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The Life of Karl R. Lewis
Karl Lewis was born July 11, 1927 in Farmersfield, Ohio and grew up in a children's orphanage in Xenia, Ohio. He dropped out of school at the age of 16 and worked a lot of odd jobs.
Karl bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle and went to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he worked for R.G. LeTourneau in the research department as a machine apprentice. He went back to Ohio and worked for Frigidaire where he inspected and test fired Browning 50-caliber machine guns.
He joined the U.S. Navy at age 17 and won several boxing championships, including the U.S. Pacific Fleet Championship at the age of 18. He was on the U.S.S. Biloxi and the destroyer U.S.S. Compton. He left the Navy in 1946.
Karl became a police officer in Dayton, Ohio. He designed and invented the first and only interchangeable barrel revolver in the world. He moved his family to Miami, Florida, where he patented and made the first prototype by hand.
He showed this interchangeable barrel prototype to Val and Bruce Browning. They liked it so well they asked Karl to go to work for them and built three prototype models, but later they decided not to venture into the revolver business. While at Browning, he also invented the BLR lever-action rifle. He designed many inventions for Browning.
He went to work for Colt's Firearms Division and invented the Colt Mark III. While there, he also created a 40mm grenade launcher. He received a competition award from Colt's after competing against the government's Think Tank Team and Ford Engineer and Design from California.
He then went into business with Dan Wesson, which put the interchangeable barrel on the market, based on Mr. Lewis' invention and patents. This revolver was the most accurate silhouette revolver ever made.
Karl Lewis developed more than 45 inventions, some of which have never been put on the market. His inventions clearly show that he was indeed a genius in his own time.
His inventions for Browning and Dan Wesson were never accredited to him, so his story reveals an untold part of history - that he was the true inventor of these remarkable guns.
From the Son of Karl R. Lewis
Through examination of thousand of documents, log books and information concerning these revolvers, I have found documents stating that Mr. Lewis had over $535,000 invested in his inventions. This didn't even include his 32 years of time and work.
I have all the patents covering these revolvers, showing that Karl Lewis was indeed the inventor of these firearms. Mr. Lewis may hold more handgun patents than anyone else.
I feel this collection would be very desirable for a person or organization with a love for guns. They are even more valuable now that Mr. Lewis has passed away. There can never be anymore exactly like these, because they were the first made, and they don't even have serial numbers. (Which were not required until 1968.)
Mr. Lewis was a brilliant inventor and designer, but not only of firearms. He helped design the oxygen pack that the Apollo astronauts wore when they went to the moon, the grenade launcher used by the military in Vietnam, and many more items.
- John Lewis, January 2003
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