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."
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.
NRA National Firearms Museum's Senior Curator Doug Wicklund has packed up the staff and headed to
The Nation's Gun Show at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia. So what goodies is he bringing with him this time? Here's what Doug told NRAblog:
Some of the world's most elaborately embellished firearms are represented in the National Firearms Museum's newly opened Robert E. Petersen gallery. Six special museum treasures from the Petersen Gallery are represented here; six firearms with almost more gold than steel represented in their construction.
First, a pair of .50 caliber W.R. Pape gold double-barreled pistols mounted in ivory. This brace of 19th century British double-barreled handguns would represent the ultimate in self defense.
Next, a rare Rodda golden double rifle is represented with some of its ivory handled accessories. This engraved and embellished 16 bore was marketed from Rodda's Calcutta India offices.
And from the well-known British gunmaker, James Purdey and Sons, a pair of over-and-under 12 gauge shotguns elaborately inlaid with gold and engraved by Ken Hunt.
Finally, a gold-plated Colt Commander .45 ACP pistol with ivory grip panels brings us into the modern era, even if the venerable 1911 design it represents is a century old this year.
The National Firearms Museum, located in Fairfax, Virginia, exhibits nearly 3,000 historic arms in a variety of galleries. As always, admission is free (although donations are appreciated) and there is plenty of parking. For more information, call the museum at (703) 267-1600 or email the staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also on the road this weekend is National Firearms Museum Senior Curator Doug Wicklund. Always happy to share touch of the firearms knowledge he's accumulated over the years at the museum, Doug will be taking part in Liberty University’s Civil War Seminar in Lynchburg, Virginia.
"It's going to be a great afternoon," said Wicklund. "Down in beautiful Lynchburg, Virginia, surrounded by hungry young minds, taking about firearms ... what a wonderful was to spend the day."
Last weekend was certainly a busy one for the folks here at NRA. We had people out at the Deer & Turkey Expo in Ohio, a Club University in Arizona, the Intercollegiate Pistol Championships in Georgia, and the National Congress of Old West Shootists (NCOWS) in Kansas City, Missouri.
Founded in 1994, NCOWS promotes the "safe Western Action Shooting including the re-enactment and promotion of the historical Old West heritage of the United States in all its ethnic, social and occupational diversity." In step with that line of thought, NRA National Firearms Museum Senior Curator Doug Wicklund was there to speak about firearms depicting The Wild West on the Silver Screen, held a mini Antique Gun Rodeo Show for identification and evaluation, and brought along a few favorites from the museum.
Included in the display were:
There was a welcome mix–mash of scouting at the NRA National Firearms Museum last weekend. More than fifty Cub and Boy Scouts from Pack 53, Troop 4, and Troop 52 from the Warren County, Virginia area joined parents and chaperons for a Night at the Museum.
"They were so excited after hearing they could spend the night," said one mother. "I don't know about the other parents, but my kids were bouncing in their seats all the way over."
As the evening began, Senior Curator Doug Wicklund asked where the little ones wanted to start ... Hollywood Guns was the overwhelming favorite.
"Let's see, I'd say they went for the usual favorites," said Wicklund. "Dirty Harry's .44 Magnum, the light saber from Star Wars ... that's where the scouts went. The chaperons went more for True Grit, The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Departed, and The Hurt Locker."
If your group thinks a Night at the Museum would be fun, go to the National Firearms Museum website at www.nramuseum.com or call 703-267-1600. The National Firearms Museum is open daily from 9:30am to 5:00pm with plenty of parking and, as always, it is FREE of charge.
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