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!