Modern Firearms - Johnson M1941 M1944
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Johnson M1941 and M1944 light machine gun (USA)

Johnson M1941 light machine gun.
Johnson M1941 light machine gun.

 

Johnson M1944 light machine gun.
 Johnson M1944 light machine gun.

 

Data for Johnson M1941

 

Caliber .30-06 (7.62x63)
Weight 6.48 kg
Length 1066 mm
Barrel length 558 mm
Feed  magazine, 20 rounds
Rate of fire 300 - 900 rounds per minute (variable)

 

The M1941 light machine gun was developed from a semi-automatic rifle designed by Melvin C. Johnson during the late 1930s. It was intended to fulfill the role of a squad automatic weapon, and possibly replace the venerable Browning M1918 BAR. Johnson’s gun was significantly lighter than the BAR, while having a quick-detachable barrel and a magazine of the same capacity. However, regardless of its merits, Johnson’s LMG shared the fate of its sister rifle, being completely rejected by US Army officials. The Dutch East Indies government placed orders for some M1941 LMG in 1941, but the East Indies were occupied by Japan before deliveries were completed, so the remaining stocks of the gun were purchased by the US Government and issued in limited numbers to Army Rangers and other special operations groups. Later in the war, Johnson developed an improved version of the LMG,known as M1944. This replaced the wooden buttstock with a tubular steel one, and the folding bipod with a telescoping monopod; it also found no luck in USA, but a copy was briefly made in Israel in the 1950s as the Dror LMG.

The M1941 LMG is short-recoil operated, air-cooled, magazine-fed weapon. The barrel is locked using a rotary bolt with multiple radial lugs that engage the barrel extension. The barrel is enclosed within a short tubular sleeve with cooling slots, and can be quickly removed for replacement if overheated, or for compact transportation. It is a selective fire weapon, firing from an open bolt in the automatic mode (for better cooling), and from a closed bolt in the semi-automatic mode (for better accuracy). The return spring runs at the top of the butt, and the gun has an adjustable buffer which allows the cyclic rate of fire to be changed according to the mission.
The feed is from detachable curved box magazines, which are inserted horizontally from the left. Quite unusually, Johnson magazines hold cartridges in a single row. Another interesting feature of the Johnson is that its magazines can be replenished while inserted in the gun, using standard 5-round clips for the M1903 rifle. In this case, cartridges are loaded through the loading port at the right side of the tubular receiver, which is situated below the ejection port. This is possible regardless of the bolt position (open or closed), due to the fact that magazine is located blow the barrel and cartridges are lifted to the loading line via special ramp, built into the receiver (the same ramp also serves as a loading port cover). Furthermore, the Johnson magazine does not have feeding lips, but it has an automatic catch which holds cartridges inside until released by projection in the magazine housing. Feed lips are integral part of the receiver, providing more reliable feed (damaged magazine feed lips often cause feed problems).
The M1941 is fitted with wooden butt and short wooden handguard. A light folding bipod is fitted to the barrel jacket in front of the handguard.

Modifications.
M1944
: a further evolution of M1941. Basic action is the same but wooden butt is replaced by metallic butt, which consists of two steel tubes with attached buttplate. Bipod is replaced by lighter folding monopod, which also can serve as a forward “assault” grip.