JAR....Johnson Automatic Rifle

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Dutch Mosin
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JAR....Johnson Automatic Rifle

Postby Dutch Mosin » Mon Feb 11, 2008 3:36 pm

Here's the story on a less well known American semi-automatic rifle.

The JAR, the Johnson Automatic Rifle.

Well.......at least the Dutch part of the story.

In 1940 the Army Commander in the Dutch East Indies was ordered to check the world market for semi-automatic rifles.

The possibilities were limited.

Only three models were in full production at that time.

They were the model R75 and R80 made by the Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company and the M1 Garand.

Then there was the Peterson rifle, but this rifle only existed on paper.

Last but not least the Johnson rifle of which only a few were produced.



Drawing of a JAR

Both the Colts were to heavy and the American war Dept wouldn’t sell a single Garand to the Dutch.

So…the new KNIL semi-automatic rifle for the KNIL units became the JAR.

Production started from scratch.

Between November 1941 and February 1942 4025 rifles were sent to the Dutch East Indies.

In total 1999 rifles reached the Dutch East Indies on time.

By buying these rifles, the KNIL army(together with the US Army) was among the first armies to issue a semi-automatic rifle to their troops.

It didn’t help much though.

The KNIL army surrendered to the Japanese on March 8th 1942.



Picture of right and left side of a JAR with a R(otary) magazine as used by the KNIL.

Some technical info on the JAR:

- Caliber: 30-06

- Length: 1.165 meter

- Barrel length: 0.558 meter

- Weight: 4.4 kg

- Magazine type: Rotary or Box magazine

KNIL army was issued with the Rotary magazine.

- Magazine capacity: 10 rds



Picture of two KNIL soldiers.
The soldier on the left side of the picture carries a JAR.


Just a story on a less well known rifle I wanted to share.

The only time I saw such a rifle was in the KNIL museum in Arnhem.

BTW, KNIL stands for "Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch leger" or in good English "Royal Dutch East Indies army".

Met vriendelijke groet,

Martin
Last edited by Dutch Mosin on Wed Oct 07, 2009 11:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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ThePitbullofLove
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Postby ThePitbullofLove » Fri Feb 15, 2008 11:49 am

A friend of mine was selling his Johnson at a gunshow this past weekend...asking price? $4600.00!

I'm kicking myself for not buying the one here locally that was offered for $2000.00. :mad:

Here's a friend of mine displaying his Johnson...



Here's another friend shooting the rifle above...



They're actually quite pleasant and accurate to fire.
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Drake
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Postby Drake » Sun Mar 30, 2008 1:53 pm

I saw a couple of these for sale at a local shop last year. The nicer of the two had a new barrel and was tagged $4600. The owner was willing to let me take a few photos of it.













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Niner
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Good post

Postby Niner » Sun Mar 30, 2008 2:40 pm

Excellent photos to show the Johnson.

Price got me curious. Looked it up in the Standard Catalog of Military Firearms, 2nd Edition.. published 2003. It lists one sold at auction, "in excellent condition" for $3737.50. But also shows estimated values of $3000 VG, $2000 Good, $1000 Fair and $500 poor. But this was five years ago, and even so, prices will vary according to negotiation.
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Postby joseyclosey » Sun Mar 30, 2008 3:21 pm

Great pics Drake, thanks for posting them up, Any idea what the stock irregularity is?

Joe

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Postby Drake » Sun Mar 30, 2008 3:31 pm

joseyclosey wrote:Any idea what the stock irregularity is?


I was actually thinking the same thing when I was resizing the pictures. I really can't remember if it was damage or not. The next time I'm out that way I'll see if that one is still there. The last time I stopped by one had been sold. The owner told me both had been on the rack for about five years. It's the same shop where I bought my SVT-40, Webley and Enfield No2.
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Postby Drake » Sun Apr 06, 2008 11:40 am

I went by that shop yesterday and brought home a 1917 DWM Luger, I'll get some photos of it later.

I mixed up the two Johnson rifles they had. The one I posted photos was all original parts, the remaining one has been reworked. Here are a few photos they provided of it.









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Dutch Mosin
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Postby Dutch Mosin » Tue Apr 08, 2008 3:27 pm

For some reason I like this rifle very much........but it sure ain't the price tag. :(

Thanks for posting the pictures Drake.

