14. National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK 560 guns, 230 on display (41%). Established in 1965

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Exterior
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Case


The Museum’s collection consists largely of nineteenth century American firearms of both civilian and military derivation. Overall, the Museum reads like a very good book, with firearms set in various contexts to support given interpretive narratives. The main galleries of the museum are well conceived dioramas in which guns are put next to the related artifacts of hunters, cowboys, lawmen, soldiers and celluloid heroes alike. Adjacent to many firearms are appropriate single rounds and boxes of ammunition.

Some 95 firearms representing trappers and traders, the U.S. military, and market and sport hunting are presented in the Grandee Frontier West Gallery. Approximately 110 guns interpret the rise of machine-made guns in America within the Weitzenhoffer Fine Arms Gallery. Nearly 20 personality-associated guns are presented in the Western Performers Gallery, including both the movie and personal arms of John Wayne. Additional arms appear within the American Cowboy Gallery, in association with the U.S. Marshal’s office installation. Throughout, the mounting, lighting, accompanying graphics, and interpretive text reflect the best current professional standards and scholarship.

The crown jewel of the museum’s collection is the Weitzenhoffer Gallery, whose extraordinary quality gives one goose bumps. The display is organized by manufacturer, including Colt, Remington, Smith & Wesson, Sharps, Winchester, Marlin and Parker Brothers. Among many highlights are an unfired Colt Paterson No. 3 Belt pistol, a rare Colt double rifle, a relief-engraved Model 1866 Winchester likely displayed at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, and a high-conditioned Model 1873 “One of One Thousand” Winchester rifle. Additionally, two cases are dedicated to America’s tradition of embellishment, highlighting engravers such as Louis Daniel Nimschke, Gustave Young, Cuno Helfricht, Conrad F. and John Ulrich, Wilbur Glahn, and Rudolph J. Kornbrath. All reside in a sumptuous atmosphere of walnut casework reminiscent of a nineteenth-century gunroom or gentleman’s library and smoking room.

Dary, David, et. al. A Western Legacy: The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005.
Rattenbury, Richard C. A Legacy in Arms: American Firearm Manufacture, Design, and Artistry, 1800-1900. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014.