RIA: M1944E1/M1945 Johnson Light Machine Gun

After getting his Model 1941 machine gun purchased in small numbers by the US military, Melvin Johnson continued to press for more sales and a general adoption. Following testing results and recommendations from soldiers in the field, he made a number of modifications to the gun and developed the M1944, which was quickly tweaked to become the M1944E1, also called the M1945. This new version included several improvements including:

  • Replacing the bipod with a monopod less prone to interfering with barrel removal
  • Improved stronger bolt anti-bounce latch
  • Metal dual-tube buttstock in place of wood
  • …and most significantly, a gas-boosted hybrid recoil operating system

This new model of the Johnson was in testing at the end of WWII, and weapons development budget cuts at the conclusion of the war prevented it from replacing the BAR as Johnson and many in the Marine Corps had hoped.

This particular M1945 Johnson is fully transferrable, as came out of the Winchester Collection (now the Cody Firearms Museum) back many years ago when curators would occasionally sell items from the collection to raise money.



    • Yeah, but many more people got in the way, especially those whose help was more hindrance than anything else. The Brewster Aeronautical Corporation was one such instance, since many of the planes it built fell apart midflight (underpaid and very much un-trained employees often sabotaged their own work as revenge for not getting enough money for a week’s worth of groceries), and the urban legend version goes that several angry officers and a shore party from the US Navy stormed the corporate headquarters in Long Island City, forced out the original company president at bayonet point, and soon after lots more contracts got cancelled, the shareholders just dissolved the firm because of the horrible reputation.

      And technically, America didn’t win the war alone. Russia stomped Germany into submission and slavery. Japan’s divided war cabinet finally made the decision to call it quits after two cities (guess which ones) were nuked. Had the war gone on, more war crimes (as in massacring POWs) would occur, and Japan’s own people would either become slaves of the People’s Republic of China and the USSR or worse, extinct.

      To add insult to injury about some of the “good guys,” they immediately tried to restore colonial order. Those countries got their butts handed to them politically, even if they had “put down the rebels” in short order.

      Did I mess up?

      • “Did I mess up?”
        Firstly: History is written by the victors (Winston Churchill)

        “Japan’s divided war cabinet finally made the decision to call it quits after two cities (guess which ones) were nuked.”
        Japan would surrender even without using said bombs.

      • “Did I mess up?”
        And, speaking seriously, it is impossible to NOT mess up history of WWII, after all that propaganda applied during and after it, impossible to NOT overlook any of rations of fighting nations.

        • One of best things I read from you except not exactly clear what is “rations of nations”. I guess you meant “relations”. Did I mess up?

      • The Brewster Buffalo, as equipped by the U.S. Navy, was a dog. As equipped by the Finns, sans the blower and self sealing fuel tanks, was most loved and accounted for many Russian invaders. Finland even produced a copy of the Brewster Buffalo, one in wood, because Roosevelt did not want to offend commie Russians! Actually the Brewster Buffalo was the first monoplane fighter accepted by the U.S. Navy. The F4F Wildcat that replaced the Brewster, was a redesign of the biplane F3F! The U.S. Navy messed up the F4F by annoying 2 extra 50 caliber machine guns, self sealing tanks and more armor. The F4F by the time of midway was transformed into a dog! Only excellent pilot tactics, such as the Thatch Weave, saved our aviators’ lives.

        The U.S. Naval missions to China and French Indochina during the war said that The Peanut and the french were out and that the old order was nothing to be tolerated. These agents were chastised and set to ponder their mistake in the corner since Roosevelt and the government knew better.

        The Soviet noon was the great meat-grinder that truly defeated The Third Reich. Just look at the scope of the casualty figures on both sides.

        The Johnson LMG was an excellent weapon, far superior to the venerable BAR, bastardized as it had become by Army Ordnance. Name me one group IN COMBAT that did not like the Johnson LMG and did not prefer it to the BAR>

        • Excellent and relevant commentary about the relative merits of the Brewster Buffalo with and without the burden of extra weight induced by the addition of armor, self-sealing fuel tanks, etc.

