Johnson M1941 Semi-Automatic Rifle with original spike bayonet and leather sheath. The 10-round rotary magazine could be quickly reloaded using two clips of .30 Caliber M2 Ball ammunition.
Place of origin
World War II
Indonesian National Revolution
Chinese Civil War
Bay of Pigs Invasion
Johnson Automatics, Inc.
~70 000 cost per unit $125
VF-1 (Argentine copy)
9.5 lb (4.31 kg)
45.87 in (1,165 mm)
22 in (560 mm)
7×57mm Mauser (Chilean variant) .270 Winchester
Short-recoil, rotating bolt
2,840 ft/s (866 m/s)
10 round rotary magazine
Adjustable Iron Sigh
Abridged history from Wikipedia: The M1941 Johnson Rifle is an American short-recoil operated semi-automatic rifle designed by Melvin Johnson prior to World War II. The M1941 competed unsuccessfully with the U.S. M1 Rifle.
Senator Morris Sheppard, left, Chairman of the Senate Military Affairs Committee, Maj. Gen. George A. Lynch, U.S. Chief of Infantry, and Senator A.B. Chandler of Kentucky, inspect the M1941 semi-automatic rifle which competed to replace the M1 gas-operated rifle as the Army's standard shoulder weapon.
The M1941 rifle used the energy from recoil to cycle the rifle. As the bullet and propellant gases move down the barrel, they impart force on the bolt head which is locked to the barrel. The barrel, together with the bolt, moves a short distance rearward until the bullet leaves the barrel and pressure in the bore drops to safe levels. The barrel then stops against a shoulder allowing the bolt carrier to continue rearward under the momentum imparted by the initial recoil stage. The rotating bolt, with eight locking lugs, would then unlock from the chamber as cam arrangement rotates and unlocks the bolt to continue the operating cycle. The Johnson rifle utilized a two-piece stock and a unique 10-round rotary magazine, designed to use the same 5-round stripper clips already in use by the M1903 Rifle.
This system had some advantages in comparison to the M1 Garand rifle, such as a greater magazine capacity combined with the ability to recharge the magazine with ammunition (using 5-round clips or individually) at any time, even with the bolt closed on a chambered round. Finally; that the Johnson rifle did not—unlike the M1 Rifle—eject an en bloc clip upon firing the last round in the magazine, was considered an advantage by some soldiers. A widely-held belief among US soldiers in 1952, 27% of soldiers held the opinion that the M1 Garand's distinctive clip ejection sound, the well-known "M1 Ping", presented a danger when fighting an enemy force, as the sound purportedly signaled to the enemy that the solder's M1 Rifle was empty and they could no longer fire in defense. Unfortunately, despite the several advantages the Johnson Rifle design had over the M1 Garand rifle, the existing disadvantages were too great to change US rifle production from the M1 Garand. The Johnson's short recoil reciprocating barrel mechanism resulted in excessive vertical shot dispersion that was never fully cured during its production life, and was prone to malfunction when a bayonet was attached to the reciprocating barrel (short recoil weapons require specific barrel weights to cycle correctly). Additionally, the complex movements of the barrel required for proper operation would be subject to unacceptable stress upon a bayonet thrust into a target. The Johnson also employed a number of small parts that were easily lost during field stripping. Partially because of lack of development, the M1941 was less rugged and reliable than the M1, though this was a matter of personal preference and was not universally opined among those that had used both weapons in combat.
As was Johnson's practice, he gave all of his weapons a "pet" nickname. Johnson christened his semi-automatic rifle Betsy and the Light Machine Gun Emma.
Melvin Johnson continued to develop small arms. He worked with ArmaLite and Colt's Manufacturing Company as an advocate for the AR-15. The AR-15 used a similar bolt design to the M1941 Johnson.
Soldiers of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army in July 1945. The soldier on the right carries a Johnson rifle.Melvin Johnson campaigned heavily for the adoption of the Johnson rifle by the U.S. Army and other service branches. However, after limited testing, the U.S. Army rejected Johnson's rifle in favor of the M1 Garand rifle developed by Springfield Armory.
Despite repeated requests by the Marine Corps to adopt the rifle, the Johnson rifle lacked the support of US Army Ordnance, which had already invested considerable sums in the development of the M1 Garand and its revised gas operating system, then just going into full production. Johnson was successful in selling small quantities of the M1941 Johnson Light Machine Gun to the U.S. armed forces, and this weapon was later used by both Paramarines and the Army's First Special Service Force.
Post WW2 years were not kind to the Johnson organisation. The entity filed for bankruptcy and was liquidated in early 1949.
The Johnson rifle was also used in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion by the anti-Castro Brigade 2506.
Because it was produced in relatively small quantities the Johnson rifle has become a highly sought-after collectible by World War II collectors looking to complete their collections.
My Gun: Refer to the following pix.
Cranston Arms Model 1941 Johnson. Semi-auto 30-06 version developed during WW II — doesn’t look it’s age. Price is $8000 plus $100 shipping and insurance to an FFL. Buy with confidence. This is a nice one that’s been well taken care of. Selling my inventory for retirement money, so not looking for trades. Also have collectible Russian SVD Dragunov bring back from Afghanistan (no import Mark’s) and a Barrett M82a1 “U.S.” marked with the Provenance of being the first 100 Barrett’s issued to the Marines in January 1991 for use in Desert Storm. I’ll list these later unless sold prior. Text me at 614 five three 7 35 three 9 to purchase or if you have any questions. Also available to answer questions by email at 1941 @ eley.us.