I appreciate it.

Met vriendelijke groet,

Martin
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Re: JAR....Johnson Automatic Rifle

Postby Barry in IN » Wed Jun 10, 2009 5:08 pm

I know it's an old thread, but I'm new here, found this in a search, and may be able to answer a question that came up in this thread about the M1941 Johnson.
I bought one six months ago, and had educate myself on them in a hurry!

The reason for the area of funny looking wood is because the stock had that area laminated on. They call these areas the stock "cheeks". The Johnson's buttstock swelled to a little over 2.5" wide at the rotary magazine housing to give it some protection. A standard stock blank of the time was 2" wide and fine for most rifles, but not wide enough for a Johnson. The solution would be a wider stock blank, but since there was a war on and everything gun-related was hard or impossible to get, Melvin Johnson was lucky to get standard blanks. So he had a piece laminated onto each side and milled the stock to shape.
So if the wood pieces matched there, it was only by accident and it usually didn't, so stuck out like a sore thumb.
Add in typical damage from handling, and it only made the laminated area more apparent. Most are pretty dinged up there. It would be hard to avoid banging it into things.
The "cheeks" of the one shown in the pictures sure isn't one of the better looking ones as far as this area goes!

I also notice the rear sight has been modified to a V-notch on the pictured rifle. This is fairly common too.
The original sight is a peep. It is a square shape with a very small aperture in it. Marines did this notching at the time, and it was also done in "sporterizing" attempts after the war.
I'd rarely take a V-notch over a peep but after owning and shooting one a little while, I suppose I can see why they did it. That aperture is tiny. It is OK on the range, but would be a bear to use up close and fast.
It looks like this:
Image

It does appear that the Johnson SAR was the first semiauto to see use in WWII- even before The M1. Some Marines had them in the Guadalcanal and Bougainville fights. The USMC never officially adopted the Johnson SAR (they did use the Johnson LMG in the early Parachute Regiments) but had some around. They never ordered them directly from Johnson Automatics, but instead had part of the Dutch delivery diverted after the fall of the Dutch East Indies. Best estimates put the USMC as having around 750 Johnson SARs.

Which brings up the Garand vs Johnson thing.
I've read things in the past few years that made it sound like there was a big face-off between the Johnson and Garand rifles. Based on what I have read lately, this was mostly the work of reporters, gun writers, and a couple of senators, and I don't think it ever did amount to much.
A lot of people in the USMC wanted the Johnson, but since the USMC was a "customer" of the Army, they adopted what the Army adopted. Although some pushed for USMC adoption of the Johnson, there is little evidence to show that Melvin Johnson expected this. He did want to have a rifle ready to be submitted as substitute standard in case the Garand didn't work out or production couldn't be met.

After having shot both (I am a Garand nut) I can't say that I favor one over the other. I can name a few things I like better about one than the other, and do it for each one.
I don't think the outcome of the war would have been any different because one was issued over the other.
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Re: JAR....Johnson Automatic Rifle

Postby Niner » Wed Jun 10, 2009 5:32 pm

Welcome to the Milsurp After Hours, Barry. Good insight on the Johnson.

I've never shot one, but I've held one.....and I know a guy with a gun shop who has some to sell if I ever hit the lottery.
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Re: JAR....Johnson Automatic Rifle

Postby Barry in IN » Wed Jun 10, 2009 6:39 pm

Thank you!

There is a book on Johnson's designs by Bruce Canfield that came out a year or two ago. It's really interesting reading, whether you have one or not, or even have no desire for one, just for the historical and arms development info. He had some assistance from Melvin Maynard Johnson's son and some former employees, so they had a fair amount of documents to provide info. It has everything from the Johnson SAR and LMG to the 5.7mm Spitfire M-1 Carbine conversion and a rubber band powered BB gun. I didn't know Johnson worked at ArmaLite in the early days until reading the book.
It's called Johnson's Rifles and Machine Guns. ISBN 1-931464-02-2

M.M. Johnson wrote a few books on arms himself back in the day. I found three or four of them, and they are quite good. Very technical oriented, but with some tactical usage thrown in.

