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Was JMB bad for gun diversity?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Jim K, Apr 9, 2003.

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  1. Jim K

    Jim K Member

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    There is no question in my mind that John M. Browning was a gun genius. He invented most of the basic handgun systems in use today, and patented many ideas that never saw development or production. (I am not in ignorance of his rifle and shotgun designs, just staying on topic.)

    But was this good overall for the gun industry and shooters? By patenting every feature of his designs and patenting ideas he probably never intended to use (like the rotating barrel), he forced competitors to adopt convoluted and unsuccessful designs to work around his ideas. Since his patents covered almost every basic system that had not yet been used by others and some that had been, the competition was unable to come up with viable designs and the U.S. auto pistol market by the end of WWII had one maker, Colt, and one designer, Browning.

    Even major American gun companies and competent designers had not been able to work around Browning's patents and compete successfully with Colt. All eventually threw in the towel.

    That situation could have improved with the expiration of those patents, but by that time, Browning's ideas and patents had stifled the American pistol design field.

    While Browning certainly became rich, and his designs have stood the test of time, would it have been better if there had been real competition in the pistol field? Did Browning set the American gun industry back three decades compared with the rest of the world? Was this good or bad? Is a monopoly good, even if its product is good?

    Let's see what the board says.

    Jim
     
  2. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

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    Paging Mr. Handy. Mr. Handy to the autopistols forum, please.


    I'll go pop some popcorn. :cool:
     
  3. DeltaElite

    DeltaElite Member

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    LOL at Tamara.
    I'll bring the soda, the "Handy Show" is about to begin. :D


    I will answer no.
    JMB made great guns.
    I think Smith and Wesson has done more damage to auto pistol development than anyone has. :neener:
     
  4. Andrew Wyatt

    Andrew Wyatt Member

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    I'm still trying to find a pistol that is an "advance" on the basic 1911 design.


    none of the other autopistols out there are as good, IMHO. YMMV, of course.


    I'm not sure if browning hurt pistol development or not, but i'd give up rotating barrel .376 rimless stevens autopistols and remington 43 caliber gas delayed blowback guns if it meant my 1911 would exist.
     
  5. boing

    boing Member

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    Left to their own devices, how long would it have taken the rest of the gun design world to get us where JMB got us in a few decades?
     
  6. Boats

    Boats member

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    Patents as showstoppers are way overrated. There have been many examples of easily survived patent infringment cases.

    An example that echoes early auto pistol development in America is the patent lawsuit between Curtiss and the Wright Bros. concerning the control surfaces of aircraft.

    Curtiss clearly invented almost all of the concepts that became the modern moveable control surfaces found on most aircraft. The Wrights actually relied on deforming the trailing edge of the wing itself to steer for instance. IIRC, Curtiss lost a very lengthy patent lawsuit because his conception of the elevator was too close to the Wright design. However, Curtiss had the last laugh so to speak as he was a more prolific designer and a much better businessman. His company acquired Wrights' in the 20s. A patent lawsuit didn't stop Glen Curtiss at all, no more than a patent lawsuit stopped S&W from making the Sigma. Had it not been for their dalliance with the Klintonistas, S&W would be doing just fine even for having ripped off Glock's patents.

    JMB designed one of the best pistols on earth and patented it through Colt. JMB was even constrained somewhat by these patents when he helped begin the design of the next great autoloader, the BHP. However, it can hardly be said that the Colt/Browning patents arrested auto pistol development any more than the Wright Bros.' patents stopped aviation progress. Patents are finite. Patents are circumventable. Patents are difficult to defend worldwide. There were plenty of competitors to the Colt/Browning designs even when the 1911 was adopted. Savage had made an autoloader. Georg Luger had been commissioned to provide two of his pistols chambered around .45ACP. There were Steyrs, Mausers and other lesser known European designs.

    The fact that has to be faced is that in the period JMB dominated design-wise, there wasn't another pistol designer of any great note other than Mr. Luger, who proved to be a one trick pony, though it was a great trick. Hmmm just like a more recent Germanic one trick pony?:neener:

    I also agree with DeltaElite's TIC observation that S&W, not yet even into the apogee of double action revolvers, did more to suppress the development of auto-pistols than anything JMB patented. S&W was a very aggressive and nimble concern and wheelguns could be produced way faster at lesser cost than any newfangled autoloaders. Colt itself had to be a pretty good player in the wheelgun arena to survive most of last century. One in fact can look at one mishap with an autopistol maiming an evaluating officer in England for the reason that the Webley hung on for so long in the British Army. Back in the day, no one ever got fired for recommending a wheelgun for adoption.

