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J.M. Browning Harmonica Rifle


Hi guys Thanks for tuning in to another video on Forgotten Weapons dot com. I’m Ian; I am here today at the Rock Island auction house I’m taking a look at some of the guns they’ll be selling there September of 2015 Premier auction and I had one here that has, well, its provenance directly to a rather famous American gun maker: A fellow named John Browning or J.M. Browning Now, I figured this would be a cool time to talk about some of this guy’s personal history and development and you know some details of his personal life that a lot of people may not know [John] Browning was actually born in 1805 in Tennessee As he approached puberty he was an apprentice to a blacksmith and showed his interest and skill for firearms actually very early. He was only 13 years old when he manufactured his first gun and quickly went from being an apprentice to setting up his own shop. He moved to a little town called Quincy, Illinois in 1831 where he set himself up as a gunsmith and later expanded that business into blacksmithing and locksmithing as well. Of course, all three of these are pretty similarly, pretty closely related fields (in the 1830s) Now in Quincy, Browning had had a chance to interact with a bunch of Mormons who were, in the 1830s, in the process of being evicted from Missouri. They didn’t get along so well with the local Missouri natives and so they were coming across the border into, Illinois and Browning had the opportunity to meet them, learn about them It’s not really known exactly what sort of contact he had, except that within a couple years by 1836 he actually moved up to a town called Nauvoo, Illinois, which was at that point basically a religious boom town full of Mormons They thought they had a place where they could live outside of Missouri away from the old problems It turned out they ended up not really getting along with the local folks there either and ended up ejected and having to move west Well, at that point, at some point within here, Browning had converted to the Mormon faith, and he decided to go west to Utah with these Mormons Along the way he set up shop a number of times Progressively farther west. He would set up a gunsmithing business and work Manufacture and repair guns for the various other Mormon settlers who were in the process of making this pretty significant trek west to Utah So during this whole time, Browning wasn’t just repairing guns. He was also designing his own guns and frankly he came up He was responsible for some very early iterations of some pretty interesting designs One of them being the harmonica rifle, or as he called it at the time, the slide bar repeating rifle and that is what this gun is an example of. Today, we would call this a harmonica rifle, and we say that because it has what looks kind of like a harmonica of chambers; In this case five chambers This is I believe a .54 caliber rifle. You would preload each of these chambers, and you have a five shot repeating rifle We’ll take a closer look at the rifle itself here in just a moment, but I want to finish off with some of Browning’s personal story So he’d invented this in the 1830s He was making these, he was repairing guns, finally by 1852 He gets to what will be his final long term home in Ogden, Utah He was one of the early polygamist Mormons; He had three wives and a total of 22 children eventually in Ogden and in fact one of his children (one of his sons) would go on to be very interested in firearms as well, and apprentice to his father at a very early age and showed a really quite remarkable talent for firearms For those of you who maybe have been watching this a little bit confused by John browning doing this sort of thing and being born in 1805 I should probably point out that the rather talented son was in fact John Moses browning Who would go on to be the John Browning that we are all intimately familiar with today from the 1911 and the browning machine guns and frankly, by 1900 three-quarters of the sporting rifles on the market in the United States were John Browning’s designs The fellow who made this harmonica rifle was actually typically known as Jonathan Browning, and he was John Moses Browning’s father, so you know the Browning that we typically think of He did have an advantage in this that it ran in the family So why don’t we take a closer look at this example of Jonathan Browning’s handiwork? So the one marking on this rifle is right there: J.M. Browning , 1853 This would have been just after he had moved to Utah. This was certainly not the first harmonica rifle he had made, but it would have been one of the first guns he made actually from Utah Now if you take a look at Rock Island’s catalog page they have some information on the provenance of this particular rifle, which is pretty significant. It goes back through the Flayderman collection and also through the collection of an early Indian Wars Medal of honor recipient who owned it frankly not that long after Browning manufactured it so if you’re concerned about whether or not, this is actually the real deal and frankly you should be with something that claims this sort of provenance, that’s some good research to check into to satisfy your concerns Now as a Harmonica rifle the idea is… Lay this down here. We have five shots here. Let me go ahead and take the Harmonica out So this is our magazine bar. Got space for five percussion caps, and we have five chambers in here Now you’ll notice all of the chambers are countersunk There is a mechanism in the rifle that we’ll see in just a minute that cams this block forward so that this countersink presses into a recess in the barrel face thus acting as, more or less, a gas seal So, right here the inside of the barrel face is beveled, and that’s what your chamber countersink presses into This is actually a very simple mechanical action. We have this pivoting lever. When it is up in this position, you can see that this face is flat That allows the Harmonica bar to move easily, and then when you rotate it down, we have an extension that acts to push the bar inwards. So, I can put it up and then drop my harmonica bar in place. I then line up one of the percussion caps, push this down, and that levers the magazine bar into place. I can then fire that chamber, then I recock the gun. It’s interesting to note that there is no half cock on this design. It is Nothing and ready to fire. Now I push that lever Whoops! It’s a little hard to do holding this thing up. This has a very heavy barrel. Let’s try that again When the lever is up then I can move this to the next position. This is all manually indexed Then push it down fire, lift up Index to the next one, push down, fire, and so on. Remember this was not intended to try and win any military contracts or go into mass production. This was the product of an independent, individual, gunsmith shop, and it was intended for folks who simply needed a rifle And they wanted more than one shot at a time So if you’re using this as, say, a hunting rifle or a defensive rifle on the frontier, you don’t necessarily need to be out there being, you know, the super fastest baddest gunslinger around with an automated indexing system, especially given the cost that a system like that would have added to a gun like this It was a lot cheaper to make something very simple that gave you 80% of the same effectiveness by simply manually indexing And, of course if you wanted more firepower, I’m sure Mr. Browning would be happy to sell you a couple extra magazine bars that you could Keep loaded on your person So this is a really cool piece of American firearms history You know, in some ways it’s even more interesting than having a piece made by John Moses Browning the famous legend but to actually recognize the contribution that his father had. His father was a very talented and inventive gunsmith and manufacturer all in his own right Although he has obviously been completely eclipsed by his son So this piece is coming up for sale at Rock Island here in September. If you are interested in it, you should check out the link in the text description below. You can take a look at Rock Island’s photographs, their description, their catalogue page on the gun, and if you think this ought to be the centerpiece of your own firearms collection, you can place a bid online or frankly, for a gun like this, you should come down here in person, check it out, and participate in the auction live. Thanks for watching. I hope you guys enjoyed the video I hope I didn’t annoy anyone too much with my obfuscation of exactly who I was talking about at the beginning

