Unproduced Browning Shotgun Patent From 1896

The Historical Firearms blog has a very interesting post on a forgotten John Browning patent for a (then-advanced) pump-action shotgun. The weapon features an enclosed hammer, dual extractors, and a tilting locking block reminiscent of the later M1918 automatic rifle. The gun in many ways foreshadows the “Perfect Repeater” Winchester 1912, but differs in a few tantalizing respects. First, the bolt locks via a separate block, like a BAR or MAG, not via tilting the entire bolt as in a Model 12. Secondly, the firing pin is raked at an angle, apparently to accommodate the low profile rear receiver. tumblr_nfwwpzKiIU1s57vgxo1_1280

The design was never produced; Winchester bought the patent (as they did 43 others) from John Browning to ensure no rivals could use it to make a competing gun:

Browning’s relationship with Winchester was such that the company rather than paying him a salary paid for individual designs.  This was done to keepBrowning’s designs out of the hands of rival manufacturers.  As a result only ten of the forty-four designs purchased were actually produced.  Many of the designs were differing mechanisms and advancements of firearm types already in production. In the case of the shotgun patented in 1896 – if another company such as Remington had purchased the patent then Winchester would have had a major rival who was selling a similar, if not superior product.

The purchase of John Browning’s designs meant that Winchester was able to hold its nearest competitors at arms length while they sold some of America’s most popular shotguns and rifles, including the M1885 lever-action shotgun, the Model 1894 lever action rifle, the Model 1897 pump-action shotgun and a series of extremely popular .22 rifles.

Many, if not most of John Browning’s patented ideas did not get produced. This fact is a bit staggering how many not only did get made, but were pivotal in the history of small arms development.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


  • Very interesting story! That kind of sucks that Brownings works of art weren’t all produced. Do you think this 1896 patent would ever get produced in the near future? Would it be worth while to make now?

    • Browning flooded Winchester with designs as a cash crop. Many simply would have competed with their existing product line.

  • MadKaw69

    Wasn’t this to become the Stevens 520? That was a Browning design, and it was produced. I may be wrong, but it sure looks like it to me, take-down and all.

  • There are a few differences. They do look very similar, however.

    Further, I never claimed to be an “expert”.

  • Blake

    very cool, thanks for posting this.

  • Blake

    very cool, thanks for posting this.

  • Joe, as a patent attorney who represents many firearms companies, I have to disagree in real-world terms. A patent means 20 years of offering your innovation without worrying about being undercut on pricing. Occasionally, a patent owner might decide not to produce a patented invention, but it’s unheard of to pay to buy up a firearms patent simply to keep it from being produced. It’s plausible that Winchester made an error in not marketing one of these Browning designs, but the burden is on you to show why that design would have been superior. The most important thing to realize is that without the patent system, many of these Browning designs that were never produced may have been lost to history. Because it’s patented, this design is here for us all to learn from, and even to produce.

    • John Daniels

      Intellectual property enforcement is just a way to use the violence inherent in government to prevent competition.

      “A patent means 20 years of offering your innovation without worrying about being undercut on pricing.”

      Browning also patented the idea of a fixed external charging handle, and look at all the borderline unsafe bullshit people had to do to get around that patent. People got killed because of that.

      People own property, not ideas.

      Then some companies get patents on things that are ridiculous and screw with other people’s livelihood. Example: monolithic upper receivers.

      • John, the real question is whether having patents means more advancement, a stronger economy, or other such net benefits. The founding fathers thought that offering patent rights meant the US might turn out to be an economically strong country. They seem to have been correct. The motive to create an invention when you won’t own the rights is weak compared to knowing you can keep your invention. It’s like the motive to hoe and plant a field, knowing anyone can harvest the crops (aka “socialism”).

        Even if you think the system is a mistake, it’s hard to argue that an innovator doesn’t get massive economic benefit from having a patent. I am hired by gun companies all the time who dislike the patent system, or think patents are worthless or can’t be enforced, until they have an invention they know they need to protect. When you come up with an amazing gun invention that you know is valuable, I promise to be gracious if you decide to consult with me. 🙂

        And if you have a specific patent you think is ridiculous, post the number, and we can chat about it. (There are occasionally some ridiculous patents – government employees being imperfect on occasion – but they get invalidated when the owner tries to enforce them).