    Back to JMB. Almost every pistol today is a modified Browning lock-up for a simple reason, it is the most elegant engineering solution yet devised to address the problem it tackles. The alternatives that work are all out there, locking block, gas piston, delayed blowback, rotating barrel, etc., and have proven inferior. This is not to mention that all of his patents long ago expired. What innovations were delayed or killed in the crib by JMB?
     
  7. Handy

    Handy Guest

    What Jim asked for, he's not going to get. No one here is prepared to get into a discussion on the state of domestic firearms development in relation to patent law in the period before anyone here was born. Jim's basic notion is reasonable, but there is no way to get a better answer than "maybe?" to his specific question.



    As to the technical reason that Browning tilt barrels are still around, I'd like to hear someone defend this system. I've played it the other way around, but telling someone about a system they've never actually seen doesn't seem to work.

    If you choose to defend the system on it's merits, I would caution you to not choose popularity as a positive attribute. If you do, you will also be obligated to defend McDonalds as the best cuisine and Rap as the finest art form. Popular sentiment is not a criteria anyone should brag about.

    So, specifically, why is the Browning system "the most elegant engineering solution yet devised"? Please site reasons that control round feeding, barrels moving in multiple planes or rigid extractors would make for a better gun. Please also touch on the reason that this system (in contrast to all other systems) does not apply to long arms.



    On a final note, the most popular military and civilian combat pistols adopted worldwide seem to be all based on Walther designs. But like I said, popularity is a fool's guide.
     
  8. Croyance

    Croyance Member

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    I don't think so many companies build 1911's because of JMB's patents.
    The SIG 210 doesn't use a modified Browning lock-up to avoid patent infringement.
    Rotating barrel handguns exist, and don't seem to have any real advantage.
    Patents can force some to be creative to find work arounds, which would increase diversity. People ultimately stick to what works in a cost-effective manner.
     
  9. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

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    Well, that one's easy at least. It's because it's a very compact way of controlling and harnessing centerfire recoil in a short-barrelled weapon from which MOA accuracy at 100 yards is neither needed nor really possible. Can you imagine a tilting rifle barrel? The muzzle end would oscillate two feet. It'd be as awkward and unwieldy as, say, a gas-operated pistol.

    Other than gas operation on a pistol, there's delayed blowback, and a few various other straight-line recoil-type systems. Gas delayed blowback is useful, to a point (note the awkward work-arounds on the P7M7 and M10 and the extended teething period for NGC's "gas gun"), mechanically-delayed blowback systems actually add to the gun's parts count, locked-breech systems shoot cleaner (since by the time the breech opens, the pressure in the barrel has dropped) and without anything other than the most elementary quality control, the gun can be made far more accurate than the shooter.

    Yeah, it's fun to hand somebody a, say, P7 and watch how amazed they are by how accurately they shoot with it, but you know something? That accuracy has pretty much nothing to do with the fixed barrel. The accuracy difference between a P7 and a good production modified-Browning pistol like a SIG is usually measured in fractions of an inch @ 25 yards from a ransom rest; most of what makes the P7 or P9 shoot so well for first time shooters is ergonomics and decent sights and good triggers. Incidentally this is something you will also notice from a lot of first-time 1911 shooters; the look on the face of someone who has spent a couple of years of middling-indifferent plinking with a G17 or 92FS the first time they get, say, a Kimber in their hands and shoot an honest-to-god group is heart-warming (I'm sure you've seen much the same on folks you let shoot your P9 :) ). A non-Browning gun simply trades one set of drawbacks for others; the Luger, f'rinstance, has an OAL longer than a P-226 with a barrel really no longer than that of a P-225.
     
  10. Boats

    Boats member

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    Well gee Handy, a lot of engineers more credentialed than you or me will ever be have had ample opportunity to use something else besides the short recoil modified Browning lock-up and haven't. There are exceptions of course, but they are relatively rare precisely because they don't add enough value to the end user in terms of simplicity, reliability, accuracy or cost effectiveness to become the better mousetrap. Even the purveyors of arguably the pinnacle of gas-piston delayed blowback--HK--make the majority of their pistols using the modified Browning lock-up. I, for one, find it interesting that HK could never seemingly make the P7 either cost within the purchasing range of mere mortals, nor could they scale it with any popularity, the M10 dying on the vine and a 10mm or .45ACP P7 never coming into existence as consumer products.

