Johnson Cal. .30 Rifle, M-1941

In the late 1930's and early 1940's the Johnson semi-automatic rifle was one of the most modern and innovative designs. Col. Melvin M. Johnson, Jr., a captain in the Marine Reserve, was a gifted inventor whose company produced the Johnson Semiautomatic rifle and two models of the machine gun, the Johnson Model 1941 and the Model 1944. With only small quantities of the new (at that time) M-1 Garand being produced, the Johnson was a serious contender to be the U.S. service rifle.

This weapon is a Johnson Semiautomatic Carbine.  Only five of these were made, sent to the USMC for evaluation.  It was not accepted and the Marines adopted the standard M1 Carbine.
This weapon is a Johnson Semiautomatic Carbine. Only five of these were made, sent to the USMC for evaluation. It was not accepted and the Marines adopted the standard M1 Carbine. [Thanks to Jim Pullen for proper ID of this photo and his explanation.]

Today in WW II: 23 Sep 1940 After just seven weeks of development, American Bantam delivers the first prototype jeep to Camp Holabird, MD.   

Johnson Cal. .30, Semiautomatic Rifle, M-1941

In USMC tests, the Johnson Cal. .30, Semiautomatic Rifle, M-1941 outperformed the M-1 Garand service rifle, although the Gerand loaded faster. Some claimed it was superior to the M-1 Garand, but Army tests did not confirm that claim. With the Garand already in production, the Johnson would have to be markedly superior to replace the Garand and it was not. Although it was an accurate rifle with low recoil, and used a magazine instead of the en-bloc clip like the Garand, it also suffered from an overly complex design with too many small parts that tended to get lost during field stripping.

The Johnson rifle was procured in limited quantities during World War II, used by US Special Forces, including the joint Canadian-American First Special Service Force (FSSF), and by the USMC, in the Raiders and paratroopers.

Johnson Model 1941 Rifle M1941 Johnson
Johnson Model 1941 Rifle.

The Johnson Model 1941 was the only new design rifle introduced during the war. The Johnson was recoil operated (not gas operated like the M-1 Garand), the only rifle on this principle manufactured in quantity. The Model 1941 used the standard Army .30-06 cartridges in its rotary ten round magazine.

About 30,000 were produced for the Dutch East Indies by Johnson Automatics, but Japan conquered the islands before they were delivered. The USMC ordered the Johnsons instead, since supplies of the M-1 Garand were limited in 1941. Johnsons were produced from 1941 to 1944, with the year indicated by a letter prefix to the serial number. If no letter, the rifle was produced in 1941. By the end of the war, the USMC had suspended use of the Johnson rifle. The remaining ones were collected and returned to the Dutch. After World War II the rifles were gradually sold off and today only small numbers remain. They are highly prized by collectors and bring hefty prices.

M-1941 Johnson Bayonet

The standard Johnson configuration included a prong bayonet. The "tent peg" bayonet was short and lightweight, a necessity in order to not interfere with the rifle's recoil system. Soldiers considered it useless.

Other References: M-1941 Johnson

The definitive book on the rifle (and Johnson's machine guns) is Johnson Rifles and Machine Guns: The Story of Melvin Maynard Johnson, Jr. and His Guns , by Bruce N. Canfield.

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