The Colt Single-Action Army revolver, or the Peacemaker, was introduced in 1873. The SAA has been offered in over 30 different calibers and various barrel lengths but aside from those differences, the overall appearance has remained consistent since its introduction. This elaborate Colt-Single Action Army features detailed engravings of buffalos, Wild West weaponry and American Indians. Rarely seen as a revolving pistol carbine, this SAA has a detachable skeleton buttstock.
The Apache Revolver was made notorious by Parisian street gangs of the early 1900s, known as Les Apaches. It incorporates a 7mm revolver, a folding dagger, and a fold-out set of brass knuckles. The gun operates like a pepperbox revolver by means of a pinfire action. When in use, the brass knuckles serve as the firearm’s grip.
Lacking a barrel, the revolver was difficult to aim and had a short effective range. But since all of its components could be folded in on themselves, it was very easily concealable. Since it lacks a trigger guard or safety, Les Apaches would often leave an empty chamber with no cartridge under the firing pin to prevent shooting themselves involuntarily while carrying it in their pockets. Despite its shortcomings, the device proved to be deadly at close range.
The Mariette Pepperbox pistol’s design was patented by gun manufacturer Gilles Mariette in 1837. This 18-barrel cluster revolver uses percussion cap technology—a hammer comes down to strike a percussion cap which sets off the main charge. The user would load each barrel individually then apply a percussion cap on each of the nipples found on the back of the barrel. Although loading could take upwards of 30 minutes, it took no time to fire.
In the Robert E. Petersen Gallery at the National Firearms Museum you’ll find the Vampire Hunter’s Colt Detective Special; the gun you need in these bloodthirsty times. The Vampire Hunter is the only Detective Special that’s entirely silver plated—the muzzle, barrel, inside of the chambers. Engravings by Francolini cover the gun from front to leaning. They include a bat on the cylinder, a crucifix on the muzzle and a rampant colt. Paired with the firearm is a fitted coffin-shaped ebony case that holds holy water, a mirror, a wooden stake and elaborate ammunition—100 percent silver with hand-carved heads depicting a vampire.
This pair of Turkish/Balkan rat-tail flintlock pistols features cast silver stocks embellished by elaborate filigree carving and engraving. The loading ramrod is fitted with a similar silver handle and related cylindrical tube which conceals a stiletto dagger. These were worn as a symbol of rank and status; it is believed this pair of pistols was never fired.
Many-chambered rifles were created to answer the percussion cap-era question: How do you develop an effective repeating rifle? The Bennet & Haviland Many Chambered Revolving Rifle has 12 individual chambers that each hold a powder charge and a lead ball and the small protrusion at the bottom is where you’d attach the percussion cap. The wheel, also located at the bottom, turns to place a new charge in front of the hammer. Truly innovative for its time.
This early repeating rifle was designed by Epenetus A. Bennett and Frederick P. Haviland. It received a U.S. Patent No. 603 on February 15, 1838.
Although minimally tricked-out, this gun’s association is what really gives it its edge. From the Coen Brothers’ 2007 blockbuster No Country For Old Men, this silenced Remington 11-87 12-gauge shotgun was used by the coldest blooded killer, Anton Chigurh. Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem, determines the fate of his victims with the flip of a coin and the power of a shotgun. (Interestingly, this is an anachronism…the gun was designed in 1987, and the movie is set in 1980.) See the gun for yourself, and many others, in the “Guns of Hollywood” display at the National Firearms Museum.
The Colt Commander was the first mass-produced pistol with an aluminum alloy frame and the first Colt pistol to be chambered in 9mm Parabellum. This Colt Combat Commander seems to have been touched by Midas himself. Gold plated from barrel to trigger guard to grip would have been lavish enough, but the floral scroll engraving engulfing the entire firearms really tricks this one out.
A real decked-out deck of cards. The Gamechanger is a compact single-shot .22. It’s fitted inside a well-worn, unsuspicious deck of cards to be fired when the situation takes a turn for the worse. A button on the standing end of the supposed deck served as its trigger. This and many other fantasy-fueled, imaginative guns can be found in the “Steampunk Guns” cases at the National Firearms Museum.
The Hotchkiss machine guns were big-bore, hand-cranked and rapid-fire weapons created in the late 1800s. The creator, Benjamin B. Hotchkiss, was a U.S. ordnance engineer who owned a factory in Paris. The first known usage of the Hotchkiss machine guns were by the French army in 1896.
The miniature version pictured here is modeled after a full-size machine cannon that could fire 37mm shells.
What does one expect to find at the NRA National Firearms Museum? Historical guns? Yes. First-of-their-kind guns? Of course. Guns owned by presidents or shooting icons? Absolutely. You will easily find all of that at the NRA museum, as well as much, much more…