100 thoughts on “J.M. Browning Harmonica Rifle

  1. I just love all of the videos on "Forgotten Weapons" and how supremely interesting and very informative this one was. This is by far the most interesting channel about weapons by a long shot because it's presented without cant and with a host of really useful and absorbing details not found anywhere else. Keep up the marvellous work and many thanks for posting this vid in particular.

    MsG

  2. I am curious if you could preload all 5 percussion caps or had to load them one by one after indexing the firing chamber. It sort of looks like there is enough clearance for the magazine bar to fit with caps in place but its not real clear.

  3. It just now clicked with me that the reason the 1911 is in the Fallout New Vegas DLC Honest Hearts is because it's about Mormons

  4. I saw this rifle over in the Nauvoo IL Browning museum, and they explained that by the time the enemy shot a round and reloaded, the shooter of this weapon would have already shot the 5 rounds. A distinct advantage compared to the other rifles of its day and age.

  5. Wow, I only live 45 minutes north of Quincy! I was born there. Also, I live only 15 mintues south from Nauvoo and it's pronounced Naw-Voo (like ew, not oh).

  6. It’s easy to see how that gun could have been made to accept a heavy load or smaller load simple by making different sized loading blocks.

  7. I'm sorry but i'd be pretty worried about about one of the harmonica breeches not lining up perfectly with the barol. How did they prevent misaligning when your manually indexing? Couldn't you accidently shoot a bullet into the gun?

  8. so awesome,, looks like something id make in my garage,, hahaha this is a lot of hunting rifle of that day,, and two or three mags and you would have a lot of fire power in that day. did not know about pops,, he had more wives and kids then guns 🙂

  9. Lol, polygamy is the religeous cornerstone of american expansion and defense, though our society is too stupid to embrace it.

  10. great storytelling. was reminiscent of paul harvey with your reveal at the end. much enjoyed… even if it is what.. 3 years later.

