Why did Johnson firearms were unsuccessful ?

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von thoma
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Why did Johnson firearms were unsuccessful ?

Post by von thoma » 09 Aug 2020 04:37

Why Johnson M1941 rifle, and M1941 machine gun were so poorly considered in the US forces ?
However, today they are displayed in many military museums with proud...
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paulrward
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Re: Why did Johnson firearms were unsuccessful ?

Post by paulrward » 09 Aug 2020 05:59

Hello All :

Having had a chance to handle and examine a Johnson Rifle up close, my impressions were that is was a finely
made piece, but it was both complex in terms of the number of parts and their methods of manufacture, as
well as being somewhat delicate for the sort of field use that a combat rifle would see.

The intricacy of it's manufacture meant that it was a very expensive rifle to make, much more so than
the Garand M-1, and it had few advantages over the Garand that might cause the U.S. Army to put it into large
scale production when they had a cheaper alternative already being made.

That being said, in the early days of the WW2 in the Pacific, the Army was getting all of the M-1s, and the U.S.
Marines were still equipped with the 1903 Springfield. For this reason, the Marines managed to get an order
placed for some Johnsons, and a number of them ended up at Guadalcanal, and a few even continued to serve
for some of the later island battles.

In fact, it became a point of identification, for if you saw a man with a ' Big Johnson ', you knew he was a
United States Marine.....


Respectfully :

Paul R. Ward
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Ironmachine
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Re: Why did Johnson firearms were unsuccessful ?

Post by Ironmachine » 09 Aug 2020 07:34

von thoma wrote:Why Johnson M1941 rifle, and M1941 machine gun were so poorly considered in the US forces ?
I don't think it was poorly considered, only that the Garand was first and the Johnson was not better.
A quite detailed account of the story of the Johnson rifle (and machine-gun) and its rivalry with the Garand can be found here:
https://www.practicallyshooting.com/m19 ... 1-history/
Last edited by Ironmachine on 09 Aug 2020 07:58, edited 1 time in total.

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Ironmachine
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Re: Why did Johnson firearms were unsuccessful ?

Post by Ironmachine » 09 Aug 2020 07:56

paulrward wrote:In fact, it became a point of identification, for if you saw a man with a ' Big Johnson ', you knew he was a
United States Marine.....
The machine-gun was also used by the Army's 1st Special Service Force.

firstflabn
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Re: Why did Johnson firearms were unsuccessful ?

Post by firstflabn » 09 Aug 2020 14:56

The USMC reported having 24,000 Garands on hand on 1 Dec 41. Their decision to delay equipping their rifle regiments was not a question of supply. The first Garands on Guadalcanal were probably those carried by elements of the 3rd Defense Battalion which landed on 7 Aug 42. So, the misinformation about Garand use started early and lives on.

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Re: Why did Johnson firearms were unsuccessful ?

Post by ROLAND1369 » 09 Aug 2020 17:34

One point to remember is that the Johnson rifle and Johnson LMG were never general issue for the Marines but were specifically obtained for the 3 Marine Parachute Battalions. The rifles and LMGs were considered valuable because of the easy dismounting of their barrels making for a much more compact system to facilitate Parachute jumping. Additionally the Johnson LMG was considerably lighter(16 lbs) than the BAR(23 lbs) fully loaded, another consideration for airborne operations. Even removal of the bipod and carrying handle on the BAR as seen in later WW II combat pictures only lowered the BAR to 19 lbs and the BAR barrel was not removable.

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Re: Why did Johnson firearms were unsuccessful ?

Post by ROLAND1369 » 09 Aug 2020 17:37

In fact the 1st Special Service Force only obtained their Johnson M1941 LMGs by trading the Marines a Quantity of C 3 Plastic explosive for a quantity of Johnson LMGs.

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Re: Why did Johnson firearms were unsuccessful ?

