The NRA National Sporting Arms Museum is nestled in the Bass Pro Shops flagship store in Springfield, MO. After ascending a staircase flanked by railings made of muskets, visitors enter a beautiful space filled with around 1,000 remarkable guns.
Iin no particular order, here are my Top Five Guns of the NRA NSAM:
Teddy Roosevelt’s FN Model 1899
It’s no secret that President Theodore Roosevelt loved guns, shooting and hunting. He owned quite a few in his time. This FN Model 1899 was his “nightstand gun” in the White House.
Tastefully engraved and inlaid with gold accents, the blued pistol is set off by its mother of pearl grips.
The pistol was TR’s constant companion, even when he attended a Harvard reunion in 1905. There, he was told it was illegal for him to carry the pistol in Massachusetts. Undeterred, Roosevelt remarked that he would not be as easy a target as William McKinley had been.
After the President’s death, First Lady Edith Roosevelt taught their grandchildren how to shoot. She did so with this pistol, shooting off the back porch of Sagamore Hill, their Long Island estate.
The Remington 870 and the Mossberg 500 shotguns are endlessly popular. Each model pump gun has more than 10,000,000 units in production. To celebrate, both companies had a special shotgun made for the milestone.
The Remington 870 has a blued receiver with engraving and gold inlay that touts the milestone achievement in scrolled text. The Mossberg 500 has a brushed silver receiver, also engraved and inlaid with gold lettering, noting the gun’s impressive serial number.
Both guns feature high gloss wood furniture. Very classy.
“Black Jack” Ketchum’s Peacemaker
Outlaw Tom Ketchum had an interesting – and unfortunate – life story.
After a botched train robbery resulted in the conductor getting the best of Tom with a shotgun, he was captured by US Marshals. Mr. Ketchum’s wounded arm was amputated in Colorado. He received the death penalty in New Mexico.
While waiting in prison for his execution, Ketchum ate well and put on some weight. When it came time for him to experience a short drop with a sudden stop, things didn’t go quite as planned.
The executioner didn’t factor in the extra weight or the imbalance caused by Ketchum’s missing arm. As a result, he was decapitated by the noose. Photos were taken of his unfortunate end and sold as postcards.
There’s no postcard in the museum, but Ketchum’s Single Action Army is on display at the museum.
Pedersen’s Secret WWI Weapon
I wrote an earlier piece for TTAG on the Pedersen Device, so I won’t go into detail about its history here.
Basically, it’s a conversion unit that turns the bolt-action M1903 rifle into a semiautomatic configuration firing pistol-caliber cartridges. Production numbers were low. Most examples were destroyed after WWI to prevent the design from falling into enemy hands.
Surviving examples are exceedingly rare. The piece on display at NSAM is from the Remington factory collection.
Girardoni Air Rifle
In an era of single-shot flintlock firearms, the Girardoni (sometimes Girandoni) air rifle stood out from the crowd.
Developed in the late 1700s, the butt of the gun contains a pressurized air canister to propel .46 caliber balls from the rifled barrel — with extreme accuracy. The gun’s magazine holds more than 20 shots and the canister can fire up to 70 rounds before needing to be re-pressurized to approximately 800psi.
The gun’s clear advantages over traditional firearms of the day explain why Meriwether Lewis and William Clark chose the Girardoni as one of the many firearms they took on their expedition into the West.
(All firearms courtesy NRA Museums)
Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.