Case containing the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum that Robert Petersen used to take down a Polar Bear in 1965 on NRAblog

Fairfax, Virginia - In October of 2010, the National Firearms Museum opened the Robert E. Petersen Gallery. Though filled with some of the finest sporting arms in the world, the gallery was incomplete. One of the cornerstones had yet to arrive. As this particular piece The Petersen Polar Bear exhibit at NRA Headquarters on NRAblog was more than twelve feet tall and weighed over 1,500 pounds, it's understandable that Director Jim Supica and his staff took a little extra time to prepare the proper location. That's just what they did earlier this year when Petersen's Polar Bear arrived.

After a little noodling around, they decided the Polar Bear by itself wasn't going to do it. To understand the entire experience, they believed the public needed a little more. Here's Senior Curator Doug Wicklund to tell you what happened.

NRA staff and visitors who arrive at NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia have been impressed with the recent addition of the 14-foot polar bear that now inhabits the building’s North lobby. But now the full story can be revealed with the addition of a display case nearby - telling the tale of how this immense bear was hunted by Robert E. Petersen off the coast of Alaska.

Even better, inside the case rests the actual Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum revolver that Petersen used on the hunt.

One awed NRA guest was heard to quip, ”I never knew NRA supported the right to keep and arm bears,” after seeing the new ensemble.

To take a look at Petersen's Polar Bear, and the rest of the breathtaking pieces that populate their collection, stop by the National Firearms Museum here at 11250 Waples Mill Road in Fairfaix, Virginia. Opened daily from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, admission is free and the parking is ample.

Polar Bear shot with a .44 Magnum handgun donated to the National Firearms Museum

Fairfax, Virginia - Donations to the NRA National Firearms Museum tend to vary. A well cared for colonial musket, a prized hunting rifle, or the pistol grandpa kept in his nightstand. Each are inspected, restored (when necessary), and if it is truly a fine piece ... put on display. That wasn't quite the case when it came the polar bear we have in the lobby.

Unloading an Arctic Polar Bear in the National Rifle Association's lobby on NRAblog

Donated by the estate of Robert E. Petersen, this polar bear was the first ever taken with a handgun. On the left you see Senior Curators Doug Wicklund and Phil Schreier unloading the the 12-foot 8-inch polar bear from the trailer. Later joined by National Firearms Museum Director Jim Supica, Assistant Curator Matt Sharpe and a few helping hands, they found the perfect spot to put Petersen's bear on display.

Arctic Polar Bear in the National Rifle Association's lobby on NRAblog

On February 26, 1965, publishing magnate Robert E. Petersen was hunting outside the village of Kotzebue, Alaska in the Arctic Circle. With a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum, Petersen came within 25 yards of the 1,500 pound polar bear and took him with five shots. How cold was it? Records show that temperatures were hovering at 50 degrees below zero.

The Arctic Polar Bear currently residing in the National Rifle Association's lobby on NRAblog

Here's what NFM's Wendy Cunningham had to say about the polar experience:

“I know what you're thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” Made infamous in by Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty” Harry Callahan, surely, had Dirty Harry been released sixteen years earlier, Mr. Robert E. Petersen might have been reciting this to himself as he raised his Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum to singlehandedly take a 1500 pound polar bear, the newest addition to NRA Headquarters, and the Robert E. Petersen Collection ...

Fast forward forty-six years later, I watched in wonder as my coworkers struggled to set Mr. Petersen’s prized polar bear upright, my 5 foot four inch frame dwarfed in comparison. The skill, the nerve, and the firepower it took to take this bear. It was five shots, not six, and that bear’s luck just ran out.

Read the rest of Wendy's coverage on the American Hunter magazine website.

Magnum, PI and Blue Bloods star Tom Selleck visits the National Firearms Museum on NRAblog You never know who you're going to run into at the NRA National Firearms Museum. Could be NRA President Ron Schmeits, maybe 2011 Men's World Championship Trap Shooting Team member Collin Wietfeldt, or – if you happened to stop by last Saturday around noon – your favorite Private Investigator/Police Commissioner Tom Selleck.

