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Antique Military Firearms
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This is a rare and fine condition Johnson Automatics Model 1941 Rifle in .30-06 that is still in its original military configuration.

The history of the Johnson 1941 Rifle, and its designer, is a very interesting one that began on the eve of WWII. The designer of the rifle was Melvin Maynard Johnson, Jr., who graduated from Harvard University and Harvard Law School. He was also an avid firearms enthusiast from a young age and, around the same time that he graduated from law school he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve. Johnson took advantage of his association with the Marine Corps to pen various articles for the Marine Corps Gazette in the early 1930s. One of his articles was a general critique of the new M1 Garand Semi-Automatic Rifle. Johnson took issue in his article with the M1s "gas trap" design and its en block clip loading design, as well as several other issues with the rifle.

Melvin Johnson began an early relationship with the United Automatic Rifles Corporation in the early 1930s, initially in his role as an attorney, and began to provide the company with mechanical and engineering work on various rifle designs. The relationship did not survive but it solidified in Johnson the desire to experiment with and develop his own weapons designs. One of his first experiments, undoubtedly as a counter to the gas operated M1 Garand design, was in recoil operated automatic weapons design. Johnson eventually partnered with Marlin Firearms to build a semi-automatic rifle and light machine gun, both of which used a vertical feed design through the use of Browning Automatic Rifle 20-round magazines. The magazines developed several problems during tests at Fort Benning but Johnson was undeterred and continued developing both weapons. This led Johnson to begin work on a rotary magazine design.

In the late 1930s, Johnson founded Johnson Automatics, Incorporated, which would be the operating entity that would own the patent rights (and hopefully obtain manufacturing rights) for all of Johnson's weapons designs. Johnson then began a determined effort to sell his designs, and his weapons, to the US Army and Marine Corps and various countries, including Great Britain and France. The rifle design that Johnson settled on, which he felt was superior to the M1 Garand rifle, was what became his Model 1941 Rifle. This rifle had a detachable barrel, a 10-round rotary magazine, and was recoil operated. The US Army, however, had settled on the M1 Garand rifle, which was then in production at Springfield Armory. Johnson continued to believe that his rifle design was just as good as John C. Garand's design and he began to lobby members of Congress in an attempt to reopen the weapons tests that led to the adoption of the M1. Congress eventually held several rounds of hearings and, after an additional series of "head-to-head" tests, the M1 Garand was deemed superior by the Army. This left Melvin Johnson continuing to try and win a contract from the Marine Corps, which had not formally adopted a replacement for the 1903 Rifle, and from various foreign governments. Melvin Johnson had finalized his Model 1941 design by this point and now needed the assistance of an established manufacturing business to go forward with large-scale production.

An agreement was ultimately reached between Johnson Automatics and the Universal Windings Company that resulted in the establishment of the Cranston Arms Company of Cranston, Rhode Island, which would produce Johnson's Model 1941 Rifle. Cranston Arms also produced Johnson's Model of 1941 Light Machine Gun, which shared several design features with his semi-automatic rifle. Only a limited number of M1941 rifles had been shipped to the Dutch in the East Indies prior to the Japanese capture of Dutch possessions in the Pacific in early 1942. Some of these rifles were ultimately captured by the Japanese near the airfield at Tarikan and the port of Balikpapan in 1942. The rest were evacuated and used by the Free Dutch forces fighting in Timor through 1943. Some of the Dutch M1941 rifles were even used for a time by Australian forces fighting in Timor. The remaining M1941 rifles were then embargoed to keep them from being sent to the East Indies and possibly captured by the Japanese.

After the United States entered the war in December 1941, demand for military arms soared. By this time, the Marine Corps had followed the Army's lead in adopting the M1 as its standard battle rifle, but M1 production was initially unable to meet demand. In addition, much to the Marine Corps' chagrin, the Army had first priority on available supplies and on future output from Springfield Armory and Winchester, the two manufacturers of the M1 Rifle. As a result, the Johnson M1941 rifle was adopted by the Marines for issue to Marine Raiders and to newly-formed Para-Marine airborne units (because the barrel could be removed for ease of jumping the weapon), and these rifles saw action in the Solomons campaign of 1942. As M1s became available to Marine units, most Johnson rifles were withdrawn from combat use although there are notable examples remaining in use, to include combat use on Iwo Jima. Only a few thousand of these arms had been procured by the U.S. government before production ended in 1944, and, in addition to their limited use with the Marine Corps, some Johnson rifles were issued to clandestine O.S.S. operatives. Because the rifle was never officially adopted by the US military, and because WWII prevented any opportunity Johnson may have had for robust foreign sales, the total number of Johnson 1941 Rifles manufactured was very small, only about 30,000. Johnson Model 1941 Rifles were serial numbered in groups of 10,000, with the first 10,000 having no prefix, the second group with prefix "A," and the third and final group with prefix "B."

This particular Johnson M1941 Rifle is serial number B5439 and was manufactured during early 1941. This rifle is in fine condition. The original barrel is in its original 22” military configuration with the sight protective ears and the bayonet lug. The front sight pins remain correctly staked in place and have never been removed. The barrel has 95% plus of its parkerized finish. The barrel has strong rifling and a mirror bore and it gauges at 0 at the muzzle so this will be an excellent shooting rifle.

