Cody Firearms Museum: Raymond Wielgus Collection


What do you get when you mix an art collector, firearms, and the city of Chicago? While I’m sure there are many ways to unpleasantly answer that question, but in this case, the answer is Steel Sculptures.

The Cody Firearms Museum has an exhibition entitled Steel Sculptures: Engraving Individuality from Mass Production which looks at examples of firearms modified and embellished by Raymond Wielgus (1920-2010).

Wielgus studied sculpture at the School of Fine Arts at the University of Illinois. He was also a known Asian and African art collector and conservator at the Field Museum in Chicago.

In 1970, he retired and moved to Tucson, AZ. One day, Wielgus was out shooting his Colt Diamondback revolver and decided to find a way to improve it stylistically. Thus began a 34 year process of transforming firearms to sculpture. He fused his passion for ethnographic art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas with firearms embellishment.

He hand-carved the ivory grips and used an ancient engraving process known as damascening to inlay precious metals. This Colt Single Action Army and its itty bitty baby brother above are just two of the 36 pieces from Wielgus in the Cody Firearms Museum collection.

Click here to see more of the guns he embellished. However, the first guns he made are still located at the Art Institute of Chicago (click here to view). This collection has traveled to several art museums before finding a home in Cody. The style, while inspired by Wielgus’ art collection has also been called reminiscent of an art deco style.

For more information, visit


  1. avatar jwm says:

    That little one. Surely that must be the fabled .9mm?

    1. avatar Cliff H says:

      More likely the .022rs (really short).

  2. avatar Alan Esworthy says:

    I lust after the 1911 in that collection. That’s the most handsome pistol I’ve ever seen.

  3. avatar strych9 says:

    Those are revolvers I would actually buy to add to my collection.

  4. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Ashely, can you tell us how long the collection is at the museum? I’d like to wander on over to see this collection.

    1. avatar CentralIL says:

      As far as I know, they are there permanently.

  5. avatar Mike Betts says:

    Obviously, I am the only one thus far who has clicked on both of the “here” links and gotten a blank screen. Curse you, Xfinity!

  6. avatar Mike Betts says:

    Xfinity – May a foraging ground squirrel become confused in your jockey shorts!

  7. avatar bawb says:

    Art deco colt SAA. It’s interesting to think, the times when those two things were contemporary weren’t that far apart. Be about like having a Ford Pinto hot-rodded in contemporary fettle today.

  8. avatar CentralIL says:

    I spent a very long time staring at those pistols when I went to the Cody Museum. I absolutely love them!

  9. avatar PeterK says:


  10. avatar Canon says:

    Guns and ivory, aren’t we baiting the lefties just a little too much? (Sarcasm). Nice collection!

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