John Moses Browning vs. Eugene Stoner

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Justin, Aug 21, 2015.

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  1. barnbwt

    barnbwt member

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    "Browning's designs might have been specific in their use, but in their use they were the best of all designs in which they competed."
    Up-bup-bup-bup-bup-bup, bup. Some of Browning's designs were the best of all designs in which they competed. Important distinction, especially if we're talking autoloading rifles, specifically. The 81 and BAR are the two which Browning is most known for, but they are hardly the best at what they do, even amongst available designs of the era. Namely, both are quite clunky (in terms of recoil for the 81, size/weight for the BAR) in practice, rapidly replaced by competing, then newer, designs, and like all Browning masterpieces, were kind of a bear to take apart, since field serviceability was neither his forte nor his primary concern in design.

    What Browning excelled at, was designs that actually worked. By which I mean an understanding of actions that would reliably cycle, would not bind up, which were typically more resilient in adverse conditions than the competition, and which had impressive service life for the important parts. This in an era of needlessly complex or poorly made 1st gen LMGs like the Furrer or Chauchat, or needlessly massive & inefficient Maxims & Schwarzloses. Guns that actually worked were far more valuable than those with the best design layout or smoothness of operation (hence his ongoing reliance on recoil operation for most things, which was far more reliable in that era than gas operation)

    By the time Stoner was on the scene, operation and handling of the now-perfected gas gun design concepts (the gas-expansion action was novel, but the underlying physics was highly developed and perfected when he went to design it, unlike Browning who barely had the luxury of being able to determine when it was safe to open the breech in a firing cycle) was the key order of the day, namely getting them to be controllable in a rapidly fired or full-cyclic operation, with a secondary goal of making most use of a glorious new field of wonder-materials and machine methods. Talk about a decadent luxury of design consideration for designers in Browning's time; metallurgical quality had finally become consistent if not fully understood, fatigue fracture mechanics was still 20 years to be developed (along with quality welding), and mill tooling was still so hideously expensive that metal shapers were required to slowly scrape out all those forged-ingot receiver designs along with lathes --all manual, of course.

    Browning was a master of the machinist capabilities of his day, so he could work around them to devise machines that worked (much as his progenitors had for steam engines). Stoner had a good feel for the cutting edge techniques of his day, though probably not to the same extent in a professional sense, and didn't really need to know quite so much about the physics side of things since design practices for gas actions had already been perfected.

    I also need to mention to all the folks going on about how 'brilliant' the modularity of the AR is, that many guns just as modular have been around since the early '30's. The MG15 is probably the quintessential old-school modular gun; quick change barrel, tiny little tubular receiver, rotating bolt lockup into a barrel extension (threaded, not lugged), screw on stock, grip/fcg unit, swappable barrel jacket/shroud, removable bipod, and they even developed high, and very high capacity drum mags for it. IIRC, you could even set it up to feed from its mags at various clock-face positions by rotating the grip parts. Basically, it was an effective aircraft turret gun until WWII, at which point it was quickly modified into a ground-LMG role with water cooling (making it extremely well suited for volume fire from a single gunner)

    WC-MG15.jpg
    Despite such highly-modular weapons, it was determined --then as now-- that while the feature was 'nice,' it was hardly the most important aspect of operation (not that we'd ever learn, of course)

    TCB
     
  2. danez71

    danez71 Member

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    I 'think' Stoner absolutely intended for the modularity to be a key design concept.

    No one can predict how successful it would be but the hints are there that he recognized that the modularity opened up the chances for it to be a 'home run' for his employer.


    And that is, IMO, an important piece to realize. JMB was a free lancer sort-to-speak and was contracted to design a gun for a company.

    Where-as Stoner was an employee and, if a good employee, was looking out for the best interest of the company. And he did an excellent job at it.

    JMB was looking out for himself and kept as many tricks in his own bag rather than the bag of an employer. And he did an excellent job at it.
     
  3. MachIVshooter
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    MachIVshooter Contributing Member

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    I'd say it's a pretty high priority now. MOLLE, HAMR, MODCOM, NAVMACS, MICNS and probably dozens of other acronyms I don't know for military stuff that include an "M" for modular.

