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The Best There Is


April 2014

HF Staff Remarks

If you have ever picked up a semi-automatic pistol, rifle, or shotgun or worked the lever on one of the 7 million plus 1894 Winchester rifles made, you have most likely handled a firearm that came at least in part from the mind of John Moses Browning. He is arguably the most influential inventor and innovator of modern automatic, pump-action, and semi-automatic firearms in history.

We are very excited to have Browning on our team as an industry partner and to share with us this story about their humble beginnings and remarkable founder.

A common question Browning employees are asked as they travel around the country, attending various trade and consumer shows, is, “Why is Browning headquarters located in Morgan, Utah?”

John M. Browning workbench

John Moses Browning was born in 1855 in the small frontier settlement of Ogden, in Utah Territory. His father, Jonathan, was a Mormon pioneer gunmaker who made many of the guns and implements used in Brigham Young’s trek west. At the age of 23, John M. designed, built, and applied for a patent on the 1878 single shot rifle. This was the beginning of a 47 year period of firearms development that saw 128 different patents, covering a total of some 80 complete and distinct firearm models.

John M. and his brothers, Matt, Sam, Ed, and George, ran the largest arms factory between Omaha and the Pacific. Their works drew the attention of T.G. Bennett, V.P. and General Manager of the Winchester Repeating Arms company, resulting in a 19-year relationship between the two parties. During that time, Winchester had first right of refusal on any firearm patent John M. came up with. As a result, many of his designs were purchased by Winchester that never made it to production, just to keep them out of the hands of their competitors.

Browning factory

In 1902 Browning broke ranks with Winchester and sailed to Belgium where his inventive genius was welcomed with open arms. For the next 24 years, until his death, John M. Browning provided the world with dozens of firearm designs, many of which are still in production today. One of those designs, the .50 caliber Browning Machine Gun (BMG), literally changed the course of WWII. This may sound a bit outlandish to some, but the fact that you are reading this article in English and not German is largely due to this single design. German Field Marshal Goering, in a letter to one of his generals, wrote, “If the German Air Force had had the Browning .50 caliber, the Battle of Britain would have turned out differently.”

Today Browning is part of the renowned “Herstal Group.” FN, or Fabrique Nationale, is recognized as a world leader in both sporting and defense products, with names like Winchester Repeating Arms, FN Herstal, and FNH USA as family members. Browning North America, with headquarters in Morgan County, Utah, employs approximately 145 people with distribution and service facilities in Arnold, Missouri. Headquarters were moved from downtown Ogden to Morgan County in 1964. The new location offered isolated surroundings, allowing for outdoor testing of new products. Travis Hall is currently CEO with Ryan Godderidge as Senior Vice President. Although no production takes place at this location, sales, marketing, and R&D are the main thrust.

Fabrique Nationale

Browning currently provides hunters, shooters, and outdoor enthusiasts with a diverse line of products, including sporting arms, shooting accessories, safes, shooting and hunting apparel, knives, and lights. In addition, a carefully selected group of licensees further broaden the line.

machine gun

To say John M. Browning was ahead of his time would be a gross understatement. It has been said that he was the greatest firearms inventor the world has ever known. To his credit are the greatest number of inventions in arms history and many of the most important. John M.’s developments all contained one necessary element — they worked and kept on working. Today that element is a key factor in the development of all Browning products. The Browning Buck Mark is the most recognized logo in the industry and for good reason. Folks know that when they purchase a Browning product they are purchasing quality, something John M. himself demanded.

John M. Browning died in 1926 in Belgium while working on the over/under shotgun design, yet another first. His son, Val, carried on the work and brought to market the first design of its kind, the Browning Superposed.

Eighty years later this shotgun is still being produced, a testament to the man and the genius he was. So, to answer the question asked at the beginning of this article, the reason Browning headquarters is located in Morgan, Utah is because that is where the spirit of Browning lives. Nestled at the base of the Wasatch Mountains, the people who work there all share a passion for what they do, as John M. himself possessed. A rare quality in today’s world, it is a quality the owners recognize and choose not to meddle with. This is what makes Browning “The Best There Is.”