John Browning's Methods


January 28, 2010, 10:29 AM
Does anyone know how John Browning went about the process of design?

A modern mechanical engineer would undoubtedly start with a pile of sketches and a pile of calculations, then move to a CAD/CAM system to produce some drawings. Even in Browning's day, a lot of engineers would have done about the same, doing the drawings by hand, of course.

From what I read, Browning came out of a machine shop with little formal education. I would bet his first few designs took form in metal first, and drawings came later, and could be done by someone else, e.g. for patents. However, being a genius, he could have learned both theory (math) and technique (drawing) as he went along. (Thomas Edison certainly did.)

I've never heard any mention of a design drawing with JB's signature on it. I imagine such a thing would fetch a pretty sum.

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January 28, 2010, 01:06 PM
Browning's son wrote an excellent biography of him, which I recommend you read.

If I remember correctly, he made models with moving parts of tin. I think one of his brothers drew them up for him.

January 28, 2010, 01:21 PM
Here's the book BTR refered to,

I just read it a few weeks ago. From what I remember he would get it worked out in his head and wrote note's on most anything handy. From there he and his brothers mocked up a prototype for testing.

Jim K
January 28, 2010, 03:20 PM
In the case of the 1911 pistol, certainly one of his most famous designs, Browning was prodded into some of his best work by the Army. The boards that met to review and test the guns made "suggestions" (really demands) for such things as the slide stop, the grip safety, the grip screw bushings, the firing pin stop, the single link design, the frame that prevented the slide from coming off backward, the manual safety, disassembly without tools, and the internal extractor. Other than that, the gun was all Browning.


January 28, 2010, 03:31 PM
John M Browning was apprenticed in his father's gunsmithing shop. Jonathan Browning (senior) was an acknowledged master.

In his father's shop, John Moses designed and built his first rifle, a falling block design.

Soon he opened his own production shop to manufacture the rifle, which he eventually sold to Winchester.

Perhaps he lacked a college education, but certainly apprenticeship to a true master is a fine education.

January 28, 2010, 03:43 PM
The John Browning museum in Ogden, UT is a fascinating place to spend a few hours. His 1st prototype of the operating rod for his (Colt) "potato digger" machine gun looked to have been literally hammered out in a blacksmith's shop.

January 28, 2010, 05:34 PM
Perhaps he had no college education, but he knew where to find a good patent lawyer who did.:)

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