Military Wiki
Johnson M1941 LMG
Type Light machine gun
Place of origin  United States
Service history
In service 1940–1961
Used by See Users
Wars World War II,
Hukbalahap Rebellion,
Cuban Revolution
Production history
Designed 1940
Produced 1940–1945
Number built 9,500
Variants M1941
Weight 13 lb (5.9 kg)
Length 42 in (1,100 mm)
Barrel length 22 in (560 mm)

Cartridge .30-06 Springfield
Action Short recoil
Rate of fire 200–600 round/min variable
Muzzle velocity 2,800 ft/s (853.6 m/s)
Feed system 25-round, single stack-column detachable box magazine

The M1941 Johnson Light Machine Gun was an American recoil-operated light machine gun designed in the late 1930s by Melvin Johnson. It shared the same operating principle and many parts with the M1941 Johnson rifle and the M1947 Johnson auto carbine.


The M1941 light machine gun was designed by a Boston lawyer and Captain in the Marine Corps Reserve named Melvin Johnson Jr. His goal was to build a semi-automatic rifle that would outperform the M1 the Army had adopted. By late 1937, he had designed, built, and successfully tested both a semi-automatic rifle and a prototype light machine gun. Each shared a significant number of physical characteristics and common parts, and both operated on the principle of short recoil with a rotating bolt.

Johnson's light machine gun was one of the few to operate on recoil operation and was manufactured to a high standard. It was fed from a curved, single-column magazine attached to the left side of the receiver; company brochures list a 25-round magazine as standard. Additionally, the weapon could be loaded by stripper clip at the ejection port, or by single rounds fed into the breech. The rate of fire was adjustable, from 200 to 600 rounds per minute. Two versions were built: the M1941 with a wooden stock and a metal bipod, and the M1944 with a tubular steel butt and a wooden monopod.

When firing, recoil forces along with the mass of the weapon's moving parts all traveled in a direct line with the shoulder of the gunner. While this in-line stock can be seen in the M16 rifle today, it was a novel idea at the time. Since recoil was directed back into the shoulder, muzzle rise was minimized. Due to this design, the sights had to be placed higher above the bore.

Johnson LMG in use

The weapon has many parallels with the German FG 42. Both feed from the left side, and both fire from an open bolt while in automatic, and a closed bolt while in semi-auto. Both weapons were awkward to carry loaded, both with a side-mounted magazine, the Johnson had an especially lengthy single-column magazine, and this feature tended to unbalance the weapons. Despite these similarities, there is no evidence that either weapon had any effect on the design of the other. Both weapons attempted to solve similar problems, and adopted similar solutions.

Prototypes of semi-automatic rifles, 25-round magazine-fed[citation needed], based on the Johnson LMG were also produced. The M1947 Johnson auto carbine is an example.


Johnson sold small quantities of the Johnson LMG to the U.S. Army and Marine Corps.[1]

During the Second World War, Specials Forces within the Allies demanded a more portable, lighter, more accurate automatic rifle that provided the equivalent stopping power of the American B.A.R. As a result, this machine gun was adapted as the B.A.R replacement for commandos operating behind Axis lines. The actual quantity sold was quite limited due to the small population of Special Forces.

The Johnson LMG was used for the Philippine Army and Philippine Constabulary during World War II under the Japanese Military Occupation from 1942 to 1945 and the Post-War from 1945 to 1960s including Hukbalahap Rebellion (1946-1954) and the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea or PEFTOK (1950-1955).

Shortly after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the predecessor of the Israel Defense Forces, Haganah, developed a close copy of the Johnson LMG, the Dror, in both .303 British and 7.92×57mm Mauser. Israeli forces found the Dror prone to jam from sand and dust ingress, and the weapon was discontinued after a brief period of service. Ernesto "Che" Guevara notably used a Johnson in the Cuban Revolution.


Melvin Johnson continued to develop small arms. In 1955, he was asked to assist Fairchild/ArmaLite in (unsuccessfully) promoting Eugene Stoner's AR-10 rifle with the U.S. Department of Defense, then with ArmaLite and Colt's Manufacturing Company as an advocate for the AR-15. Armalite relied heavily on Johnson's efforts and the AR-15 used a similar bolt design to the M1941 Johnson. The AR-15 is still manufactured today in the guise of the M16 rifle and variants. One of Johnson's last postwar firearms ventures was a 5.7 mm-caliber version of the M1 carbine, aka 'the Spitfire'.[2]


  •  Canada
  •  United Kingdom
  •  Philippines
  •  United States

See also


  1. Pikula, Sam (Maj.), The Armalite AR-10, 1998
  2. Barnes, Frank C., Cartridges of the World, DBI Books, 1989

Books and References

  • Smith, Joseph E., Small Arms of the World, Stackpole Books, 1969.
  • Weeks, John, WWII Small Arms, Galahad Books, 1980.
  • Barnes, Frank C., Cartridges of the World, DBI Books, 1989.
  • Pikula, Sam (Maj.), The Armalite AR-10, 1998.
  • Canfield, Bruce N., Johnson Rifles and Machine Guns, Mowbray Publishing, 2002.
  • Johnson Jr., Melvin, Rifles and Machine Guns of the World's Armies, Fighting Forces, 1944

External links

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