before the onset of the Second World War, American Melvin Johnson
developed a short-recoil semi-auto rifle in .30-06, the M1941. The
intent of Johnson, a reserve captain in the United States Marine
Corps, was to out compete the M1 Garand.
is everything, and Johnson's rifle lost to the M1 Garand.
to be deterred, he developed a light machine gun (LMG) similar in
many ways to his rifle. The M1941 Johnson Machine Gun is
recoil-operated, unlike most gas operated light machine guns of its
time, chambered for .30-06. But despite some success in World War II,
the Johnson LMG, like its little brother the M1914 Johnson rifle, was
relegated to relative military obscurity. The M1941 saw service
M1941 was a quality piece of work, albeit with two
strikes against it. It was expensive to build and prone to jamming in
the field. Two strikes and you're out? Not quite, but the mark
of a truly superb battlefield weapon is low cost and field
Johnson's machine gun fed from the left side via a
single-column, curved 20-round magazine. In many ways, the M1941
resembles that war's German FG42 Paratroop Rifle chambered for
7.92x57mm Mauser. The FG42, another automatic rifle, fed from the
side and fired in full-auto from the open bolt. Like the M1941, the
FG42 was cumbersome for operators to field with the protruding
But the FG42 is inches shorter in length and slightly
A neat feature of the Johnson LMG is its variable rate
of fire. The operator could adjust the buffer spring to achieve a
rate of fire from 200 to 600 rounds per minute.
The M1941 weighs 14.25 pounds and measures about 42
inches in length. It sports a 22-inch barrel and is capable of
hurling lead downrange at 2,800 feet per second.
The Johnson LMG has a wooden stock and a folding bipod.
If not for the competition, Johnson's Light
Machine Gun and M1941 Rifle might have enjoyed far greater success.
But they did not. That said, Johnson's gun design, with its
in-line recoil and reduced muzzle rise would later be used in more