Book Review: Johnson Rifles and Machine Guns

Most folks are aware of the M1941 Johnson semiauto rifle, which competed valiantly but unsuccessfully withthe M1 Garand for the position of standard US service rifle during WWII. What most people aren’t as familiar with is the story of Melvin Johnson, and the other projects he was involved in both before and after the war. The book we’re looking at today is Bruce Canfield’s Johnson Rifles and Machine Guns, which explores these subjects, as well as the competition between the M1 and the Johnson.

The work is still in print, happily, and you can get a copy from Amazon:


  1. Excellent book, although it can’t really cover Johnson’s post-Johnson Automatics career all that well. The Johnson Spitfire was interesting, and I don’t think anybody’s ever gotten to the bottom of what he did with Armalite. My impression is that he was put on the payroll as payment for Stoner borrowing his bolt design for the AR-10. But if that’s what they did, I don’t think they ever put it in writing.

    • I am, from what I read, of that impression too. Johson was for short time a ‘consultant’ for Faichild/ Armalite. He definitelly influenced Stoner’s work; it may well be that M.J. was his tutor.

  2. I’ve always liked the lines and the history of the Johnson M1941, pity they are so dear in price. A fascinating question of what might have been in US small arms procurement. Thanks for the book review.

  3. For a very short while, IMI was making those GORGEOUS refurbed M-1 carbines they did in 5.7 Johnson Spitfire. I’d have hocked a kidney for one of those….

  4. Melvin Johnson’s life history and career are quite fascinating, particularly the pre-World War Two and post-World War Two periods, which have gone largely ignored.

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