Back in the day, when many institutions were a little more than “cabinets of curiosities,” any museum could then be assessed primarily by what odd and unusual items might be represented inside its holdings. At the NRA Museums, we like to think we’ve come a long way since that point, but some of the visitors to our galleries are still in search of the strangest pieces that have come in.
Looking back over 2016 in this closing week of the year, we have received nearly 150 magnificent guns so far, with at least two more scheduled to reach us by the time we close our donation books on Dec. 30. These donations will join the more than 3,000 firearms already in the National Firearms Museum collection.
We review the most unique and interesting firearms that have found their way to the NRA Museums over the past year, becoming part of the finest collection of firearms in the world.
A Hollywood Glock Hollywood is always a favorite theme amongst our visitors, and this year we got a doozy: a Glock 19 9mm pistol used by actress Angelina Jolie in the 2010 film Salt. This blank-adapted semi-automatic came to us from a California gallery that handles many of the guns and other prop items from movies. In the near future, we plan to completely revamp our “Hollywood Guns” exhibit now featured in the NRA National Firearms Museum’s William B. Ruger Gallery to feature many other newly received cinematic treasures – stay tuned!
A Gun Worthy of Glamour Shots One of the lesser-known American .45s is the Savage Model 1907 pistol, and in the past we’d received examples that were directly associated with the trials for the Model 1911. However, this year’s addition is a specially plated factory gun that was featured in national advertising. Bearing serial number 50, this Savage pistol, donated by Bailey and Taz Brower, can be viewed at the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri, where it joins other Savage and Colt trials pistols on exhibit.
A Large Pennsylvania Collection Sometimes a donation can be somewhat overpowering, just by sheer numbers. Our staff picked up a collection of 67 training rifles in central Pennsylvania, with pieces ranging from Civil War-era wooden muskets to more modern bolt-actions rifles employed by the Royal Air Force and other military forces over the years. None of these are “shooters,” but we hope to display some or all of the collection in a timeline stretching through our displays in the future.
As part of our education programs, we can also utilize these arms in familiarization exercises for our volunteer staff and tour participants. The National Firearms Museum is supported by several volunteers who regularly contribute their time on behalf of the NRA at museum traveling exhibits at gun shows, cleaning collection materials on display or in storage, and helping educate others through special tours.
A Family Heirloom We really appreciate guns that come to us with a great story. One of this year’s acquisitions was a rifle that belonged to one family for over 180 years. Around 1830, a man named Michael Ruble wanted to get a gun for hunting and visited a Lancaster gunsmith. Among the custom features incorporated in this Pennsylvania long rifle was a silver plate inscribed with his name fitted into the forearm. Through the generations this fine percussion rifle was passed down, father to son and so on, until there was only a daughter remaining in the family.
Carol Ruble spent a lot of time carefully deciding exactly where this piece of family history would be best appreciated, and her decision to donate this rifle to us gave the NRA National Firearms Museum the opportunity to place this family relic on display. As visitors pass by our recreation of a period gunsmith’s shop, they’ll be able to view this rifle, carefully placed so that the nameplate can be seen.
The NRA Museums collection holds immense history, donated by NRA members and friends over the years since we opened our doors in 1935. Supported by this collection, we’ve been able to place thousands of incredible firearms on display in places ranging from the National Firearms Museum at NRA Headquarters in Fairfax Virginia, to the National Sporting Arms Museum in Springfield and the Frank Brownell Museum of the Southwest in Raton, New Mexico. Additionally, we’ve also been able to loan great items to other museums, including the Smithsonian.
Our story does not end as 2016 comes to a close. We invite NRA members to consider adding one of their own pieces to the museum collection. In addition to helping build a collection that tells the story of firearms, freedom and the American experience, your donation could qualify for a tax credit.
Through NRA’s Firearms for Freedom program, individuals can donate their firearms or other historic collectibles to the NRA, where they may be selected for inclusion and curatorial care in the National Firearms Museum collection or bound for auction. Proceeds from these auctions benefit The NRA Foundation in their mission to support the defense of Second Amendment freedoms and fund essential NRA programs.