          However, as far as the F4F Wildcat was concerned, even the fully-equipped USN version was hardly a “dog” by any standards in a dogfight, as witness the superb combat record of the equivalent Royal Navy Grumman Martlet version when it fought against contemporary Luftwaffe fighters such as the Bf109. What has given the incorrect impression that the USN F4F was a so-called “dog” is the constant and persistent reinforcement in historical accounts of its performance in tight maneuvering situations vis-a-vis the Mitsubishi A6M Zero(IJN) and Nakajima Ki-43 Oscar(IJA). In reality, the heavier Wildcat was only slightly less maneuverable in a turning dogfight than the vaunted Zero, but it also gave away a lot in terms of sustained climb rate due to — what else? — the weight issue. Combined, these factors, together with slower control response compared to the Zero (again a factor of added weight), amounted to an inability to engage in a sustained turning dogfight, with all its variations in the horizontal and vertical planes, with the Zero. The longer a dogfight went on, the greater the incremental disparity between the two, regardless of pilot skill. The Wildcat’s superior points were its ability to absorb greater punishment because of its armor and self-sealing fuel tanks, and diving speed (again, aided by the weight factor). The Thach Weave (this is the correct spelling, and not “Thatch”) and other innovative combat tactics that took advantage of the F4F’s strong points and minimized it’s weak points were largely responsible for the Wildcat’s long-term success against the aerodynamically superior A6M.

          The fact that the superb IJN fighter pilots — who at the outset of the Pacific War were clearly the finest in the world thanks to their long and arduous pre-war apprenticeship at the Lake Kasumigaura (“Misty Lagoon”) Naval Air Station outside the city of Tsuchiura in Ibaraki Prefecture, where a training programme like no other was de rigeur — were also deeply ingrained in the art of one-on-one (or two-on-two, if you include the wingman) turning combat helped the American pilots overcome their adversaries in the long run because the Japanese would not initially deviate from their tried-and-true formula for success, whereas the Americans were willing to try different tactics to maximize the Wildcat’s advantages while minimizing those of the Zero’s. By the time the Japanese had adapted their combat tactics to counter the Americans, it was too late. The tide of war had shifted in the Allies’ favor, and newer, higher-performance Allied fighters such as the F6F Hellcat, P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt, P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair had become the erstwhile foes of the aging Zero and Oscar. The next generation of outstanding Japanese Army and Navy fighters, such as the Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate, Mitsubishi Reppu and Kawasaki Ki-100, all proved themselves superior to the best Allied fighters, including late models of those just mentioned. For example, the Ki-84 Hayate would outclimb, out-turn, out-roll and out-accelerate the P-51D Mustang, and had heavier armament to boot while proving capable of taking more punishment thanks to an integrally robust airframe, armor and self-sealing fuel tanks. But it was a case of too little, too late. The materials shortages and exigencies of the latter half of the war resulted in inconsistent production quality (especially concerning engine reliability), metallurgical issues and a host of other industrial manufacturing problems that essentially signaled the death knell of the ability of the Japanese aeronautical industry to efficiently support the country’s war effort.

