By Jeff Dennis
The history of sporting arms can be found in Springfield, Missouri at the flagship store of Bass Pro Shops.
The NRA National Sporting Arms Museum opened in August of 2013 with the goal of bringing the history of firearms to the public and revealing how this relates to hunting, conservation, and our freedom.
Admission to the museum is free, and tours can be self-guided or docents can walk patrons through the timeline of American sporting arms.
The entrance to the museum features some quotes from notables like Thomas Jefferson and North Carolina’s Horace Kephart who said, “In the school of the woods there is no graduation day.”
The Frederick Starbuck handgun display features every handgun issued to U.S. servicemen, beginning with the Colonial era right through to modern times. Our veterans used these guns to protect the country and our freedom from all enemies and this collection underscores that fact.
A room holding a Second Amendment gallery displays a timeline of American military long arms from flintlocks to the M16.
An American flag and a 21-gun display is meant to honor fallen soldiers. It’s not a stretch to say that a gun enthusiast could spend several hours learning interesting facts here.
Other large special collections include Winchester Model 70 rifles, Springfield 1903 rifles, and a special section for firearms used in movies by actors such as John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, and Marlon Brando.
The museum covers 7,500-square feet and features nearly a thousand guns and the accessories that go with them.
The guns of the Wild West exhibit features the weapons that shaped the legends of Jesse James, John Wesley Hardin and Black Jack Ketchum. All of the engraved Colt revolvers from the Old West represent a multi-million dollar collection and the NRA museum is a good fit for guns like these.
Other guns on display include President Dwight Eisenhower’s Winchester Model 21 shotgun, President Grover Cleveland’s 8-gauge Colt shotgun, Napoleon’s double barrel flintlock fowler gun and the guns of Annie Oakley.
It’s not just about the firearms though.
The museum also offers life-size dioramas of the evolution of the sporting hunter in America, including a Native American display and one portraying explorers Lewis and Clark.
Vintage duck hunting clothing and vintage gun cleaning tools are showcased to stress the heritage of hunting beyond the firearms that were used. Shotshell boxes, powder tins, and sporting art originals from the Remington collection round out this comprehensive display.
Special themed exhibit cases include carbines and handguns of the Civil War, Guns of the Texas Rangers, Serial Number One Firearms, Guns of Champions, Fine Custom Arms like those engraved by Holland and Holland, and The Joy of Gun Collecting.
Near the end of the museum is a special section dedicated to President Theodore Roosevelt. A document on display is dated Feb. 17, 1907 and reads, “I am so heartily interested in the success of the National Rifle Association of America that I take pleasure in sending you herewith my check for $25 for life membership therein.
Rare guns from private collectors are also on display from time to time, so one never knows what treasures can be found during each visit.
Established in 1871, the NRA is America’s oldest civil rights and sportsmen’s group, and the partnership with Bass Pro Shops expands their role as the leading firearms educator for the general public.
The author’s Lowcountry Outdoors blog is celebrating a tenth anniversary in 2019
Photo By Jeff Dennis
“The NRA firearms museum in the Bass Pro Shops flagship store does not disappoint.”