M1941 Johnson Field Strip

Alex C.
by Alex C.

The M1941 Johnson Rifle is a strange footnote in US firearms history. Melvin Johnson was a lawyer by trade who decided to break into firearms design by founding the Johnson Automatics company. While his rifle would never see the success enjoyed by the M1 Garand, several M1941s did make their way into the hands of US fighting men in the Pacific during World War II.

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The full transcript …

– [Voiceover] Hey guys, it’s Alex C. with TFBTV.

Today’s field strip is gonna be of an M1941 Johnson rifle.

Johnson rifle’s kind of a strange rifle in American history, they told the guy who designed it, Melvin Johnson, that U.S. would never actually accept his rifle.

But it did end up serving alongside the Garand, most notably in the Pacific theater of World War 2.

The Johnson is a recoil operated firearm.

You can see here, I can’t simply pull the bolt to the rear, you have to lift it up and then pull back, and that’s because what unlocks it is actually the rearward movement of the barrel when the bolt and the barrel are locked together.

So once the barrel moves back to a set point, it does allow the bolt to freely fly towards the back of the receiver, so pretty cool.

A little unusual, but very cool, nonetheless.

One of the things the Johnson was criticized for was its inability to mount a heavy bayonet, that’s because the entire barrel does have to reciprocate.

For example, right here, I show a Springfield 1903 bayonet next to the what’s called the tent stake bayonet, and you can see how the U.S. high command might’ve thought the tent stake was a little inadequate.

Some positives are that you can top this rifle off a little easier than you can an M1.

You can insert a Springfield 1903 clip, and strip off five rounds, however it does have a ten round capacity, which is nice, two more than the Garand.

You can also click in individual rounds, which is a nice feature, realistically.

Whereas a Garand, you can top it off, but it’s kind of a pain.

So without further ado, let’s get to field stripping it.

Field stripping it starts with this little lever located under the barrel in the fore-end.

That’s gonna be the main focus of taking this gun down.

You’re going to get a bullet tip, or something else pointy, and insert it into this hole on the right side of the fore-end.

And once you have that pressed, push the barrel in a little bit and that lever flies out and allows you to remove the barrel fully from the receiver.

Just make sure your bolt is unlocked, and you can do that pretty quick.

And I gotta admit guys, I kinda pulled one over on you all, because that’s actually all you have to do to field strip an M1941 Johnson.

You can disassemble them further, but this is all they recommended for cleaning, because since the recoil operated, gas doesn’t get all in the receiver and whatnot.

You can also see that the multi-lug rotating bolt makes the chamber look like an AR15 barrel, so that’s cool, ’cause Melvin Johnson actually did work with Eugene Stoner, and his bolt design was carried on to the AR10, which is kinda cool.

So, all-in-all, the M1941 is a very simple gun to take apart, making it excellent for paratroopers and whatnot.

Look forward to our upcoming Run and Gun with this, and hopefully we’ll see how it performs.

Anyways, I’m Alex C. with TFBTV.

Thanks for watching.

Also, I’d like to give a special shout-out to our sponsors, Grizzly Targets and Ventura Munitions.

Great companies and this program wouldn’t be here without those guys.

Thanks everybody.

Alex C.
Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.

More by Alex C.

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2 of 17 comments
  • Tassiebush Tassiebush on Nov 23, 2015

    This really is an awesome rifle. Watching that barrel and bolt travel and unlock is really novel. I really like the fact it can be topped up. I am really looking forward to seeing the run and gun with it. I wonder how much more reliable one could be if the bolt mass ratio was changed?

  • Roguetechie Roguetechie on Nov 26, 2015

    I have to correct you on a mistake that's pretty egregious here. You flippantly state that Melvin Johnson worked with Eugene Stoner at armalite... There would be no AR 10 AR 15 or a Gene Stoner without Melvin Johnson!
    I absolutely detest the way Melvin Johnson never gets his due credit, especially because it is a prime demonstration of how if you're ONE step ahead of the pack you're lauded as a genius... But if you're half a century ahead like Melvin Johnson was you're maligned ignored and forgotten while others get the credit for your work!
    Now this isn't to say Stoner Sullivan Roy et al aren't absolutely TITANS of the firearm world, but what else could they have been when they had access to the man who knew exactly where things would be today in the small arms world by the late 30's?
    At least one of the early rifles that got Stoner noticed and hired into the industry was a modified Johnson rifle... Not even getting into the fact that Johnson had the modular universal multi caliber multirole weapon nearly perfected by 1946 and he managed to do all this despite very active attempts to kill his project at every turn...
    it should always be remembered that the SECOND head to head competition with the garand... The one mandated by Congress and still nowhere close to fair to the Johnson rifles still ended in a draw with the garand being kept more due to institutional inertia and embarrassingly narrow advantages in system maturity!
    put aside that the Johnson was much cheaper to make, and would have been ideal for distributed manufacturing had the war turned... Especially since we could have ditched the BAR at the same time, and could have went into Korea with the equivalent of an hk21e in place of both BAR and 1919a4's...
    I mean that just doesn't count...
    I really tend to wonder how much the sting of the Johnson weapons system influenced and perpetuated the bloody minded insistence on turning the garand into a universal platform in it's upgraded M14 form.