History of the 1911 Article

THE FUTURE OF JOHN M. BROWNING'S 1911 PISTOL: HOW TEN MILES AND ONE-HUNDRED YEARS IS REVOLUTIONIZING THE ARMS INDUSTRY.

BY: LESLIE ANNE GARRETT STEPHENS (word count thus far, 8,506)  

You would be hard pressed to find a weapons enthusiasts that would not agree, John M. Browning's 1911 model pistol's craftsmanship was ahead of its time.  Labeled by many military and weaponry authorities as the finest service pistol ever designed, this practically flawless single-action, semi-automatic, magazine-fed, recoil-operated pistol served as the standard-issue sidearm for the United States Armed Forces from 1911 to 1985.  The 1911 was first used in later stages of the Philippine-American War, and was widely used in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War and is still in circulation on today's battlefields. [1] During initial testing in the military trials in 1910, the M1911 fired 1,000 rounds flawlessly becoming the first self-loading pistol to pass military trials with a 100% accuracy.  After ten years of evolution and tinkering by the handgun's maker, John M. Browning, and immediately following its success in trials, Colt's version of the 1911 pistol was formally adopted by the Army on March 29, 1911.  A standard issue weapon for nearly 75 years, the Colt .45 M1911 made a huge comeback when the U.S. Marines placed a $22.5 million order for the Connecticut-made pistols in July of 2012; an incredible testament to the timeless design and effectiveness of John M. Browning's ingenious design.  So how can one of the greatest self-loading pistols ever made, the "grandfather of the modern handgun be improved upon?  That is a simple question according to one veteran and legendary firearms designer, Rick Uselton, reduce the 1911's weight.

 

 Taking two dissimilar metals or more (in this case, 304 stainless steel and 6061 aluminum) then explosively bonding them together with tens of millions pounds of pressure at the molecular level (basically, a big-ass explosion), Browning's superbly designed 1911 received a face lift after almost one hundred years of servitude to the U. S. armed services, firearm enthusiasts, and hunters alike by Uselton Arms, a Franklin, Tennessee based custom 1911 and Warrior rifles manufacturer.  So how did Rick Uselton (a decorated 101st Airborne veteran who served in Vietnam and later went on to have top secret clearance working for Project Masster and was aid to One Star Brigadier General Beverly Powell) discover this advancement in the firearms industry? As President and CEO of UA Arms, Rick, was introduced to the molecular bonding process when Lew Wear, former CEO of Souriau Pacific Aerospace & Electronics (PA&E), (who now works as a consultant for the company), came to UA Arms booth at the SHOT Show (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade show, 13 acres of outdoor and sporting equipment and weaponry, attracting attendees from over one hundred countries, with over 67,000 attendance in 2014) in Las Vegas Nevada in 2010 with a rather intriguing invention to share.  Lew had witnessed the impact molecular bonding had on his industry with one of the divisions of Souriau PA&E that focuses on aerospace and military applications, and was interested in getting the attention of the arms industry as well as finding a competent arms manufacturer willing to experiment with the technology.  Lew is an avid gun enthusiast whose experience with molecular bonding is well established.  But Lew was not getting too many bites from the big gun manufactures at the SHOT show.  Rick Uselton admits, Lew really did not stop him in his tracks that year either.  It was not until the 2011 SHOT show when Lew presented Rick with what they now jokingly call the "back pocket project. A rather rudimentary, water-jetted out 1911 frame that had been fashioned using a molecular bonded composite metal.  Rick said from the second he took the prototype into his hands he said "OK. You've got my attention.  You have a winner here, Lew.  With Rick's already successful arms manufacturing business and military background, Lew Wear could not have found a more competent partner. Rick's passion for firearms started at an early age while hunting the backwoods of Sumner County, Tennessee, the same woods were Jonathan Browning and his father had once resided. When Rick dug a 22 pump Winchester rifle out of the trash dumpster along his garbage route back in 1962, he took it home in order for his daddy to rebuild the hammer spring and stock.  (Rick's daughter, Angela, the Senior VP of UA Arms, laughingly wanted a foot note to this story, in fear the general public assumed Rick was trying to compare himself to the great gun maker, John Moses Browning, who repaired his first gun around the same age. She wanted to make sure the readers know that her father unequivocally did not repair this gun.  Her grandfather, Davis Dorson Uselton, was the craftsman behind the repair.  Davis was a welder by trade.)  After his military career, Rick continued his passion for "all things gun related elk and deer hunting, in his early career, until eventually the entire Uselton family, Rick's wife and two of their three girls, launched Rick's first retail gun, ammunition, and indoor shooting range business where he eventually started manufacturing his own line of 1911's.  His wife, Janelle, was the secretary and bookkeeper.  Rick met Sam Hoster (of Hoster Custom 1911's) in 1997 by an employee of Rick's.  Sam is a talented gunsmith and builder of 1911 handguns.  He started doing the repair guns for the sporting goods store then Rick got to know Sam better and found out that he built custom 1911 handguns in his spare time.  Since Rick always favored the way Sam fashioned his 1911, Sam assisted Uselton Arms in 1999 while building their first 1911 and his craftsmanship, inventiveness, and attention to detail will always be a part of the UA Arms' name.  Over the past 10 years Sam has worked side-by-side Rick while building these custom guns from the frame up. Sam also operated beside Rick on the Remington R1 1911 project as his number one gunsmith.  His oldest daughter Pattie (a graphic artist by trade) designs all of the logos, catalogs, and engraving fonts for the guns.  After losing their youngest daughter, Ricki Dawn, in a car accident in 2012, Rick and his middle daughter, Angela decided to concentrate their efforts in their flourishing manufacturing company, UA Arms.  