          Which brings me to another point in debunking yet another long-held myth that seems to persist even to this day. Again, the repeated and persistent repetition of a particular statement has resulted in a complete misunderstanding of fact — in this case, the oft-repeated declaration that the Mitsubishi A6M Zero had a lightly-built airframe that would fall apart if hit by enemy fire. In reality, the Zero’s airframe was incredibly strong from a structural standpoint, and was stressed to withstand repeated 12-13G maneuvers without fatigue. This has been well-documented by experts such as historical aviation author Martin Caidin in his book “Zero!” (with Masatake Okumiya and Jiro Horikoshi, Ballantine 1957 & Bantam Books 1991 ISBN-0553-28872-5). If Jiro Horikoshi’s name seems to ring a bell with anyone — yes, it is THAT Jiro Horikoshi himself who actually designed the A6M Zero. The misnomer that the Zero would fall apart if subject to a sufficient weight of .50-caliber fire stemmed from the fact that the early-model Zeroes did not have much armor or self-sealing tanks, which also incidentally gave them such an unprecedented performance edge over Allied fighters. Aeronautical structural engineering is beholden, to this very day, to the limitations of weight versus strength. Airframes of any kind are therefore typically designed to be as light as possible while retaining maximum structural integrity. The trade-off involved is simply this — all else being equal, maximum strength is achieved by evenly distributing and minimizing the stresses throughout an airframe. Extraneous stress factors, such as the unexpected weakening of a particular member of that airframe for whatever reason — such as battle damage — are another matter. To what degree the airframe in question is able to withstand such a variation without failure depends on many factors such as the degree of structural over-engineering, armoring against structural weakening from thermal stress (fire), and the real-time physical stresses (such as G-forces) the airframe is being subject to at a given moment.

          And therein lay the vulnerability of the Zero’s airframe — it’s inability to withstand prolonged in-flight stresses against battle damage when subject to excessive structural damage as well as heat stress (fire), exacerbated by the lack of self-sealing fuel tanks. Which applies to a great many aircraft of today, I might add.

          • This is quite a treatise Earl; I enjoy reading it. I was one time big fan of this part of technical history. At occasion of my last visit to EU I visited aircraft museum there and felt that still have live connection to the subject.

            One part of exhibits were aircraft mounted armaments mostly of German origin manufactured during WWII. I wish everyone here was able to see it. Presentation was superb.

          • The F4F as adopted by the Brits was a dog compared to the earlier variations. The Brits insisted upon 6 machine guns, folding wings, up armor, and self sealing fuel tanks. Just the change in machine guns severely limited the total time of available machine gun fire, since the added weight and space necessitated reduced ammunition per gun. If you read Red Leaders
            ‘s biography this really comes out. Fighting the A6M2 is radically different from a Bf109. Also you failed to mention the excellently roll rate of even the heaviest F4F compared to the A6M2. At speed the Zero had excellent pitch and climb but poor roll. Speed, dive, roll and the Zero can not stay with you. Japan had no chance. Even with their better fighters on the drawing board, they were a generation behind the turbines. Too little and too late. Still can’t he Brits and the U.S. “Dumbed down” the Wildcat. But the wildcat was good. I got to fly a FM2 with electric prop owned by a friend of mine before he went bankrupt and died. Just watch out for the landing, it ground loops easily. Other than that I saw no fatal flying qualities.

          • Hello, LG :

            Thanks for sharing your personal experience with the FM-2 ; there are very few pilots today who have flown a Wildcat variant, and I must say I envy you. You are quite right in that I had forgotten to mention the rate of roll, but I think the general concensus is that of taking full tactical advantage of the merits of one’s aircraft to minimize the advantages of the aircraft of one’s opponent. Before I forget again, I should also mention that the P-47 Thunderbolt excelled in the rate of roll as well.

            By the way, have you read “Wings Of The Navy” ( Pilot Press Limited, 1980 / ISBN 0 7106 0002 X ; Jane’s Publishing Inc., 1980 / ISBN 0 531 03706 1 ) by Captain Eric Brown? He was lead test pilot for the Royal Navy during the World War II and headed the Aerodynamics Flight of the RAE at Farnborough. Among his vast breadth of experiences, he flew virtually every type of shore-based and carrier-based aircraft ever to enter service or at least reach service trials with the RN, not to mention a good number of prototypes. This included the Douglas SBD Dauntless, Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, Grumman TBF Avenger, F6F Hellcat, Vought F4U Corsair and the F4F Wildcat / Martlet, which was implicitly his all-time favorite from a pilot’s standpoint ( he does mention the narrow-track undercarriage and ground-looping potential, as you did — a problem cured with the advent of the Hellcat and its stable, wide-track undercarriage ).