The Barrel Bushing has the correct “.30-'06” and “41” markings stamped on the face. Near the breech it has a “3” and “9” stamp, the “O [Gladius Sword] I” in a circle stamp found on all Johnson 1941 Barrels. It is also correctly marked “J.A./30-06,” still crisply stamped with a star stamp. The Locking Bushing is in excellent condition with normal wear on the lugs. The breech end has “C,” “X”, and “V” inspection stamps. The breech face remains in the white. The Barrel has the assembly number “2843K” and the Locking Bushing also has assembly number “2843K” stamp. None of the M1941 Johnson Rifles were serial number matching so all of the Johnson 1941 Rifles will have different numbers on the bolt and barrel although on the numerous examples I have observed, if there are two matching numbered components it will be the barrel and locking bushing. The Barrel Recoil Spring and Latch Assembly and the Upper Sling Swivel retain the vast majority of the original finish.

The Receiver retains the vast majority of its original finish. It has the correct and crisp star over the triangle with "CRANSTON ARMS CO." on the right rear of the receiver. The star indicates original Dutch acceptance according to Bruce Canfield, prior to Japanese occupation of Dutch possessions in the Pacific and before these rifles were then offered to the Marine Corps. The Receiver markings are still very crisp on the top of the receiver. These markings include Johnson’s patent information, “JOHNSON AUTOMATICS” over “MODEL OF 1941,” and the manufacturer’s location, “MADE IN PROVIDENCE, R.I., U.S.” Below that is the serial number “B5439.” All of the stampings remain crisp. The ventilated forward portion of the receiver, which becomes a ventilated top handguard, retains the vast majority of its original parkerized finish. As noted, the upper sling swivel assembly remains in fine condition and retains virtually all of its original military finish.

The Bolt retains the majority of its original blued finish in the low areas and is correctly polished to the white along the friction surfaces. The outside of the bolt is stamped with assembly number “B8836,” over the standard vertically stamped “123” stamp.  The Locking Cam has the assembly number “E0638” and remains correctly in the white. It is marked “HO” on the back portion at the link point. The Link retains the vast majority of its parkerized finish. The Firing Pin Retainer exhibits the vast majority of its parkerized finish and the retainer spring is present. The Firing Pin retains virtually all of its original parkerized finish and has the assembly number “8783.” The Firing Pin Spring and Spring Retaining Collar are both present. Both Cam Rollers on the Bolt Assembly are present and both rotate smoothly. This rifle headspaces correctly using Clymer “GO” and “NO GO” gauges.

The Extractor retains most of its dark parkerized finish and has the assembly number “G3750.” The Operating Handle also retains virtually all of its original finish and the detent spring is still strong. The Ejector is present and retains the majority of its original finish.

The Bolt Stop Plate retains the vast majority of its original parkerized finish with wear noted only on the back side of the plate. The Bolt Stop retains the vast majority of its original parkerized finish with virtually no wear. The Hammer Block retains virtually all of its original parkerized finish and is very clean. The Bolt Catch is very clean and retains the majority of its parkerized finish with wear on the catch itself. The two-stage Hammer retains the majority of its parkerized finish on the sides with the top edge polished to the white and is marked with the assembly number “C9993” on the right side and there is an “N” stamp on the left side. The Hammer Spring remains strong.  The Bolt Hold-Open Device is present and retains the majority of its original parkerized finish.  In later production, the bolt hold-open device is frequently omitted because, interestingly, Maynard Johnson was not in favor of the hold open design. 

The Trigger Guard retains the vast majority of its original parkerized finish. The Rear Trigger Guard Screw retains the majority of its parkerized finish. The Front Trigger Guard Screw retains all of its parkerized finish and the single slot is unmarred. The Safety Lock Lever retains the majority of its parkerized finish and operates correctly. The Trigger retains the majority of its parkerized finish and the trigger release is still crisp.

Both the Hammer Block Pin and Frame Pin retain the majority of their original parkerized finish. The Rotary Magazine is in fine condition with no large dents as is often found on the bottom of Johnson 1941 Magazines. The rear of the magazine wall has the assembly number “E2183.” The Follower and Magazine Gate springs are both strong.

The Rear Sight retains its original dark finish and is adjustable from 100 to 900 meters (again, designed in meters for the original Dutch military customer). The Windage Knob is the correct first type and it retains the majority of its parkerized finish. The left side of the Rear Sight Elevator has the correct “M2” stamp. The Windage Knob Screw has an unmarred slot.

The Stock is the correct second and final Johnson Model 1941 Rifle stock that incorporated additional pieces of black walnut on both sides of the magazine swell. This was done in an effort to conserve wood for other stocks. The stock has very minor dings and scratches but is in very fine condition overall. The original Lower Sling Swivel Assembly is present and it retains virtually all of its original finish with no marring of the single-slot screws. The original checkered steel butt plate is present and is in fine condition, retaining the majority of its original parkerized finish.  All of the original single-slot stock screws are present and are unmarred.

The Forward Handguard is in excellent condition and it matches the finish on the stock perfectly. There are minor dings and scratches on the Handguard but no cracks are noted. The forward handguard single-slot screws are present and are unmarred.

This is one of the rarest and most highly sought after WWII Rifles and this one remains in its unaltered, original military configuration. Many of these rifles saw combat during the early days of WWII with Dutch forces and special Marine Corps units in the Pacific. Some British and New Zealand troops also used the Johnson 1941 from those recovered from Dutch East India and, as noted previously, Marines were known to have continued to use the Johnson Model 1941 Rifle as late as the Battle for Iwo Jima in 1945. This rifle operates perfectly and was test fired with 10-rounds and it performed flawlessly.