The modern firearms industry as we know it today is marked by countless innovations and breakthroughs from top modern gunsmiths and firearms designers who, like the famed pioneers who came before them, exhibited dedication, unqualified brilliance, and fearless foresight on achieving their outstanding creations. Here are the top 10 modern gunsmiths with celebrated reputations:
Uziel “Uzi”Gal (December 15, 1923-September 7, 2002)
An Israeli firearms designer who was responsible for the creation of the UZI submachine gun. He was born in Germany as Gothard Glas and he subsequently immigrated to what was then known as Palestine in 1936. After the establishment of Israel, he became involved in the ensuing war that followed and he became an officer in the nascent army there. During that time he came up with the design that will ultimately become the UZI, which will later be made by Israel Military Industries (IMI) and eventually be adopted by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), who will name the weapon after him (it is reported that he personally disapproved of the move). The gun became so successful that more than 1.5 million of these were made and sold worldwide since its general introduction in 1956. Gal would later move on to design other firearms after his retirement and immigration to the U.S., including his involvement in the making of the Ruger MP9 submachine gun.
Dieudonné Joseph Saive (June 6, 1889-March 22, 1973)
A Belgian firearms maker who specialized in the creation of small arms, he was the assistant to John Moses Browning when the famed arms maker was at the helm of Belgian gun manufacturer Fabrique Nationale (FN). When Browning died in 1926, Saive continued to work on and improve on his predecessor’s designs and managed over the European production of Browning’s later successful creations such as the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). He subsequently enhanced Browning’s earlier high-capacity, locked-breach pistol design with his own modifications in producing the FN Browning Hi-Power 9 mm handgun, also known as the GP-35. Saive is also famous for his FN-49 semi-automatic rifle, which would later become the basis for the more successful FN-Fusil Automatique Léger (FAL) selective fire battle rifle.
John Cantius Garand (January 1, 1888 – February 16, 1974)
An American gun designer who originally came from Quebec, Canada, he was the one responsible for the M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle, the first one to be adopted by the U.S. Army for general use. His innate liking for shooting sports and anything mechanical were combined into his pastime which was producing new gun designs, something which he will soon put to good use when his light machine gun design was chosen by the Army’s War Department in 1917. It was only produced after World War I ended, but Garand was eventually retained as a consultant with the Springfield Armory. There he produced the M1 Garand, which was later produced in 1936; it was used extensively in World War II and up to the Vietnam War. Garand also came up with a pioneering design for a bullpup rifle, the T31, but after his retirement it never got past the prototype stage.
David Marshall “Carbine” Williams (November 13, 1900 – January 8, 1975)
An American gun designer and innovator, he was well-known as the innovator of the short-stroke piston system which will later be employed in the M1 Carbine and the floating chamber mechanism. He worked for both the U.S. Ordnance Office and the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. He was a former convict who acquired his gunsmithing and gun design skills while spending his time in prison. Upon his parole and release in 1931, he demonstrated his inventions to the U.S. War Department, who then hired him on a contractual basis. He was then employed full-time by Winchester, which then applied his breakthroughs on many of its products.
General John Taliaferro Thompson (December 31, 1860-June 21, 1940)
An American army officer and gun inventor, he is famed for his creation of the Thompson submachine gun, nicknamed the “Tommy Gun” and the “trench broom.” He worked for both the U.S. Army Ordnance Department and with the Remington Arms Company. He mainly worked with automatic small firearms. He came up with the concept of the Thompson submachine rifle as a single-man machine gun that employs the blowback self-loading system that is capable of automatic fire. He envisioned the firearm as ideal for “sweeping” away resistance from enemy trenches during World War I, but it was during World War II and afterwards that it was used extensively both in the military and by civilians (specifically Prohibition Era gangsters and mobsters).