As I said, I have things I like about both the Johnson and the M1. The M1 has a better trigger, but the Johnson is easier to load and holds more ammo. The Johnson's barrel comes off in a second or two for cleaning from the breech or storage/transport, but I like the sights of the Garand a lot better. I can keep going like this, but still not be able to say one is the best.
We would have done OK with either, and were very lucky to have either one at the time, let alone both.
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Re: JAR....Johnson Automatic Rifle

Postby Niner » Wed Jun 10, 2009 7:46 pm

I got a Garand from the CMP. It is really substantially made. Built like a tank. The sights with the peep are better than a v or the small original peep on the Johnson appear to be. I think I would agree with you ....if I had a Johnson to compare to.
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Re: JAR....Johnson Automatic Rifle

Postby oldironsights » Fri Jun 12, 2009 9:18 am

I just read where Chaz Bono is getting a johnson of his/her own! :loco: :loco: :loco:
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Re: JAR....Johnson Automatic Rifle

Postby Barry in IN » Mon Jun 15, 2009 8:04 pm

I bet she pays more for hers than I paid for mine!

(To be honest, I thought she already had one.)
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Re: JAR....Johnson Automatic Rifle

Postby WILDCATT » Mon Sep 28, 2009 1:21 pm

melvin had one at the NG range in wakefield/reading Mass in 1939?the gun outshot the garand.the garand at that time had the gas trap.
the johnson is a good rifle BUT there no need for quick change barrel and I believe the use of a bayonet would bend barrel.the MG was much better.the main reason the gun was turned down was the S amory was all set up and running making garands.I like the clip idea on the garand,and the story on pinging is BS.who can hear it and there are others there.but the MG was successful but same problem the ord was locked into the BAR.
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Re: JAR....Johnson Automatic Rifle

Postby dhtaxi » Mon Sep 28, 2009 5:18 pm

Hi Wild Cat welcome.
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Re: JAR....Johnson Automatic Rifle

Postby Barry in IN » Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:03 pm

Yeah, the early gas trap Garand troubles gave M.M. Johnson some impetus to get his rifle ready. It was pretty apparent, even to him, that the Army was committed to the Garand but nobody really knew for certain if they could get it all worked out in time for the war we would be in sooner or later. Johnson wanted to have an alternative ready and waiting.
From reading Canfield's book, based largely on Johnon's notes and in-house correspondence, the goal was to provide an option to the Army if needed, and maybe, just maybe, get the Marines to alter their practice of adopting the Army's rifle.

In hopes of selling it as a quick solution in the event of Garand trouble, Johnson did a lot of research into mass producing the rifle. The design was meant to be made quickly on the machinery of the day. He consulted manufacturers of all types about the feasability of manufacturing the rifle and some of these factory owners and reps testified at later Senate hearings. A wheel manufacturer in Detriot said they could make 300-400 per week after a short setup time. An automobile horn making factory said they could enter production within six months and make 1,000 per month.
The reason he didn't go to arms makers was because they were busy with military contracts. That made the production figures even more impressive to me. He also went to makers of knitting needles and to small metal shops.
When he himself had to give in and build them himself, he bought part of an old factory that made machines for manufacturing textiles. Even with no manufacturing experience and using a facility that had never made anything of the kind, he had the first rifle off the line in five months.

BTW- He never really wanted to make the rifles himself and had zero manufacturing experience (he was an attormey by trade, who basically let his fascination for arms get the better of him). What he wanted to do was sell the design to someone else so they could make it. But no gunmaker was buying anything at the time, especially a military rifle right after the Army adopted another design.

The quick-change barrel's main advantage was to shorten the rifle for things like airborne use. The reciprocating barrel design lent itself to quick removal, so it wasn't a far reach to go ahead with the feature. The stock and trigger group come off after pulling one pin, so it can be shortened further, and this was what the ParaMarines did when jumping with the Johnson LMGs.
That removable barrel was one reason the ParaMarines liked the Johnson SAR- it gave them a rifle instead of the SMG they initaially planned to use. They were initially armed with Reising SMGs and Johnson LMGs. They were issued 50-50: one man got a Reising, the next got an LMG, the next a Reising, the next an LMG, and so on. They jumped planning to assemble paired up- a SMG gunner with an LMG gunner. The SMG would cover the LMG gunner while he assembled his Johnson LMG.
Then two things happened: It became obvious the Reisings weren't going to work out; and the LMGs were able to get into action quicker than they anticipated. Someone looked at the Johnson semiauto rifles that were handy and they did some practice jumps using them paired with the LMGs instead of Reisings. The result was that they were hardly slower into action than the Reisings, if at all, and gave them an actual rifle instead of a pistol caliber SMG. Both men were firing full .30 caliber ammunition within seconds of hitting the ground. Besides the tactical advatages, many parts were interchangable as was a lot of the training to operate them.
A lot of people, including the CO of the ParaMarines, Col Merritt Edson, pushed for arming them with Johnson SARs and LMGs. But long story short, the ParaMarines were disbanded before they could hardly get started, and the idea of an all-Johnson unit went with them.