 

Rick now admits, when Lew first discussed the possibilities molecular bonding could have for the arms industry (and for UA Arms), he was more than a little suspicious of technology.  Why would anyone want to mess with perfection?  Rick believed that Browning's 1911 model .45 caliber handgun was one of the most perfectly designed, well-built, firearms ever assembled, so much so, that he gambled the future of his arms company on that very principle.  Not wanting to pass up an opportunity, and looking forward to the possibilities, UA Arms produced ten 1911 stainless steel rail, explosive weld line, aluminum bodied pistols in 2011; the very first firearms ever to utilize explosive bonding metals, which were eventually put to test using the Navy SEAL and Marine corps special operations requirements as their bar.  More about the Operational Evaluation results a little later. There is a lot of history to explain how ten miles, a hundred years, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into revolutionizing the arms industry.  

 

It sounds like a simple enough process, molecular bonding light metals to produce a virgin metal that is lighter but just as durable, but the implications of this technology applied to firearms holds great magnitude for the military as well as the everyday weapons enthusiast. Ironically enough, the process of molecular metal bonding was discovered when the U.S.'s foreign policy of economic strangulation failed and the commanders of the Pacific Fleet, disastrous not to recognize the seaborne aircraft capabilities of the Japanese air force, ended in a pile of smoke and malice upon the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941.  When poor communications between Washington and Hawaii failed to sojourn the surprise aerial attack on the fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor, many enemy aircraft, under the command of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, loaded on six of Japan's first-line aircraft carriers, (Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku and Zuikaku), embarked with 420 enemy planes, unleashing their winged angels of death upon their astonished opponents.  Arriving just before 8AM, Japan began its assault with dive-bombing and strafing against Navy and Army airfields. Launching their weapons against warships moored on both sides of Ford Island and at the Navy Yard's 1010 Dock, horizontal bombers paraded in formation over Battleship Row, dropping their heavy armor-piercing bombs on the startled U.S. battleships below. To reduce their risk of a counterattack by American bombers and patrol planes, Japanese torpedo planes roared in low altitude over Pearl Harbor.  The bombers' victims were USS Pennsylvania, California, Maryland and Tennessee, and there were a few direct hits to the West Virginia.  The Arizona received the most damage of the battleships and was struck many times, mortally wounded by an armor piercing bomb which ignited the ship's forward ammunition magazine (causing a big-ass blast), the impact straightaway sunk the Arizona.  The resulting explosion and fire killed 1,177 crewmen, the greatest loss of life on any ship that day. [2] Nevada was late to the game, attracting many dive bombers and had to be run ashore.   By the time the surprise attack concluded, twenty-one ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were sunk or damaged.  After receiving technical examination, some of the Nakajima B5N carrier attack bombers (later code-named "Kates), each carrying Type 91 aerial torpedoes, were fused to the hulls along Battleship Row.  When a break in the thick smoke choking the horizon revealed the towers of the badly damaged battleships, their war-scared hulls were forever bonded to our aggressors' aerial ammunition. Moored side-by-side in the harbor, these relics provided U.S. intelligence with its first close-up look at the new enemy's latest aerial paraphernalia as well as insight into the impact a high speed collision of metal to metal contact has on the atom's ability to form bonds by sharing electrons. (It is worth noting here that Rick's father, Davis Dorson Uselton, worked as a welder in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during the war and personally soldered either the shell of the uranium gun-type casings that were later deployed on Hiroshima, called "Little Boy or the plutonium implosion-type "Fat man atomic bomb on Nagasaki.  None of the employees were ever told what the special project was they were making, and the compound was under strict watch by both military and FBI personnel.) 

 

In 1960, a patent for explosive bonding, (filed on Oct. 26) was submitted by George R. Cowan, Woodbury, John J. Douglass, Glassboro, and Arnold H. Holtznian, Woozlbury, on behalf of the E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (widely known as DuPont), from their Wilmington, Delaware headquarters. A top US chemical and composites maker, DuPont consists of thirteen businesses that are divided into eight segments, each of which serves a diverse set of markets. In April of 2011, Souriau PA&E engineer, Nelson Settles, filed for the first patent to use the technology utilizing explosively bonded metals in the manufacturing of firearm components.  There are currently a number of application-specific patents around the firearm industry, but Souriau PA&E owns two patents filed with coverage in the U.S., E.U. and Japan, with Rick Uselton (personally, not UA Arms) holding exclusive rights to materials application in the aforementioned areas in regards to manufacturing the 1911.  The magnitude this technology (costing roughly $5 dollars per square inch to manufacture, and as demand grows the cost will decrease) will have for future weapons gradually sunk in once Rick made UA Arms' headquarters a testing ground for the explosive bonding technology.  "Molecular bonding allows us to lighten the 1911's weight by at least 45%, reducing the 1911 weight from 46 ounces to right at 24 ounces depending on the model of the 1911.  When you can lighten the load a soldier has to carry, it's a worthy goal.  Before molecular bonding, other attempts to use lighter metals resulted in a weapon that wore out faster, especially in conditions where the gun is exposed to extreme elements such as desert conditions of the Middle East, subtropical settings of the South American rainforest, or very cold environments like the temperatures the soldiers endure in the mountainous terrain in Iraq.  Using steel and aluminum as the base for the virgin metal, you are not sacrificing durability for the weight reduction obtained by using molecular-bonded parts. Also, the metal is non-magnetic which naturally makes it non-corrosive.  And aluminum dispels heat rapidly (UA Arms uses aluminum in the slide), which helps keeps the barrel of the gun cool, even after rapid fire.  We really have found the magic combination of metals that will perform perfectly under strenuous military combat situations, but over thirty three metals can be explosively bonded which allows for UA Arms to change formulas as the price of various metals fluctuate.  If we can lighten the load by even a few ounces, ask anyone that has walked a mile in full gear, every ounce makes a difference. says Rick Uselton.  But Rick is not only excited about the future molecular bonding holds for him and UA Arms, Rick is rather nostalgic when it comes to the 1911 and the origins of its roots.  His adoration doesn't only come from his work, Rick's passion comes from a half a century of hunting with a Browning rifle, years of carrying a 1911 while in the service, and that passion spilled over to his retail stores and manufacturing practices.  So let us go back to the roots of the 1911 pistol and explore the man behind the gun, John Moses Browning.  Once you have a full appreciation for "The World's Greatest Gun Inventor, we will explore how one hundred years and only a few miles separate the "next greatest invention to transpire in weaponry in the last century was exposed by Rick Uselton.