    A reconfigurable GPMG/MMG doesn't a modular weapon system make, though. Despite those attributes (considerable for it's day), it was nowhere near what the AR platform is; anything from a rimfire plinker to a select fire assault rifle to a belt fed LMG, as well as a DMR and even heavy caliber precision weapon in .50 BMG, (although the military has never had interest in that more recent development).

    The CETME pattern is arguably highly modular, but that differs from the AR in that the only common parts between the various guns based on the CETME/G3 is the stock and fire control group with grip. Other than registered auto sears, I've never heard of anybody swapping different barreled receivers onto their fire control group and stock. Likewise for the FAL. Those guns were designed in the same era as the AR, and though they share the easy breakdown concept, they simply do not have the modularity.
     
  4. Ash

    Ash Member

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    barnbwt, you missed later in my post where I clarified "Browning's designs were the best in a number of fields." Of course he didn't make the best every time, the mere number of bests in his repertoire show he was great.

    MachIV, what, was Gene your uncle? Did he rock you to bed at night? It has been maintained that Stoner was better than Browning. Shall I not refute that with evidence? Does the fact that Stoner didn't even invent the AR-15 cause so much gnashing of teeth? I don't hate the guy. He was a talented designer. The AR-10 was an interesting design that failed in competition with the FAL and other rifles. But he was not in the same league as Browning.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2015
  5. mavracer

    mavracer Member

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    If all the parts are mil spec I can assemble a 1911 without tools, and two halves lol.
    1886, 1890, 1892, 1894, 1895, 1897, M12 and the Browning 22 semi auto are all available as take down models.
    Is Gene Stoner related to you or something?
     
  6. MachIVshooter
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    MachIVshooter Contributing Member

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    No, and I don't hold him on a higher pedestal than is deserved. I didn't say he was better than Browning. I only said imagine what he might have come up with if it hadn't already been developed.

    I hold Browning in very high regard, as I do Pedersen and many others. Doesn't take away from what Stoner did. And he was certainly responsible for more than one design. And to say:

    Could be applied equally to the Hi Power, which was an evolution of the 1911 that never saw military adoption in the US, but was adopted by other nations. Likewise, the AR-10 was a failure in the US, but was adopted by other countries (also true of Stoner's later AR-18).

    As far as the AR-15 being a modification of the AR-10, the only change other than scaling it down was relocating the charging handle from inside the carry handle to the rear of the upper.

    AR is still easier/faster to break down, save for the Browning 22 auto/Remington 24 & 241. And of those, only the 1911 could really have "uppers" in other chamberings swapped onto it. But then, so could the Luger.....

    Bit late to the party on that pejorative suggestion.
     
  7. Nom de Forum

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  8. MachIVshooter
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    MachIVshooter Contributing Member

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    Own an FAL, well aware of it. But the upper is also a more substantial part on the FAL, much like the CETME/G3. And though it didn't apply at the time of their development, the upper being legally the gun makes it a whole lot less modular for the American citizen from a pragmatic standpoint, especially where NFA is concerned.

    FTR, I also regard the FAL as a truly ingenious design, feel it is a vastly superior weapon to the M14 that it lost out to in our trials. I have long maintained that, for me, deciding between the FAL and .308 AR is like deciding which of your children is your favorite. Each has their fantastic attributes and their detractors, but all things considered, it's truly a tie.
     
  9. Nom de Forum

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    I agree the FAL was a better choice. I do disagree that the FAL is the equal of the .308 AR. My reason for disagreement has something to do with how much easier an AR is to operate, maintain, accurize, and something else I can't remember. Oh ya, that something else is easier modularity. Imagine that!:D
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2015
  10. lysanderxiii

    lysanderxiii Member

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    The Stoner 63 (and its 7.62 mm predecessor, the Stoner 62) were designed by Stoner after he left Armalite and went to work for Cadillac Gage.

    Fremont and Sullivan were still at Armalite at the time the Stoner 62 was envisioned and later came to work with Stoner after he sold Cadillac Gage on the idea to finalize the product....
     
  11. lysanderxiii

    lysanderxiii Member

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    That has to do with training more than anything.

    I think an M14 is easier to "operate, maintain and employ" than an M16, but I have more rounds through an M14 than an M16....

    (Even after being issued an M16 for years in the Army.)
     
  12. Nom de Forum

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    I think you are in error.

