John Moses Browning is the most famous gun designer in history. His accomplishments include:
- The Colt Model 1911, a pistol that has endured in the U.S. military for over 100 years, and the design basis for nearly every locked-breech handgun made to this day.
- The Browning Hi-Power (completed nine years after Mr. Browning’s death in 1926), the first truly successful double-stacked magazine handgun — a weapon that would later go on to serve in the military of over 50 nations
- The world’s first gas-operated machine gun, which in turn led to the incredible Browning .50-caliber Machine Gun and the equally famous Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) of World War II fame
- And, of course, the later much-improved versions of the Winchester lever-action rifles.
Browning’s first design for the Winchester Company was the Model 1886, designed for the most powerful rifle cartridges of that era. The Model 1886 would later form the basis for the Winchester Model 71, which was made for 23 years beginning in 1935.
But by the early 1890s the Winchester Model 1873, last of the true pistol caliber Winchester rifles up to that point, was showing its age. Winchester once again turned to Mr. Browning for a replacement. The story goes that Winchester Company President Thomas Gray Bennett offered Mr. Browning a bonus of $10,000 if Browning could design the replacement for the Model 1873 in 90 days, and a $15,000 bonus if he could do it in just sixty. Mr. Browning countered with an offer to produce the new design in less than a month if Mr. Bennett would increase that offered bonus. Mr. Bennett agreed, and less than thirty days later the genius John Moses Browning walked off with $20,000 dollars after dropping off the Model 1892 design.
It is most often this rifle you see, the Model 1892, whenever you watch John Wayne spin-cock a loop-lever rifle in Westerns from El Dorado to True Grit. And, as previously mentioned, it is the Model 1892 that somehow found its way back in time and into the hands of New Mexico Rancher Lucas McCain almost a dozen years before its introduction.
What is spin-cocking, by the way? It’s a Hollywood invention, but it’s neat-looking as all get-out:
It’s also impractical as all get-out. The rifle shown had to be specially modified to keep the cartridge blank from falling out of the chamber as the rifle is twirled. It’s also dangerous as all get-out, in that you’re more likely to shoot yourself trying this than you are to bring the weapon to bear on a man wearing a black hat.
Which brings us to the rifles shown in this weekend’s mini-blog series, the Winchester Model 1894. The Model 1894 is again a John Browning design, but unlike his pistol-caliber Model 1892 this rifle has more in common with his Model 1886 — it’s chambered for rifle rounds. Indeed, the .30-30 was invented with this rifle in mind, and the Model 1894 in that cartridge was for over 100 years the hunting rifle of choice for many deer hunters in the U.S.
I hope you enjoyed this bit of Western firearm history. Tomorrow we’ll return to our tour of Québec from the MS Maasdam.
Bibliography links to today’s blog topics:
- John Moses Browning
- Colt Model 1911
- Browning Hi-Power
- Browning 50-Caliber Machine Gun
- Browning Automatic Rifle
- Browning Short Recoil “Locked Breech” Design
- Winchester Model 1873
- Winchester Model 1886
- Winchester Model 1892
- Winchester Model 1894
- Winchester .30-30 Cartridge (formerly the .30 WCF)
- Winchester Repeating Arms (current makers of Winchester-branded Model ’73, Model ’86, and Model ’92 rifles)