HomeGunsThe Guns of John Moses Browning by Nathan Gorenstein: Book Review

The Guns of John Moses Browning by Nathan Gorenstein: Book Review

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I once learned that Gen. George S. Patton read every book in a library. I was a young man, and that feat seemed impossible. However, the statement had a profound impact on my psyche. I began to consume military history books from the school’s library starting around 5th grade. I looked forward to public library visits with Mom, sometimes as often as every two weeks when returns became due. It didn’t take long for me to exhaust the library’s collection and explore other topics. One of my first stops at the library was the magazine rack, and even then, I poured through the pages of Guns & Ammo.

Perhaps I inherited Dad’s paranoia that those who didn’t approve of gun rights were corrupting American institutions, but I shared his feelings of cultural suppression when the library failed renew its subscription to G&A. There were no books about firearms or shooting in the middle- and high-school libraries, and they eventually disappeared from the county library as well.

I began buying and collecting non-fiction books almost as soon as I started working. I signed up for “The Military Book Club” in high school after seeing an enticing list in a two-page spread advertisement. I resolved to make my own library from books of famed gunwriters such as P.O. Ackley, Jeff Cooper, Roy Dunlap, Julian Hatcher, Bill Jordan, Elmer Keith, Warren Page and Townsend Whelen. Every month, I received a book with the option to return it; I never did. On seeing my first Brownell’s catalog, I ordered “Gunsmith Kinks” until I owned the complete four-volume set. Then, I collected Jerry Kuhnhausen’s shop manuals. In college, I subscribed to receive the Firearms Classics Library, which offered leather-bound firearms books. Shortly after graduating, I owned them all.

My passion for reading and collecting firearm and military history continues. Unthinkingly, I even married a librarian. I still enjoy reading today, but given the nature of my editorial work, my pace for consuming books has slowed.

I sometimes receive advanced copies of books to review. In March 2021, a publicist for Scribner offered “The Guns of John Moses Browning: The Remarkable Story of the Inventor Whose Firearms Changed the World” by Nathan Gorenstein. It was slated for a May 25, 2021, release, but I don’t review books without reading them cover-to-cover. What caught my attention was the publisher’s assertion that this was “the first biography on Browning.” That’s a lie! I knew I had purchased a copy of “John M. Browning: American Gunmaker” by John Browning (J.M. Browning’s grandson) and Curt Gentry on a visit to the Browning Museum in Ogden, Utah. Hence, I began reading both books side-by-side.

The books are different. I’ve never read one that described Browning’s life in such a personal manner. Pages of verified stories and anecdotes helped me better understand the man, his timeline, motivations and the relationships between he and various members of his family, as well as Winchester and colleagues at Fabrique Nationale (FN) in Belgium.

It is futile to summarize the interesting contents of each chapter, but Gorenstein’s thorough research was evident and supported by visits to study the records kept in various museums and factories. The book is heavily annotated, and I was pleased to find references in my collection.

John M. Browning was a prodigy who ushered world change. Without his existence, history may have never seen the proliferation of firearms or a pistol’s short-recoil operation. And none of this would have occurred without Mormon history, the business acumen of Matt Browning, the dealings with Winchester’s Thomas Bennett, FN and the timing of World War I. To learn as I did, pick up a copy of “The Guns of John Moses Browning” by Nathan Gorenstein for your own library.  

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