23. Virginia Military Institute, Henry M. Stewart Antique Firearms Collection, Lexington, VA ±800 guns, ±400 on display (57%). Established in 1988
Virginia Military Institute Museum, ±1,500 guns. Established in 1845.

Virginia Military Institute, Henry M. Stewart Antique Firearms Collection Exterior
Virginia Military Institute, Henry M. Stewart Antique Firearms Collection Case


The Virginia Military Institute has three museums in its system that serve its student cadets and the public. It holds 27,000 artifacts, including around 2,000 firearms. In 1988 Henry Stewart, VMI graduate of 1935, bequeathed his unparalleled collection of guns to the museum, which built a standalone gallery dedicated to its display. VMI’s Rowland Collection comprises the largest collection of British Enfield Rifles in the US.

The VMI Museum has storied weapons including a presentation Walther PPK that was ordered by Hitler from the Zella-Mehlis factory. However, when factory was captured in 1945, the engraver working on the gun was tasked with inscribing the PPK to General George Patton! The museum also has Patton’s personal M1 Garand. Other storied weapons include an AR15 and XM-15 E1, one of the first experimental AR-15s sent to Vietnam for field testing. It is the Holy Grail for AR collectors, as almost all were destroyed by the Army.

he Stewart Collection has four areas of specialization. Over 50 air guns Chronical the evolution of this weapon from 1650 to the present, including a 1779 Girardoni 20 shot, 46 cal. repeating air rifle, and several Isiah Lukens air rifles. The revolving firearms collection has one of three known Artemis Wheeler revolvers. Patented in 1818, it was a key precedent of Samuel Colt’s famed Paterson revolvers. The Stewart Collection is known for its Colt revolvers and has thirty-six Patersons, including a rare cased 1st Model rifle of 1840. Colt’s competitors include a Roper repeating rifle, Cochran Turret revolver, and a Browning Harmonica rifle, along with countless English Tranters and Dean & Adams revolvers. A long case contains U.S. military long arms from 1775-2000, accompanied by experimental rifles. 350 U.S. Patent Office firearm models are in the collection. There is also a large collection of international small bore training rifles and pistols, appropriate to a military college.

Henry M. Stewart Arms Collection