Johnson Semiauto Rifle Senate Hearing

On May 29th, 1940 the US Senate held a hearing about Senate bill 3983, a measure to adopt the Johnson semiauto rifle as a standard US military arm. Opening the testimony was Melvin Johnson himself, and he was followed by a retinue or industrial experts and military officers attesting to the virtues of the Johnson rifle. I got my hands on a copy of the complete transcript of the hearing, some 183 pages. It’s a long read, but well worth the time is you are interested in the controversy over the Johnson and Garand that was brewing at the time.

Senators inspect Johnson rifles
Senators inspect Johnson rifles

In addition, it is quite enlightening to see the different levels of firearms knowledge and attitudes in the various participants. Several of the Senators on the hearing committee showed ignorance nearly as complete as any California Democrat today:

Johnson Semiauto Rifle hearing excerpt, 1940
Physics? What’s that? (click to enlarge)

In another instance, a veteran of the Spanish-American War recounts how he was issued a mere 30 rounds per man with which to train his company – and how only the best shots were allowed to use more than 10 rounds of it. Small details like this, and seeing the attitudes toward things like bayonet usage and gas vs recoil operation really give you a deeper and more complete understanding of the debate, better than any summary could. You can download the transcript in PDF format here:

 

Johnson Semiauto Rifle hearing complete transcript, May 29 1940
Johnson Semiauto Rifle hearing complete transcript, May 29 1940