    "Interestingly, each of these was the source of an important 5.56mm "spinoff" wherein the original was scaled down by other engineers, generally with only a modicum of involvement by Stoner himself"

    "Finally the Stoner 62, which utilized lessons learned in all Stoner's earlier designs, was "projectized" by the Cadillac Gage Co. of Warrend, Michigan, and redesigned by the erstwhile ArmaLite engineering team of L. James Sullivan and Robert Fremont into the 5.56mm Stoner 63 and 63A systems, expressly for the Marine Corps."

    Page 164 of Chapter 11 of The Black Rifle by R. Blake Stevens and Edward Ezell
     
  13. Nom de Forum

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    Really? I used to remove and install barrels on M14s when I was a National Match Armorer. Unlike the AR15/M16, that I have literally removed and installed a barrel using only a hammer and punch to pop a pin and loosen the nut; everything, not just barrels, on the M14 is a PITA to maintain compared to the AR15/M16. Then there is the difference between the "sniper" versions of the M14 and AR10 near clones. Again the M14s are a PITA.
     
  14. barnbwt

    barnbwt member

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    "everything, not just barrels, on the M14 is a PITA to maintain compared to the AR15/M16."
    Yeah, Ima have to agree on that, too, having done all assembly but the barrel-torqueing on my BM59. Part of the issue is exactly what people consider 'maintenance' to be, though. If you're just assembling parts, an AK is much harder than an AR to complete. If machining the parts on a Bridgeport (or Soviet equivalent) the AR still wins*. If your only tools are a hammer, files, and a stick-welder, the AK is king if you have a parts kit. If clearing a sticky jam or wiping some grit/junk out, an open-top design like the M14 wins (though a VZ58 is far, far better still), but if service goes beyond a basic field strip you need tools and facilities to keep from losing or breaking stuff.

    Apart from gun-building or customization, I think it's an issue that really isn't all that important for good designs, which Garand actions, AKs, ARs, VZs, and many others certainly are. Most designs have been good enough that such service is very rarely required for quite some time, now. Some are certainly easier than others, though, and you'd be hard pressed to find any better than the *modern* AR15-pattern.

    TCB

    *Having finally gotten around to building an M76 of my own, and inspecting the parts closely at much length, there is no way on Earth an AK is easier or cheaper to build from bar stock or castings than an AR. There is simply more machine work involved, and much of it with annoying special tooling. The AR requires better materials and more modern processes like wire EDM and aluminum smelting, but beyond that it is more efficient in every way.
     
  15. barnbwt

    barnbwt member

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    "I agree the FAL was a better choice. I do disagree that the FAL is the equal of the .308 AR. My reason for disagreement has something to do with how much easier an AR is to operate, maintain, and something else I can't remember. Oh ya, that something else is easier modularity. Imagine that!"

    Modularity sure is cool for customizing your rifle, right? But how often is this really a consideration for anyone besides a soft, decadent, capitalist American gun owner? :D I'm only joking a very small amount, here. Stuff like rails that allows for swappable accessories is hardly unique to the AR, so I'm talking swaps of uppers, barrels, and stocks, on the fly. I've just never heard of it happening with any frequency.

    I have to assume it's because doing so would invariably end up with broken or lost parts at best, and poorly-configured or non-functional weapons at worst. Are M4s issued with spare stocks or uppers for the day's work? Or are they set up ahead of time, according to instructions generated months or years prior? Like I said, modularity is 'nice to have,' since it does truly give you options should you choose to use them, but in reality the 'stock' configuration the gun comes in is likely to be far more important, and indicative of the platform's overall suitability.

    Modularity is most assuredly excellent for marketing, however. The XM8/G36 project/debacle was based almost entirely on modularity to the detriment of the weapon's overall integrity (and I'm not talking about melting polymers; they're removable rail and optics suites were twice-baked garbage). Ironically, this chameleon-rifle project ended up not only less modular than the G3-series it replaced, but was also lower quality, and at the end of the day, probably more expensive than just continuing production of the legacy platform for another few decades. Modularity is the fishing-lure glitter of weapons technology ;)

    TCB
     
  16. Nom de Forum

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    barnbwt,

    I agree with you about the relative utility of modularity. It was only after I read your post that I realized I left out the word "accurize" in my list of AR attributes. I have never seen a FAL made to shoot as accurately as an AR.
     