 

Born in Sumner County, Tennessee, Jonathan Browning (October 22, 1805 “ June 21, 1879) was an American inventor and gun maker whose aptitude for basic engineering and manufacturing principles was passed down to his son, John M. Browning (January 23, 1855 “ November 26, 1926, the eldest son of Jonathan's third wife, Elizabeth Caroline Clark.  The area around where Jonathan Browning grew up, Brushy Fork, Tennessee (now part of the Bledsoe State Park in Gallatin, Tennessee) is still rich with Native American history. [3] Amongst the rolling hills and heavily forested woods; Cherokee, Creek, Shawnee, and Chickamauga Indian tribes shared the northern middle Tennessee landscape with wild buffalo and deer, and the scare populous of frontier families willing to eke out a living as starving farmers, trappers and traders. Incongruously, it is the same land for which Rick Uselton was born on September 8, 1949, just ten miles from the very place the "grandfather of modern firearms, Jonathan Browning, was born.  In this rocky terrain, for which Jonathan's father farmed, the young man quickly realized the hardships that bestowed the hard working menfolk of his tiny community that lacked even a modest church or school building during the early pioneer days.  Not wanting to following in his father's footsteps of reaping a harvest out of clay and limestone, a chance encounter with a neighbor changed the fate of the grandfather of modern weaponry.  For an unusable flintlock rifle (which was missing parts and had a broken lock), Jonathan offered up a week of backbreaking labor for the right to own the discarded rifle.  After seven days of harvesting, Jonathan took the gun home to his Brushy Fork home.  After repairing it and replacing the missing parts, even Jonathan's father, Edmund Browning, was surprised when a neighbor purchased the gun for a weighty sum of four dollars from his son.  As word spread of Jonathan Browning's mechanical ability, he was called to be an apprentice to a blacksmith.  In the stifling sun only a Tennessee summer can yield; an adoration for welding, brazing, tempering and soldering techniques were learned.  All of the fundamentals of hand-forging metal easily commenced him into the limelight as a competent gun maker at a fairly young age.  But all of his local notoriety dashed once he met his first "real gun stamped with the Samuel Parker's name, and Jonathan Browning's confidence waned.  Borrowing the only horse his father owned, the nineteen-year-old Jonathan Browning made the trek into Nashville to meet the famous gunsmith.  After a three month unpaid apprenticeship, the six foot tall strapping go-getter returned to Brushy Fork, opened up his own shop, then married his sweetheart, Elizabeth Stalcup on November 9, 1826 on the banks of the Bledsoe Creek.  It is safe to say that in the family of the Browning's, there has always been a true vein of talent; all very mechanically inclined and inventive, and are universally respected as men with an untiring advocate of temperance, good moral character, and humbling humility.  Edmund Browning, (father to Jonathan), was a fine musician in his day (a violinist), and Jonathan was a cousin of the late Honorable Orville H. Browning, the famous lawyer of Quincy, Illinois, and ex-secretary of the interior.  He was also a cousin of Doctor Browning, of Nashville, Tennessee, and are descendants of Capt. John Browning, a decedent of merchants, who sailed from Gravesend, England, on the Abigail and landed on College Lands in Virginia, near the mouth of the James River.  The Browning's were from the "Burgess class" in England, and are one of the oldest and first families of the Americas. [4]

 

Jonathan Browning ran a successful gun and blacksmith shop up until twenty-eight years of age when he closed his business and loaded up his wagons, moving his family to the Quincy, Illinois area in 1834.  It was here the former Sumner County resident encountered militias and mob justice that was a direct result of the proclamation by Missouri governor Lilburn W. Boggs on October 27, 1838 that "The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state resulting in his issue of an "extermination order against the Latter-day Saints, accusing them of insurrection.  Not even taking the time to understand their religion or apposition to slavery, Boggs professed that the Latter-day Saints were making "open war upon the people of Missouri.  With slavery being in full swing in the south; prejudice human rights violations, abuse of governmental power, unlawful detentions, and persecution of anyone that went against the grain led the governor to commission the state militia to carry out the extermination order.  Even though the social unrest of the time was a prime location for gun maker to set up shop, Jonathan's pity for the Mormons soon turned to an incestuous desire to understand their religion.  His soon conversion to the Mormon faith would bring the growing Browning family to an unparalleled crossroad. [5]