    It is odd that you use McDonald's as an example. McDonalds is not the best restaurant because it is ubiquitous, it is only best within its niche because it seems to address most consumer needs in the best, most rapid, and cost-effective fashion. Where the McDonalds comparison leaves the tracks is that McDonalds has a universe of non-hamburger oriented fast food competitors that many people, including myself, prefer. Hardly anyone making a non-modified Browning lock-up pistol can make a similar claim to anything but cult status. Arguably, the most successful non-Browning locking concept on the market today is the Beretta 92, which uses a modified Walther oscillating block lock-up. This series of pistols sells in the hundreds of thousands worldwide either directly or through license. Apparently, there isn't another autopistol out there that approaches even the Beretta's modest popularity as an alternative lock-up style. Pistol lockups of most every type are not the most elegant solution on a long gun, so I won't follow you into that blind alley.

    The lack of alternative pistol lock-up systems must be because people are tasteless right?:D After all, it can be conclusively said that the pivoting extractor, not the 1911s fixed spring steel design is the industry standard. The ejector has been pretty similar no matter who first designed it. There are many striker fired examples as popular with shooters as hammer fired pistols. The stirrup trigger, despite some obvious advantages that still give 1911s a shootability edge to many people, has never been used on any DA capable autopistol I am aware of. AFAIK, JMB never designed a DA/SA or DAO autopistol of any note. The world has never seen anything like the plunger tube again. I just happen to think that the contention that "In the past JMB killed my uberpistol in its infancy!" is just a tad overstated, as it is clearly the case that his designs have dominated only a select few areas of autopistol design and not others.
     
  11. Handy

    Handy Guest

    I asked for a defense of the Browning system, instead you two talk about P7s. What's up with that?

    And the Beretta is a "cult gun"? It's the single most popular locked breech mass issued pistol in the world! That's like calling a Kalishnikov a footnote.


    We're all smart enough here to be able to relate engineering concepts. Browning did his work without an engineering degree, all you have to do is explain it.



    In terms of the rifle question Boats, it ain't a blind alley. Rotating barrel recoil is used in the well thought of Steyr SPP. Mechanically delayed blowback is found in some of the world's most popular battle rifles and subguns. Oscillating block designs have proved to be some of the most durable heavy machineguns and seen use in some rifles. Gas delay was invented for high pressure rifles. Roller locked recoil, like the CZ-52, comes from the excellent MG-42/MG3. There isn't a pistol system (with the tilt barrel exception) that isn't in use somewhere else.

    And Tamara, subgun barrels are short enough to take "advantage" of the tilting barrel concept. But they don't.


    So, again, can someone defend the Browning system on it's individual design merits?
     
  12. buzz_knox

    buzz_knox Member

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    I don't believe JMB's patents are still valid.
     
  13. Nightcrawler

    Nightcrawler Member

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    I don't know what your apparent bug against John Browning's design is, and I'm not a mechanical engineer.

    However, do other systems offer any advantage over the Browning system? If not, then that's why most companies copy it. It's easier and more cost effective for them to copy an already proven design than it is to come up with a new one all on their own.

    Beretta may seem like an exception, but they're not. Beretta has been around for a LONG time, and the lockup system used in the M92 has been developed and produced by them for years. When they introduced the M92, they weren't plunging into unknown waters. They had experience with their design and the technology had matured.

    Why should a new handgun company bother to invent a completely new lockup design when the Browning design is proven, is doable, and can be translated into guns of all different sizes? Why should they take that risk? Not to mention going through all of the trouble of making a new design, testing it, and then producing it. To top it off, the Browning lockup is about as simple as breech locked guns can get, if I'm not mistaken. Many other things translate into being more complicated and more expensive to produce, especially for small startup companies.

    But there are plenty of non Browning-breech-locked designs. Most of them are straight blowbacks. Remember, a large portion of the world had the Makarov as its sidearm for many years, and still does. I daresay that more Makarovs have been produced than Beretta 92s by a long shot, just going from what I know about typical Soviet production numbers.

    But you specified breech locked for some reason, so I guess that doesn't count.

    Companies produce Browning breech locked handguns today because that's what the consumers want. It's what SELLS. It's what turns gun companies a PROFIT. Maybe we should all be more enlightened and buy an HK P7, but that's just the way it is.

    What I want to know is what difference does it make? What we have does the job we want it to do pretty well. Exactly what is it you want handguns to do that existing designs can't, Handy?

    Cheygriz once said:

    I'll not get into the obvious barriers to a Beretta .25 frame with the "stopping power" of a .30-06 (hint; you'd be picking the front sight post out of your forehead, thanks to dumb ol' Isaac Newton and his laws of physics), but what exactly is it you think handguns should be able to accomplish that they can't? There's no point in lamenting the lack of innovation if you don't have any ideas either.
     
