1. National Firearms Museum
The National Firearms Museum, located at NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, Va., is one of the largest gun museums in the world, containing approximately 2,700 pieces. The museum consists of 15 galleries, each representing a particular era in the history of firearm development, spanning some 600 years from early matchlocks to cutting-edge, contemporary designs. Highlights include a Mayflower gun, and collections from President Theodore Roosevelt and American entrepreneur Robert E. Petersen. Admission is free, and the museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
2. Midwestern Marvel
Have you always wanted to visit the NRA National Firearms Museum, but been disappointed by the distance from your home? Well, the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum, which recently debuted at the Bass Pro Shops flagship superstore in Springfield, Mo., might just be the answer! The museum is home to more than a thousand firearms, and focuses on the history of hunting, conservation and freedom. The 75,000-square foot NRA National Sporting Arms museum is located at 1935 S. Campbell in Springfield, Mo. The museum is open every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m, and admission is free. www.basspro.com/nramuseum
3. Cody Museum
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., also known as the Cody Museum, draws its name from the famous Old West showman, Buffalo Bill Cody, and is devoted to saluting America's frontier past. Included is a firearm exhibit that rivals the world's best, including the important Winchester Collection, which was transferred from Winchester's long-time New Haven, Conn., base to Cody in 1975. The Cody Museum also serves as an important research archive for firearms collectors.
4. Browning's Home Base
The John M. Browning Museum, located in Ogden, Utah, is dedicated to the original designs of firearm genius John Moses Browning and his descendants. The collection is extensive, including everything from pistols and shotguns, to machine guns and cannons. Examples of all-time Browning favorites include early working models of the M1911 handgun, the Superposed shotgun and M2 Browning light machine gun. Browning's early workshop is re-created, and the collection also contains a number of novel guns, such as the "Harmonica" revolving cylinder rifle.
5. Gene Autry Rides On
The Autry National Center in Los Angeles, Calif., named for legendary cowboy singer/actor Gene Autry, is a multifaceted educational institution with a focus on the culture of the western United States, both past and present. The Center's historic base includes a sizeable gun collection of the Wild West era, among them "six-gun" revolvers and lever-action rifles. Another outstanding attraction is the second-largest trove of American Indian artifacts in the United States, hailed by some as one of the world's finest.
6. Arms in American History
Among the famous Smithsonian system is the Museum of American History on The Mall in Washington D.C. The Museum features firearms in several display sections, especially in its military wing. This museum is a must-see for shooting enthusiasts visiting the Nation's Capital. The above photo is a flintlock pistol that was given to George Washington by Gen. Edward Braddock, and is part of the Price of Freedom exhibit.
7. Arms and Armor as Fine Art
Known to many as "the Met,"the Metropolitan Museum of Art is famous worldwide as one of New York City's most popular attractions. Along with priceless art treasures, the Met features an interesting collection of military wares in its aptly named Arms and Armor Room. This exhibit specializes in the ornate armament and armor of medieval and renaissance Europe, but also includes military-grade hardware from throughout various periods of history.
8. The Davis Collections
The Davis Arms and Historical Museum in Claremore, Okla., is the proud home to what is said to be the largest privately owned gun collection in the world, as well as many other attractions. The Davis facility is massive, with over 50,000 items on display, encompassing Wild West artifacts, German beer steins, edged weapons and much more. There are 13,000 guns on the premises, the vast majority of which came from the private collection of museum benefactor J.M. Davis.
9. Arms for Early Americans
The "living-history" complex known as Colonial Williamsburg teaches visitors about life in the former capital of Virginia from the late 1600s through the Revolutionary War period. The critical role firearms played in the lives of early Virginians is revealed by the restored Magazine building, where the colony's munitions were stored. One of Colonial Williamsburg's newest additions, the rebuilt Anderson Armory, armed patriots during the War for Independence. Period firearms that represent colonial militia guns can be seen in various exhibits, and live demonstrations acquaint visitors with gunmaking methods and the actual firing of muskets and artillery.
10. VMI Museum
Housed on the ground floor of the post chapel, the museum at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., presents an assortment of alumni donations. Included is a diverse collection of firearms ranging from standard military issue of the past and present, including the Springfield 03A3, M1 Garand and M16, but also novelty guns, such as 19th-century air rifles, revolving rifles and guns disguised as canes.