalman fnfalman is offline
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Originally Posted by bluedodger View Post
after watching many videos about the 1911, it has been through a lot of changes , especially to become the a1 version and even some after adoption by the army. My question is was John Browning involved during all these changes or when did he turn that over to colt etc.?
The A1 configuration came after the adoption of the M1911 by the US Army. Top of my head, the A1 revision came about in the 1920s.

I don't know when JMB stopped working for Colt but I'm sure that if he were still subcontracted to Colt during the 1920s then he would have been involved in the A1 revision. JMB died while working for FN in 1926 while the M1911A1 was done in 1924. Was he still contracted to Colt at the same time as he was working for FN? I don't know.

Last edited by fnfalman; 02-26-2020 at 03:18 PM.
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  #3  
Old 02-27-2020, 03:52 AM
drail drail is offline
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I am not sure he was ever "contracted" to Colt or anyone else. I imagine he was compensated is some fashion for his work that allowed Colt to get the the U.S. Army Ordnance Board's contract for a new sidearm. Once they got that contract I believe that Browning was "done" with the 1911 pistol and moved on to many other projects. I don't think he
had any involvement for the A1 modifications. He was not trying to create the world's greatest semi auto pistol - he simply gave the Ord. Board what they asked for. No more - no less. I really don't think he cared what they did with it once the contract was secured. If it were up to him there would never have been a thumb safety or a grip safety. He just figured out how to make them work.

Last edited by drail; 02-27-2020 at 04:11 AM.
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Old 02-27-2020, 07:33 AM
RandyP RandyP is offline
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Googling around indicates that he was an incredible, inventive firearms designer who sold off his designs to a manufacturer, usually for a one-time fee. He then moved on to a new creative project.

It is quite amazing just how much his creations influenced -and continue to influence - the firearms industry. I like to imagine what HIS polymer wonders would have looked like.
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Last edited by RandyP; 02-27-2020 at 08:45 AM.
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  #5  
Old 02-27-2020, 08:12 AM
Colt191145 Colt191145 is offline
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Browning started off on his own with single shot rifles. Then Winchester got wind of his designs and bought everything he came up with. They paired up for some fabulous rifles and shotguns, most of us here highly value them.

Most gun enthusiasts think of the 1911, Hi-Power, .30 or .50 caliber machine guns when referencing Browning.

I think of the Winchester 1892 & 1886 lever action rifles.
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  #6  
Old 02-27-2020, 11:32 AM
drail drail is offline
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Yes indeed. His lever action rifles have always amazed me when you shoot one and then tear it down and study it's operation. Browning was an incredible engineer. His solution to every challenge was always eminently workable and EXTREMELY elegant. To me the .50 BMG was possibly his greatest masterpiece. And we're still using it everyday. Nothing works better until you get into the electric chain driven guns.

Last edited by drail; 02-27-2020 at 11:40 AM.
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  #7  
Old 02-27-2020, 11:43 AM
Jim Watson Jim Watson is offline
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I find Mr Browning's designs to be rather complex. Disassembly and reassembly of his sporting arms can be tricky. My neighbor the gunsmith was regularly putting A5 shotguns back together from cigar boxes of parts.

Of course his military weapons were meant for field stripping.
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Old 02-27-2020, 12:49 PM
Boge Boge is offline
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Originally Posted by drail View Post
Yes indeed. His lever action rifles have always amazed me when you shoot one and then tear it down and study it's operation. Browning was an incredible engineer. His solution to every challenge was always eminently workable and EXTREMELY elegant. To me the .50 BMG was possibly his greatest masterpiece. And we're still using it everyday. Nothing works better until you get into the electric chain driven guns.
He wasn't an engineer. He had no more than a basic primary 19th century education. His finished firearms were mostly "tweaked" by classically educated engineers at Winchester, Remington, Colt, etc. Browning had a genius for abstract ideas and transforming those ideas into working models which is no small feat, however he did not have the ability to transform his ideas into full scale manufacturing. Of course, we cannot fault him for lack of education in the 19th century as that was mainly the domain of the well to do. His ideas were mainly diamonds in the rough, but diamonds nonetheless.
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  #9  
Old 02-27-2020, 02:02 PM
drail drail is offline
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OK, not "technically" an engineer with a degree but he his mind worked like an engineer's. He was probably much more intelligent than many engineers I have met. I read where as a very young man he was laughing at an incredibly poorly designed firearm he had repaired in his father's shop and declared "Even I could design a firearm better than this!" His father smiled and said "Then do it". Thus was born his single shot rifle. He could definitely "see" the entire design in his mind in full 3D and then build the actual piece. THAT is a pretty rare skill in my experience.

