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Springfield Armory Museum - Collection Record

Title: Maker/Manufacturer: Date of Manufacture: Eminent Figure: Catalog Number: Measurements: Object Description:

RIFLE, MILITARY - U.S. RIFLE MODEL 1941 JOHNSON .30 SN# A1093 JOHNSON, MELVIN 1941 SPAR 4454 OL:116.8CM 46" BL: 55.8CM 22" 9.5 lbs.

U.S. RIFLE MODEL 1941 JOHNSON .30 SN# A1093 Manufactured by Cranston Arms Co., Cranston, R.I. - Standard Johnson Model 1941 semi-automatic rifle. Short-recoil operated, turn bolt design, with 10-shot clip-loaded rotary type magazine which permits clip and single-loading with bolt open/closed. 4-groove rifling; RH, concentric. Adjustable spring and leaf rear sight graduated to 1000 yards. Protective blade front sight. Muzzle velocity 2700 fps with U.S. M2 ball ammunition. Maximum rate of aimed fire is 35 to 40 shots per minute. Effective range of 600 yards; maximum range of 3500 yards. Weapon weighs approximately 9.5 lbs. Complete with M1941 Johnson bayonet. Markings: Receiver: U.S. PATENT NOS./2,094,156 2,146,743/2,131,131 2,215,470/AND OTHER U.S. AND FOREIGN/PATS. AND PATS. PENDING. CAL.30-'06 SEMI-AUTO/"JOHNSON AUTOMATICS"/MODEL OF 1941/MADE IN PROVIDENCE, R.I. U.S.A./A1093. Right side: Cranston Arms Co. in upside down triangle. Bolt: 42776. Exhibit label: "Johnson Semi-Automatic Rifle M1941 - The Johnson rifle, named for its inventor Captain Melvin M. Johnson, USMC, was developed before World War II. The recoil-operated semi-automatic weapon is not as familiar as the other weapons in this exhibit. Because Garand's rifle was already in full production, the Johnson Rifle saw only limited service in World War II, principally by the Marine Corps in the Pacific." Springfield Republican, 05/01/1940 - GARAND RIFLE FACES TEST BY CONGRESSMEN. Will Be Pitted Against Similar Gun Invented by Melvin Johnson. May Try to Switch to Other Weapon. Senator Thomas Hints He Is Doubtful About Garand. The future of the Garand semiautomatic rifle, as standard Army equipment for the infantry, will be put to the test before the Senate and House Appropriations Committee in a few days, Senator Thomas (D) of Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee handling the War Department money bill, indicated this afternoon.

A test will be conducted at some rifle range near Washington between the Garand rifle and the similar rifle invented by Melvin Johnson of Boston, the senator said. The test will concentrate on 'accuracy and speed of fire,' explained Senator Thomas.

The decision of the Oklahoma senator is based on his desire 'to see which is the best rifle,' before production of the Garand, which is under manufacture at the Springfield Armory, proceeds too far to make a change impracticable. Gen. Marshall, chief of staff of the Army, will send down some Garand experts while Mr. Johnson will do likewise for his rifle.

The coming test, it was indicated in senatorial circles this afternoon, puts in the balance future production of Garand rifles at the Springfield Armory. The Armory itself, however, Senator Thomas intimated, need have no great cause for worry since if it should be determined to supplant the Garand with the Johnson or some other rifle, the new rifle would likely be manufactured at Springfield." Springfield Republican, 05/08/1940 - GARAND TO BE TESTED AGAINST OTHERS TODAY. The Garand semiautomatic rifle, manufactured at Springfield armory, will be demonstrated tomorrow morning at Ft. Belvoir, Va., before members of the House and Senate standing committees and a distinguished company including high-ranking army officers. The Garand will be competing with the Johnson semiautomatic, and other rifles used or considered by the army will probably be displayed at the same time. The competition was arranged by Chairman Thomas (D., Okl.) of the Senate appropriations committee, after his community had heard testimony that the Garand was unsatisfactory." Springfield Republican, 05/09/1940 - "GARAND, JOHNSON TEST FAILS TO END CONTROVERSY. Congressmen and Army Experts Attend Trials in Virginia. The Garand and Johnson semiautomatic rifles shot it out for four hours before an impressive official audience here today - and seemd to get precisely nowhere. The end of the demonstration found the experts disagreeing just as sharply over the merits of the two guns as they had at the start.

Army officers maintained thMore than two score Senators, Representatives and high-ranking Army officers, headed by Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall, watched with intense interest as soldier marksman fired more than 2,000 shots - but most of them refused to comment when it was over. The civilian experts weren't so reticent, however.

