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THE LIFE OF JOHN MOSES BROWNING




John Moses Browning was born on 23 January 1855 in Ogden, Utah. He was one of the 22 children of Jonathan Browning, who, being a good Mormon, had three wives.

Gun making ran in the family of the young John Moses, as his father was a gunsmith who had already been responsible for a number innovations in the field. As a young boy, he spent his time in his father's workshop, and knew the name of every part of a gun before he could read.

The 19th Century American boyhood of John Moses Browning abounds with anecdotes, all of which share a point in common: they all point, with a few years advance, towards him becoming an internationally renowned inventor of genius.

At the age of 23, John Moses lodged his first patent, for the "J.M. Browning Single Shot Rifle". This invention consisted of a simplification of the percussion mechanism, making it more durable and reliable.

Shortly before his death, his father handed over his business to the young Browning who, in association with his brother Matt, despite having less than one thousand dollars in the bank and no experience of machine-tool operation, transformed the humble store into a small gun making workshop employing seven people. But from the start, the remoteness of their location, thus a lack of a ready supply of customers, and the lack of capital meant that the business struggled to survive until, that is, luck intervened to make the inventor known...

A representative of the Winchester company having chanced upon a gun made by the Browning brothers in another state and, considering its design to be of interest, bought it from its owner and sent it to his superiors in the company's head office. So impressed were they that the managing director of Winchester himself set out straight away on a six day journey to what, at that time, was still the wild West, to meet the Browning brothers. Despite his astonishment at finding two young men in their twenties in a rustic workshop, he was perceptive enough to not be fooled by appearances and conclude commercial deals with them which would last for several decades.

Over the years, Browning granted licenses to several manufacturers for dozens of inventions and firearms developed by him. It's no exaggeration to say that he invented everything in the field of firearms. What is more, it should be noted that the vast majority of his technological innovations have not been able to be bettered or replaced since the beginning of this century, a clear demonstration of the level of perfection achieved.

In 1897, it was another manager with flair, this time from the Fabrique Nationale (National Weapons Factory) at Herstal in Belgium, who noticed a 7.65 Browning pistol incorporating a novel locking mechanism. The FN obtained the manufacturing licence, and thus began an uninterrupted period of collaboration between the inventor from the Great Salt Lake and the factory on the banks of the river Meuse.

Browning reached the peak of his art with the Auto-5 semi-automatic shotgun, which was a considerable commercial success and prompted his first visit to the Herstal works.

But his world-wide acclaim is without doubt due to the 9mm Hi-Power semi-automatic pistol, of whichover 10 million have been made and which, since 1907, has been adopted by the majority of the world's police forces and armies. Browning has indeed become the generic name for this type of gun.

None of Browning's success is due to chance: like all of the American pioneers he turned luck to his advantage only through an enormous amount of hard work. His strength of character and the steadfastness of his principles were out of the ordinary. Thus it was that, towards the end of his life, when offered an honorary title by a university, he refused it for the simple reason that "he had made it a rule never to accept anything that he had not gained as a result of his own work".

He died of a heart attack as he worked in his office at Herstal, during the course of his 61st visit to Belgium in 1926. His body was repatriated to the United States, where he was buried with full military honours. His son Val continued his collaboration with the Belgian factory without interruption. A collaboration that continues until this very day.