Whether you are an avid gun collector or just appreciate the history, these gun collections will blow your mind. You may not be able to visit all the collections mentioned on this list, but if you’re interested in firearms and their long history in both the US and abroad, then you owe it to yourself to check out at least a few of the museums listed below.
1. The National Firearms Museum
Owned and operated by the National Rifle Association, the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia is arguably the most well-known gun collection in the United States. Visitors are able to see a collection of over 3,000 firearms, including many rare, unique, and historically notable firearms such as guns once owned by Annie Oakley, Dwight Eisenhower, and what is believed to be the oldest gun on display in America (a cannon built in 1350). Best of all, admission is free.
You can see a tour of the National Firearms Museum below:
2. J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum
Located in Claremore, Oklahoma, this museum houses over 20,000 firearms and gun-related items. The history of this museum goes back to its namesake, J.M. Davis. An avid gun collector, Davis bought the Mason Hotel in 1917 and transformed part of the building to house his massive private collection. In 1965 Davis transferred the collection over to the state, as long as the state agreed to house, preserve, and display the collection to the public for no charge.
Oklahoma agreed and four years later, the 40,000-square foot museum was opened.
You can see a sped-up GoPro visit to the museum below.
3. FBI Reference Collection
Unfortunately, you will not be able to see the entirety of this collection.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s laboratory in Quantico, Virginia houses one of the largest and most exhaustive gun collections in the world. It is more of a library of firearms than a collection, with individual specimens stored for their rarity, uniqueness, and historical provenance. Items such as John Dillinger’s .45 caliber revolver, the weapons from Ma Barker and her gang, and “Pretty Boy” Floyd’s Colt 1911 are all stored here. A walk through the rows of the Quantico collection is almost a walk through the history of modern gunsmithing.
The collection also has a more pragmatic use.
“The collection has been extremely useful in criminal cases, not only for an examiner’s experience and education in handling nearly every firearm case that comes into the Laboratory,” said Firearms Examiner John Webb, “but it has been directly responsible for assisting to solve crimes.”
FBI agents use the ever-expanding laboratory as something of a physical reference. Firearm examiners are able to identify the firearms used in criminal acts and produce a variety of vital information pertinent to active cases. A vast database of information is also available to law enforcement.
You can get a short glimpse of it below:
4. Cody Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West
This museum in Cody, Wyoming claims to have one of the most comprehensive collections of American firearms in the world. The museum holds firearms from almost every significant manufacturer that has ever churned out a gun, and boasts an extensive Winchester collection as well as the largest selection of DuBiel rifles anywhere on the globe. The firearms museum is just a part of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, which contains four other museums devoted to its namesake, Colonel William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, and the spirit of the American Old West.
You can take a peek at its firearm collection below:
5. Springfield Armory National Historic Site
Once the US military’s primary supplier of small arms, the Springfield Armory is now preserved as a National Historic Site and holds one of the largest collections of US military firearms anywhere. Unfortunately, only about a tenth of the collection is on display, and there are few good videos of the Benton Small Arms Collection online. You can also take a drive to Springfield, Massachusetts, where the armory is located, to see the collection firsthand.
Learn more about the Springfield Armory below: