These are some of the most famous gunsmiths ever. And I mean: EVER.
Every single gunsmith listed here is recognized for his considerable contributions and breakthroughs within the gunsmithing profession. They left their lasting marks on the industry that they helped foster and advance. Their names are a testament to the expertise, ingenuity, and dedication that is needed in this profession, and serve as inspiration for those who follow after them. Many of these men have become so famous that just about everybody recognizes their name, although few of us actually know what they became famous for.
Let’s find out.
Alexander Henry (1818 – January 27, 1894)
A Scottish gunsmith and inventor who made the Henry-Fraser two-position rifle. Henry would later become famous for creating the polygonally-shaped and seven-grooved rifle barrel concept that was combined with the combined cock-and-striker receiving system employed in the rifle design of Swiss gun designer Friedrich von Martini to produce the Martini-Henry single-shot breech-loader rifle. Henry participated in the trials that were conducted by the British War Office to replace their standard-issue Snider-Enfield rifles. He ultimately lost out to von Martini, but his barrel and breech action designs were both ascribed to be the winners in their categories, and the breech-loading rifle combining their designs was soon adopted by the British military in 1871.
Henry was also known as an active Freemason and he became a member of the town council of Edinburgh. He is also considered to be one of the pioneers of the volunteering movement in Scotland, and became an Ordinary Fellow of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts in 1855.
Daniel Myron LeFever (August 27, 1835 – October 29, 1906)
Also known as “Uncle Dan” LeFever, he was an American gunsmith and maker and the acclaimed inventor of the hammerless shotgun. Born in Canandaigua, New York, he began his gunsmithing career there before he moved to Syracuse where he established his business there. He entered into successive short-lived business partnerships before he joined up with John Nichols to create the Nichols & LeFever gun manufacturing company (the forerunner to the LeFever Arms Company). It was during this time that he came up with the principles of the hammerless shotgun, the concept of which he later perfected with his release of an automatic version.
His products would prove to be so popular that his archetypical “D.M. LeFever” guns are considered by most gun collectors and owners to be the best examples of their type to be ever produced in the U.S.
Henry Deringer (October 26, 1878 – February 28, 1868)
Also known as Henry Deringer, Jr., he is an American gun maker who is famed for creating the Deringer pistol. He was born in Easton, Pennsylvania, his father being the colonial-era gunsmith Henry Deringer Senior. He started his career as a gunsmith apprentice in Richmond, Virginia, before he went on to live in Philadelphia. It was there where he put up his own gun manufacturing company which gained recognition for winning many arms supply contracts for the U.S. government. He started crafting long-barrelled percussion-type pistols before he moved on to single-shot types in 1825. But it was his eponymous creation that won him lasting fame. It employs a caplock design that is compact and easy to carry, being only less than six inches in length. The Deringer came in various calibres ranging from the .36 up to .45; the .41 calibre, however, is the most prevalent type. The pistol was widely used during the 1840s, especially during the American Civil War. It was eventually copied by other gun makers such as Colt, who primarily produced .22 pistols that are sometimes customized.
The Deringer pocket pistol achieved notoriety because it was the weapon that John Wilkes Booth used when he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in April 14, 1865. Subsequent news reports incorrectly spelled the pistol with an added “r”; the name eventually stuck and the pistol afterwards was also called as the “derringer.”
Benjamin Tyler Henry (1821 – 1898)
He was the American gunsmith and maker who came up with the design of the Henry rifle, the first repeating rifle with a dependable lever-type firearm action.
Henry first worked for the New Haven Arms Company (the precursor of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company) under the auspices of Oliver Winchester, where he was assigned to enhance the features of the Volcanic repeating-action rifle. While he did his job, he came up with his own repeating rifle design, which he later patented and produced as the Henry .44 caliber rifle. The rifle was later adopted for use by the armies of the American Civil War, where it saw action with the Springfield Model 1861 muzzle loaders and other types of rifled muskets.
He would continue to work on other rifle designs during his tenure at New Haven and the succeeding Winchester Repeating Arms Company until 1873. He did attempt to have the ownership of New Haven Arms transferred to him in 1866, but Winchester prevented this move and had the company named for him instead.
John Moses Browning (January 23, 1855 – November 26, 1926)
Considered as the most famous and influential of American firearms designers and gunsmiths, he is the son of Jonathan Browning, who was a pioneering gunsmith in his own right. Born in Ogden, Utah, he picked up his father’s trade and he soon released his first gun patent at the age of 24, in 1879. Browning subsequently produced more gun patents and designs than any other firearms maker in the world, and his work was soon influencing the direction that modern firearms would soon take. He worked with many distinguished American gun makers and manufacturing companies including Colt, Remington, Winchester, and Stevens, and he also found work advising the armies of the U.S. and other foreign nations. He came up with many successful modern firearm designs such as the .22 caliber rifle, the semi-automatic shotgun, and the pump-action shotgun; he also came up with the concept of the Colt .45 automatic pistol, the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) and the water-cooled machine gun.
The Browning Arms Company, the famed gun manufacturing company that was created to carry on his work, is one of the leaders in the small arms manufacturing industry in the U.S., with estimated yearly total sales of up to $1.5 billion.
Jonathan Browning (October 22, 1805 – June 21, 1879)
The father of John Moses Browning, he was also an American gunsmith and inventor who achieved fame in his own time. Born and raised in Tennessee, he joined the Mormon movement; he would move on to Illinois, then to Iowa, and later to Ogden, Utah, where he decided to put up his own gun shop there. He first worked as a blacksmith before he focused on locksmithing and gun design. He was credited to have invented the Harmonica gun or rifle that employed the “sliding breech” repeating concept.
During his time in Illinois, he met the future president, Abraham Lincoln, who twice stayed in his home during the latter’s tenure as a lawyer.
