A Nurse with a Gun

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ugly Gun Sunday

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then today's ugly gun is a testament to John Moses Browning's greatness. Pictured here is a hand made but functional 1911 style pistol that was built from the scrap of war in the jungles of Vietnam. It is one of my personal favorites, showing the inventiveness of a craftsman in need.

While this 1911 was likely worn as a badge of authority, on close inspection, it shows signs of having been fired, at least once.

That took intestinal fortitude, or at the least a quart of Ruou nep.

Several years ago, I first saw this GI bring back Vietnamese 1911 on the internet. I saved the available photos of it since that time. It is still at the top of my list. I want it!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

now THERE was a gunsmith!

12:13 PM  
Blogger none said...

I like it. It has character. Pretty good for hand made.

I would definitely shoot it (with light handloads and thick gloves)

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Moses Browning's original probably didn't look much better. The first examples of all of his designs were made by hand at his shop. First by John and later his brother.

They used an old fashioned blacksmith forge and anvil, and literally hammered them out. All machining was done with a primitive lathe, drill press, and such. He worked with the manufactures to finalize the details for production.

Makes you appreciate the power of a determined man, wherever he lives.

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only way I would ever even dream about shooting it would be to replace all of the innards with new high quality parts.

How much does one of these cost?


3:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Errr, Travlin?

Not sure that'd be right.

The Browning shop was pretty efficeint, after all John Moses & his brothers had produced 600 Hi Wall rifles at the beginning of his career.

The local Winchester rep was so impressed, Winchester bought the whole stock, as they Saw the Brownings as a potential competitor.

I suspect JMB's first prototype would have had a lot of filing & welding to get weights etc right, but after that, they'd be pretty damn good.

There's not a lot you can't do on a lathe, or for that matter with some files and scrapers.


10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think we are essentially in agreement as it was his hand made prototypes I was referring to. It seems like you have also read Browning’s biography. As I remember, the photos of his rifle prototypes looked better finished. The pistol prototypes which came much later seemed more crude in appearance, though they were mechanically superb. He created all his designs in metal, with simple sketches for the difficult parts. They were indeed hand forged. I think that in later years he realized that economically it made sense to wait until he had the sale, and then work with the manufacturer to refine the fit and finish. They would probably want to make some changes anyway for easier production.

The point I wanted to make was that a determined man with basic tools and good metal can make a good pistol, even if it’s not as pretty as we’re used to. That Vietnamese copy might work much better than it looks.

You’re right that the Browning brothers manufactured his first commercial rifle. Winchester bought the design, but if I remember correctly, the Browning’s sold the first 600 themselves. John Moses was embarrassed when Winchester told him they had to stop this since he had sold the rights, which had not occurred to him. By then only a few were left and they sort of disappeared when John wasn’t looking. After that John created designs, one brother built the models, and the others ran the gun and sporting goods shop. John was happy to get out of manufacturing and concentrate on design.

I appreciate your comments Keith and would be happy to further compare notes by private message at The High Road. My memory is not perfect, and I don’t know much about machining, but I’m willing to learn.

I recommend his biography to everyone. AMERICAN GUNMAKER, by his son John Browning and Curt Gentry. It is fun to read, with many personal stories and a detailed listing of his creations. It’s available at Amazon.com.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent a couple of years in Viet Nam. I was always amazed at some of the things we found that was for the most part "Hand Made".

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

replication of JMB's genius? Yes we have lot of that but look better than the Viet Nam's geniuses. 1911A1 replication/duplication/production here in the Philippines is a big underground COTTAGE INDUSTRY in Danao, Cebu (by the Sugbuanon) and in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur (Maranao Muslim). The underground manufactured 1911s are little bit heavier and bulkier than than the ORIGINAL Colt's. One can have a better-made 19911A1 with 1 Benjamin F.

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is both an example of why gun control doesn't work and a tribute to what a few 'crude' tools and a skilled craftsperson can do. Modern tools basically copy the actions of ancient ones, albeit faster. There aren't many machine tools available today which don't replicate processes available to the skilled worker for the last 3000 years.

9:02 PM  

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