Former Senator Smith W. Brookhart, of Iowa, a nationally recognized rifle authority, flatly pronounced the Johnson the better weapon and was promptly challenged by several officers of the Ordnance Department which developed the Garand. Fred C. Ness of the National Rifle Association, declared the day's program provided no real test for the Army's new gun, an opinion with which Maj.. Gen. Milton A. Reckord, of the Maryland National Guard, nodded evident agreement.

Many of the experts criticized the fact that most of the firing was done at 200 yards; using lighter M2 ammunition, and the big targets that ordinarily appear at double the distance. But Generals and Senators crowded on one another's heels, when Private John B. Morrissey, crack marksman of New York City's famous Seventh regiment, volunteered to handle the Johnson for 150 rounds of rapid fire with M-1 cartridges at 600 yards. Capt. Rothwell Brown, the Army's Garand expert, undertook to match him. And the audience argued for hours over the result.

The private outshot the captain, making a total of 472 against the latter's 436, although the latter got mixed up and fired 10 extra shots. Moreover the Garand scored 15 complete misses - for which the captain blamed his own marksmanship, heatedly denying Brookhart's implication that his gun fired low when it got hot. But it took the private a minute and a half longer to fire the 150 shots that it did the captain to do 160, and the Johnson failed to shoot once.

...Captain Johnson said that he did not advocate stopping production of the Garand, because 'it shoots pretty well.' He declared, however, that 'we ought to have two strings to our bow,' and pointed out that the accuracy of his rifle is unchallenged.

This was a points stressed by Brookhart, a former president of the National Rifle Association and the man who had direct charge of all Army marksmanship instruction during the World War. The Iowa expert went out on a limb for the Johnson before the demonstration was half over and made himself pretty unpopular with the ordnance people.

Brookhart pointed out that only technical experts could understand what was going on today and that most of the comparisons made were apt to me misinterpreted by the laymen. He declared the Johnson rifle was accurate at 1,000 yards and flouted the Army officers' statement that the accuracy of a battle weapon need not exceed the 600 yards which is claimed for the Garand.

The spectators included Brig. Gens. Earl McFarland and C.T. Harris, both assistance chiefs of ordnance; Senators Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., Ernest Lundeen, Warren Austin, Dennis Chavez and Rufus Holman, and Representatives Thomas H. Cullen, J. Buell Snyder, Andrew J. May and Allen T. Treadwell. The latter was accompanied by Captain Johnson's father, Melvin M. Johnson, as outstanding Boston attorney.

Senator Lundeen won a burst of applause when he picked up the two rifles, one after another, and rapped out a series of 27 successive bull's-eyes at 300 yards.

Capt. Robert Dewey, of the Third Cavalry, brought up a couple of troopers from Fort Myer, Va. who also demonstrated the Thompson .45-caliber submachine gun. One of these guns outshot both rifles during one of the 300-yard rounds." Springfield Republican, 05/10/1940 - "THE GARAND VICTORY. While we are absorbed in accounts of victories and defeats in the war overseas, attention should not be diverted from the signal victory of our Garand sUlterior motives were suspected all along in the criticisms of the Garand, those motives being attributed more to a desire to have another type of gun substituted for the Garand than because of subversive influences. It was never fully revealed just why the assault against the new weapon was made but it is evident now that it was not actuated by the best of purposes. It is fully recognized that the long delays from putting aside the Garand in favor of another weapon with the long process of tooling up the shops would have been very crippling to the program of national defense. Months and even years are involved in getting a great layout of machinery in readiness for production of a new weapon and in production in quantities needed for a large army.

Such a change in time of world wide conflict and peril would be on par with scuttling half the navy just because some defects were discovered. In the process of change from one gun to the other the country would perhaps be at the mercy of any foe seeking to take advantage of our weakness. Still the voice of unfounded criticism was

raised in Congress so powerful that it was decided to have an investigation by a committee named for that purpose. All this was after repeated tests had been made in a period of several years before high officials and experts of the army and navy with expressions of approval and favorable reports from every side. The men who knew had approved unanimously and millions of dollars had been spent in getting the new weapon under production in a large way and yet the wisdom of all this was questioned in Congress.

Now that the demonstrations of what the new weapon will do have proven conclusively to the investigating committee that the Garand is all that the military experts have claimed for it the status of the critics should be looked into. If the Garand had failed there would have been no hesitation about putting it aside and adopting a new weapon. Success of the Garand in the tests proves conclusively that its critics were wrong and we should like to know why they were wrong. The public is at least entitled to an explanation showing whether the critics were merely trying to sell the government a new gun or interested in crippling our national defense. It is now the turn of the critics to tell use what they were really up to.

