Much of the hype coming from the mainsteam media and anti-gun types centers around the premise that semi-automatic (self-loading) firearms were not designed for nor meant to be used by civilians. Nothing could be farther from the truth and history confirms that. Begining with the advent of the semi-automatically gas-operated firearm in the 1890's, all but a very few firearms were designed with the military in mind and most of those were of the belt fed squad operated variety. In an examining the designs patented by John Moses Browning it is obvious that self-loading firearm designs exclusively for the military were the exception rather than the rule and virtually all of these are based a version that was FIRST released to the civilian market. Very few of his designs entailed government contracts and then only after a similar version had been available on the civilian market for a number of years.
For their own convenience or just a woefull lack of historical knowledge the anti-gun crowd and their accomplices in the media have for several generations mislead the American public into believing that these specific firearms were made only for the military and have no civilian purpose. The gas-operating system, that Browning patened in 1890 and used to market the first successfull self-loading rifle and shotgun to the civilian markets in the early 1900's, is the same gas-operated self-loading system employed by virtually every military arms maker today.
Senate bill S.1431 that would have made the recently sunset Semi-automatic weapons ban permanant contained the following language in Section 2. Definitions. Paragraph (L);
A semiautomatic rifle or shotgun originally designed for military or law enforcement use, or a firearm based on the design of such a firearm, that is not particularly suitable for sporting purposes, as determined by the Attorney General. In making the determination, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that a firearm procured for use by the United States military or any Federal law enforcement agency is not particularly suitable for sporting purposes, and a firearm shall not be determined to be particularly suitable for sporting purposes solely because the firearm is suitable for use in a sporting event. (ed.. color accent mine)
If it were not so serious, it would be laughable. With very rare exceptions there are no firearms that were specifically designed for the military or law enforcement. The base for every military or law enforcement firearm today was originally designed for the civilian market, not the other way around. It is the Military and law enforcement that took these civilian arms and modified them for battlefield use.
John Moses Browning and the Self-loading long arm
Born in 1855 John Moses Browning is the most prolific designer of firearms in American history. Being credited with 128 patents begining in 1879, Browning submitted his first patent for a gas operated firing system 1890. Patent; #471782 January 6, 1890 (filed) March 29, 1892 (granted) AUTOMATIC MAGAZINE-GUN cap over barrel(?!), repeating, gas-operated rifle
Between 1891 and 1893 John Browning patented several plans for Machine Guns designed for the military theater. Foremost among these was the Colt built 1895 Automatic Machine Gun that, during the Spanish-American War earned the nickname "Browning peacemaker". This firearm came mounted on a caison or a tripod and necessitated more than one person to manuever and operate. At the time, Teddy Roosevelt looked upon it unfavorably because it took a mule or multiple soldiers to transport it, even then it was not very portable in a jungle evironment. It was definately not a personal arm designed to be carried by one man. The bulk of his patents including his self-loading designs were originally consigned to arms manufacturers for the civilian market.
One of the first successfully marketed semi-automatic shoulder fired arms designed by Browning was a shotgun that Remington manufactured as their model 11 in 1905. Patent #659507 February 8, 1900(filed) October 9, 1900 (granted) RECOIL-OPERATED FIREARM revolutionary autoloading shotgun. It would be manufactured by Fabrique Nationale in 1903 and by Remington Arms Company in 1905. (Model 11)  Addittionally in 1900 Browning applied for and received a patent for the first successfull gas operated semi-automatic rifle that Remington began manufacture of in 1906 as their model 8. Patent #659786 June 6, 1900 (filed) October 16, 1900 (granted) RECOIL-OPERATED FIREARM first successful autoloading high-power rifle ; Remington Arms Company in 1906 as Model 8 John Browning patented the gas-operated self-loading design and it was manufactured for and offered to the civilian market. This is essentially the same design that is used by today's military and claimed (by anti-gun folk) to have been designed and developed exclusively for the military. It is the military that has taken this base civilian design and modified it only minimally (adding a bayonette lug) for battlefield use.
John Brownings Self-loading Pistols
Concerning Pistols John Browning recieved patents in April of 1897 for 3 different types of self-loading actions. The designs were for a blowback, a locked recoil and a turn lock system. Patent #'s 580923, 580924, 580925. These patents paved the way for an international agreement with Fabrique Nationale (FN) to manufacture a blowback system thirty-two caliber pistol for all markets outside of the United States. This is not to imply that these firearms would not or could not be sold in the United States. Browning had agreements in place with Colt, Remington and Winchester for distribution of his designs within the United States.
Colt in fact released for sale to the United States civilian market a blowback twenty-eight caliber semi-automatic pistol 1900. Not quite one year later Colt accepted the rights to and did market, in the United States, a thirty-two caliber blowback pistol, with the understanding that it be priced to compete with revolvers of the period. (ed....This price issue would not have been a consideration if this deal involved government contracts)
The Military adopts a Self-loading long arm in 1918
Browning over the next several years provided several patented designs to Remington, FN and Colt, including the pistol that became the standard by which all are measured, the 1911 forty-five caliber automatic Colt pistol. Even that old military warhorse was proceded by a civilian version, the 1905 Colt automatic pistol in .45 caliber. In 1914 Remington began production of their model 24, a Browning patented 22 caliber semi-automatic rifle. (ed...a 22 semi-auto can hardly be considered a military arm) In 1917 Brownings previous research and developement of successfull civilian arms produced the Browning Automatic rifle that did indeed see military service in 1918. Both the 1911 and the BAR were progressive designs that were first produced for the civilian market both in the United States and abroad. The truth here is that gas-operated semi-automatic long arms were in the hands of the civilian population fully 12 years before the United States Military used a similar self-loading long gun in the last days of World War I.
John Moses Browning passed away in 1926, but not before leaving his mark on the world of civilian firearms. It is a tribute to Brownings design and craftmanship that that his self-loading firearms designs were so successfull that the military organizations of the world took these civilian firearms and modified them for the safety and security of troops on the battlefield. The end result is that virtually all of the smallarms firearms in use by the military and law enforcement today were not designed for that purpose, they are if fact originally arms designed for the civilian population.