The National Firearms Museum is a museum focused on the evolution of firearms throughout the years and the history of firearms in America. The present location is 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, Virginia. The museum is owned and operated by the National Rifle Association, and the museum's mission is to promote gun collecting, and the preservation of the heritage of firearms.
The museum is open every day of the week 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free.
The museum was originally located in Washington, D.C. from 1935, but opened its new facility in May 1998. In 2010, the Robert E. Petersen Gallery opened, featuring exceptional engraved sporting firearms and a Gatling gun collection. A special Hollywood guns display features 120 firearms actually used in movies and TV shows, from the first revolver John Wayne used in a credited film role, through guns from recent academy award winners such as The Dark Knight, The Hurt Locker, and No Country for Old Men. The museum's collections include shotguns, rifles, muskets, pistols, revolvers, machine guns and cannons with 3,000 guns on display. The themed galleries follow a timeline of firearms usage and evolution. Military, sporting, competition, hunting, defense, and recreational guns are displayed. Galleries and specific firearms of note include:
- I. PETERSEN GALLERY—Engraved masterpieces. Firearms curiosa. Gatling guns. British Best Gun double rifles and double shotguns by makers such as Holland and Holland, Purdy, and Westley Richards. Historically attributed pieces. Merkel shotgun owned successively by Hermann Goring, Dwight Eisenhower, and General Pershing. Annie Oakley shotgun and pistol.
- II. OLD GUNS IN A NEW WORLD—Ancient firearms. Oldest gun on display in America (hand cannon ca. 1350). Wheellock carbine brought to the New World on the Mayflower. Ornately decorated early arms.
- III. ROAD TO AMERICAN LIBERTY—Arms used in the American Revolution.
- IV. SEEDS OF GREATNESS
- V. THE PROSPERING NEW REPUBLIC—American Longrifles (a.k.a. Kentucky rifles). Girandoni repeating air rifle as carried by Lewis and Clark and used in the Napoleonic Wars. Hawkins plains rifles. Exceptional pair of engraved Colt Dragoon percussion revolvers. Colt Walker percussion revolver. Colt Paterson percussion revolvers.
- VI. A NATION ASUNDER—Arms of the Union and Confederacy in the American Civil War. Sharps carbine used in John Brown's Raid. Historically inscribed pieces. LeMatt grapeshot revolvers.
- VII. THE AMERICAN WEST—Extensive Colt and Winchester display. Derrigers, cane guns, and oddity hide-out guns. Firearms owned and used by Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, John Wesley Hardin, Jesse James, and others. Native American used firearms.
- VIII. THE NEW PROSPERITY—Prototypes and oddities. Early competition arms.
- IX. AN AGE OF ELEGANCE—Firearms owned by Theodore Roosevelt. Guns of the Yacht United States. The Parker Invincibles (widely recognized as the finest American shotguns ever made, 3 gun set valued in the millions of dollars). Gatling gun used at San Juan and Kettle Hill.
- X. AMERICA ASCENDING—Guns of World War I, including German anti-tank rifle and rare Pedersen device "secret weapon". WWI diorama. Evolution of the bolt action rifle, including four Mauser prototypes. The first gun made by Bill Ruger.
- XI. EVER VIGILANT—Guns of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. WWII diorama. Guns owned by Napoleon, King James, Duke of York, Prince Charles, Pres. Grover Cleveland, Pres. George H.W. Bush. General Officers Pistols from Chuck Yeager, Douglas McArthur, and many more U.S. Generals.
- XII. FOR THE FUN OF IT—1950s child's bedroom diorama. Functioning 100-year-old Coney Island shooting gallery. BB guns and plinkers. Guns of Ed McGivern and other famous exhibition shooters. Guns of Olympic medalists, along with Olympic Gold Medals.
- XIII. FIREARMS TRADITIONS FOR TODAY—Guns of Law Enforcement, including the 9/11 revolver recovered from the rubble of the World Trade Center. Engraved arms. Elephant gun carried on the Stanley & Livingston expedition. Massive market hunting punt gun.
- XIV. WILLIAM B. RUGER GALLERY—Currently[when?] displaying Hollywood Guns.
- XV. FREEDOM'S DOORWAY—Misc. unusual long guns.
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