 

Located on the Mississippi River, the small but flourishing abolitionist frontier town of Quincy, Illinois initially welcomed the Browning family with open arms.  Living at the time when flintlock guns were dwindling due to the invention of the percussion cap and pre-loaded paper cartridges, in his, tiny, cramped workshop, Browning's first six-shot repeater was born.  According to arms expert, Rick Uselton, Browning's repeating rifle had a number of ingenious features.  The six-shot repeater operated by loading the powder and ball into the cylinder and placing a cap onto each nipple, not really new technology.  The rifle was cocked by drawing back the hammer and then manually rotating the cylinder after each shot, still not groundbreaking.  But the simplicity of operating, perpetuated by the rifle's magazine (which contained a rectangular iron bar with holes fitted to accommodate the hand loads), was revolutionary to the time.  The bar slid through an aperture at the breech and was manually operated, permitting loading in advance for five comparatively fast shots.  Thus, unbeknownst to the gun maker at the time, the notable simplistic features of Jonathan Browning's six-shooter became the trademark of the Browning name.  Today these guns are a curio, but in the 1830ies their continuous firearms were unequaled by any contemporary gun found in the area.  It is estimated that each gun took Jonathan two weeks to hand forge, and pretty soon, Jonathan could barely keep up with the demand for his new invention.  The rectangular barrel gun sold for a mere $24.00 and many of his guns were traded for goods and resources as opposed to actual monies.  Nevertheless, the repeating rifle brought him instant local distinction amongst the firearm industry.

 

Jonathan and his wife were very social in the Quincy community and Jonathan reveled in offering his opinion on all things mechanical, but soon the socialites and distinguished members of the community would shun the Browning family.  With the fame his new invention brought, Jonathan Browning was elected to the office of the justice of the peace and was content with his now prominent title as "Judge Browning.  Even the famed lawyer at the time, Abraham Lincoln, stayed at the home of the Browning family during this time of great prominence for the newly elected judge.  It is rumored that during one of his visits, a young farmhand broke his arm during Lincoln's stay in the Browning home.  After witnessing the Judge repair the man's arm, Lincoln was mesmerized by Browning's ability to mend just about anything, gun, metal, or bone. [6]

 

But after the Extermination Order was issued on the Mormon people, there was a huge exodus from Quincy to a community forty-three miles north of the flourishing abolitionist frontier.  The land the Mormons were settling was a dismal swamp called Nauvoo, Illinois.  Captivated and perplexed by the eradication of the Mormon's, Jonathan boarded a steamboat in order to venture up river to "see for himself the way in which the Mormon people eked out a living in the swamp.  It is there Jonathan Browning met the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith leading to his family's conversion to Mormonism.  When word reached Quincy about the Judge's conversion, the news caused the Judge and his family to be ostracized for their newfound religious convictions.  Jonathan closed up shop then moved his wife and nine children to a tiny, two-room cabin in the heart of the Nauvoo community until a proper brick home could be built.  Their new home set on Main Street and in true Browning fashion, the once glorified Judge set up another gun shop and concentrated on his rifle making for his customers, improving upon the old techniques.  The guns made during his short six years in Nauvoo are all labeled with a special nameplate that reads "Holiness to the Lord - Our Preservation.  According to Rick Uselton, these guns are now amongst some of the most highly sought and rare guns in the Browning collection.  

 

Before long, the old mentality of Quincy landed in Nauvoo.  Missourians recognized the Mormons were becoming a powerful political force that was encroaching on their belief systems. Once again, Jonathan Browning abandoned his home front, at the request of Brigham Young, and wearily traveled onwards towards Utah.  At this time, the leader in the Latter-day Saint movement, Brigham Young, was acting as the head of the church.  At his instruction, Browning set up a temporary shop in Iowa to repair and manufacture guns for the Mormons that were beginning their journey westward along the Mormon Trail to Salt Lake City.  It is believed that Jonathan Browning married a second wife, Polly Rippy, during his time spent in Iowa. There is little information to substantiate this marriage, but it is quite frequently documented that she was the second (of what would later become five wives).  Jonathan's unions ultimately produced twenty-two living children. [7]

 

It wasn't until 1852, (and after the death of his first wife), when Jonathan Browning's family migrated to the Utah territory, settling in the city of Ogden.  Jonathan continued to practice his polygamist's lifestyle and this is where John Moses Browning, the "father of American firearms was born.  Married on Friday, March 17 in 1854, the union of Jonathan to Elizabeth Caroline Clark (at respective ages of 48 and 37) swiftly produced two sons.  Although identified as their second child, only John Moses Browning and Matthew Sandifer Browing survived into adulthood.  At the ripe ole age of 52, Jonathan Browning married a fourth wife, Sarah Ann Emmett, on Monday, March 29, 1858.  The children of Jonathan Browning and Sarah Ann Emmett are as follows: Jonathan Edmund Browning b. 26 Jan 1859, Thomas Samuel Browning b. 15 Apr 1860, William W. Browning b. 1862, Olive E. Browning b. 1864, George E. Browning b. 1866. (Matthew, Jonathan Edmund, Thomas Samuel, William, and George would later establish the Browning Brothers Company, along with John Moses in 1872.)

