Fairfax, Virginia - As Lars told you yesterday, we had the honor of welcoming a group of wounded warriors from Project Enduring Pride as they visited NRA Headquarters here in Fairfax, Virginia. The group of nearly 40 included combat disabled veterans and their family and friends. After a quick lunch at the NRA Café, half of the group went to the range with Lars, and the second half came with me to the National Firearms Museum.
Senior Curator Doug Wicklund took the group on a tour of the entire National Firearms Museum, explaining the significance of certain firearms, particularly those relating to the military. The tour began in the Petersen Gallery and included a stop to look at the guns of Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. The group also looked at galleries containing the guns of the first and second World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and firearms used in modern warfare in the Middle East. But what were the group's favorite guns? Those contained in the Ruger Gallery's "Hollywood Guns" Exhibit.
To paraphrase Senior Curator Doug Wicklund, when Jim Supica went West (for the Tulsa Arms Show), he took Law Enforcement with him. Part of that group included a Sig Sauer P226.
The 226 started playing with the big boys back in 1984 during the XM9 Service Pistol Trials. Though ultimately losing out to the Beretta 92F, the 226 soon became the firearm of choice for a number of America's military outfits including the Navy SEALs.
Weighing in at a slight 34 ounces, the SIG P266 comes in over a dozen different models (Navy, Equinox, Combat, SCT, etc... ) that fire everything everything from a
9×19mm Parabellum to a .357 SIG cartridge. This particular model was donated by the family of Fairfax County Master Police Officer Michael E. Garbarino.
In 2006, Garbarino was ambushed by a carjacking suspect waiting outside the police station for the change in shift. More
I walked into my office the other day to find a package sitting in my chair. It was a plain package, no wrapping and looked a bit suspicious. As what probably happens in other office, practical jokes can be abound (my favorite being a balloon filled office) so I was a touch suspicious upon approach.
Ripping that baby open, I found a copy of the National Firearms Museum's new book The Illustrated History of Firearms resting inside. As I began to thumb through, I discovered that it was not just a copy, but a signed copy. Three hundred pages of firearms bliss created by the staff down there on the second floor. Those guys ... I was touched by the gesture.
Fairfax, Virginia - What with today being International Talk Like a Pirate Day, we asked the National Firearms Museum curators about any piratical elements in the Museum collection. Senior Curator Doug Wicklund – er, Cap'n Doug, that is – replied, with a seafaring tale:
It twere near Port Royal when I came upon a merchantman, brimming with Spanish gold. I boarded her with a cutlass and me two flints, a blunderbuss pistol and me trusty cannon-bore short musket. Some would say I had two blunderbusses, but narely a old salt like me can count that high …
Blunderbusses were favored choices for personal protection in an era where single shots and multiple targets abounded. The wide muzzle of the blunderbuss, whether in handgun or musket format, allowed easier loading, as the flared muzzle served as a convenient funnel to pour powder and shot down the barrel. Brass-barreled pieces didn't rust in the salt air aboard ships, but these short-barreled arms were also used by royal mail coach guards. Staring down the gaping barrel of one of these arms would put the fear in many a highwayman or pirate. But back to the tale …
Fairfax, Virginia -
The gang down at the National Firearms Museum's have been hard at work on their latest project: The Illustrated History of Firearms. Filled with hundreds of illustrations and descriptions, it's been an all hands on deck situation for the past few months. Everyone from Museum Director Jim Supica to Senior Curators Wicklund and Shreier along with Wendy, Matt & Amber have put hundreds of hours to this almost overwhelming project.
"It was a lot to tackle," said Supica. "I'm very proud of our staff for helping to bring this all together."
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
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.
Fairfax, Virginia - Working at the National Firearms Museum translates into a good deal of "hands on" firearms work. You pick up donations, bring the guns back to the firearms lab, refurbish what needs refurbishing as best you can, and search for an appropriate location to put them on display. Above we see Senior Curator Doug Wicklund finding an appropriate place for a 1911 in the Museum's "100 Years of the Model 1911" exhibit.
In his hand you see a 1911 used by Canadian native J.C. Hume-Storer during his two years of service in French trenches during World War I before joining the Royal Flying Corps.
"Each of the firearms on this wall have a story," said Wicklund. "That's true for most of the guns we have here at the National Firearms Museum and finding those stories is a fascinating aspect of our work here."
Hume-Storer's 1911 is staying put, but a collection of other 1911s, including five from the original trials as well as one ordered by Admiral Willis August Lee, a Navy Cross recipient and five-time gold medalist shooter at the 1920 Olympic Games, will be on display at Camp Perry during the first week of the National Rifle and Pistol Championships.
"I'd love to accompany these beautiful pieces Perry, but there's so much work to be done here at the Museum," lamented Wicklund. "That pleasure will have to wait for another day."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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