At the entry to the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo., a single-gun display features a well-worn shotgun. It’s a Browning Auto-Five. The second most popular semi-auto shotgun design in history, it was the first commercially successful self-loading shotgun that was introduced in 1902 and produced through 1998.
This particular A5 has been “rode hard and put away wet.” A worn rubber buttpad has been added, the cracked stock is held together by electrical tape, and the high tech sighting device is a ball of white medical tape wrapped around the muzzle.
This particular firearm doesn’t have fancy engraving nor is it a great rarity. It is, however, one of the most relatable guns in the museum. Stand by the case for a bit, listen to the visitors, and you’ll hear conversations alike: “Granddad had one like that,” or “I used one of those the first time I went hunting with my uncle,” or “My buddy had one; kicked like hell, but he brought down birds with it.”
(Photo courtesy/NRA Museums)
Though very simple and a very common gun, it helped shape the man who founded an outdoor retail empire. Not only that, he would also become one of the foremost conservationists of his generation and a man who was instrumental in creating America’s most visited firearms museum.
This Browning belonged to John A. Morris, father of Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris. For his 21st birthday, he gifted this firearm to his son which now rests in a place of honor in the museum… at least until Johnny needs it again.
Morris’s passion for conservation and the outdoors is rooted in fishing and hunting trips that he enjoyed with his father in the Ozarks forests, hills, streams and lakes. This shotgun accompanied both father and son for many delightful trips, adventures, and memories in the field and can now be admired by those who visit the Shop.
The foundations were laid for Bass Pro Shops when young Johnny took a U-Haul trailer on the road around the country where he’d purchase fishing tackle to resell on a counter in his dad’s liquor store. From there it grew into a massive chain of retail stores around the country – each a destination for anglers, hunters, and outdoors enthusiasts. The original storefront in Springfield, Mo., is also home to the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum attracting firearm enthusiasts around the country.
Check out this segment from Curator's Corner featuring this treasured A5:
Check out this particular masterpiece in person at the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri. You can also tune into Curator's Corner on NRATV airing Thursdays at 3:35pm ET for more segments on historical firearms!