 

Of the sons produced from Jonathan's third and fourth marriage, the elder son, John Moses Browning, inherited the mechanical and inventive genius of his father.  At this point, many of Jonathan's nine older children were adults, married and either out of the Browning home or did not make the move with their father to Ogden.  Jonathan and his new wives (there were five total, four living at the time) all lived in Ogden, in homes that were in close proximity to Jonathan's workshop.  The oldest son in his father's "second wave of offspring, John M. Browning, was born in the little home attached to his father's workshop that bore a sign reading: guns, pistols, ammunition, fishing & tackle.  Never a fan of formal education, it was around John's sixth birthday when he pulled up a little box and started working side-by-side his father in the family's red brick compound.  Due to the age of Jonathan, (and because he divided his time in his wives' households) Matthew considered John his second father, and from these close nit quarters, the two most significant Browning brothers formed a tight bond and a true adoration for firearms.  The shop was, in actuality, the only "real schooling John and his siblings received.  In the biography by John Browning and Curt Gentry, published in 1964 by Doubleday & Company, it quoted a rather funny encounter John had at fifteen years of age, a few months shy of the school year ending (sixth grade).  Judging from the infrequent and casual references to his "teachers, the male educators of Ogden, Utah did not seem to leave quite an impression on the young man who proclaimed he only needed enough schooling to be able to write repair tags, but whose mechanically inclination was well beyond his years.  When his teacher pulled him aside, he told the six-foot tall, strapping young gent, "Hold on, a jiffy John.  I don't see any sense in you coming back to school next fall.  You know as much as me. [8] And John never did return to that one room log cabin, crammed with varying aged students.  The family business kept the boys busy; sharpening plows, shoeing horses, setting wagon tires, and repairing guns.  John and his brothers also made some of the first nails, fire tongs, fire shovels, pokers, horseshoes, hoes, shovels, and grubbing hoes used in and around Weber County.  In addition to his ironworking, John Mose (as his father called him) developed the first iron-roller molasses mill made in Ogden.  But regrettably, his father, Jonathan, never produced another single gun out of his Ogden, Utah storefront.  He'd turned the shop over to John Mose a year before he died, uttering "You've earned it ten times over, John Mose, and anyhow, it's not much of a gift.  Maybe if you run it your way you can make something from it. Jonathan Browning "died of weariness a year later in his seventy-forth year.  Rumored to have "worked so hard that, finally (my father) tired out, he went to sleep and didn't wake up.' [9]

 

Although considered good looking but lazy, John M. Browning had a penchants for using schemes to lure the customers into his shop in order to keep the family business afloat, including having some of the train's freighters bring the gunsmith a job from far away cities that were hundreds of miles from the Browning's gunsmith shop.  John would receive his pay when he delivered the gun, then charge for the repair as well as his transportation.  A broken gun, far away from a reputable gunsmith, was a calamity back in the day, and many a desperate gent were happy to pay the prices John seemingly devised on impulse.  But as his younger brothers entered the shop, John quickly discovered the only shop work he desired was handling the repairs to the muzzleloaders, relegating the less fascinating ironwork to his siblings.  When the first breechloader arrived into the shop, John could barely control his enthusiasm.  When he got his hands on his first glimpse of the innovative weapon, John was hooked, leaving his brothers to handle the mundane tasks of railroad repairs, which were the bread and butter of their father's business back in the day.

 

Soon, thereafter Jonathan's death in 1879, John Moses and his brothers started the Browning Gun Factory.  Converting foot-powered tools to steam powered apparatuses, harnessing the power from a steam engine, the boys eked out a living of backbreaking labor, while John supervised and designed his prototypes.  It can hardly be said that the Browning Gun Factory flourished in the early years.  Lacking capital for expansion for their products, Ogden, Utah was a thousand miles away from any real city besides Salt Lake and none of the young men had any experience in merchandising.  That same year, John Moses married Rachel Teresa Child, and applied for his first gun patent (No. 220.271) for his breech-loading Single Shot rifle.  Before long, the Browning line (that consisted of only six factory workers) could not keep up with the demand.  The rifle caught the attention of a traveling Winchester salesman who was enamored with the proficiency behind the design.  The name and place of the manufacturer, "Browning Bros. Ogden, Utah USA, was stamped on the barrel, when Andrew McAusland happened to be shown one of John's Single Shot rifles in 1883.  Straightaway, McAusland bought one of the single shots and sent it off to Winchester's vice president and general manager, T. G. Bennet.  So enamored with the gun, T.G. convinced John and Matt take a transcontinental train ride to New York City, and thence to New Haven to the Winchester headquarters.  Unbeknownst to them, John and Matt (unsophisticated by eastern standards) held the future of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in a cloth sack, tied up with string.  After a rather exciting night in New York City, the boys headed out with a ten thousand dollar amount in their heads, (because at the time, it was the largest amount of money the brothers could fathom, John would later confess).  It is fair to note here that the Winchester organization always made an outright purchase of all of John's guns, and never entered into any royalty agreements with Browning.  It is rumored Winchester paid $50,000 for the patent covering the 86 rifle, a sudden windfall for the uneducated and rather naïve brothers.  After the arrangement, (which made the Browning brothers the richest men in all of Ogden), John returned to engineer a requested repeating, lever-actioned shotgun to submit for Winchester's approval, and went on to sell an astonishing number of guns to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company- a nineteen year association that started with that 1883 Single Shot, and ended in 1902 with over forty four Browning prototypes purchased.  This new arrangement, turning a competitor into a benefactor, was advantageous for both the Browning brothers as well as the Winchester organization at the time, but would eventually turn into a point of contingency for John.  Browning was a blueprint man.  With every detail of firearms construction competently in his mind, all John had to do was transfer his drawings to scale.  Born to trade, John M. Browning was prolific, and his output was prodigious.  He was a master of the tool room and he could inspire and lead others, but was not the best businessman in his early years.  T. G. Bennet, elated with the possibilities of adding an excellent rifle to their production line and realizing the keen engineering skills of Browning, made it allowable for John to concentrate on inventing more guns by taking the manufacturing responsibilities away from the famed gun designer (but also taking advantage of the situation by only affording what many consider to be a measly sum for such an invention).  Even though his name never was engraved into any of the Winchester stocks, John was content with the arrangement, until ultimately realizing the amount of money the Winchester organization was making from his manufactured inventions.  Although somewhere never produced, all of the guns designed for Winchester were ingenious and innovative designs.  In addition to that first Single Shot Rifle, other guns that John Moses designed that later became best sellers were: the Winchester Model 1886 Lever Action Repeating Rifle, the Model 1887 Lever Action Repeating Shotgun, the Model 1897 Pump Action Shotgun, the Model 1894 Lever Action Repeating Rifle, and the Model 1895 Lever Action Repeating Rifle.

