Bruce Warren Browning, the fourth and last generation of Browning gun designers, died on Dec. 3, 2019, at the age of 91 from complications of pneumonia. He was the second son of Ann Chaffin and Val Allen Browning of Ogden, Utah, and was born June 25, 1928, in Liege, Belgium. The family moved back to Ogden in 1935 when Bruce was seven years old. He was educated in Ogden public schools, the University of Utah and Stanford University.
After earning a degree in philosophy, he became a “cub reporter” at the Chico Enterprise-Record in northern California, covering the police beat, writing obituaries and other diverse assignments.
Subsequently, Bruce returned to work with his father, Val, and his brother, John Val, at Browning Arms Company in Ogden, Utah. As a kid, he had swept the gun shop floors, now he became head of the Research and Development department. He took classes to learn machining, essential for his role as an inventor and modelmaker.
Bruce was granted around a dozen patents in his name, many of them original patents, and commercially successful patents on guns that are in production today. The Medalist .22 Pistol was designed by Bruce and is often regarded as a masterpiece in mechanical perfection, fit and finish. The T-Bolt Rifle, the first straight-pull rifle built in this country since the 1900s, was designed by Jack Donaldson but brought to market by Bruce’s foresight and diligence. The new BAR Sporting high powered rifle was designed by Bruce and is still the best selling semi-auto sporting rifle in the world.
Bruce traveled frequently to Belgium to work through gun manufacturing and design problems with Fabrique Nationale and later with Miroku in Japan. In the book “John M. Browning: American Gunmaker,” author Kurt Gentry says that Bruce “inherited from his illustrious forbearers the ability to convert dreams into live steel.”
After retiring from Browning Arms, Bruce moved to Bainbridge Island, Washington, in 1971.
He and his sons built a family research and development business. This business worked on various products, mostly centered around using a split sprocket transmission Bruce invented for bicycles. This invention was remarkable because shifts were possible under full load. This invention was successfully licensed to Suntour. Since the sprockets and chain were always engaged, shifts could take place at any time. This allowed the development of the first fully automatic bicycle. This product was manufactured and marketed by the family. Numerous international companies have attempted to achieve this feat, but no one else matched this invention’s performance. Bruce and his sons were granted several more original patents during this time.
At one point, Bruce and Browning Research were invited to present their invention to the International Olympic Committee. Thereafter, the IOC wrote a special rule banning their invention from competition. Always logical and fair, Bruce agreed with this action because the automatic bicycle did give a significant performance advantage to its rider.
This last year, Bruce was working on an invention to simplify the installation of sprinkler systems.
Bruce met his first wife, Gloria Sanford of Salt Lake City, Utah, at Stanford. They were married shortly after he graduated. Bruce and Gloria had six sons and raised them in the hills around Ogden, Utah. Their home in the canyon was a paradise of inventions, explosions and freedom. He adored his sons and was very involved in their lives. He was a very interactive father. He deeply enjoyed their spirited, lively discussions. He respected their thinking and opinions. Shortly after moving to Washington state, Bruce and Gloria divorced.
After a 32-year engagement, Bruce and Barbara Grange Cowley were married. They had built a home, designed by Barbara, in Moab, Utah. Bruce enjoyed their home in all the ways Barbara had hoped he would. It became his favorite place to be. Barbara’s children, Lisa and Chris Cowley, always loved and respected Bruce.
Bruce was predeceased by two sons, John Bradley Browning in 1979 and Michael Curtis Browning in 1993. He is survived by five sons and a daughter: David Lawrence Browning (Amy); Marc Sanford Browning (Annie); Christopher Mose Browning (Liz); Paul Chaffin Browning (Sally); Christopher Kim Cowley (Laura); and Lisa Cowley (Larry). He is survived by his wife Barbara, his sisters Carol Dumke and Judy Jones, former wife Gloria, and many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Bruce was an avid reader with wide-ranging interests. He was open to a diversity of bold, new, adventurous music. He enjoyed tennis, skiing, sailing, hiking, and biking. He had a finely honed sense of the absurd; his wit was subtle and kind. His work was very important and satisfying to him.
Bruce said that he didn’t fear death, and often said he had “had a full life” and he had done about everything he wanted. He was a principled, ethical person. He will be missed, and mourned, but never forgotten.
Bruce cared deeply about the Moab community and the wider universe. He quietly supported a diverse range of causes and searches for solutions. Donations can be made in tribute to Bruce Browning to Moab Music Festival online at www.moabmusicfest.org/bruce-browning or calling (435) 259-7003.
A future gathering of family and friends is to be announced.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.SpanishValleyMortuary.com.