M1 Garand vs. M1941 Johnson.


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Shadow Man
January 3, 2010, 06:34 PM
So I witnessed a discussion today during which a friend of mine insisted that had the American Army and Marines been armed with the M1941 Johnson rifle during World War II instead of the M1 Garand, they would have been a more effective and lethal force. Not knowing much about the Johnson, I really couldn't say much. So...what's the story? Enlighten me, please.

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1KPerDay
January 3, 2010, 06:38 PM
Dunno how much more effective they'd have been, but the Johnson is a really cool rifle and probably better than the M1 (though I consider the M1 the coolest rifle ever). The Johnson carried more rounds (10 IIRC) and could be topped off easily at any time, unlike the Garand. That's probably the chief advantage.

NG VI
January 3, 2010, 06:39 PM
Pretty sure the Johnson wasn't as reliable as the Garand, and I wasn't aware that the U.S. Armed Forces were an ineffective force. I think either rifle probably would have given roughly the same performance.

Shadow Man
January 3, 2010, 06:46 PM
Hey, I'm on the same page with you guys; I thought the Greatest Generation did a fine job during WWII. I'm just wondering if there is anything to the M1941 being better than the M1.

Lone Star
January 3, 2010, 06:49 PM
The Garand was better for bayonet fighting, some of which definitely took place, and the barrel was less exposed to weather.

Probably disassembled better, too. More compact package and eeasier to get into action after paratroops lannded. I think some jumped with rifles taken down, in canvas webbing gear.

Lone Star

SDC
January 3, 2010, 06:53 PM
The Johnson is sort of a neat design, but didn't turn out to be very reliable when it got dirty, being recoil-operated; when the Marines WERE issued with them (they were given some that were originally built for the Dutch, but their possessions in the Pacific were over-run before the rifles were delivered), the guys that actually had to USE them made it clear that they preferred the 1903 to the Johnson.

xx7grant7x
January 3, 2010, 06:56 PM
The Johnson carried more rounds (10 IIRC) and could be topped off easily at any time, unlike the Garand. That's probably the chief advantage.

I'd have to agree with these as the only "advantages"...

Shadow Man
January 3, 2010, 07:33 PM
I never knew that the Marines had any of the rifles; only the machine guns. That's interesting though, I didn't know they got that dirty. Anything else?

anteken
January 3, 2010, 07:41 PM
I own both. The Johnson is an interesting design but the bayonet is a joke. I have also completely disassembled both and the Johnson has many, many small (and I mean small) parts that would be way too easy to lose. The ability to top off the Johnson's magazine using 5 round 1903 stripper clips (or single rounds) was good but the Garand is, by far, the better rifle. Of course, I think the enbloc clip is a bad idea compared to a replaceable magazine like the M1 Carbine and (later) the M14 which was just an updated Garand. But for the time, it was the best battle rifle in widespread use.

Vern Humphrey
January 3, 2010, 07:47 PM
Johnson made a lot of noise, enlisting politicians in his quest to have the Garand replaced with his rifle. As noted the Marines had a few early in the war. But when they were replaced with Garands, few Marines shed any tears -- despite the fact that Johnson himself was a Marine.

Shadow Man
January 3, 2010, 07:53 PM
Well, that seems pretty definitive. Thanks gentlemen, I appreciate it.

Speedo66
January 3, 2010, 08:36 PM
Awfully thin looking barrel, wonder how that held up to combat conditions?

SlamFire1
January 3, 2010, 08:36 PM
Johnson made a lot of noise, enlisting politicians in his quest to have the Garand replaced with his rifle.

Johnson had a good idea but the rifle certainly did not have the development time that the Garand had. The Johnson rifle was just going through Alpha testing but the Garand had already completed Beta Testing.

If the Johnson had been mandated, then we would have seen a similar fiasco of failures that happened in the Vietnam War. GIís were killed when the unproven M16 replaced the M14 in Vietnam.

You can see that the procurement of military arms were just as political before WWII, as afterwards.

Johnson failed because he did not have enough money to buy off the political and military establishment. You look at the efforts of Colt in the 60ís, that Corporation did, and they got the M14 replaced.

Today, you can look at Corporation influence in the procurement of the KC-45 Air Force Tanker. Two contractors bid on the thing, Boeing and the European dominated Northrup contingent. The USAF picked Northrup. Boeing had the Secretary of Defense stop the contract award, restart the source selection activity, but since the USAF got the wrong answer, the USAF was removed as the source selection authority. Boeing needed more time to revamp their proposal so the SecDef extended the award period by a year. Recently I have read material that the new proposal favors small aircraft, which guess what, is the Boeing aircraft.