Post by ROLAND1369 » 09 Aug 2020 17:54

Secondly the Garand was a unique weapons system and not fully trusted by the leadership and lower ranks of the Marine corps early in the war. The M1903 was a known combat tried system supported by a production, maintenance, supply and training system already in existence while the new semi auto was untried. In addition the troops were already trained and using the M1903 and I believe that the leadership did not think that the first Us offensive was the time to retrain on and chance failure of a new weapons system. The failure of the Johnson weapons was a result of a combination of the lack of ruggedness on the part of the systems, particularly the need for more skilled maintenance required for the Johnson LMG as oppose to the simplicity of the BAR. Probibly the greatest problem the Johnson system faced was the unwillingness to produce and support two different weapon systems which basically did the same thing. Special weapons are justifiable for special needs, IE Airborne forces, but when the Marine Corps disbanded their Airborne forces during the war the special need disappeared.

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Re: Why did Johnson firearms were unsuccessful ?

Post by Richard Anderson » 10 Aug 2020 00:08

I suspect that the Marines and the US government in general may also have been nonplussed by Johnson's decision to bring the Miranda brothers into the production chain, awarding them exclusive sales rights to foreign governments. The Mirandas were already well known to the Marines through their working - conniving might be a better word - with Marmon-Herrington and Brewster regarding tank and aircraft armament and production.
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Re: Why did Johnson firearms were unsuccessful ?

Post by LineDoggie » 10 Aug 2020 23:35

von thoma wrote:
09 Aug 2020 04:37
Why Johnson M1941 rifle, and M1941 machine gun were so poorly considered in the US forces ?
However, today they are displayed in many military museums with proud...
Too late, as the Garand had been settled on for the rifle to be issue standard. Even the Johnsons whining retest showed the Garand superior.

for the LMG the magazine was a weak point being single stack single pos feed opposed to the BAR's double stack double pos feed

the disparity in length made carriage of the Johnson mags problematic as they could not be fitted to a webbing belt and required a haversack to carry

also on both firearms the rotary mag well was sheet steel was susceptible to denting and then neither would function
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Re: Why did Johnson firearms were unsuccessful ?

Post by LineDoggie » 10 Aug 2020 23:43

ROLAND1369 wrote:
09 Aug 2020 17:54
Secondly the Garand was a unique weapons system and not fully trusted by the leadership and lower ranks of the Marine corps early in the war. The M1903 was a known combat tried system supported by a production, maintenance, supply and training system already in existence while the new semi auto was untried. In addition the troops were already trained and using the M1903 and I believe that the leadership did not think that the first Us offensive was the time to retrain on and chance failure of a new weapons system.

The failure of the Johnson weapons was a result of a combination of the lack of ruggedness on the part of the systems, particularly the need for more skilled maintenance required for the Johnson LMG as oppose to the simplicity of the BAR. Probibly the greatest problem the Johnson system faced was the unwillingness to produce and support two different weapon systems which basically did the same thing. Special weapons are justifiable for special needs, IE Airborne forces, but when the Marine Corps disbanded their Airborne forces during the war the special need disappeared.
And yet garands were used at Bataan by the Philippine divisions infantry regiments from 7 dec 41

31st US
43rd PS
45th PS
57th PS
"There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here".
Col. George Taylor, 16th Infantry Regiment, Omaha Beach

ROLAND1369
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Re: Why did Johnson firearms were unsuccessful ?