            His experiences with a wide array of British naval designs is really interesting, covering everything from the more familiar Fairey Swordfish, Barracuda and Firefly through the Hawker Sea Hurricane, Fairey Albacore and Supermarine Seafire to the relatively obscure ( and therefore even more interesting ) Vought Chesapeake, Blackburn Skua, Roc and Firebrand, and Fairey Fulmar.

            Captain Brown also wrote a companion volume, “Wings Of The Luftwaffe”, based on his test-flying evaluations of many captured German types immediately after the war. Again, it is written from a pilot’s standpoint, so I hope both books will be of interest to you if you haven’t already read them.

          • Earl, Winkle Brown was a great aviator and a fund of knowledge. The most interesting man to talk to, however, was Herr Professor Doktor Lippitz. He came to many EAA meets, sometimes with his grandchildren. He was quite approachable and a true gentleman. What armchair pilots generally do not understand is that an aircraft is more than it’s performance statistics. An aircraft can have super performance but be a death trap to less than expert aviators. The F4U is vastly superior to the F6F. But the F4U will have aviator fatalities due to the piloting demands over the rocking chair F6F. The F8F is superlative but a potential killer. You can not feel it’s speed on approach resulting in a stall, spin, crash, burn scenario. I saw Corkey’s father pull the wings off one at an air show many years ago. Remember, many of the blackboard planes that may have been in the hands of a low time aviator would be more lethal to the aviator than the enemy. Dolfo Galland complained that about Hanna Reich. She could fly aircraft that the neophyte fighter jock could not. Yes the plane performed, but to whom was it most lethal?

          • I could not agree more with you on this subject of user-friendliness and forgiving ( or unforgiving ) handling characteristics balanced against outright performance statistics and pilot ability. The examples you provided are most pertinent, and clearly illustrate why the Wildcat, Dauntless, Hellcat and Avenger were all preferred by most pilots, being generally easy to fly and forgiving of error while still retaining very respectable all-round combat performance.

            The old adage that “best is often the enemy of good” can certainly be applied here in that certain sense.

            What you wrote about the F4U also reminded me of the B-26 Marauder — an excellent medium bomber once properly mastered, but a “hot” ship with very high wing loading that caused many training casualties among sprog aircrews until the hard lessons learned, together with airframe improvements, were incorporated as part of the wartime programme.

      • Now let’s see,
        what are you taking as the start of WW1 act 2?

        Japanese imperial exploits in China? (were they any different to the imperial exploits of the united state in the pacific a couple of decades earlier?)
        French occupation of the Saar and Ruhr?
        the annexation of parts of Czech by German and Polish forces?
        the invasion and subjugation of Poland by German and Soviet forces?
        The imposition of a naval blockade and fuel embargo on Japan by the united state’s pacific fleet?
        or the japanese attack on that fleet in order to lift the blockade?

        Regarding Japanese surrender – the terms under which japan did surrender (with the emperor remaining as the one and only condition) had been presented BY the Japanese from at least January 1945
        and those approaches had been made through:
        The Vatican
        The Soviets
        and IIRC the Swiss and several other routes

        Those approaches were rejected as “premature”

        • Very pertinent remark.

          US was by end of 19 century vast imperial power having acquired most of Pacific islands and Hawaii which were never part of original Union treaty. This was topped by war booty from US-Spanish war shortly afterwards – this being Philippines.

          While judging history with some time space and less pre-judiciously it is clear that Japan as budding power had absolutely no stamp of uniqueness. They were ‘ambitious’ and paid for it dearly. Just accident saved Germany for not being nuked too.

        • Keith wrote: “Regarding Japanese surrender – the terms under which japan did surrender (with the emperor remaining as the one and only condition) had been presented BY the Japanese from at least January 1945.”

