Johnson Automatic Rifle

Forgotten weapons writes about the Johnson Automatic Rifle …

However, it had one particular feature that made it attractive to the Marine Corps paratroopers – the barrel could be easily removed and replaced, using just a cartridge. This made it into a much shorter package than the Garand, and thus better suited to strapping to one’s leg for a jump.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Theodoric

    Didn’t the Us Marines only receive the Johnson Rifle because the Dutch East Indies Army couldn’t receive them due to the Japanese invasion?

  • Sian

    Marines ended up with some interesting forgotten equipment, like the Johnson and the Reising SMG. I seem to call the Johnson LMG (a different rifle than the above but operating on the same action) was preferred by mountain troops due to its side-loading magazine — you could get much lower to the ground compared to a BAR and it was way lighter than one.

    The Johnson rifles had a direct influence on Eugene Stoner’s designs, so they’re definitely significant!

  • El Duderino

    I saw one of these in a local gun store recently.


    I asked if they mistakenly added a zero (the rifle was pretty beat up). The counter guy chuckled and said, “You’re not the first guy to ask that today.”

    I like mid 20th century C&R guns, especially semis (M1, FN49, Ljungman Ag42/Hakim, SVT40, G43, MAS49, etc) but heck I can buy one of each for $7500. If you’re trying to complete a U.S. WWII small arms collection, I guess you’re a buyer.

  • Squidpuppy

    In the 50’s Winfield got a hold of a surplus and sporterized them. If you see one with blued hardware, and a ramped front sight; that’s a sporter civilian model; they’re still pricey, but often about half what a complete military version costs these days. The Winfields also removed the bayonet lug and had sporter butt stocks with a cheek comb.

    Another feature troops in the field liked was you could top off the rotary magazine by adding rounds individually; unlike the M1 Garand.

    You can order a refurb / restore from these guys: but look, price quotes on request ^_^

    You can find some videos on YouTube & Box-o-Truth has an article.

  • Jim

    Would you really want to land with your barrel detached?

  • “gunner”

    i don’t have a type number for it, but somewhere in the bowels of he springfield armory museum i once saw a hybrid garand rifle with a johnson style magazine, if you can picture a “pregnant” garand…

  • Vaarok

    There was actually a prototype where the action broke in half with a pressbutton, the buttstock and recoil assembly sliding off the upper receiver very like how an AR15 would break apart if you pull the hingepin.

    The Johnson led to the AR anyway- the bolt is a copy, the 5.7 Spitfire and SALVO almost directly due to Melvin Johnson’s experimentation.

    I love mine, even though it’s a Winfield. They’re so much better a rifle than the Garand it’s not funny.

  • Vaarok

    Also, here’s the Johnson Feed Garand:

  • paramedic70002


    Paratroopers had problems jumping with their issued rifles, they often were ripped off in flight. A design fault of the issued leg scabbards.

  • Fluffy

    They have one of these at the Wright Museum in Wolfeboro. I saw it at this show of World War 2 weapons (Japanese and Allies) where I ended up holding a Webley and a Bren. That was a great day…

  • HEP-T

    No provision’s for a bayonet due to the recoil operated barrel.
    This is why the Marine’s turned down this rifle designed.
    Apparently cold steel was worth two less rounds of ammo.

  • idahoguy101

    The other WWII user of Johnson Automatics were a joint US Army/Canadien Special Operations Mountain Brigade in Italy. They used a version of the Johnson Rifle which had a long box magazine on it’s left side, instead of using the standard American BAR.