Firearm Showcase: Johnson’s Daisy Mae Auto-Carbine at the Cody Firearms Museum – HIGH RES PICS!

In January, just before the 2017 SHOT Show, I got the opportunity to travel to Cody Wyoming to visit the Cody Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, to see some of their rare firearms and bring photos of them to our readers.

Today’s weapon is a forgotten progenitor to the modern black rifle, a design which helped lay the groundwork for the AR-15. Melvin Maynard Johnson was a talented gun designer who is most famous for his M1941 semiautomatic rifle which became the only serious challenger to the M1 Garand in the late 1930s and early 1940s, but who is also known for his M1941 Light Machine Gun of similar design. In addition to these two weapons, he produced a sort of intermediate design which he felt would be better suited to smaller statured individuals and which might fill a role somewhere in-between the rifle and the light machine gun. This was the Auto-Carbine, which Johnson – as he did all his guns – christened with the name “Daisy Mae” (the rifle was “Betsy”, and the light machine gun was “Emma”).

More should be written about the Auto-Carbine than I can put down here, but it was a sort of hybrid between the two weapons. It combined a straight-line layout and select-fire capability similar to the light machine gun with a forend and magazine similar to the rifle, resulting in a sort of proto-assault rifle configuration. Johnson made his first prototype in 1941, so he was ahead of the game in concept if not in the design details, but only five or six were ever made (sources disagree). Johnson would later work for Armalite, and contributed to the development of the AR-10, the predecessor of the AR-15.

If you’re interested in seeing more of the Cody Firearms Museum, I highly recommend taking a trip out to Cody, Wyoming to see their awesome and extensive collection. They have over 7,000 firearms, about 4,000 of which are on display. In particular, if you have an interest in Winchester firearms and their history, Cody is the place to be. If just a visit isn’t enough for you, then check out the museum’s 79-page book, which highlights some of the finest pieces in their collection!





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.


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  • Friend

    Anyone know the caliber?

    • KestrelBike

      Google revealed 30-06 (couple other variants, one for export, check wikipedia).

      • Friend

        Thanks.

      • Friend

        Dang, I didn’t even notice the caliber the first time I looked at the overly short Wikipedia page.

  • Samuel Madsen

    Why can’t one of the infinite number of companies making AR-15 clones break out the 3D printers and CNC machines and make something that is actually interesting and different, like this!

    • Tom

      I would imagine that the big issue is the amount of trial and error that would be needed to get everything working at an acceptable rate – that only a few prototypes were made would suggest it was far from finished. Its not like there is a technical package just sitting around. Far easier and more profitable to produce a proven design.

  • Paul

    What caliber?

  • MarcoPolo

    For anyone that finds this interesting, the “Johnson Rifles and Machine Guns” Book is EXCELLENT and available on Amazon for a reasonable price. Rest assured it will be $300+ once it’s out of print, if you want it, get it while it’s available.