All gun enthusiasts and anyone wanting a glimpse into the mind of a creative genius will benefit from a visit to the John M. Browning Firearms Museum in Ogden, Utah.
The museum is located in the Union Station at 2501 Wall Avenue, Ogden, Utah. Union Station is the old depot for the Union Pacific Railroad which originally opened in 1924. It’s built in the Italian Renaissance Style and is worth examination by anyone interested in architecture. Union Station actually hosts three different museums; the John M. Browning Firearms Museum, the Utah State Railroad Museum, and the Browning – Kimball Classic Car Museum. In addition, there’s an art gallery with permanent art on display and paintings that are for sale. The cost of admission is five dollars; this allows entry to all of the museums and the art gallery for the day. Museum hours are from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Saturday. Telephone calls to the museums can be made at (801) 393-9884.
The museum is home to hundreds of rifles, pistols, and machine guns, including some of the original prototypes. There’s over-sized scale models of the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), and the .50 caliber M-2 (Ma Deuce), which were used by the military for training purposes. One display case has miniature guns, including machine guns, built to scale that are fully functional, they can and actually have been fired. Apparently, building a scaled down weapon is a requirement for gunsmiths before earning the title of Master Gunsmith.
There’s a short movie which highlights the life of John Moses Browning (1855 – 1926). John M. Browning’s father, Jonathan Browning, was a gunsmith also. He moved to Utah with the Mormon pioneers, took his lathe and set up shop in Ogden, Utah, where John M. Browning was born Jan. 23, 1855. From a young age John M. Browning displayed a genius for firearm improvements and innovation.
John M. Browning is credited with 128 patents. He never retired; he spent his life working with firearms, both sporting and military. While John M. Browning was the creative genius, his brother Matt was the marketing genius. The guns patented by John M. Browning were built under license by Winchester, Remington, Colt, and Fabrique Nationale (FN) of Belgium, as well as other gun makers. John M. Browning spent so much time in Liege, Belgium, supervising for Fabrique Nationale that some of his children were born there.
It was the genius of John M. Browning that designed the 1911 Colt Army .45 automatic. Many knowledgeable people argue that the 1911 Colt should still be the official sidearm of the US military today, over 100 years later. Both the BAR and the M-2 machine guns, which he invented, are still in use by armies throughout the world today, almost 100 years later.
Initially, Matt Browning felt that John M. Browning let the US government purchase manufacturing rights to the BAR too cheaply. But with America entering World War I John M. Browning felt that haggling over money wasn’t the right thing to do. John M. Browning’s own son enlisted in the US Army, and 1st Lt. Val Browning is credited with taking the first BAR into combat for the US Army.
One room in the museum is a replica of an old gunsmith shop complete with lathe, tools, benches, and gun parts scattered about. Another section is dedicated to military firearms. There’s even a Colt Model 1895 (Potato Digger), the first gas operated machine gun in use by the US Army on display, an aircraft cannon that was used in World War II era fighter planes, and other military firearms invented by John M. Browning. The military section also has mannequins dressed in US Army combat fatigues from World War I, World War II, and the current era.
In addition to the military firearms invented by John M. Browning, there’s a huge number of sporting firearms on display. He’s credited with inventing the most popular sporting rifle ever, the Model 1894 Winchester .30.30; the most popular shotgun, the Model A5, manufactured by Browning, Remington, Savage, and others; the most popular pistol, the Model 1911 Colt Army; the most popular machine gun, the Model 1917 BAR and updated versions; the most popular .22 rimfire rifle, the Model 1890 Winchester; and the most popular .22 semiautomatic pistol, the Colt Woodsman/Challenger/Huntsman line. These firearms also influenced the gun design of other gunsmiths throughout the world.
All visitors will leave the John M. Browning Firearms Museum more knowledgeable and with a greater appreciation for the prolific genius that was John M. Browning. The curator of the museum was friendly and glad to answer all questions. She said the estimated value of the museum is 43 million dollars. If you visit Union Station with the intention of touring all the museums plan to spend the entire day.