Val Allen Browning (August 20, 1895 – May 16, 1994)
Third in the distinguished line of gunsmiths, inventors, and manufacturers, Val Browning was also known as a philanthropist and industrialist. He carried on the legacy of his famed grandfather and father by coming up with his own firearm patents and designs; he will eventually have 48 patents to his name. He will produce the Hi-Power semi-automatic handgun and the Superposed over-under shotgun, two products that were first initiated by John Moses himself.
Van Browning used his wealth to fund many of his philanthropic interests, such as the setting up of educational and art institutions in his native Utah.
John Cantius Garand (January 1, 1898 – February 16, 1974)
He was a firearm designer of Canadian-American descent who is widely known for producing the M1 Garand, the first semi-automatic rifle to be adopted for active use in the military. He was born in St. Remi, Quebec; he then moved to Connecticut, then to Rhode Island, and later on to Springfield, Massachusetts where he was employed by the Springfield Armory. His innate liking for sport shooting and machines aided him as he came up with new gun designs. His M1 Garand was adopted by the U.S. Army before the onset of World War II. He also came up with other revolutionary gun types such as the bullpup rifle in the 1940s.
For his services, Garand was granted the first Medal for Merit award in 1944, although he did not receive any financial remunerations for his innovative gun designs.
Eliphalet Remington (October 28, 1793 – August 12, 1861)
He was an American gun maker and designer of English descent. Originally a blacksmith, he made his own flintlock rifle at the age of 23. His rifle design proved to be so popular that Remington soon set up his own manufacturing firm to produce it. This family-run venture, E. Remington and Sons, created much of the weaponry that was credited to the eventual colonization of the western half of the U.S.
The company, now known as the Remington Arms Company, Inc., supplied much of the arms that would see action in both World Wars and in many other smaller conflicts. Its many famed products include the M1917 Enfield rifle, the Model 700 bolt-action rifle, and the M1903A3 Springfield rifle.
Samuel Colt (July 19, 1814 – January 10, 1862)
This American gun inventor and pioneering industrialist was known not only for his important firearm designs, but for his use of assembly-line production techniques and interchangeable gun parts, as well as the shrewd (and sometimes devious) marketing methods that he used to advertise his products. His revolver models were the first of their type to achieve popularity, and he then founded a company (later known as the Colt’s Manufacturing Company) to produce and market his creations.
Among the many distinguished Colt firearms are the Single Action Army revolver or “Peacemaker,” the Walker Colt single-action revolver, and the Colt Python .357 Magnum calibre revolver. It also produced the AR-15 and M16 rifles.
Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov (November 10, 1919 – December 23, 2013)
This Russian firearms designer is renowned all over because of his small arms creations, including the AK-47, AK-74, and AKM assault rifles. He was born in Kurya, Altai Krai, in the former Russian Socialist Federative Socialist Republic (SFSR). He served during World War II as a tank mechanic and driver, and he was wounded during the Battle of Bryansk in 1941. During his recovery he decided to come up with a new submachine gun design that would overcome the many limitations that were found among the standard-issue weapons that the Soviet Red Army was using at that time. Although he was not successful at first, his efforts later attracted the attention of the Soviet leadership, who then ordered him to produce a new line of rifles which culminated in the release of the gas-operated, selective-fire AK-47 and its derivative models.
He based his gun designs on the principles of service dependability and design simplicity, factors that ensured the continuing popularity and recognition of his firearms.
Paul Mauser (June 27, 1838 – May 29, 1914)
He was a German gunsmith, firearms designer, and weapons industrialist. He was born in Oberndorf am Neckar in the former German monarchical state of Württemberg. He came from a family of gunsmiths; his four elder brothers and his father all share the same profession as his. Paul Mauser, along with his brother Wilhelm, invented the Mauser Model 1871 rifle, later to be adopted by the Imperial German Army as the Infanterie-Gewehr 71 or the Gewehr 71. Later on, the Mauser company produced the equally successful Gewehr 98 and Karabiner 98k rifle and their successor models.
Mauser’s bolt-action design would prove to be the mainstay rifle design for many years to come.
Carl Walther (November 22, 1858 – July 9, 1915)
His full name is Carl Wilhelm Freund Walther, and he is from Zella Mehlis in the duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in Germany. He came from a strong metalworking and gunsmithing lineage that enabled him to pursue an apprenticeship under Willibald Barthelmes and Albin Schneider. He first worked for the Jopp Company before he established his own company, Carl Walther GmbH Sportwaffen, known simply as Walther, where he first turned out target rifles for the sporting goods market. Most of his rifle creations were copies of the Martini-Henry rifle. During his tenure with the company, he produced the C96 pistol and the M1910 self-loading pistol.
Walther eventually became famous for producing legendary pistol designs such as the PPK and the P38, which both became famous during World War II; both continue to see service even until the modern era.
Yisrael Galil Blashnikov (1923 – March 9, 1995)
He is an Israeli small arms designer who, along with Yaacov Lior, came up with the concept of the Galil series of firearms that are made by Israel Military Industries Ltd. now known as Israel Weapon Industries Ltd.)This firearm system adopts the 5.56x45mm NATO caliber and the 7.62x51mm rifle round that is the standard for NATO member armies. Galil is also credited with helping to usher in the concept of what would ultimately become the UZI submachine gun. He is recognized by the Israeli military as the “Father of the Rifle.”
Who really is the Most Famous Gunsmith of All Time?
A totally impressive list of famous gunsmiths, which on purpose was not an ordered list. Although some names are more definitely recognizable than others, and some achievements were certainly greater than others I felt that each and every one of these deserved their spot in the list of the most famous gunsmiths ever.
But what do you think:
Who in your mind is the one and only Most Famous Gunsmith of All Time?