  17. MachIVshooter
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    MachIVshooter Contributing Member

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    Gotta respectfully disagree there.
     
  18. Justin

    Justin Moderator Emeritus

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    From the standpoint of a civilian gun owner, it makes a lot of sense. Want to build a rifle for Service Rifle matches? Spec out the parts, order them, and assemble it.

    3 Gun? Same thing.

    Home defense? Spec out the parts and order away.

    Rimfire rifle for plinking or steel challenge? There are about a half-dozen companies that all make rimfire uppers.

    Due to relatively liberal (at least compared to the rest of the world) US gun laws, it's not a big deal for an American citizen to configure and buy a new rifle for whatever purpose he wishes, so the notion of multiple uppers isn't a huge plus, but the ability to configure a custom rifle right down to the material of the roll pins is kind of a big deal, especially for people who are looking for something highly specific.
     
  19. Justin

    Justin Moderator Emeritus

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    I'd like to think I coined the term, but I'm not sure I'm that awesome.
     
  20. Justin

    Justin Moderator Emeritus

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    While not as prolific as JMB, Stoner designed more than just the AR-pattern rifles.

    Uh, no, it's actually pretty much one of the main points of discussion, and therefore highly cromulent.

    No one's really debating the efficacy of Browning's designs.

    Denigrating the AR because it's not the perfect hunting/precision competition/practical competition/home defense/cop/military/plinking rifle all at the same time and in the same configuration, strikes me as deliberately setting an impossible goal given the diversity of the applications.

    That's like being upset that you can't have one car that is perfect for off-roading, but does 0-60mph in under 4 seconds, works as a fuel-efficient grocery-getter, and allows you to haul a half-ton of lumber.

    Which hits the crux of my original post. JMB designed a lot of really excellent, ground-breaking firearms that were optimized for a particular application. On the other hand, Stoner's design is basically one setup that can be configured to fill a wild array of applications, and do it extremely well. It's also interesting that for a discussion in the rifle forum, JMB's designs for handguns, shotguns, and heavy machineguns keep getting brought up. :)

    It's my understanding, though possibly apocryphal, that Stoner was paid a royalty on every rifle sold to the military. Clearly someone thought his contributions were worthwhile and financially justifiable.

    Anywhere people use manually operated rifles, they're invariably bolt action, unless the shooter is using a specific lever-action friendly cartridge like .45-70, or they've chosen the firearm as a personal affectation*.

    I've not seen a lever gun that does anything that can't be done by a bolt, with the possible exception of shooting big-bore rounds or for (obviously) Cowboy Action competition.

    *Not that there's anything wrong with that.
     
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  21. Justin

    Justin Moderator Emeritus

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    FWIW, I do consider it a happy accident that the AR lower seems well-suited for being squirted out a of a 3D printer. I doubt anyone in Stoner's day could have even imagined such a thing.
     
  22. MachIVshooter
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    MachIVshooter Contributing Member

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    Stereolithography would have been a pretty abstruse concept in the 1950s, but not inconceivable. The technology to make it a reality just took another 30 years.

    Remember, today's science fiction is tomorrow's science.
     
  23. Justin

    Justin Moderator Emeritus

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    Oh, no doubt, but they'd probably have a hard time wrapping their head around the idea that anyone could order such a device and, with a bit of learning and elbow grease, have one in their garage.

    It's the mechanical equivalent of telling the Bletchley Park crew that in the future everyone would not only have a computer millions of times more powerful than what they had, but that we'd all carry them around in our pockets and use them to share cat memes.
     
  24. MachIVshooter
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    MachIVshooter Contributing Member

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    Probably. I'm just cautious about assuming that all the commonplace technologies we enjoy today were incogitable to the very people who developed things like the semiconductor transistor that make it all possible. It's purely speculative, of course, but I believe they had the foresight to imagine the possibilities their developments held in the future.

    There just always seem to be those with some degree of precognition, the DaVinci's of any given era. That's why I'm not dismissive of people like Ray Kurzweil, even if the things they hypothesize seem a little out there with our contemporary understanding of reality and the sciences.

    Once you explained what a cat meme is, yeah, they'd probably consider such trivial use of advanced technology unthinkably blasphemous.
     
