Today Ian McCollum joins us again for Weapon Trivia Wednesday to lay down some knowledge about the Johnson Light Machine Gun. Read up. Mad Duo
Weapon Trivia Wednesday: The Johnson Light Machine Gun
The Johnson Light Machine Gun was one of the players that sat on the bench for the US throughout World War II. A small numbers of the 1941 pattern machine guns were issued to the Paramarines, as their quickly detachable barrels made them much handier weapons to drop with than the BAR or M1919. Another small batch was also issued to the First Special Service Force, a mixed American and Canadian unit that put them to good use in Europe (most notably at Anzio).
Affectionately known as the “Johnny Gun”, it proved to be quite popular with the men who used it, which is not surprising in comparison to the BAR. The Johnson was lighter and substantially handier, with a good pistol grip and a far better design of bipod. It fed from an unusual 20-round single stack magazine fitted into the side of the gun, with the interesting capacity for an additional 5 rounds fed by stripper clip into the action, for a total of 25 rounds ready to use when fully loaded.
Johnson himself fought throughout the war for formal adoption of his rifle and machine gun by the Marine Corps in particular (Johnson was a commissioned 2nd Lt in the Corps himself). He was able to get them into formal trials, and with the results of testing and feedback from troops using them in the field he made an improved version in 1944 and 1945. He was, in fact, on the verge of getting a significant contract when the war ended, and weapons development budgets were basically slashed overnight.
The improved Johnson, called the M1944E1 or M1945, addressed adverse-conditions reliability complaints by adding a gas assist to the short recoil operating system of the gun, making an interesting hybrid mechanism. The new version also replaced the existing traditional bipod (which was often discarded when it interfered with barrel removal) with a rather unusual monopod.
This monopod had a plastic (bakelite?) wrapped leg which could be used as a vertical front grip when deployed and also as a normal horizontal hand guard when the monopod was folded. The monopod foot was a semicircular piece a bit reminiscent of the Japanese knee mortar base, with four spiked points at the corners. It had no ability to pivot or cant, and seems to be a design of questionable utility – although it was never fielded in any significant numbers to find out.
Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.
About the Author: Ian McCollum is considered a gun nerd even among gun nerds. He’s probably best known for his work as the founder and editor of Forgotten Weapons. McCollum is also a producer and co-host of InRange TV. As if these chops weren’t enough, he’s a technical adviser for the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners and a professional researcher for Armament Research Services. Somehow he manages to balance such academic work with private consultation and practical shooting competition. He’s been published in publications such as Strzał Magazine and Popular Mechanics, and he has excellent taste in rare and obscure camouflage. If you’d like to support Ian’s goal of creating a comprehensive firearms encyclopedia, support him here: https://www.patreon.com/ForgottenWeapons. (Yes, we know he looks like someone crossed a beatnik with a Civil War cavalry officer — idiosyncracies, eccentricities and peculiarities are the first requirements to write for us. He’s gonna fit in perfectly.