9. FBI Reference Firearms Collection, Quantico, VA ±7,000+ guns, none on display (0%). Established in 1935

FBI Reference Firearms Exterior
FBI Reference Firearms Case


With the birth of the FBI, the organization assembled an example of every gun made, as well as a selection of ammunition for each, in order to train FBI agents in firearms use and to identify weapons used in crimes worldwide. The collection also serves as a bank of spare parts, in case a crime gun is missing a piece and needs to be fired.

The collection is called the FBI Reference Firearms Collection of over 7,000 guns complemented by the FBI Reference Ammunition Collection of 17,000 cartridges. The guns are not ‘collector grade’. Instead, they are factory stock and are kept functional, to be checked out, fired and studied by law enforcement departments across the country. "We keep them functional. We keep them clean. But they are certainly not in museum quality because they do see a lot of use."

The collection aims to have an example of every variant of each gun, including model, barrel length, finish and serial number configuration. Consequently, there are no high points of the collection, as all bases are covered. Their website remarks, "The single most important piece is the one that helps investigators close a case on any given day."

It has storied guns known for their nefarious history, including John Dillinger’s Colt as well as “Pretty Boy” Floyd’s Colt 1911. It includes unusual items such as a Savage 1907 pistol, secreted in a hollowed out copy of Gone with the Wind. The side arms of every FBI Special Agent are included.

Scholars can get access to the collection, but the vetting process is stringent; it is difficult for non-citizens, if not impossible. Fortunately, a good survey film has been made of the operation, which is posted on the FBI website, so it is possible to have a general picture of its mission and how the place operates.

FBI Laboratory