Post by ROLAND1369 » 14 Aug 2020 14:47

If the weapons were available why were they not issued? I stand by my initial reasons. The military tends to be conservative in it approach and the leadership and the Marine Corps being a Department of the Navy more so. As the leadership of the marines on the Canal was the prewar Officer and NCO corps who had experience with the M1903 in such limited wars as Haiti and Nicaragua the system was a known combat proven system of verified dependable results. For their experience the Garand remained an unknown quantity. An additional question is which variant of the Garand was in the arsenals. From Photographic evidence the Garands in the Philippines appear to have been the early gas trap not the later Gas piston type, so the later version had in all likelihood still not been combat tested. In relation to the Garand, it was not without its faults. First and foremost the en block clip system of ammunition feed, it was impossible to refill a partially fired clip without ejecting it an reloading a fresh clip. The later M 14 also adopted this solution as well as a detachable 20 round magazine. This was possible with the Johnson system which allowed the refilling of a partially fired rifle or LMG magazine from standard 5 round Springfield clips. This makes it less reliant on frequent magazine changes. On this same line I disagree with your comment on the single stack magazine, while it certainly makes for a longer magazine a single stack is a more reliable feed lest prone to jams. An additional factor on the Johnson LMG is that the magazine has no feed lips which also increases reliability. It has been my experience that most defective magazines are the result of bent or poorly constructed magazine lips. A further advantage is that with the 5 internal rounds of the LMG the Johnson has an available 25 vice 20 rounds for the BAR. Despite these advantages I agree that the systems were not as rugged or "soldier proof" as the M1 or BAR as well as not having the large production base as did the Garand/BAR. As such I would not have been willing to take an untried weapons system with untried troops into my first combat in a critical situation.

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Re: Why did Johnson firearms were unsuccessful ?

Post by Gary Kennedy » 14 Aug 2020 16:46

As someone who has had to glean their knowledge of US firearms almost entirely from printed sources, I'm always more than a little wary of contradicting folks who might actually have an M1 in the garage. Anyway, I certainly read enough comments over many years to firmly believe there were restrictions on loading re the M1 rifle. However, if you search for FM 23-5 (Infantry Drill Regulations, Aug 1941) or FM 22-5 (Basic Field Manual, US rifle caliber .30, M1 of July) you should find PDF copies for free download from several sources that include instructions on doing some of the things deemed 'un-doable'. (I also took advantage of youtube a while ago and found some modern commentaries and demonstrations, and I think old footage, showing the various procedures).

FM 22-5 gives the basic procedures for loading and unloading a full clip and using the rifle in single shot mode without a clip (which facility would be required for firing rifle grenades). It also details how a partially loaded clip could be topped up. Paragraphs 28 to 31 inclusive refer.

https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/NHC/Ne ... -07-30.pdf

It's interesting, perhaps, that FM 22-5 was dated July 1943, and FM 23-5 was updated by Change 3 dated Sept 1943, which added procedures for topping up. Perhaps those with a better knowledge of the earlier capabilities of the M1 can say whether these functions were available in the first models of the M1 rifles to reach units, or whether they were later developments? It may be some of the things that are said could not be done with an M1 could not be done with an M1 of 1941 manufacture, but could be with one of 1942-3 production?

Re USMC usage, there's a sentence in the 8th Mar Inf Regt report of 18 Dec 1942 (recommended changes in organic equipment based on present operations) that says "it is requested that the M-1 rifle be substituted for the M1903 rifle in this Regiment", against which is an undated handwritten note saying 'has been done'. 8th Mar were part of 2nd Mar Div, so arrived in Guadalcanal after 1st Mar Div. I understand that the 8th Mar left the US Jan 1942 for service in Samoa, and the 1st Mar Div sailed for New Zealand in June 1942 (less the 7th Mar Inf Regt). Also the commander of the 1st Mar Div notes he was expecting to have several months of training ahead during the latter half of 1942, which I think would reasonably have been expected to include the issue of the M1 if such were authorised. I agree it would not have been a wise decision to replace the basic arm of a formation just before they were expected to make a landing on enemy shores.

Gary

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Re: Why did Johnson firearms were unsuccessful ?

Post by firstflabn » 14 Aug 2020 20:02

Tim Plowman and Steve Norman's excellent article, The Marines Get Their Garands (GCA Journal, Fall 2016), is a must read. Terrific research with great writing, it puts to rest many of the internet myths.

A couple of highlights:

1. USMC began receiving 3,000 Garands per month in Apr 41. By the end of Jun 42 they had over 31,000; six months later the total approached 100,000.

2. In Feb 41, USMC concluded the Garand was superior to the M1903 "under favorable conditions." And therein lies the rub. They weren't confident in its use in amphibious landing operations and thus soon began issuing it to everybody except its infantry divisions.

