For the record, I am opposed to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a national holiday in the month of January or, for that matter, any other month. It isn’t that I oppose a national holiday celebrating the legacy of America’s greatest civil rights leader. I just don’t believe that King was our greatest civil rights leader. I believe that distinction belongs to John Browning.
Since John Moses Browning was born on January 23rd, 1855, it will be easy to make the transition from a Martin King to a John Browning national holiday. And it will be educational, too. Many gun owners are unaware that Browning sold 44 guns to Winchester including the Model 94 level action repeater. Guns based on the Model 94 design and chambered in 30-30 have probably killed more deer in North America than any other model before or since.
Few Colt owners have had a chance to shoot the .30 and .50 caliber machine guns or 37-mm aircraft cannon. But all of those lucky enough to own Colts including the .45 Caliber and Woodsman models are benefiting from a basic design coming from the greatest genius the firearms industry has ever known.
Today’s “civil rights” movement has become a disgrace largely because it is based on the idea that people are entitled to things they did not earn through the fruits of their own labor. Instead, people are given things on the basis of what their ancestors suffered – all coming from those who did nothing wrong on the basis of what their ancestors did wrong.
But John Browning was a different kind of man. He refused to take anything he did not earn. He even refused an honorary degree from a university on the basis of that principle. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson could learn a lot from a man who practices what he preaches.
Dr. King was a success largely because he relied on the ideas of his predecessors. And, indeed, his reliance on the teachings of Jesus and Gandhi were responsible for stopping a lot of unnecessary bloodshed. But Browning was a true innovator. Indeed, when Winchester was insisting that his first shotguns should be of lever action design, Browning was pushing hard for the mass production of his pump action design.
Years later, his critics came around and the Model 93 pump shotgun was born. Most of the shotguns I have in my gun safes in the 21st Century are of this 19th Century design. He was even further ahead of the rest of the gun making world when he produced the first functioning auto loading shotgun. A full 54 years would pass before any other gun maker was able to produce an autoloader that actually worked.
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.