  25. Ash

    Ash Member

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    "Denigrating the AR because it's not the perfect hunting/precision competition/practical competition/home defense/cop/military/plinking rifle all at the same time and in the same configuration, strikes me as deliberately setting an impossible goal given the diversity of the applications.

    That's like being upset that you can't have one car that is perfect for off-roading, but does 0-60mph in under 4 seconds, works as a fuel-efficient grocery-getter, and allows you to haul a half-ton of lumber."

    But, that's my point. Since the AR cannot do all things at once, it isn't as magical as it might appear. It must be configured to a particular need with parts that are largely specific to that need. The whole two-pin replacement argument isn't really true. You cannot, with a punch of two pins, replace a barrel. It takes more than that. And nobody would when they could replace the entire upper. You want to change the stock, you can't just knock out two pins then, either.

    In reality, all we have is a lower that can be attached to any number of uppers that can fulfill any number of missions. It can also have a stock changed to suit the user, but that is hardly any different than what can be done on any rifle from AK to FAL.

    So, is Stoner a genius for the way he made his lower so that it can be quickly attached to any number of uppers? His own stock and handguard and upper designs were not modular in themselves, those modifications came latter (as did other modifications as the shell deflector as well as the forward assist) so the focus really just is the lower.

    And oddly enough, that focus is ironically due as much to the ATF's designation as to what is the gun on the AR as anything else. Had the upper receiver been classified the actual gun, modularity becomes more moot as ease of one gun doing all things is the illusion given by the fact that the lower is the gun. Similar levels of effort on the FAL might have produced virtually the same levels of modularity as the AR (one screw and the lower and upper are apart on the FAL, and that screw can be turned by coin or case rim).

    As to modularity in the field, that is also not as great as it seems. The only truly universal part (the one that requires the two pins) is the lower. That means you must keep on inventory complete uppers for that rapid change, otherwise it becomes an armorer's job (even if it isn't a hard job that a talented soldier could do in a warehouse just as well). The real value lies in the procurement and supply process, not in the field. As such, the Stoner did more for accountants and quartermaster than Browning.

    So, you have a universal gun that can be configured to do anything. But in looking at it that way, you are limiting the total number of rifles capable of being fielded in theater by one of the cheapest parts - the lower. Without an equal number of lowers for uppers, you have fewer rifles, carbines, magic carpets on location. In other words, less guns because you are skimping on lowers for the sake of modularity.

    In theater, it makes more sense to have an equal number of lowers to uppers in order to maintain the maximum number of arms. In that condition, having specific arms to do specific jobs becomes far less the mill weight than it seems (and modularity far less the panacea than it seems).

    But in theater, the AR is hardly capable of all things. You still need a general purpose machine gun. You still need a heavy machine gun. You still need a side arm. The modular AR cannot fill those roles.

    To the sport shooter, having one gun that can be modded in many different ways might seem nice - but you are still limited to the kinds of ammo you carry. Yeah, single shot bolt-action uppers in rounds that won't fit the lower are possible (and exist), but their costs are more than comparable bolt action rifles. Why bother then? Modularity is less useful in that case. So, you have to have lower/upper combinations that fit with relatively narrow ammo choices if you want a repeater. You generally cannot have an AR that does .308 and .223, for instance.

    And, since the upper is the expensive part, you don't save much with changing out uppers to keep the cheaper lower rather than owning separate arms for separate jobs.

    Rarely to you actually encounter an AR guy who has just one lower and $2,000 worth of uppers. Even AR guys are content to specialize their arms (even while leaving the door open for alterations).

    One AR might be all a man might need to own, but owning a hunting rifle, a shotgun, a side arm, and a .223 varmint gun could actually be cheaper (and you would have more firearms without all the tinkering) than you could have with a single AR with dedicated uppers.

    There is no evidence that Stoner in his AR-10 envisioned what the AR-15 became (and much of the modularity has actually occurred since his death). However, it is pretty clear that Browning envisioned the end results of much of his designs - they operated exactly as he designed them to. So, since modularity of the AR seems to be the example of Stoner's genius (and I think it was good fortune since the AR-10 as introduced was barely modular with its fixed carry handle and the location of the charging handle - modular modifications to his design were not his, but I'll grant the point for the sake of the argument), compared with the sheer volume of truly effective and ground breaking designs from Browning, there is no way Stoner can be considered the better of the two.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2015
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