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John M. Browning Day: State Recognizes Achievements of Famous Utahn

Article Date: 
21 January, 2011 (All day)


Browning has been a significant part of Morgan County since they relocated their headquarters here in 1964.  Many individuals do not know, however, the significance of the contributions of John M. Browning to Utah and United States History.  The Utah legislature is recognizing his significant contributions by designating Jan 24, 2011 as John M. Browning Day.  

Browning was born in Ogden in 1855.  His father had been a gun maker throughout his life and encouraged Browning to follow his interests.  At the early age of 14 Browning assembled a gun from spare parts as a gift for his brother that many declared was one of the best guns built at the time.  This was only the beginning of a career that spanned more than sixty years and resulted in achievements of more than a hundred twenty patents as well as the invention of much of the gun technology we still use today.

Browning built his first factory in Ogden in 1880.  He already had his first patent on a single shot rifle when he started manufacturing.  Many patents were to follow.  He patented the first repeating rifle, a gun which had a tubular magazine in 1882 and then received another patent shortly thereafter for a bolt action repeating rifle.

In 1883 Browning caught the notice of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, then one of the leading manufacturers.  This relationship was to be a long and profitable one for both parties.  He would later have relationships with Fabrique Nationale in Belgium who manufactured for Europe and with Remington.

In 1886 Browning received a patent on a lever action repeating rifle.  This rifle would become one the most famous in history.  It was a rifle whose reliability and easy reloading action made it the staple rifle that tamed the Western United States.  It protected and fed many families throughout the westward expansion of this country.    This was followed shortly thereafter by the first repeating shotgun in 1887.

During this time of filing patents and building new weapons, Browning took time to serve his church.  His family had come west with early Mormon pioneers.  Browning left on a mission to Georgia in March of 1887 and served for two years as a missionary for the church.

His successes and patents in repeating manual load firearms led to him begining experimentation with gas ejection systems.  He saw the potential to use the gas explosions from the cartridges to work the action of the firearms.  His hard work and experimentation came to fruition in a number of patents,  and in 1891 the first semi-automatic weapons.

Browning’s designs and weapons have been instrumental in virtually every American war since the Spanish American War.  Browning introduced his first machine gun in 1895.  The weapon earned the name of the “Browning Peacemaker” from its use during the Spanish American War.  He later designed and built water cooled machine guns for use in World War II and weapons for use on military aircraft.

Browning continued filing patents and making innovations in weapons throughout his life.  The technology Browning invented, from bolt actions, to sliding pumps, to gas ejection systems still form the heart of virtually all guns made today.  The reliability, accuracy, and dependability of the guns he developed have been second to none.

In 1911, Browning developed a new .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun, which was adopted by the US army.  After nearly a century of service, this handgun remains in use by active military units and US special operations forces.  It also remains popular with sportsman, collectors, competitive shooters, and law enforcement agencies.

Browning was married in 1879 to Rachel Teresa Child.  Together they had one son, Val, who was born in 1985.    Browning died on Nov 26, 1926 of heart failure in his office in Leige Belgium.  His son Val continued the family tradition and was awarded forty-eight patents during his career.

By the mid sixties the Browning Arms Company was no longer able to have a weapon testing range in Ogden.  Browning purchased some land in Mountain Green and moved the company headquarters to Morgan County where they could have a shooting range and continue their work in research and development.  In 1968 they moved their sales operation to Morgan. Browning’s factory, parts warehouse, and distribution remain in Missouri.

On Jan 24, the day to commemorate Browning’s life and achievements will take place.  It will be marked by a ceremony at the State Capitol Building.  There will be displays of many rare, historic and unique Browning firearms, vintage military vehicles, and modern military aircraft, including a Blackhawk helicopter.  A fly by of fighters from Hill Air Force Base in Ogden is also planned.

At noon, Governor Herbert will present the resolution to Christopher Browning, the great grandson of John M. Browning.  The state legislature is also planning to designate the Browning 1911 .45 caliber pistol as the Official Utah State Firearm.

There will be a celebration at the Browning Outlet Store on Commercial Street here in Morgan.  Events will take place commemorating the event through the week, from January 24 to 29.  This will include a sale on many of the items in the store and a birthday coupon for 10% off the entire purchase.  It will also include a drawing for a $200 Browning “Best There Is” knife clock.  There will be free wildlife prints, Browning tee shirts for $9.99, 50% off select kid’s and women’s down coats, and many other items.

The celebration at the Outlet store will culminate on Saturday.  On hand will be special guest Glen Jensen, the Browning Arms Historian.  Jensen will be at the store to answer questions relating the history of Browning and its firearms from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.  There will also be birthday cake and spin the wheel prizes.  It will be a great time to have some fun, enjoy some cake, and take away some deals on Browning merchandise.

Browning as an individual had tremendous impact on the United States and Utah.  Browning as a company has played a long and rich part of the history of Morgan.  Nestled here in the beautiful valley of Morgan seems the natural spot for a company focused on helping sportsman everywhere get the best of their outdoor experience.  This day is a great one to celebrate the man and the traditions he represents of gun ownership, sporting, and enjoying the beauty and grandeur of the outdoors.