The times call for intensive activity in production of the Garand to fully meet all the needs of the army rather than for questioning about the effectiveness of the weapon. Having overcome all criticism the Garand ought to be turned out in quantities sufficient to insure the protection of our liberties." Springfield Republican, 05/15/1940 - "JOHNSON ASKS ADDED TESTS FOR HIS RIFLE. Maker of Garand Rival Not Satisfied With Ft. Belvoir Firing. Melvin Johnson of Boston, inventor of a mechanically operated semiautomatic rifle rivaling the gas-operated Garand, is dissatisfied with the tests given the two rifles at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, last week and has asked the Senate committee on military affairs to authorize a more comprehensive survey.

The subcommittee on appropriations which sponsored the Ft. Belvoir firings was unimpressed with the record made by the Johnson and is reporting a bill authorizing the manufacture of Garand rifles only. However, at the request of former Senator Smith W. Brookhart of Iowa, the chairman of the military affairs committee, Senator Morris Sheppard The Sheppard bill appears to have little chance of acceptance by Congress since the House committee is 'sold' on the Garand and will accept no substitutes, but comprehensive tests lasting over a period of several days, which are sought by Johnson interests, probably will be ordered by the war department during the time that hearings are held on Senator Sheppard's new bill." Springfield Daily News, 06/05/1940 - "JOHNSON RIFLE PLAN GET COLD SHOULDER. The army ordnance department is fully satisfied with the production schedule of Garand rifles at the Springfield Armory, and is opposed to making the Johnson rifle a part of standard army equipment, Maj. Gen. C.M. Wesson, chief of ordnance, told the House military affairs committee in hearings released today.

General Wesson said the department is giving 'not the slightest consideration' to suggestions made before the Senate committee that Johnson rifles be produced at Rock Island, (Ill.) arsenal." Springfield Armory, 02/20/1941 - "MARINES ADOPT GARAND RIFLE. Move Expected to Triple Hitting Power of 'Devil Dogs.' In a move to triple the hitting power of Uncle Sam's 'devil dogs,' the Marine Corps today adopted the Garand semi-automatic rifle.

The high command announced that exhaustive tests at the Marine Corps base at San Diego, Calif. had proved the rifle to be suitable for the marines.

Conceived by John C. Garand, an employee in the armory at Springfield, Mass., the Garand is rated by the army as the approximate equivalent of three of the bolt action Springfield rifles of the 1903 model used during the World War.

With it, army officials say, the average rifleman is capable of firing approximately 40 shots a minute." Notes: Melvin Johnson, an officer in the Marine Corps Reserve, was a highly vocal champion of his rifle and had powerful friends; only the intervention of the Secretary of War prevented the U.S. Senate debating the adoption of the "Semi-Automatic Rifle, .30 M2" in the summer of 1940. "The strong points of the Johnson semi-automatic rifle were perhaps best summed up by the Army board which tested this rifle in 1940. Their findings: (1) As a machine its performance is satisfactory, (2) It is at least reasonably accurate. (3) It can easily and quickly be disassembled and without special tools. (4) The barrel can be removed in a few seconds for cleaning or replacement. (5) With a cartridge in the chamber, additional cartridges can loaded into the magazine, thereby making it possible to keep the magazine always full, time between shots permitting. (6) With a cartridge in the chamber, cartridges may be withdrawn from the magazine individually, thereby making convenient the substitution of a few rounds of a different kind of ammunition. (7) It can endure considerable sand and dust without failure to fire and then reload automatically.

On the critical side the board commented on the 10 lbs. weight of the rifle; liability of the magazine to denting; and single-stage trigger pull. Also, it was not well-suited for use with a bayonet; safety was not foolproof, and magazine might be difficult to load under dusty or sandy field conditions." - Edward J. Hoffschmidt "The Johnson Semi-Automatic Rifle, the only recoil-operated, semi-automatic military rifle now being manufactured or that has been adopted by any army, is the invention of ...Captain Melvin M. Johnson, Jr. The rifle was invented and the first working model made during the summer of 1936. Patents were taken out the same year. Development went on for some time, during which time 23 model rifles, some of which varied in minor detail while others were of identical construction, were made and subjected to exhaustive tests.

The basic action is a short recoil rotary bolt system locking with 8 lugs and unlocking by the rearward movement of the slidably mounted barrel. The bolt turns 20 degrees to unlock which the barrel is recoiling 3/8 inch. Unlocking is accomplished by cams on the "The Model of 1941 Johnson rifle was the only other semiautomatic service rifle other than the M1 Garand to be fielded by the United States during World War Two. Unlike the M1, which was manufactured in very large numbers and saw widespread use, the Johnson rifle was procured by the U.S. in extremely limited numbers and saw only a modicum of combat use. The Johnson rifle was the invention of Melvin M. Johnson, a native of Boston, Massachusetts, born in 1909. Johnson exhibited an interest in firearms at an early age and wrote several articles on the subject while still in his teens. Johnson graduated from Harvard Law School in 1934 ("You can always tell a Harvard man, but you can't tell him much.") and soon entered the Marine Corps Reserve as a Lieutenant. He attended several Marine Corps Weapons Schools and served a tour at the Quantico, Virginia, base....

