This design was the first autoloading, recoil operated semi-auto shotgun. It was originally presented to Winchester by John Browning, but a deal could not be worked out. I suspect they would like to have that one back, as the Auto-5 became one of the most popular shoguns ever produced.
John Browning eventually worked out a licensing agreement with Fabrique Nationale of Belgium. They became the first to produce the Browning Auto-5. FN also produced quite a few other John Browning designs, especially his autoloading pistol designs. The Auto-5 shotgun was also produced by Remington as the Model-11 (Remington ran production for the US Market) and later Savage licensed it for the Model 720 and Model 745.
As with all FN firearms, World War II would interfere with the production of the Auto-5 shotgun, due to the fact their facilities were seized by Nazi Germany. At that point Fabrique Nationale moved production of the Auto-5 to the US. Remington began producing both models until FN was able to return production to Europe.
Outside the fact that John Browning designed the Auto-5, it’s hard to comprehend it being the first successful semi-auto shotgun ever produced. Think about this, the genius of his design was manufactured for nearly 100 years, without changing the fundamental design. Now look at the iPad “1”, it lasted maybe one year before the iPad 2 was able to improve upon the ORIGINAL design and I hear an iPad 3 is on it’s way…
To wrap it up, this landmark design earned John Moses Browning US Patent 659507 on October 9th, 1900. He had applied for the patent on February 8th, 1900.