Evgeni Fedorovich /Yevgeny Fyodorovich Dragunov (February 20, 1920 –August 4, 1991)
A Russian firearms designer who is recognized for producing the Dragunov semi-automatic sniper rifle. He came from a gunsmithing family in Izhevsk, Russia. He began serving in the Red Army in 1939, where his previous profession as a factory machine operator aided him to become a senior arms designer there. During the war, he studied both Soviet weapons and those that were seized from the enemy. After the conflict, he went back to designing firearms and he concentrated on creating new civilian and sport target rifles. He later delivered his proposal for a new sniper’s rifle to the Soviet Army; this rifle, the SVD, would later be adopted and be called the Dragunov rifle.
William Batterman Ruger (June 21, 1916-July 6, 2002)
He is one-half of the famed partnership that created the Sturm, Ruger & Company gun manufacturing company. He provided the technical knowledge and ingenuity, while his partner Alexander “Alex” Sturm gave the needed initial investment that they needed to start their company in 1949. Ruger led the company after his partner’s death two years later; during this time he built on the success of the company by producing the Ruger Standard .22 caliber pistol. Years before, one of his early light machine gun designs was adopted by the U.S. Army Ordnance Department, an action that helped propel him into a firearm designer. Aside from being a gun designer and maker, he was also a classical firearms, art, and car collector; philanthropist; and businessman.
Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov (November 10, 1919)
A Russian gun designer who specialized in small firearms, he is famous for creating the Avtomat Kalashnikova (AK)-47, AK-74, and Avtomat Kalashnikova Modernizirovanniy (AKM) assault rifles. He was a mechanic and tank driver when he first entered service in the Soviet Red Army, rising up the ranks until he became a tank commander. He was later wounded in action and he spent six months in a hospital. While there he envisioned a new submachine gun design that greatly improves upon the generally poor quality of the service weapons that he and his fellow soldiers were using during that time. The design was not adopted; nevertheless, Kalashnikov was appointed to work with the Red Army where he came up with his famed assault rifle designs. His concepts were notable because of their overall durability and spartan designs, firearms that can be easily repaired and maintained and can withstand the rigors of war. These two qualities were both embodied in his famed invention, the AK-47assualt rifle.
Eugene Morrison Stoner (November 22, 1922 –April 24, 1997)
He is considered along with Kalashnikov and Browning as one of the most recognized gunsmiths of the modern era. He is the one who is most identified with the AR-15/M16 semi-automatic, selective fire rifle. Stoner first worked in aviation ordnance and aircraft equipment manufacturing before becoming chief engineer at ArmaLite, Inc., then a part of Fairchild Engine & Airplane Corporation. He worked on the AR family of original firearms designs before finally achieving some success with the AR-5/MA-1 aircrew survival rifle. He then moved on to work on the AR-10 selective fire rifle, which was the basis for the more successful AR-10. The U.S. Army accepted the design and rechristened it as the M16. After his departure from ArmaLite, he worked for, and helped in the creation of, other firearm manufacturing companies such as Colt, Cadillac Gage, Thompson Ramo Wooldridge (TRW), ARES Incorporated, and Knight’s Armament Company (KAC). Among his later developments are the TRW 6425 Bushmaster autocannon, the Stoner 86 or ARES Light Machine Gun, and the SR-25 semi-automatic sniper rifle, also known as the U.S. Navy Mark 11 Mod 0 Sniper Weapon System.
Gordon B. Ingram (December 30, 1924 –November 4, 2004)
An American gun constructor and businessman, he was nicknamed the “MAC Man” and he was recognized as “the father of the machine pistol.” He set up the Military Armament Corporation (MAC) along with Mitchell WerBell to produce the famed MAC-10 (correctly known as the M-10). The company later made the equally successful MAC-11 (M-11). He is also recognized for promoting the submachine gun to the public. He worked as a gun designer for the U.S. Army before creating MAC in 1970. He also conceptualized the Ranchero range rifle family which is noted for being a multiple-use platform that employs similar pistol bullet calibers and magazine configurations throughout them.
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