  14. Boats

    Boats member

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    Well silly me, I thought I had defended it. Simple. Reliable. Relatively maintenance free. Rugged. Suitable to the short recoil principle, but there are better choices for long guns. Talking about tilt locking rifles is a waste of time because taking the concept outside of the realm of ultra space efficiency and relatively low pressures common to handgun design is a fool's errand. What is your problem?

    My pointed exception to this was the Beretta 92. However, the worldwide sales of pistols using some sort of Browning lock-up far outstrip the infamous Beretta, which as I have said in other venues in the past, I actually like. Everything else is definitely below the radar as an alternative.

    Despite your strawman, the popularity of the Browning lock-up is ipso facto evidence that it is a superior solution for autopistol lock-up on many fronts. There are no significant patents protecting gas delayed blowback, rotating barrels, or oscillating block lock-ups. What is the industry missing that you are not?
     
  15. Handy

    Handy Guest

    Well, more personal responses. Great.


    All I asked for was a simple discussion of how a Browning works, and why you think that method of operation is elegant and superior to any other. While my opinions from other threads are well known, that wasn't the question at all.

    Let's put this another way. Say Browning was born in 1978. The world has been putting up with oscillating block, Roth-Steyr rotating barrels and delayed blowback for most of the century. Why would the industry and consumers switch to Brownings new design?


    And for the record, the Browning method is no simpler in parts or construction to either of the recoil or delayed blowback systems that use rotating barrels.
     
  16. Handy

    Handy Guest

    Nightcrawler, I sent you a PM.


    Boats,

    As worldwide sales of cowboy pistols are up, does that indicate that those are superior handguns as well? I think you'll find that oscillating block handguns in military and police use (P-38, 951, 92) are much closer in numbers to Browning designs. If you throw in commercial sales, you might as well factor in the influence of blackpowder.

    If we take for granted that military and police buy weapons based on practical, rather than emotional reasoning, why isn't the superior system truly dominating?
     
  17. Nightcrawler

    Nightcrawler Member

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    Both the tilt-lock and the fixed barrel designs are two routes to the same end. I still havne't been convinced that one offers a significant advantage over the other.

    I don't see what the fuss is about. If handy is right then there are plenty of fixed barrels out there, and there are certainly plenty of Browning clones. Why does one have to be better than the other? Why can't we be happy with both?

    As for stifling "innovation", there is NOTHING innovative about a fixed barrel handgun, as they've been doing it for decades. Yeah, I supposed it'd be neat if there were more roller-locking-recoil-operated handguns, ala the CZ-52, but I don't consider it any great problem that there aren't.
     
  18. Andrew Wyatt

    Andrew Wyatt Member

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    the tilting barrel design doesn't take up much space, it's simple to maintain and can be scaled to guns of all different sizes.

    the 1911 is more than just a tilting barrel.


    it happens to fit most people better than a double stack anything, has a reasonable control scheme and realtively easy to dissassemble.
     
  19. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

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    Handy,

    They don't need to, and it wouldn't offer any real merits for a subgun, either. A subgun is expected to offer shoulder-stock mounted, aimed fire out to 100+ yards on occasion. A pistol isn't. A subgun has room for a big heavy breechblock to make use of straight-blowback operation. A pistol doesn't. Even if you did use the system on a >6" subgun bbl, where would you mount the sights (while leaving the barrel room to tilt?).

    It's not worth it to do so to someone who is absolutely convinced that there aren't any, but what the heck, I'm feeling quixotic today.

    1) It is compact. (Smallest 9mm? Browning tilting barrel locked breech. Smallest .32? Browning tilting barrel locked breech. You could probably make a .25 or .22 with this system that is too small for an adult human hand to operate.)
    2) It uses a minimum of parts (no separate gas pistons, no separate rollers, no separate much of anything).
    3) It is easy and inexpensive to produce to a completely adequate degree of accuracy.
    4) No other pistol operating system in major centerfire calibers offers enough advantages to outweigh the disadvantages (unless you consider "novelty" a major advantage. If it was, the Victor Mousetrap Corporation would have gone tango uniform decades ago).


    Look, Handy, I'm a science fiction buff, okay? I am all about cool and futuristic and cutting edge. I own a Mateba and a P7 and an HK91 and an all-alloy .223 FAL and a Pepperbox and a Nagant gas-seal revolver and all manner of other unusual firearms. I like novelty. When lasers hit the market, you'd better cool believe I will run you over to get to the head of the line. However, comma, in the last four years I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that new does not necessarily equal improved and different doesn't necessarily equal better.

    I also talked about Lugers and (indirectly) Desert Eagles and Wildeys, CZ-52's and P9's. What's up with that? Well, when you're defending the virtues of A, versus available alternatives B, C, D and E, it's kinda hard to do so without a little bit of "compare and contrast".
    "Why is A used so much?"
    "Because B, C and et cetera have the following weaknesses which A does not share."

