On January 23, 1855 in Ogden Utah, John Moses Browning was born to Jonathan Browning and Elizabeth Clarke. From his earliest years, John spent his days in the Browning shop, experimenting with tools and firearm components while the hammer rang out at his father’s workbench. John had little formal schooling but received an education as his father’s protégé. Later accounts called the Browning shop the inventor’s school, for it was where the Browning firearms legacy emerged. Throughout his boyhood, John M. Browning committed to memory every gun part that came through the shop, gaining first-hand experience with everything related to gunsmithing. He eventually learned the fundamentals well enough to assess and tag a customer’s gun for repairs while his father was out of the shop.
Around age 10, the inventive John Moses recruited his younger brother Matt to try his hand at gunsmithing. Taking the sawn-off end of a damaged barrel they found in their father’s scrap pile, John attached the barrel to a stock he had hacked from a board of wood with his hatchet. The gun was crudely fashioned, having no hammer or trigger mechanisms, and the only way to load the gun was to insert a bullet and pour gunpowder through a small vent behind where the ammunition sat. With the newly assembled firearm and some pillaged gunpowder, John and Matt ran to the edge of the Browning property that extended beyond the Ogden City limits. Aiming at a couple of prairie hens sighted down the barrel of his gun, John told Matt to light the end of a stick with the coals in order to ignite the powder in the funnel. As John recalled, that handmade gun knocked him to the ground, but it did its job. The two boys managed to bring home three birds for supper using that single-shot makeshift weapon. When the two told their father about their success, Jonathan only remarked, “John Moses, you’re going on eleven; can’t you make a better gun than that?” Flustered at his father’s remarks, John determined to do exactly that.
It was this upbringing that laid the foundation for the firearm dynasty John Moses Browning established throughout his 71 years of life. At age 23 he designed his first gun: the John M. Browning’s Single Shot Rifle. With the help of his brothers, John manufactured this model in their own little factory in Ogden until selling the patent to Winchester in 1883. From that point on, John designed every gun that can come to mind: machine guns, shotguns, pistols, and rifles. He created designs of exceptional quality, and many of his inventions were referenced and copied throughout the world. These designs are displayed in museums worldwide, but no museum houses a more complete tribute to his legacy than the Browning Firearms Museum. The museum is an important monument to his life and represents the culmination of his life’s inventions that helped shape the United States and the world.