          This is incorrect. ALL Japanese peace feelers made prior to included other provisions. These other provisions included no occupation of the Home Islands, disarmament to be handled exclusively by the Japanese government, and war criminals to be prosecuted and tried exclusively by Japanese judicial authorities. It was those provisos which made Japan’s peace offers unacceptable. Nor is it true that the United States accepted Japan’s insistence on the retention of the Emperor. On 10 August 1945, the Japanese Cabinet submitted a surrender offer which acceded to the demands of the Potsdam Declaration (without directly quoting that document, btw) but with the understanding that the surrender would not “compromise the prerogatives of His Majesty.” Secretary of State James F. Byrnes disabused the Japanese of that notion by stating “From the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate the surrender terms.” This was cold comfort to the Japanese. No promise of security for the Imperial dynasty was offered. However, there was no explicit threat to depose or otherwise punish the Emperor either. Byrnes made clear Hirohito’s survival as a monarch would depend on later circumstances. If he cooperated with the Occupation his changes were good, but not guaranteed. In point of fact, it was not until 1946 that the possibility of a war crimes prosecution of Hirohito was officially dropped by the Truman Administration. The surrender offer of 10 August was withdrawn, and on 15 August Japan surrendered without a obtaining a guarantee of the retention of the Emperor.

          In case you haven’t read it here’s the text of the Instrument of Surrender signed by Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and Yoshijirō Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff:

          We, acting by command of and in behalf of the Emperor of Japan, the Japanese Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, hereby accept the provisions set forth in the declaration issued by the heads of the Governments of the United States, China, and Great Britain on 26 July 1945 at Potsdam, and subsequently adhered to by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which four powers are hereafter referred to as the Allied Powers.

          We hereby proclaim the unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and of all Japanese armed forces and all armed forces under the Japanese control wherever situated.

          We hereby command all Japanese forces wherever situated and the Japanese people to cease hostilities forthwith, to preserve and save from damage all ships, aircraft, and military and civil property and to comply with all requirements which may be imposed by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers or by agencies of the Japanese Government at his direction.

          We hereby command the Japanese Imperial Headquarters to issue at once orders to the Commanders of all Japanese forces and all forces under Japanese control wherever situated to surrender unconditionally themselves and all forces under their control.

          We hereby command all civil, military and naval officials to obey and enforce all proclamations, and orders and directives deemed by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers to be proper to effectuate this surrender and issued by him or under his authority and we direct all such officials to remain at their posts and to continue to perform their non-combatant duties unless specifically relieved by him or under his authority.

          We hereby undertake for the Emperor, the Japanese Government and their successors to carry out the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration in good faith, and to issue whatever orders and take whatever actions may be required by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers or by any other designated representative of the Allied Powers for the purpose of giving effect to that Declaration.

          We hereby command the Japanese Imperial Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters at once to liberate all allied prisoners of war and civilian internees now under Japanese control and to provide for their protection, care, maintenance and immediate transportation to places as directed.

          The authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate these terms of surrender.

          Signed at TOKYO BAY, JAPAN at 0903 I on the SECOND day of SEPTEMBER, 1945.

          The surrender instrument was a full acceptance of and pledges to abide by the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, which was worded thusly:

          (1) We, the President of the United States, the President of the National Government of the Republic of China, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, representing the hundreds of millions of our countrymen, have conferred and agree that Japan shall be given an opportunity to end this war.

          (2) The prodigious land, sea and air forces of the United States, the British Empire and of China, many times reinforced by their armies and air fleets from the west, are poised to strike the final blows upon Japan. This military power is sustained and inspired by the determination of all the Allied Nations to prosecute the war against Japan until she ceases to resist.

          (3) The result of the futile and senseless German resistance to the might of the aroused free peoples of the world stands forth in awful clarity as an example to the people of Japan. The might that now converges on Japan is immeasurably greater than that which, when applied to the resisting Nazis, necessarily laid waste to the lands, the industry and the method of life of the whole German people. The full application of our military power, backed by our resolve, will mean the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland.

          (4) The time has come for Japan to decide whether she will continue to be controlled by those self-willed militaristic advisers whose unintelligent calculations have brought the Empire of Japan to the threshold of annihilation, or whether she will follow the path of reason.

          (5) Following are our terms. We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay.

          (6) There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security, and justice will be impossible until irresponsible militarism is driven from the world.