Joe Demko
January 3, 2010, 08:39 PM
The Johnson rifle needed work, IMO. The Garand had issues and needed modifications after it was adopted. If the Johnson had been adopted and been the object of PIP programs too, it would likely have evolved into a better weapon too.

Vern Humphrey
January 3, 2010, 08:54 PM
The recoil-operated Johnson was probably doomed to failure -- the "tent peg" bayonet, necessary because a heavier bayonet would slow the recoil -- is only a symptom of the rifle's problems. The Johnson was complex, heavier and longer than the M1, inherently less reliable, and expensive to produce.

mshootnit
January 3, 2010, 08:57 PM
A while back in either the American Rifleman or Shooting Times, a Marine from WWII wrote in and asked why there were no good articles on the Johnson, in the letter to the mag, he stated that in his opinion the Johnson was the best rifle of the war as it could be topped off, it ran with sand all over in it, and he mentioned an automatic rifle too. I am sure he was referring to the Pacific theater. He also mentioned that he was never made aware of why they took them away.

Dave P
January 3, 2010, 08:59 PM
and in my limited exposure, the Johnson was much less accurate, with its barrel that moved around during recoil/reloading.

Jim K
January 3, 2010, 09:02 PM
FWIW, I too have both rifles and have fired both.

The charges levelled against almost everyone by Johnson supporters were absurd and probably caused Johnson more trouble than anything else. There was a lot of politics involved, with the anti-Roosevelt faction condemning the Army and backing Johnson. In addition, Johnson was a Marine reserve officer, and many Marines just automatically took the side of a Marine, regardless of the quality of the rifle. It was even claimed that Johnson "knew what he was doing" because he had served in combat in WWI, something that was plainly not true (Johnson never made any such claim).

The usual pro-Johnson line was that the Army hated Johnson and his rifle because it was not developed by the Army ("not invented here") and that the generals backed the inferior Garand because it was a Springfield Armory development. (Garand was slammed as something close to an incompetent crook, even a "foreign" traitor.)

In what seem to have been reasonable and fair tests, the Johnson came in second best. Johnson claimed that the army should have "two arrows in its bow", in other words, two good rifles, one of which, of course, would be his. Had the Johnson been adopted, there would have been FIVE rifles in U.S. service in WWII - the others being the M1 Rifle, the M1903, the M1917 and the M1/M2 Carbine.

The Johnson did have some advantages, already mentioned, and would have been easier to clean after firing corrosive ammo. But I have always considered it as not being fully developed. Further, it is an awkward rifle. The light bayonet mentioned above was necessary because the rifle was short recoil operated and the conventional M1905 bayonet was heavy enough to interfere with the rifle's operation.

(If you want a modern comparison, look at the health care bill; almost none of the rhetoric on either side actually involves the content of the bill, only the lies told about it, for and against.)

Jim

Shadow Man
January 4, 2010, 12:12 AM
Thank you Jim, that sums it up rather nicely I think.

Trebor
January 4, 2010, 01:03 AM
From what I read the Johnson LMG was actually a pretty good design and had some advantages over the BAR, including lighter weight. The Marines issues a few and the US/Canadian Special Services unit used them in Italy and reportedly were very pleased with them.

briansmithwins
January 4, 2010, 01:07 AM
Has there ever been a successful reciprocating barrel service rifle? I can't think of one. BSW

Shadow Man
January 4, 2010, 01:12 AM
Has there ever been a successful reciprocating barrel service rifle?

I'd be hesitant to call it a "service rifle" but the M82A1/M107 .50BMG uses a reciprocating barrel.

scoutsabout
January 4, 2010, 02:05 AM
My father-in-law has a Johnson. Actually, funny story... his old dad used to have it. Then, when it came up at a family affair, old gramps asked "who's got the Johnson?" To which I replied suggestively: "Uh, I've got a Johnson." Everyone laughed. Gramps missed it, and started talking about how it was a great machine that would operate in the mud and grime, and just keep going. Everyone continued to laugh.

Anyway, I got to inspect and shoot it once. Cool gun, but I would have to agree that the Garand would be a better choice in an all-out combat rifle.

skidooman603
January 4, 2010, 06:10 AM
Either way I sure would love to own one to help round out my WWll collection

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