 

As was the custom of the time, Browning's earlier designs had been licensed exclusively to Winchester (and other manufacturers) for a single fee payment.  When Browning proposed a new long recoil operated semi-automatic shotgun design, (a prototype he finished in 1898), to Winchester management, John had a new business model in mind.  With this new shotgun model (that later was produced overseas and became the Browning Auto-5 shotgun), Browning unsuccessfully lobbied for a continuous royalty fee.  Realizing, if his latest shotgun became highly successful, Browning stood to make substantially more income from the continuous fee arrangement. Winchester management was displeased with the bold change in their relationship, and rejected Browning's offer.  Browning approached Remington Arms, but the timing was not right.  The president of Remington Arms died of a heart attack as Browning waited to offer him the gun, leading John to form ties to the Belgium based Fabrique Nationale de Herstal organization, a partnership that would last until the end of his lifetime.  

 

It is fair to say that John Browning was "eaten up with inventing.  Right before the turn of the century, (and while still in good favor with Winchester) John watched one of his friends' fire one of the rifles he'd designed and observed that much of the oomph produced by the detonation of a cartridge was wasted energy.  He had an epiphany during this local shooting competition, noticing the reeds being violently blown aside by gases escaping from the gun's muzzle.  In true inventor/engineering fashion, John went to work trying to wangle a way to harness the force of that escaping gas to automatically work the repeating mechanism.  After this critical observation, John Browning became preoccupied designing automatic and self-loading weapons.  His first experiments aimed at harnessing this energy of the gas pressure, which built up behind the bullet.  By tapping into the gas pressure that builds up near the muzzle, (and using the pressure to operate an actuating lever), Browning succeeded in developing the gas operated machine gun.  [10] His 1895 model, (called the "Potato Digger because its gas-hammer operation involved an arm which cycled down below the receiver) was his first attempt at designing a firearm that offers continuous bursts of automatic fire for as long as ammunition lasts.  This new technology was taken to the famed Colt gun company.  An improved design (based on Browning's prototype lever mechanism) was offered to Colt by Browning in 1892.  The lever was moved back, and power was supplied by a gas port about six inches (15 cm) back from the muzzle.  To minimize heating during rapid fire, the gun used a very heavy straight contour barrel.  The weight of the gun was upwards of 35 pounds with a tripod mount and seat for the gunner, which added another 56 pounds. [11] It was this machine gun (built by Colt, and later, under license, by Marlin, as the Model 1895 Machine Gun) that won acceptance by both the Army and the Navy, as well as by several foreign customers in need of a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm that had the capacity to fire bullets in quick succession. 

 

And now we get to Browning's handguns.  Sept. 14, 1895, John Moses Browning filed his very first patent application on his first semi-automatic pistol. (You can tell by the dates, that John always had many balls in the air, his wheels always turning, piggy-backing one ingenious discovery on the coat tails of another).  Although machine guns and pistols are two very different weapons, Browning's self-loading pistols are, in fact, a direct result of his work on the machine gun.  Adding a simple spring loaded disconnector maneuver to the trigger's mechanism, John Browning achieved an interrupted (semi-automatic) fire, setting the stage for all semi-automatic pistols of the future.  In contrast to other similar firearms being manufactured overseas, Browning's first auto loading pistol was a gas operated, toggle action design - which offered smooth and graceful lines.  Making use of a detachable box magazine, (housed in the grip frame), which also contains the firing mechanism, a cleverly designed link connected to the trigger (designed to wrap neatly around the magazine) John devised a prototype that was simple, compact, and highly reliable; soon give birth to the celebrated 1911.