          (7) Until such a new order is established and until there is convincing proof that Japan’s war-making power is destroyed, points in Japanese territory to be designated by the Allies shall be occupied to secure the achievement of the basic objectives we are here setting forth.

          (8) The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine.

          (9) The Japanese military forces, after being completely disarmed, shall be permitted to return to their homes with the opportunity to lead peaceful and productive lives.

          (10) We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, but stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners. The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights, shall be established.

          (11) Japan shall be permitted to maintain such industries as will sustain her economy and permit the exaction of just reparations in kind, but not those which would enable her to re-arm for war. To this end, access to, as distinguished from control of, raw materials shall be permitted. Eventual Japanese participation in world trade relations shall be permitted.

          (12) The occupying forces of the Allies shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people a peacefully inclined and responsible government.

          (13) We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.

          The Declaration was thus an ultimatum with certain guarantees since it included assurances that ordinary Japanese soldiers would not be interned indefinitely; that Japanese industry would not be eliminated and Japan would be given access to raw materials; and that the occupation would not be indefinite and the main Japanese home islands would eventually regain their sovereignty. In addition, the Declaration placed the blame for pursuing the war on “self-willed militaristic advisers” rather than the Emperor. While falling far short of guaranteeing the status of the Emperor as formal head of state in the postwar government, this assignment of war guilt at least suggested the possibility that the Emperor could be retained. That absence of a direct threat to depose Hirohito was the best the Japanese got on that matter, which you suggest was a guarantee. You also suggest that the Allies could have had the same surrender of Japan as accomplished in September 1945 in the previous January, the implication being the American’s rejected peace so that they could nuke Japan. In fact, the Japanese were offered a way out of the war on July 26, 1945, and it was those terms that Japan did acquiesce to three weeks later after the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki —the complete reverse of the situation you have imagined.

          For further reading, I recommend DOWNFALL by Richard B. Frank (Random House, 1999). This was the first history of the fall of Imperial Japan written with the benefit of declassified Japanese and Soviet diplomatic messages intercepted and decoded by Allied intelligence agencies.

          • Typos: “ALL Japanese peace feelers made prior to included other provisions” should read “ALL Japanese peace feelers made prior to 10 August 1945 included other provisions”.

            “If he cooperated with the Occupation his changes were good, but not guaranteed” should read “If he cooperated with the Occupation his chances were good, but not guaranteed”.

      • Yeah technically America DID win the War. Name another nation that arms,clothes,transports,and feeds not only its own Civvies and Soldiers but also those of 25 other allied nations. Hint sure wasn’t the russians, they could not even invade the Kuriles without borrowing LCI’s. Industrial Output wins wars not frontal attacks with 80% casualties

  2. So advanced for its time… even today it would have useful application (if changed to 5.56 let’s say).

    We discussed this line of weapon development before and again, I have to express my admiration for Mr. Johnson’s work. Thanks for showing it!

    • “Mr. Johnson’s work”
      Again, example of technically good working weapon, but which appear at wrong time/being late.

      • Daweo :

        You are (correctly) reiterating what Ian V. Hogg and many others have said about firearms design throughout history — “bad market timing”, in every sense of the word. Hence the failure of many otherwise satisfactory designs to garner widespread acceptance, even if they turned out to actually be superior to the competitors which gained full market share.

        • This had been repeated so many times (“bad timing”) which makes you wonder what are capabilities of procurement officials.
          In my mind if something is extraordinary even if it does not fit to issued specifications – I’d take it. But I understand: gov’t officials are typically not people with passion for technical solutions; true.

          • “But I understand: gov’t officials are typically not people with passion for technical solutions; true.”
            It is always cost-profit ratio problem. Also experience of WWII suggested that new machine guns should be belt-fed rather than box-fed.

          • “Also experience of WWII suggested that new machine guns should be belt-fed rather than box-fed.”

            That’s probably why he came up with this version:


            Along with other improvements, it has a belt-feed mechanism. It’s interesting that most of the features that are on the one in the auction are first described in this patent.