In town for the Horatio Alger Association Awards ceremony, Selleck took the opportunity to stop by NRA Headquarters and visit the Robert E. Petersen Gallery.

"Bob Petersen was a friend of mine," said Selleck "I had to miss the gallery's opening, so I'm glad to have the opportunity to see what the NRA did with Bob's collection. They did a fine job. A very nice job."


IPSC tours the National Firearms Museum on NRAblog Earlier this year, representatives from the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) were in Washington, DC for their annual Leadership Council. That's when representatives from across the globe gather to discuss the events from the previous year and set the agenda for the next.

During some much needed down time, the group piled into cars and vans to visit the NRA National Firearms Museum. Along the way, NRAblog pulled aside IPSC President Nick Alexakos for a quick question and answer session.

"I come here every chance I get," said Alexakos. "This museum tells the story of America by highlighting the use and manufacturing of firearms throughout segments of history. It's a wonderful pictorial view."

Accompanying Alexakos during the tour were representatives from a dozen different countries including Russia, Germany, and Australia. "Russia was easily the most improved region in 2010," said Alexakos. "They now practically rival the United States for the number of matches and competitors."

After completing their tour, Alexakos mentioned upcoming events, the launch of IPSC's new digital magazine, and the National Firearms Museum's Petersen Gallery. "That was awesome. I had no idea such a collection exists. Next time I'm spending a considerable lot more time in there."

The National Firearms Museum will be showing off firearms with a hint of romance from their new Robert E. Peterson Gallery at the Nation's Gun Show this weekend. The weekend show will be held February 11-13 at the Dulles Expo Center and Museum staff will be there the entire time to show off their exhibit.

Senior Curator Doug Wicklund was kind enough to give us some descriptions of the firearms scheduled to be on display.

The NRA National Firearms Museum is open daily with no admission charge. Visit us at 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA 22030. For more information on the museum’s educational programs, including our brand new Robert E. Peterson Gallery with dozens of expertly crafted firearms, visit, call (703) 267-1600 or email

National Firearms Museum Senior Curator Phil Schreier in film noir mode on NRAblog Our favorite film-noir buff and Senior Curator for the NRA National Firearms Museum Phil Schreier has been on the road for a couple of weeks now. Starting on the 14th of January with the Beinfeld Antique Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, Schreier has been bouncing around the West Coast showing some of the best the Museum has to offer.

"Jim (NFM Director Jim Supica), Doug (NFM Senior Curator Doug Wicklund) and I sat down to decide what pieces to take on tour," explained Schreier. "Hollywood Guns and the Petersen Gallery were our big openings last year, so the it was obvious which exhibits to highlight. But selecting a handful of guns from those galleries turned out to be a little more of a challenge."

Firearms that made their way into the travel case for the big trip included the Alamo's Nock Volley Gun, the Vampire Colt .38, the No Country for Old Men's Remington 11-87 semi-auto, and a Purdey .600 double rifle.

"Different guns are displayed at each stop," explained Schreier after departing from the Safari Club International Convention in Reno, Nevada last weekend. "We try to tailor our setup for the individual exposition. My last stop, for example, will focus completely on the Petersen Collection."

Once the week is out, Schreier's West Coast tour will come to an end. Phil and the firearms he carries for the crowds will be back at the National Firearms Museum to resume their usual duties – both shining examples in their respective fields.

Jim Supica and Elena Kalashnikova, daughter of the AK-47 inventor, touring the NRA on visit from Russia

Firearms can be considered legendary for numerous reasons. Whether it be an innovation in design, fine craftsmanship, popularity, historical significance, or even reliability, one firearm in particular is recognized worldwide as having an incredible legacy than will be known for generations to come: the AK-47. Designed and created by Russian firearms legend Mikhail Kalashnikov, the AK-47 is definitely one of the world’s most recognizable rifles.

“The AK-47 is one of the most prolific combat rifles in history,” said Jim Supica, Director of the National Firearms Museum. "Easy to manufacture, simple to operate, works in all types of weather – it's a remarkable rifle."

