Browning officially began business in 1878, although the genius behind it was already hard at work years before. John Moses Browning was born in 1855 and at the age of 13 used spare parts to assemble a slide-action rifle for his 10-year-old brother’s birthday.
The pair formed the John Moses and Matthew Sandefur Browning Company in Ogden, Utah, in 1878, aptly named for the siblings. John Moses immediately began work in a single-shot rifle, which received a patent a year later. A factory was established in 1880, but the firearm caught the eye of Connecticut-based Winchester.
In 1885, the vice president of Winchester visited Browning in Ogden, then in the territory of Utah, and purchased the single-shot’s production rights for $8,000. Thus, a working relationship launched between two companies, with Browning designing or making significant contributions to the Winchester Model 1887 and 1897 pump-action shotguns and models 1886, 1892, 1894 and many others.
A shift in the company came after Winchester declined what turned out to be of one of his most timeless designs, the Auto-5 shotgun. Belgium’s Fabrique Nationale (FN), however, jumped at the chance in 1902, and that gun is considered a classic and valuable collectible to this day.
He designed the first semi-automatic, recoil-operated handgun sold in the United States. His was the genius that produced the 1911, innovative machine guns and much more. In all, John Moses Browning received 128 firearm-related patents before he died—at a work bench in Liege, Belgium—on Nov. 26, 1926.
In 1927, the J.M. & M.S. Browning Company incorporated, with Browning Arms as a subsidiary. The famed Superposed shotgun was introduced four years later, but the parent firm struggled after World War II and liquidated in 1951.
The firearm branch, however, survived as an importer and wholesaler and began methodically adding to its product line. Success was limited in some cases, although there was no slowdown in new gun introductions or innovation through the 1970s.
In 1977, FN acquired Browning Arms. The Walloon government (a region of Belgium) purchased the entire FN line in 1997. Those assets included Browning and Winchester Repeating Arms, another legendary firm that came under FN control in 1987. The pair of gun makers operate independently as sporting units.
Browning continues to produce the quality enthusiasts have come to expect from a firm wearing the legendary name. The long list of innovative and new products just for this year includes an X-Bolt Speed Ovix Suppressor Ready, X-Bolt Target Pro McMillan and much more.