          • Daweo mentioned, quite correctly, the restraints of the cost-profit ratio that procurement officials have to take into account when acquiring new weapons or equipment. You are also quite right in saying that they mess up a lot of times during this process, and I think it is because all too often the focus on controlling costs becomes out of balance with other equally important technical considerations.

        • “Not invented here” That was the ONLY problem with the Johnson LMG. Name me one group who used them in actual combat which did not prefer them o the BAR.

          • Although there was also a bit of “old boy” networking going on with the adoption of the various Melvin Johnson designs by the Marines.

            “Made by a Marine, for the Marines.” ^__^

            I also like the marketing trick Johnson used for the LMG by calling the various later versions things like “M1944E1” although they were never adopted.

          • It’s a sad day when the NIH syndrome extends to not only excluding good foreign designs but also good domestic designs.

          • “Not invented here”? What “here” are you referring to. The Johnson LMG was an American design sold to the Dutch but not delivered due to some unpleasantness involving Germany and Japan. The LMG was a companion to the Johnson battle rifle which was submitted as a substitute standard for the M1 rifle. It was not adopted because the short recoil action was deemed, rightly or wrongly, problematic for use with a bayonet attached. Had the rifle been adopted the LMG would likewise have been adopted, the commonality of parts alone would have been a major selling point Historically fire control group components have been the most fragile, trouble-prone, parts of infantry firearms — broken springs, worn sears, inoperable safeties are what battalion armorers see most. The possibility of making repairs to two kinds of weapons from the same stock of parts is very attractive to the logistically-minded officer. The highly modular Stoner 63 took advantage of this.

            The US military was perhaps too conservative in WWII, with too many pre-war weapons being retained too long, particularly the BAR and the M1917 and M1919 machine guns. However, by the same token, the Germans were perhaps too innovative, with too many different small arms for highest efficiency.

    • It visually looks large since it is single stack. It is for 30rsdsas I recall.

      Feeding from double-stack from horizontal position in this caliber may be problematic (size-wise); although Sterling SMG did just that.

      • “Feeding from double-stack from horizontal position in this caliber may be problematic (size-wise); although Sterling SMG did just that.”

        Could you explain to me in detail why is feeding from staggered row magazine from horizontal position problematic?

    • The Magazine held 25 rounds is correct. But after it was snapped onto the gun 5 more rounds could be added to the magazine through the stripper clip area to give a 30 round total ready to fire.

  3. “This particular M1945 Johnson is fully transferrable, as came out of the Winchester Collection (now the Cody Firearms Museum) back many years ago when curators would occasionally sell items from the collection to raise money.”

    It’s wrong to tar the Cody Firearms Museum with this brush. As far as I know, they have never stolen from the future to pay for the present, and I hope they never will.

    From the description: “This beautiful example survived both of those fates because it was sold/transferred to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and held in the Winchester Museum as evidenced by the small aluminum Winchester factory museum inventory tag (W 116) attached to the left side of the receiver.” … “This specific LMG has been in a private collection since the 1950s.”

    The Winchester corporate collection, owned at the time by the Olin Corporation, was donated to the Cody museum in 1976.

  4. What a fascinating development. I wonder if the problem with the earlier Johnson LMG was due to ammunition? Since the Johnson is short-recoil operated I imagine the action had less power when using M2 ball cartridges compared to M1 ball cartridges. If the 1941 LMG was designed around the M1 ball cartridge that could explain the problems operating under adverse conditions when firing M2 ball.

    As for the monopod setup and possible problems in hard surface environments (like for city fighting), that monopod might actually have some advantages in some common types of firing positions found in urban fighting. If you keep the monopod foot folded while deploying the grip to the vertical position, the configuration of the grip and lower frame of the LMG form a handy ‘L’ brace which could hook on a window sill or top of a wall, proving excellent support for absorbing recoil forces.