  11. You'd think the simple reliability (?) of this gun could've made Browning enough cash to start his own company to pass onto his son. But I guess he might've had more in common with Hawkins, making custom arms instead of mass produced ones.

  12. As a Utahn, John Moses Browning could have hated America based on how his religion was denied freedom of religion by mobs, congress and biased courts.

    But he did not refuse to serve America. Instead, he served America willingly and with great zeal.

    Today, we are still using some of his inventions. This is 2018.

    Think about it if you care to.

  13. I was hoping for a rifle with a harmonica on the end instead of a bayonet so your victims could play you a tune before you put one in their head.

  14. It's kind of a blur for me, but i remember seeing either a harmonica pistol or harmonica rifle or both at one of the firearm museums that i went to as a child, which had to be somewhere in DC or the Rock Island Arsenal Museum. Can't remember though.

  15. I would have put grooves in the bottom of the harmonica, to line up the cylinders faster. Or tilted the whole gun forward and down when changing barrels so the front rings catch and line it up.

  16. Holy zombie Jesus riding a tricycle, a plot twist of a century 😉
    For a second I thought that Browning lived to be about 120 xd

  17. Very cool design, a company should make a modern deer hunting muzzleloader with a design such as this. I think people would but it knowing it would only take 4 seconds for a chance at a follow up shot then 30 – 45 seconds and no chance, and you would also be able to per load and keep your shots in the block where you can protect them form dampness out in the field

  18. Sir, your obfuscation offended me greatly, and has challenged my manhood. I therefore challenge you to a duel! Except only rubber band guns are allowed – anything else and I'd assume you're better shot than myself.

  19. I had a very similar idea for a gun like this when I was 16. It was a double barrel over-under configuration with two magazines, one for each barrel, that would "slide" as each bullet was fired. My idea was that this would keep the gun balanced and increase the rate of fire.

  20. Mormon is a nickname. It's comes from the Book of Mormon. We also believe in the Bible. It's not offensive to call us by it, We members use it too. But it is inaccurate. More precisely, we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. We are known as Latter day Saints to distinguish us from the original saints from Christ's time. We are followers of Christ, and worship him to be our Lord and Savior.

  21. Apparently guns run in the Browning Bloodlines! Thanks, this was Very informative. You definitely taught this ol timer a thing or three!👍

  22. "He didnt get well with the neighborhood, so he moved out in seclusion and became a mormom", I bet those are related somehow, that cant just be a coincidence

  23. Was watching a video about the potentially new military rifle that uses caseless ammunition, it loads the rounds into a bar that the gun sides into itself then ejectswhen all the rounds are spent. Sound familiar?

  24. I was in Sea cadets. One set of Daisy .117 air rifle we used during "range weekend" had a similar "harmonica" system for loading pellets. Impractical to say the least, however worked just fine on the range

  25. They were a dangerous design…….if the gas seal and bullet seal of the chambers next to the one in line with the bore were not all new and sealed well sparks and burning gases could jump the counter sunk recess seal of one chamber and cause a secondary block chamber load to go boom boom on you with almost no place to go if it was in the middle stages of the block and blocked by the receiver brass. They also wore out very fast if used often or with high power charges of BP. Still they are cool as all get out

  26. i had a daisy pellet rifle when i was a kid that has the same kind of harmonica clip thing. i lost the harmonic in a week

  27. John Moses Browning was only born
    to become the paramount genius he was
    because his father became an LDS Christian
    and moved west w/ them rather than go where
    he would have been welcomed as a master craftsman
    in any other town/city… he obeyed Brigham Young
    and so spent more time helping pioneers
    ready their wagons going west
    rather than focusing on gun production
    so by the time he settled in Ogden his best yrs
    were past… his son JMB was one of the Browning
    Brothers at the time he first patented his single-shot
    and as the son of one of his fathers additional 2 wives
    would not have been born into the advantage he had
    learning gunmaking from childhood (if at all) w/o
    his fathers distinctive life choices

  28. they made a similar movie version for the movie adios sabata where yul brynner wields something like a mix of a winchester and a harmonica rifle

  29. Does anyone know if there is a modern copy of these rifles? I love hunting with Muzzelloaders and that would be an awesome addition to my collection.

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