 

Good as his first pistol was, nevertheless, John's archetype was never placed into production. After coming to the realization that a recoil-operated pistol would provide the most satisfactory means of locking the breech during firing, John determined a locked breech was unquestionably needed in order to safely use high power ammunition (he was already thinking about the military application for the handgun).  John Browning had no sooner completed fabrication of the prototype when he dropped the experimental handgun, changing the direction of his innovations. A small .32 caliber pistol, with a blowback action was his next exploit (and was tested by the military, but determined the .32 was not large enough caliber, and a secure lock was still needed to avoid misfires).  The FN Model 1900 and the Colt Model 1903 .32 caliber pistols were the result of this change of direction.  Browning's method for accomplishing a secure lock was so simple and effective that it has been used almost universally on every one of his later designs, and is the signature feature of all his future handgun models.  In 1905, Browning and the Colt factory made another step toward meeting the Army's requirements with the development of the .45 ACP round prototype.  This model was quickly followed by a recoil-operated pistol in the same caliber.  Rick Uselton explains.  "The major components that revolutionized this pistol consisted of the barrel, the slide, the unique design of the magazine and the sturdiness of the frame.  The barrel was attached to the frame by pins, which passed through swiveling links situated beneath the muzzle and the breach.  Browning was the first to invent the slide, which encloses the barrel and the firing mechanism of the pistol.  The slide was fitted into channels in the frame.  Matching ridges and grooves were drilled into the top of the barrel at the chamber, and on the inside of the slide.  With the action closed, the grooves would interlock and the firing pin housing closed off the chamber, completing the lock-up.  In due course, this model evolved into the Colt Model 1911.  John's gradual improvements along with simple, yet well thought out modifications were sold to Colt, who was under contract with the US military.  After trials, and as World War II approached, the demand for this powerful handgun became overwhelming for Colt, who produced over two million 1911's during the war.  In service, the 1911 pistol was widely used as a side arm by officers and non-coms, as well as by such specialized units as the Military Police, and the overwhelming demand kept Colt on its toes, forcing them to look for alternate manufacturing routes.  Their most successful partnership was with Remington Rand whose company made some 900,000 pistols.  The Ithaca Gun Company added another 400,000 copies, while Union Switch & Signal tossed another 50,000 toward the war effort.  Today, Rick Uselton confesses that many of these "non-Colts command some hefty premiums and are highly sought after relics, but don't hold a candle to the Colt's version, that was a standard issue weapon and often not as detailed, and always well-worn by the time they hit the aftermarket circuit.  Browning's 1911 won a reputation for ruggedness, reliability and effectiveness, but a few more improvements were still to come.  [12] Enhancements to the 1911 were completed in 1924 and resulted in the Model 1911A1.  Not long after those modifications were incorporated, John M. Browning died of a heart attack at the Fabrique Nationale (FN) factory in Herstal, Belgium, on November 26, 1926.  The greatest American gun maker to ever live is accredited with 128 modern automatic and semi-automatic firearms gun patents, and is considered the single biggest contributor to the development of future weaponry.  Browning designs have been the basis for many of the models manufactured by Winchester, Colt, Remington, Stevens, and Fabrique National (FN) of Belgium.  The Browning Arms Company is located in Morgan, Utah and has been a continuing supporter of the John M. Browning Arms Museum, which resides in Ogden Utah's Union Station museum.  Four generations of Browning's are represented in the museum.

 

So what is the future for the 1911?  That is what I wanted to explore when visiting the UA Arms headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, right off of the 65 exit on I65.  Upon entering the two-room facility, one thing was clear, they are running out of space.  UA Arms was flooded with handguns, as well as frames, slides and parts all ready for Rick and his gun smiths to build.  It would not even come close to saying UA Arms are bursting at the seams, but even the piles of orders were neatly stacked and all the boxes containing pins and springs were precisely sorted.  Rick and Angela greeted me with a warm embrace, one for which overwhelms me with emotion.  My father and Rick were hunting buddies, and old friends.  My dad, John Claude Garrett (before dad's untimely death in 2008), was Rick's hometown banker and probably the ultimate customer Rick ever had while in retail.  I had one of my father's revolvers in a custom Uselton case under my arm, one dad had purchased at the Uselton retail shop in my hometown of Goodlettsville, Tennessee.  I was invited there in order to complete this article as well as to shoot one of UA Arms' 1911s, one that Rick and his daughter, Angela, had enthusiastically told me about during an earlier meeting.  I've learned throughout the years of knowing Rick that you have to go in with a plan.  Otherwise, his unbridled enthusiasm will pull you off track, and you'll forget your mission.  Not that all of Rick's stories are not intriguing (especially if they have to do with my father) but Rick can be showing you a pellet of lead one second, then load a slide onto a gun frame the next second, and before you know it, you are making a gun.

 

