Browning’s superiority as a gun maker had a lot to do with the seeming inability of his mind to ever rest. He once was shooting a rifle and noticed that at some distance some weeds were bending as a result of the energy from the muzzle blast. He wondered what could be done with that wasted energy. Then, he turned to his son and said that he thought it might be possible to use the energy to keep the gun firing for as long as the shooter had ammunition.
Upon developing his first semi-automatic pistol, Browning began to give greater consideration to the concept of recoil operation. He thought it would be equally as important as gas operation. After some experimentation, he spoke of the possibility of making a fully workable machine gun. He sincerely believed he could do it in less than ten years. It actually took him less than one year.
It should go without saying that the fully automatic weapons of John Browning helped to win World War I. Years later the Associated Press would reveal that Browning accepted $750,000 from the government for his inventions and time combined. Had he charged the government the standard royalty rate he would have earned over $12,700,000. How long has it been since an American civil rights leader placed his country’s interests above his own financial well-being?
It is difficult to decide just what the greatest achievement of John Moses Browning was. Some may say it was the 128 different patents issued to him in less than half a century, which resulted in the production of over 80 distinctly different firearms. Other may say it was the fact that his guns ranged from those hurling a .22 short to those hurling a 37 mm projectile. Still others may say it was his willingness to change – from lever actions, to pump actions, to semi automatic actions, to automatic actions.
But I disagree with all of the above. I believe that John Browning’s greatest achievement is the example he set for all Americans with his work input not his work output. Indeed, he showed us that we can only be set free through hard work, a love of country over self, and a refusal to take credit for the achievements of others.
I think the time has come for us to acknowledge formally the man who helped us win two world wars and save countless lives with his inventions. In the process, we may begin to see that our greatest civil rights struggle is really a battle against the unholy trinity of complacency, selfishness, and economic entitlement.
Dr. Adams will speak at Bucknell University on Thursday November 15th, at 7 p.m. in the Olin Science Lecture Hall, room 268.