Last edited by drail; 02-27-2020 at 02:05 PM.
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  #10  
Old 02-27-2020, 02:11 PM
M-Peltier M-Peltier is offline
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Originally Posted by Jim Watson View Post
I find Mr Browning's designs to be rather complex. Disassembly and reassembly of his sporting arms can be tricky. My neighbor the gunsmith was regularly putting A5 shotguns back together from cigar boxes of parts.

Of course his military weapons were meant for field stripping.
By todays standards some were. Others like the 1911 were less complex than other semi auto pistols of the day. I don't think his designs were any more complex than his contemporaries. His designs brought us out of the era of single shot and bolt action rifles and revolver handguns into the world of semi autos that worked. With the machine practices and metallurgy of the day, I'm amazed they worked as well as they did and with out being more complex than they were.

Ive also had many cigar boxes of Ruger semi autos brought in for re assembly as well as some other vintage shotguns and rifles. Its usually just a case of people not being as mechanically inclined as they used to be. None are really that complex, just very unfamiliar to most who have never taken one appart.

If you really want to see a complex machine, try rebuilding a Maserati V6 from a 1974 Citroen SM. That will have you pulling your hair out. Whoever thought putting an Italian engine in a French car was a good idea, was drinking too much wine when he came up with the idea. Probably the same guys who own Jeep now...Lol
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  #11  
Old 02-27-2020, 02:14 PM
drail drail is offline
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"....putting an Italian engine in a French car...." Now THERE is a terrifying concept. Really makes you wonder about the human race doesn't it?

Last edited by drail; 02-27-2020 at 02:16 PM.
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  #12  
Old 02-27-2020, 07:03 PM
cavelamb cavelamb is online now
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  #13  
Old 02-27-2020, 08:16 PM
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dsk dsk is offline
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According to all the references I have John Browning's involvement with the M1911 ended after the US Army adopted it. There were numerous small changes made to the pistol prior to 1924, but I doubt he had anything to do with them. He also had nothing to do with the changes that resulted in the M1911A1.

John Browning's name is also tied to the Hi-Power, which is often called his last design. While he did help with certain aspects of its development the Hi-Power was mostly Dieudonné Saive's pet project, and Browning died in 1926 when the Hi-Power design was still fairly early in its design stages. The finished product by Saive was quite different than the prototypes Browning worked on prior to his death.
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  #14  
Old 02-28-2020, 09:03 AM
Jim Watson Jim Watson is offline
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His finished firearms were mostly "tweaked" by classically educated engineers at Winchester,
The Houze book strongly emphasizes how much work was done by Winchester employees to "productionize" Browning designs. But Mr Browning - and his brothers - could build finished guns for sale. They had made several hundred Single Shots before Winchester bought the design. WRA did edit the design for factory manufacture, but it was an established product before they did.

Quote:
While he did help with certain aspects of its development the Hi-Power was mostly Dieudonné Saive's pet project,
Msr Saive was a sharp designer for sure. But a number of his refinements leading to the BHP amounted to using 1911 design elements as the patents ran out.
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  #15  
Old 02-28-2020, 12:34 PM
TRX302 TRX302 is offline
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John Browning's name is also tied to the Hi-Power, which is often called his last design. While he did help with certain aspects of its development the Hi-Power was mostly Dieudonné Saive's pet project, and Browning died in 1926 when the Hi-Power design was still fairly early in its design stages. The finished product by Saive was quite different than the prototypes Browning worked on prior to his death.
Colt still held many of Browning's patents as they applied to the 1911; the early Hi Power prototypes were quite different from the 1911 because Colt wasn't interested in sublicensing the patents to its competition. (normal for back then)

FN also had troubles finding buyers for the Hi Power; they were looking for a big military contract like Colt got for the 1911, but budgets were thin and nobody was willing to pay their price.