3. This latter limitation was removed in Jun 42, after the 1MARDIV had been at sea for 3 weeks on its way to NZ.

4. According to Tim and Steve, the 1st Raiders (Aug) came ashore at Guadalcanal with some Garands and the 2nd Raiders (Nov) carried 118. They repeated my earlier statement that the 3rd Defense Battalion landed on Aug 7 with some Garands. They added that the 8th Marines brought along an unspecified number when they arrived in Nov 42. Add the 9th Defense Battalion in late Nov with as many as 884 Garands.

So, the Marine Corps delayed too long in making a decision, but then, when overtaken by events, acted expeditiously.

BTW, not included in the article, Patton said in Nov 42 from North Africa that the Garand was unsuitable for landing operations, substantially agreeing with the USMC qualms. Presumably, these complaints led to the development of the Plioform bag for amphibious assaults (that is the name, right?)

Once the gas trap front end got into production (and other more minor teething problems got worked out), the bromance with Melvin Johnson was doomed.

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Re: Why did Johnson firearms were unsuccessful ?

Post by LineDoggie » 15 Aug 2020 02:27

ROLAND1369 wrote:
14 Aug 2020 14:47
If the weapons were available why were they not issued? I stand by my initial reasons. The military tends to be conservative in it approach and the leadership and the Marine Corps being a Department of the Navy more so. As the leadership of the marines on the Canal was the prewar Officer and NCO corps who had experience with the M1903 in such limited wars as Haiti and Nicaragua the system was a known combat proven system of verified dependable results. For their experience the Garand remained an unknown quantity. An additional question is which variant of the Garand was in the arsenals. From Photographic evidence the Garands in the Philippines appear to have been the early gas trap not the later Gas piston type, so the later version had in all likelihood still not been combat tested. In relation to the Garand, it was not without its faults.

First and foremost the en block clip system of ammunition feed, it was impossible to refill a partially fired clip without ejecting it an reloading a fresh clip.

The later M 14 also adopted this solution as well as a detachable 20 round magazine. This was possible with the Johnson system which allowed the refilling of a partially fired rifle or LMG magazine from standard 5 round Springfield clips. This makes it less reliant on frequent magazine changes. On this same line I disagree with your comment on the single stack magazine, while it certainly makes for a longer magazine a single stack is a more reliable feed lest prone to jams. An additional factor on the Johnson LMG is that the magazine has no feed lips which also increases reliability. It has been my experience that most defective magazines are the result of bent or poorly constructed magazine lips. A further advantage is that with the 5 internal rounds of the LMG the Johnson has an available 25 vice 20 rounds for the BAR. Despite these advantages I agree that the systems were not as rugged or "soldier proof" as the M1 or BAR as well as not having the large production base as did the Garand/BAR. As such I would not have been willing to take an untried weapons system with untried troops into my first combat in a critical situation.
Takes literally 2 seconds to eject a partial clip and reload a full 8 which is 3 more than the 03 so that dog won't hunt. It's a Myth like the "Ping" giving away your position in a firefight. It assumes you are alone and dont know how to reload correctly. Reality is even if you are slow reloading, you have buddies ALL too willing to put rounds into Werner or Kintaro, or Kim....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2idYNKWGm4


The M14's detachable mag has more to do with the Army trying to manage the M1 rifle, M1 Carbine, BAR and Various SMG's into 1 weapon to take all their places which in hindsight didnt work as the M15 never was issued to replace the BAR and the 14 on Full was virtually uncontrollable to those who've actually fired one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Y01YMVJrJI

Johnsons mags were more vulnerable to damage due to length compared to the BAR mags more sheet steel exposed

Sten Mags and Johnson LMG are single pos feed and unreliable compared to BAR and Thompson mags which are shorter due to double stack, double feed position and EASIER to load without a tool, fact of life. the Later DROR a johnson made in Israel used a BAR magazine modified for 7.92mm

In MY experience 27 years Service 24 as Infantry including wartime including as a Machinegunner a damaged feedway means a useless weapon when needed.
"There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here".
Col. George Taylor, 16th Infantry Regiment, Omaha Beach

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