There isn’t a museum I don’t want to visit. Just ask me. Each one has its special features and more than a reason or two to explore. My family is usually on board with any choice I make and we have toured some of the best in the country over the years. It is our favorite vacation pastime. Recently, we had the opportunity to make the rounds of the National Firearms Museum. It has fifteen galleries and over 2,700 guns exhibited in 15,000 square feet so you can spend more than a few hours there. It is under the auspices of the National Rifle Association and is located in Fairfax, Virginia.
Whether or not you own a firearm, you will enjoy the regular fare as well as the special exhibitions such as Hollywood Guns featuring weapons used in movies and on TV for over 80 years. Yes, Dirty Harry is included! Overall, the museum places weapons within history and the American experience. The galleries are organized according to eras such as the stockade fort at Jamestown. The full-scale dioramas including a 19th century riflemaker’s shop are irresistible and a must see. You can also view a WWI trench on the Western front and a town square that has been shelled out during WWII. It’s a great way for kids to learn about the past as it is brought to life. In fact, it is a great way for adults to absorb information.
Guns are meant to secure freedom and independence, but you don’t even have to get into politics to enjoy the museum. You can stick with the utilitarian side of things as firearms are used for exploration, hunting, competition, and recreational sports. In addition, with the Robert E. Petersen Gallery, the National Firearms Museum has what has been called “the finest single room of guns anywhere in the world.” Fabulous masterpieces of engraving are on display including British shotguns and double rifles.
Interestingly enough, holsters are also on exhibit. What’s a gun without one! This is especially true for the characters in movies. Maybe you don’t remember what a particular cowboy or gangster wore, but you can find out. The Beretta pistol used by Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon had a specific place on his person. Then of course there is the gun wielded by Bruce Willis in Die Hard. Some gunslingers show the weapon as a deterrent and others enjoy a concealed carry holster. It all depends on the circumstance and element of surprise.
While there are no guided tours to clue you in on these details, there are pamphlets and self-tours available. Descriptions of items on display are also helpful and it is vital to take the time to read them. Plus, if you go to the website you can get a brief history of firearms and information on the American West. Guns can be a colorful subject indeed and can transcend the realm of crime and protection. The birth of the modern revolver is quite fascinating.