Shortly 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.

Timing is everything, and Johnson's rifle lost to the M1 Garand.

Not 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 through WWII.

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 ruggedness.

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 side-mounted magazine.

But the FG42 is inches shorter in length and slightly heavier.

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 viable weapons.