    • [i]I wonder if the problem with the earlier Johnson LMG was due to ammunition?[/i]

      The problem with the earlier m1941 LMG was that it was a private development with no government backing or involvement. Melvin Johnson developed it by asking his fellow Marines what they’d like to change about the BAR, and “tested” it by [u]giving[/u] them samples to use in the field. One wonders what the BATF would make of such behaviour today… ::p

      Anyway, think how radical the changes were between the FG42 type 1 & type 2, and *that* had the full backing of Goering and the Luftwaffe: it’s more impressive how *little* Johnson needed to change on the LMG in order to refine it into a gun to rival the BAR, which at that point in time had undergone some 25 years of development [& it was still up to FN to refine it into the FN-D after the war.] It is a travesty how Johnson was continually rebuffed by U.S. Ordnance when they should have been cognizant of the need to develop the next generation of firearms even as they were focused on producing the current arms in as great a volume as possible.

      Think how many U.S. soldiers and Marines could have benefited from a belt-fed Johnson LMG in Korea? Instead of humping a 19# BAR & a belt of magazines, they could have been toting a 12# LMG and a couple satchels of belted ammo. How many rounds *is* 7# of .30-’06? Gotta be more than 2 BAR mags worth. Think that might have helped @ Frozen Chosin? And a generation of soldiers in Vietnam might never have had to lug around a Pig. C’est la vie. C’est le guerre…

      Everyone who owns an AR should celebrate Melvin Johnson’s birthday, as much or more than Gene Stoner’s. I’m just sayin’… ;-D

  5. Some patents related to this firearm, are there others?

    US2094156 — 28 September 1937
    The locking mechanism, also used in the Johnson rifle.

    US2146743 — 14 February 1939
    The “kicker” … his solution to sticking cases. If you go to the google patent page you’ll notice some interesting names of folks who have referenced this patent.

    US2215470 — 24 September 1940 (applied for on 14 March 1938)
    The first full patent for the LMG. The fire control mechanism that converts it from an open bolt machine gun to a closed bolt semi-automatic with the flip of a switch has been referenced by quite a few people.

    US2383487 — 28 August 1945 (applied for on 13 March 1941)
    Further refinements to the fire control mechanism. More fun reading in the “referenced by” section.

    US2386802 — 16 October 1945 (applied for on 4 August 1944)
    The mono-pod patent.

    US2400422 — 14 May 1946 (applied for on 4 August 1944)
    The butt stock patent.

    US2409568 — 15 October 1946 (applied for on 13 March 1941)
    Magazine and feed mechanism patent.

    Did I miss any?

    You’ll note that many of these were applied for during war-time, so were held for publication post-war.

    While looking through the various patents I noticed that the George C. Sullivan patent US3027672 references, among others, the Johnson patent US2655837. This appears to be the LMG with a belt-feed mechanism. It also appears to have that special rear sight on it. I wasn’t able to find the patent for the rear sight, I’m sure it’s out there somewhere. ^__^

    • Hi, Brian :

      Thanks for the great link — it was really interesting. Unless I missed something, the “mud” test was really more of a dry dirt/sand test.

    • One photo that really caught my eye, was of the 1944 LMG being fired from the underarm position. The monopod strut was being used very similarly to a modern AR-15 angled foregrip! The monopod foot was fully deployed but the strut was only partially folded out, with the rear of the foot butted up against the underside of the barrel.

      In that position the monopod strut was much more easily used as a forward pistol grip. It occurred to me that the same monopod partial deployment might also be used in the prone position.

  6. I’d think that had Johnson adapted the design to belt feed and a quick-change barrel, he could have had a real winner: the first practical GMPG. Of course he’d have to invent push-through links too, or adopt a system like the MG42 used.

    • It did have a quick change barrel. Even in the 1941 iteration the barrel could be quickly exchanged. In the 1941 variant the barrel could even be changed to that for the M1941 Johnson Rifle. The front sight would be wrong and WAY off, but it would still shoot!

      • I probably should have clarified that I meant more of a Bren style handle that does two-in-one duty to swap and carry.

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