It's hard not to notice all of the awards and accolades in the UA Arms headquarters as I get settle in, but one item sits like a metallic beacon on Rick's over organized work bench; his 1911 molecular bonded frame stamped with the Uselton name.  I will be the first one to admit, feeling the light metal in your hand, the thought of the recoil scared the living shit out of me.  I was my Daddy's "pigtailed bird dog and have shot my fair share of shotguns, but I'd never shot a handgun before.  All I knew at the time was if you were not prepared, lightweight pistols will kick the living crap out of you.  After the small talk that always turns into "tall talk with Rick, I ask him about the future of his company.  Trust me when I tell you, it was like asking a kid if they would like to go to Disney World.  Rick's eyes lit up.  He asked Angela to print off an article for him.  (One of about a dozen he shared with me during our interview).  "You remember that contract I told you about with Colt and the Marines?  Rick went on to tell me that that $22.5 million dollar contract had not worked out too well for Colt.  Using substandard parts, Colt submitted several 1911 handguns to be tested over to the Marines.  Rick thumbs through the picture of the cracked slides and a bent recoil spring, which told me the initial testing was a complete failure.  Without learning the future of UA Arms, we eventually made our way to the local shooting range.  I first fired my Daddy's revolver, a beautifully decorated Ruger Vaquero .357 magnum six-shooter.  The experience was like conjuring his ghost in a cornfield.  Me in my overalls and Daddy in the best camouflage money could buy, I felt him there, guiding my hands.  The revolver was heavy and clunky, but I hit five out of six of the shots in a cluster around the bull's-eye, all the while hearing my daddy shout "Les, Les, incoming, honey, pull the trigger, honey! and dreaming of those lazy September afternoons we both so much loved to share.  Next, we shot a standard 1911, one that needed to be tested for a customer.  Not surprising, it had more recoil than the revolver, but Rick makes a hell of a gun.  I noticed with the normal weight 1911, my aim kept going below the target, slowly wandering down below the bull's-eye, as the magazine dispersed.  After a few magazines, (and a lesson from Rick on anticipating the shot by "slow squeezing), I held my first Uselton, molecular-bonded 1911.  Same sleek design, but you can "see the line in the metal just below the slide where the bonding took place.  After my first magazine, I was amazed how much easier it was to aim in-between each shot.  The weight reduction, (at least for me), made my aim in-between rounds less hesitative.  Granted, this was my first time EVER to shoot a handgun, but the weight reduction really did a number on my ability to aim, without tiring out my wrists in-between shots.

 

So after the shooting range, Angela, Rick, and I made our way over to a local chain restaurant for some chow and for me to learn the rest of the story.  Still a little confused about the "next steps for UA Arms, Angela took over the conversation, after asking the question of the day in another manner.  "So, I can see where the weight reduction on the 1911 really will benefit someone lugging it around all the time, but what is the future for UA Arms?  Angela has learned to make it simple for me, seeing how before this article I did not know a slide from a magazine.  "Well, Dad was the conduit between Lew and Souriau PA&E and a large gun manufacturing company that has a contract in the works for a large order of explosively bonded 1911 frame and slide billets.  The gun world is a small one.  Dad's had relationships with them going back all the way back to when we opened our first retail shop.  This manufacturer has a possible large order that they need to fulfill.  Once the details are worked out in their contract, Dad and I will be working alongside this manufacturer as consultants.  Dad will be active in the blueprinting and design of their model.  It's what Dad does the best.  He has helped design and build a 1911 handgun already for this particular manufacturer during a two-year contract.  The facility that will be manufacturing these guns has never used this technology before.  So, I guess you can say this will be our first big order.  But UA Arms is looking to expand our patent rights.  We were very proud of how the 1911 testing went for our explosively bonded 1911 handguns.  It was conducted by Paul Evancoe, a retired Navy Seal.  Although we had a couple hiccups in the beginning, we worked through those kinks by changing out some springs and the grip safeties. After the initial modifications, we couldn't have asked for the testing to have gone any better.  Doing this type of severe and rigorous testing was especially important when you are introducing something new to the gun industry.  People need to know that these molecular bonded metals will withstand the test of time.  Because in all actuality most people consider lightweight guns to not be as durable and we are changing the myth that you can carry lightweight guns a lot but only shoot it a little.  With the potential molecular bonding has for larger caliber weapons such as heavy machine guns, or any weapon in the industry that can be lightened or built to be more durable, the military applications are limitless.  It's a great feeling knowing the UA Arms will be the pioneers of this technology in the gun business.  After introducing the technology at the SHOT show two years ago, we've have filled numerous of orders for everyone from gun enthusiasts to private security teams down in South America, and even training facilities as well as dealers and distributors from all over the country.  Eventually, the FBI, CIA, and local police forces will hopefully embrace molecular bonding technology.  Until then, Dad and I will continue to work with the big gun makers in the industry and help them adapt the guns that they build by using this process.  But we are keeping our doors open to other applications in the arms industry.  It's an exciting time to be in the industry.  I know it's a leap to associate the great attributes that John Browning made to the industry to my dad.  The man was a genius that lived way before his time.  But with my dad's passion for this industry, molecular bonding will be his small contribution to revolutionizing the arms business.  He might not ever have a book or a museum with his name on it, but he has tireless worked to educate the gun community about this innovative process.  In a way, UA Arms is still in its infancy.  The possibilities are endless.  Molecular bonding is the wave of the future. 

 

         

 

 

 

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M1911_pistol

[2] http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq66-1.htm

[3] http://www.muzzleblasts.com/archives/vol2no4/articles/mbo24-2.shtml

[4] http://files.usgwarchives.net/ut/state/bios/alter/b/browning-johnm.txt

[5] http://www.orsonprattbrown.com/CJB/03Esther-Jones/browning-johnathan.htm

[6] http://www.muzzleblasts.com/archives/vol2no4/articles/mbo24-2.shtml

[7] http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2011/07/william-c-montgomery/the-making-of-john-moses-browning/

[8] [9] John M. Browning, American Gunmaker by John Browning and Curt Gentry, published in 1964 by Doubleday & Company

[10] http://world.guns.ru/machine/usa/colt-browning-m195-e.html

[11] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M1895_Colt-Browning_machine_gun

[12] http://www.americanrifleman.org/articles/colt-1911-history/