By 1940, the Garand-Johnson controversy had reached its peak. A Congressional committee threatened to halt funding for continued production of the M1 unless it could be clearly shown that the weapon was satisfactory for military use. An informal shoot-off between the Garand and Johnson rifles was held on May 5,1940, which was attended by a number of high ranking officials, including senators and military officers. The demonstration revealed that both rifles were apparently satisfactory for military use. The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Elmer Thomas, related the committee's decision when he stated that: ' From a layman's viewpoint, they are both mighty fine guns, and there is no particular difference. If the Garand

is as good as the other, and we have the machinery already set up to produce it, I see no reason to go into production on a second good gun.'

Although the Senator's statement was undoubtedly true, the Johnson rifle probably had the deck stacked against it from the beginning. Since the Garand was developed and approved by the Ordnance Department, its rejection in favor of a rifle designed by an unknown junior Marine Corps officer would have spelled the premature end to a number of Ordnance Officers' career. Of course, as we have seen, subsequent events totally vindicated the adoption of the M1 but heavy-handed tactics of the Ordnance Department in 1939-1940 caused many unnecessary problems.

After a second official government rejection of his design, Johnson still harbored some hope that the rifle could ultimately play some role in the American military arsenal. Johnson later stated that he never advocated that his rifle should be a replacement for the Garand but rather a supplement to it. Or as he put it, '...we ought to have two strings to our bow.' At the same time Johnson seemd to damn the Garand with faint praise when he said that '...it shoots pretty well.' Although there are no indications that Johnson was anything but a gentleman and patriotic American, the Garand-Johnson controversy refused to quietly go away. In December of 1940, the War Department felt it necessary to submit a 'Statement of Facts' to officially deny allegations that it had been unfair in its conduct regarding the Johnson rifle. Life magazine called the Garand-Johnson controversy 'one of the greatest military squabbles in history.'" - Bruce N. Canfield "A prototype was tested at Fort Benning in the Spring of 1938 and then at Aberdeen Proving Ground from August onward. Trials of an improved 30 caliber-rifle, held in December 1939, persuaded the Ordnance Board to take the Johnson rifle seriously. In February 1940, however, the authorities ordered interest in the Johnson to cease in case remedial work on the Garand was adversely affected.

Tests showed that the Garand was compact and more durable, but the Johnson magazine could be reloaded even with the bolt closed. In addition, the feed lips were machined in the receiver, reducing jamming, and the barrel was readily detachable.

Trials undertaken in November 1940 by the U.S. Marine Corps, Spurned by the U.S. government, Johnson sold a substantial number of rifles to the Netherlands government-in-exile in the autumn of 1940. Destined for service with the Royal Netherlands Indies Army (KNIL), the perfected weapon was most distinctive, with a two-piece stock separated by the magazine housing. A pierced sheet-steel jacket surrounded the barrel, which moved back on firing to unlock the bolt. The stock wrist was noticeably shallow, as the return spring lay in a tube in the butt.

The KNIL contract was canceled when the East Indies surrendered to the Japanese in 1942, apparently before any large-scale deliveries had been made. Production was thereafter diverted to the U.S. Marines. Johnson rifles saw active service in the Pacific and European theatres, but the mechanism was more likely to jam under combat conditions than the Garand, and the slender barrel proved susceptible to damage.

A few hundred rifles apparently went to Chile, chambered for the 7x57 rimless cartridge, but it is unclear if delivery was made in 1942 or after 1945." - John Walter LOAN HISTORY OF THIS WEAPON: Army #6789 - Loaned to Major Thomas O. Rose, Headquarters, Military Personnel Procurement Service. N.Y.,

N.Y. Loan returned on 8 February 1957. JOHNSON SEMI-AUTOMATIC RIFLE .30: 1941 1-10000 A0001-A9999 B0001-B9999 1942 C0001-C9999 D0001-D9999 F0001-F9999 1943 G0001-G9999 1944 H0001-H9999 Total production of semi-automatic rifles = 70000 Total production of light machine guns = 1000 Note: Regular production ceased in early 1944. Some experimental models were manufactured as late as 1947. References: Canfield, Bruce N. U.S. INFANTRY WEAPONS OF WORLD WAR II. Andrew Mowbray Publishers. Lincoln, R.I. 1994. UNITED STATES MARTIAL & COLLECTOR ARMS. Military Arms Research Service. San Jose, Ca. 1971. Walter, John. RIFLES OF THE WORLD. 2nd Ed. Krause Publications. Iola, Wi. 1998. ---------------------------------STOLEN WEAPON ALERT - A Johnson M1939 SN# LXMR 02 was stolen on March 9, 1998. This is one of only four known. Reward being offered. Contact, David Barrett, (808) 283-6360.