But that got Johnsons in the USMC system, even if they never were officially adopted. They were supposed to destroy the Johnsons, but many didn't. There are photos of Marines carrying Johnsons in many of the Pacific battles, and at least one picture of a Johnson LMG-armed Marine as late as Iwo Jima or Okinawa (can't recall which).
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Re: JAR....Johnson Automatic Rifle

Postby bladez » Fri Oct 01, 2010 6:38 pm

I really enjoyed watching, different rifles here.. thanks for posting guys..
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Re: JAR....Johnson Automatic Rifle--Wartime and Post-war fate

Postby DocAV » Sat Jan 01, 2011 12:14 am

Of the 1999 rifles delivered to the KNIL by early 1942, some survived with troops arriving in Darwin from the Indies (Java, Timor,) and were issued to the Royal Dutch Airforce units stationed in Northern Australia ( Photo in Skennerton's "Australian Service Rifles" of a Funeral parade for a Dutch airman.) So officially, since the Dutch units were incorporated into the RAAF, their rifles became "Australian Issue" for the duration. AT war's end the rifles and the Air units returned to Dutch administration and the KNIL.

JARs captured by the Japanese were re-issued to the INA ( Indonesian National Army,) a Japanese-Soekarno Puppet army, trained and armed by the Japanese for the "Greater Co-prosperity Sphere" dreams of Japan. At war's end, the INA became the Liberation Forces, which fought the Dutch for 4 years until a negotiated withdrawal and Indonesian Independance in 1949.
The Dutch troops sent to quell the revolt, also had JARs ( of the initial 1999) and more finally delivered from US stocks in 1945-49 ( the over 2000 serial ones).

Now we come to the late 1970s...an Australian Importer brought a few in from Indonesia direct, but found that the majority of JARs could be accessed from a Canadian Importer, who had snaffled most of the Early Number ones. I ended up with five JARs, all with rec. numbers under 2000. ( one three digit, 4- four digit); one in particular I remember from the top of my head was 1666; it is now with a friend in Sydney ( a dealer---so it is still functional).

Of course, all of mine were "Mixed parts" ; some were parts from the very much later "letter" series JAR ( A, E are apparent).

The Controversy as to whether this "mix and match" was a result of Factory assembly (one researcher insists vehemently this is so) or Wartime "mass cleaning" ( a US Marines/US Army philosophy) and in the case of the KNIL/Indonesian ones, also a "workshp" Mixture after manufacture...remains a mystery. I am more inclined to believe that the mixing occurred during and after the war at the hands of soldiers and armourers....NOT originally at the factory...otherwise how would an "E" serialled part appear in a Pre-2000 serial rifle??? Especially since the pre-#2000 rifle was made and assembled well before the "E" series (6th Lot of 10,000...makes it effectively at the 60,000 plus rifles mark....) and delivered well before the others left the USA for War or other users.

The Dutch eventually disposed of most of their JARs, and some from the US ended up in Chile, rebarrelled to 7x57 mm for the Chilean Army; Others were converted to Sporters by Winfield Arms (USA) also fitted with Box mags; a Substantial ammount of Tooling and spares was sold to Israeli Military Industries in 1948-50s, which developed the "Dror" LMG ( Two versions, a .303 using original M1944 JAR parts, and a 7,92 version, almost wholly Israeli made.
Some of the really surplus ones ended up in the "Golden Triangle" ( Burma-Laos-Thailand- China) in the hands of both Drug Lords (ex-KMT Army leaders left behind in the 1949 Revolution) and also in the various Burma Minorities ( Karens, Shan, Kachins) etc. Newsreels in the late 90s showed stacks of siezed firearms in Drug raids with obvious JARs (1941 model) in the piles.
Regards,
Doc AV
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