In November of 2009, Supica traveled to Russia to celebrate Kalashnikov’s 90th birthday and his accomplishments in the firearms industry. Yesterday, Mikhail’s daughter, Elena Kalashnikova visited Supica and the staff of the National Firearms Museum and toured its galleries while visiting the United States.

Elena is the President of the Kalashnikov Foundation and with translator and colleague Alexander Zheltov at her side, Kalashnikova presented Supica with Foundation medal and pin along with several books about her father and his legendary rifle. Elena also donated copies of these books to the National Firearms Museum Library, including her father’s signature.

As Elena presented her father’s biography, she explained how his life parallels the modern history of his country.

Elena Kalashnikova tours the Petersen Gallery with Jim Supica

“My father was born in 1919, and the Soviet Union was created in 1917,” shared Kalashnikova.

Supica also presented Kalashnikova with gifts and showed her his private collection of firearms, which includes two AK-47s; one made in Egypt and another in China.

Elena last visited the National Firearms Museum 12 years ago, but had not seen several new highlights including the Petersen Gallery, the Hollywood Guns exhibit, and a special AK-74 MTK90 Jubilee Rifle given by Arsenal, Inc. to celebrate her father’s 90th birthday and 35 years of the AK-74 model.

Kalashnikova also gave an interview in her native tongue for John Popp from NRA News, discussing her trip to the United States and the importance of building and nurturing relationship with friends in the American firearms industry.

“It is wonderful to see two countries that are different working together and being good friends,” she said. Elena also shared that her father, now 91 years old is doing well at home in Russia and sends his regards. “He loves all of you; he loves the group [NRA].”

Trick or treating at the National Firearms Museum with Phil Schreier, Jim Supica, Doug Wicklund and Wendy Cunningham on NRAblog

I would be remiss had I not mentioned the gang at the National Firearms Museum. Dressed above in their Halloween regalia, these guys and gals saw the museum through one of the busiest seasons ever. In addition to the official grand opening of both the Hollywood Guns exhibit and the Robert E. Petersen Gallery, they juggled events such as Thursday night's Curator's Corner on, their Night at the Museum specials, and more. They were constantly on the road, usually under the gun, and always on top of their game.

Final highlights from the year include our encounters with Australian singing sensation Steve Lee, the non-stop efforts of Disabled Shooting Manager Vanessa Ross, the work of, and dozens more. For those I left out, you have my apologies. It was a heck of a busy year.

Phil Schreier and Doug Wicklund receive the 2010 NRA EVP Achievement Awards

At the end of every calendar year, the National Rifle Association recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding employees with "Achievement Awards." When said employee's efforts are above and beyond, the bar is raised to the Executive Vice President's Excellence Award. The Executive Vice President's Excellence Award, or EVP, is not awarded every year as it is reserved for truly exceptional accomplishments.

This year, the EVP Award was bestowed upon National Firearms Museum Senior Curators Phil Schreier & Doug Wicklund. In the words of NFM Director Jim Supica;

These two names were submitted jointly, because their exceptional efforts resulted in a pretty spectacular achievement – which could not have been created without their shared contributions. Both were steadfast and goal-oriented throughout what was often a hectic and confusing situation. By not giving up, by maintaining their focus and dedication throughout a daunting process that was often in flux, they successfully implemented what has been called “the finest firearms gallery in the county” – the Petersen Gallery.

One of these individuals provided the leadership and vision for the overall gallery design and construction. He also performed exceptional work in managing the extended process to acquire, transport and evaluate the entire Petersen collection – which was in excess of 2,000 firearms.

The other applied his outstanding organizational skills and vast wealth of subject knowledge to the handling, identification, storage and conservation of the entire Petersen collection. Again, this was well over 2,000 firearms. He also provided the drive and organization to design and implement the exhibit and its signage.

Together, their creativity and outstanding teamwork, and long long hours of hard work produced the crown jewel of the National Firearms Museum. Please join me in congratulating this year's EVP winners, Phil Schreier and Doug Wicklund.

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