    Total numbers, maybe. (The US and Brazilian militaries skew things a bit) I'd bet the GP35 and its derivatives are used by one or two or twenty more countries. ;)

    Look, there are plenty of viable alternatives out there, most of which work fine. They just run into the TANSTAAFL principle; they don't offer enough benefits to outweigh the Browning's two major benefits: A) Compactness/light weight, and B)Simplicity/ease & cheapness of manufacture. If you can make a modified-Browning service pistol that shoots to within 1/2" of a fixed bbl gun @ 25 yards, yet is lighter, cheaper, and more compact, why go with the fixed barrel? Do you think the Austrian military picked the Glock over the GB due to their long-standing love affair with the 1911? ;)

    I think a P7 offers enough of a benefit to me, personally (because I consider "novelty" a benefit) to make it worth the premium over another Glock or SIG, but if I was responsible for buying 10,000 of them for a bunch of barely-trained troops or po-po's, I sure wouldn't.
     
  20. Boats

    Boats member

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    Handy, I am not trying to be obtuse here, but if anything, the Browning tilt locking system in autopistols is not in need of any defense here, rather the case needs to be made why something allegedly superior hasn't replaced it.

    When I examine my own process of buying pistols over the years, I didn't give a second thought to the age of the design, the novelty of the lockwork, or other esoterica. Question one is, "Does it work?" Everything else are details of preference. I liked my many Beretta 92 series pistols I had over the years, but I gravitated away from the 9mm. I liked the rotating barrel Beretta 8045 I had--it works--but I wanted something easier to conceal. I wouldn't mind having a P7M13, but something easier to acquire always comes up and I am now on the verge of going completely anachronistic by getting into double action revolvers.:cool:

    I readily admit the obvious-- that the linked barrel 1911 isn't as advanced a design as the modified Browning lock-up or a handful of more recent "innovations," but it works, and transparently so. Therefore, I could care less how some other pistols might accomplish lock up. Given that I have had two other lock-ups outside of the mainstream I readily wish someone might build a reliable gas operated delayed blowback big bore that didn't fry one's paws. The speed, reduced recoil, and CDI factor of gas guns are undeniable. Now we just need some adventurous company or entrepenuer to bring a faultless one into existence. No patents are stopping them anymore.
     
  21. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

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    Boats,

    Send your 1911 and $1000 to NCG for their "ultimate" package (which has the cutout atop the slide to expose a fixed, non-reciprocating barrel rib for sight mounting) and they will make you a happy man. :)
     
  22. Destructo6

    Destructo6 Member

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    Wasn't the original question, "Did Browning squelch autopistol diversity?"

    Since Browning did what he did, it's difficult to say one way or another. It's an exercise in futility to hammer out anything solid.

    One scenario I can see is one where a fellow has come up with an action design (trigger design, etc) that was vastly superior to the Browning method. However, since Browning also pattented other mechanisms needed to produce a gun, he may have come up with a vastly inferior work around to those problems. For example, would you buy a gun with the world's best and reliable action that was mated to the world's worst trigger, magazine, etc?

    This is all just guesswork, but it addresses the question for which a good answer would be akin to a phd thesis.

    (edited to appear literate.)
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2003
  23. Boats

    Boats member

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    Shucks Tamara I know all about the NCG option, but I did say things like "reliable" and "faultless," a standard that a well known gas conversion project on 1911forum.com is falling far short of.:D
     
  24. Owen

    Owen Moderator Emeritus

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    Patents don't squelch innovation, they encourage it.

    Patents encourage innovation because they protect your work from exploitation before you have made made money on them. I can guarantee that the modified browning action on todays guns would not have been protected by the patents on the link type dropping barrel system. That first system first appeared around 1900. That means people all around the world had the opportunity to come up with the linkless lock up on the end of the guide rod before the 1930's rolled around, or the S&W lockup (on the takedown lever/slide stop) on the m39 in the 50's.

    I think alot of people have misconceptions about the power of a patent. There are thousands and thousands of patents concerning semi automatic operation, and new ones are still being issued.

    I don't understand how you can argue a person who is innovative is actually stifling innovation.
     
  25. Jim K

    Jim K Member

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    I thought this one would be fun, and it has been.

    Tamara, most sub guns fire from a open bolt so they can use advance primer ignition and don't need as heavy a bolt as they would if the bolt came to a rest before firing. That is why semi-auto versions firing from a closed bolt need a strong spring to snub down the bolt movement.

    Jim
     
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