The rifle was the brainchild of Colonel Melvin Johnson (USMC) an early inventor and weapon designer that utilized some fairly unique features in 1939-1940 timeframe, such as the recoil-operated, firing mechanism where the recoil of the round actually allowed the barrel to move slightly rearward to start the unlocking mechanism, as well as the barrel takedown mechanism, both unique to Johnson rifles only. It worked extremely well in that it was light weight, easy to maneuver and handling and it used a larger 25 round detachable magazine with a quick change barrel exactly like the standard semi-automatic M1941 rifle.
The right side of the lower receiver is marked "LOAD, SAFE and FIRE". One of the interesting designs of this rifle is the "Load" feature on the receiver. When in this mode the bolt stays reward after the last round if fired from the magazine and after inserting a new fully loaded magazine. You just rotate the lever to the FIRE position and that releases the bolt, allowing it to move forward and strip off a new round from the magazine and load it into the chamber of the barrel. It actually functions more like a "bolt release" lever, similar in design to that used on the Model 16 series of rifles today. The receiver is the distinctive one-piece casting or forging that has the perforated barrel jacket, with the side mounted magazine well (in place of the later designed rotary box magazine) for the 25 round magazines, but also has the right side loading port for use with the 1906 stripper clips to load five rounds at a time if necessary.
This model was heavily used by the USMC Raiders and Paramarines and later on by the 1st Special Services units. These early LMGs are a very rare item today as the majority of them were returned to either the USMC or the factory and converted into the later 1944/45 models with the improved designs. After WWII the majority were sold to foreign countries or simply destroyed as surplus to the demands of military.
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