As the patents expired, Browning changed the Hi Power to a more Colt-like pattern, as did Saive, who doesn't always get the respect he deserved.

The original non-infringing Hi Power worked, but the Colt pattern was thoroughly debugged; materials, heat treats, tolerances, production machinery, failure rates in service... that was worth a not-so-small fortune, and with FN's potential customers so price-conscious, worth continual redesign to take advantage of.
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Old 02-28-2020, 01:14 PM
Jim Watson Jim Watson is offline
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FN also had troubles finding buyers for the Hi Power; they were looking for a big military contract like Colt got for the 1911, but budgets were thin and nobody was willing to pay their price.
By the time they had the GR straightened out, the NYSE had crashed and they were looking for business in a Depression. Plenty of time for Msr Saive to combine his, Browning's and Colt's ideas into a final product that would sell for generations.
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Old 02-28-2020, 10:31 PM
Boge Boge is offline
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The Houze book strongly emphasizes how much work was done by Winchester employees to "productionize" Browning designs. But Mr Browning - and his brothers - could build finished guns for sale. They had made several hundred Single Shots before Winchester bought the design. WRA did edit the design for factory manufacture, but it was an established product before they did...

Yes and with a disappearing market as buffalo hunting was coming to an end in the early 1880's with Sharps shutting its doors in 1881 and Remington going bankrupt a few years later. Winchester had no "Big Bore" single shot, hence their attempt to first do a patent "work around", but due to their legal/mechanical inability to do so they bought the design essentially.

FWIW William Mason, the man who made the legendary Colt SAA while at Colt and a host of other designs, was the engineer who reworked many Browning designs at Winchester. Mason was perhaps the greatest American firearms engineer in the 19th century.
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Old 02-29-2020, 08:02 AM
mkk41 mkk41 is offline
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Keep in mind his designs were in keeping with the metallurgy , machine tool and manufacturing technology of 1900. When put in that perspective , they are quite remarkable in their simplicity , durability and reliability even today.
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  #19  
Old 02-29-2020, 09:39 AM
Jim Watson Jim Watson is offline
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Yes and with a disappearing market as buffalo hunting was coming to an end in the early 1880's with Sharps shutting its doors in 1881 and Remington going bankrupt a few years later. Winchester had no "Big Bore" single shot, hence their attempt to first do a patent "work around", but due to their legal/mechanical inability to do so they bought the design essentially.

FWIW William Mason, the man who made the legendary Colt SAA while at Colt and a host of other designs, was the engineer who reworked many Browning designs at Winchester. Mason was perhaps the greatest American firearms engineer in the 19th century.
An old advertisement for the Single Shot referred to the "strong Sharps breechblock" but with a modern center hung self cocking hammer.

T.C. Johnson was a Winchester lead designer after the split with Mr. Browning. Think Model 12.

Son Val Browning was no slouch, with the Superposed and Double Automatic patents.

An old article quoted Mr. Browning himself as saying that John Pedersen was the best designer in the business. He had to be good, he was usually playing catchup and patent dodging with Browning designs.

Last edited by Jim Watson; 02-29-2020 at 09:42 AM.
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  #20  
Old 03-05-2020, 10:22 PM
partsproduction partsproduction is offline
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I really don't think he cared what they did with it once the contract was secured.
I have a hard time believing this. All my designs for my shop are like old friends, maybe even like children of mine. Everyone I know who has designed any good thing feels much the same way, as in "My best moments" type feelings. The fact that the Army forced the addition of a thumb safety wouldn't change that unless it really caused a reduction of the versatility of the basic design. True, gun designers get angry at changes, the Borchardt to Luger is a good example, but very little was left of Borchardt's design, while little needed to be added to the 1911.

At around age 35 I designed the bridge crane in my shop, as the years went by with almost zero maintenance I became very pleased by it, as if it were a justification of my ambitions.
If I ever do get to retire and come back 20 years later, and see it still working away I'll still feel good even if someone painted it a different color or hung a different hoist off the trucks.

In the same way I expect John Browning would be very pleased by how well received his 1911 has been, as one of the most popular handguns in history.
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