10. National Firearms Museum, NRA, Fairfax, VA ±8,000 guns, ±3,000 on display (38%). Established in 1935

National Firearms Museum, NRA Exterior
National Firearms Museum, NRA Case


The NRA museum is current, well laid out (although cramped) and upbeat. The displays are a mix between themed dioramas and cases of firearms for close examination. Much work has been done to add a digital component to the galleries and the online museum is second to none, with good pictures and full descriptions of the history of each gun.

While the Museum does have a representative collection of fifteenth to seventeenth century guns, its focus is on eighteenth to twenty-first century American and European firearms. Collectors are willing to donate guns for the privilege of being included in the NRA Museum. With such an extensive collection and in-house expertise, almost all categories and variants of small-arms are represented. A compelling case shows the Colt and Smith & Wesson classics displayed back to back, allowing for a great comparison between the two companies. Of particular note is the Petersen Collection of Gatling guns and Petersen’s highly embellished sporting and commemorative guns, which show every decorative technique imaginable, from classic to contemporary. Elsewhere in the NFA, there are as many variants of models as space allows. If you are a soldier, law enforcement officer, hunter, competitor, plinker or into movie guns, you are likely to find ‘your own gun’ amongst the displays.

NRA Fairfax is the kind of place that relishes a challenge, and is very open to reciprocate knowledge with visitors. The staff are walking encyclopedias, and if there is a tough question they can’t answer, you may be fortunate to have one of the curators come down and answer it personally. Temporary exhibitions rotate on a regular basis, and upstairs near the library is a gallery for specialist collections, for example varieties of a particular rifle. The gun bookstore is the country’s best. The Museum opened branches in the Southwest (2008) and Midwest (2013).

Supica, J., Wicklund, D., Schreier, P., Illustrated History of Firearms, New York, (2011)
Supica, J., Wicklund, D., Schreier, P., Treasures of the NRA National Firearms Museum, New York, (2013)
National Rifle Association