Melvin Johnson

Melvin Johnson
Melvin Maynard Johnson Jr.

(1909-08-06)August 6, 1909
DiedJanuary 9, 1965(1965-01-09) (aged 55)
OccupationMarine, engineer

Melvin Maynard Johnson Jr. (August 1909 – January 9, 1965) or Maynard Johnson (as he was nicknamed) was an American designer of firearms, lawyer, and US Marine Corps officer.


Born into an affluent Boston, Massachusetts family, he was commissioned into the Marine Corps Reserve in 1933 as a Second Lieutenant and completed Harvard Law School in 1934. Johnson designed a recoil-operated rifle (M1941 Johnson rifle) while serving for the Marines as an observer at the Army's Springfield Armory in 1935. Johnson received four U.S. patents on various design features. He also designed the Johnson Light Machine Gun, derived from the M1941 rifle, which was used in limited numbers during World War II and the M1947 Johnson auto carbine, also derived from the M1941 rifle and M1941 light machine gun.

In 1942, he co-authored Weapons for the Future, a book in The Infantry Journal series. Charles T. Haven of the Army Ordnance Corps was the other contributor. Johnson worked tirelessly to promote his rifle and machine gun throughout the war.

Johnson transferred to the Army Ordnance Corps Reserve from the Marine Corps Reserve in 1949 and rose to the rank of Colonel. In 1949, Winchester bought the Johnson Automatics corporation and employed Johnson for a short period.[1] While at Winchester, Johnson was employed alongside "Carbine" Williams though it is unknown if they worked on the same projects.

He was later appointed as weapons consultant to the Secretary of Defense in 1951.

Johnson's patents were used by Armalite on the AR-10, AR-15, and later M16 rifles. Johnson was hired by Armalite as a consultant to promote their rifle incorporating his bolt design.[2] Later, Johnson worked to improve the M1 carbine eventually developing the 5.7mm Spitfire cartridge in 1963 and starting Johnson Arms, Inc. The M1 Carbine can be converted to use 5.7mm Spitfire by replacing the barrel with modification of the feed ramp.

While on a business trip to New York City in 1965, Johnson died of a heart attack. He is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Johnson's practice was to give all of his weapons a "pet" nicknames.