24. Autry Museum of the American West, Los Angeles, CA ±1,300 guns, ±200 on display (15%). Established in 1988

Autry Museum of the American West Exterior
Autry Museum of the American West Case


The bright lights and dazzle of Hollywood are reflected in the seven major gun collections at the core of ‘The Autry’. Cowboy movie stars Gene Autry and Greg Martin gave their classic and contemporary ornamental Colts andColt Industries, the second owners of Colt, gave their corporate museum in the 1970’s, along with the private collection of its CEO, George Strichman. Additional West coast personalities have added important and storied collections, including George Gamble, Dennis LeVett and John Bianchi’s Frontier Museum.

The Greg Martin Colt Gallery displays the whole gamut of Colt’s patent, cutaway, production, presentation and Presidential revolvers. It includes the finest Colts embellished by the great 19th century Colt engravers such as Ulrich, Helfricht, Nimschke, Gustave Young and Tiffany & Co. Contemporary engravers Tom Mix and Orville Kuhl are included, with some works having slightly risqué subject matter, and Alvin White’s Colt Python Hunter is also shown. LeVett’s Colt Patersons in the Law & Order Gallery include a rare cased pair of No. 5 Patersons, as well as the George Gamble Collection.

The Autry puts on well curated, themed exhibitions that contain storied firearms from Colt’s competitors, including two ‘One of One Thousand’ Winchester 1873’s. However, the museum’s overall continuity feels as if the gun exhibits compete against one another, the visitor bouncing between the galleries, guided by donor stipulations rather than content. Guns are peppered thematically in other Autry exhibits.

The various generations of exhibits are designed in the jewel box tradition, with bright spotlights against velvety backgrounds to accentuate the quality of guns and their decoration. In the new displays, the navigation system within the cases is excellent. Hand held portable descriptions are pegged to numbers set by each gun. The Autry Collections Online is good, and the fast evolving technology is sure to make it better.

Richardson, Jeffrey, Colt: The Revolver of the American West, The Autry National Center, New York (2013)