25. Wood Museum of Springfield History, Smith & Wesson Gallery of Firearms History, Springfield, MA 1,600 guns, 150 on display (9%). Established in 1995

Wood Museum of Springfield History, Smith & Wesson Gallery of Firearms History Exterior
Wood Museum of Springfield History, Smith & Wesson Gallery of Firearms History Case


In the space of 2,000 sq. feet, twelve large mural-backed cases and three small standing cases tell the entire story of firearm use and production in the Connecticut River Valley (Pioneer Valley). To do this, 150 guns from multiple local manufacturers are on display.

In 1995 and 1998, Smith & Wesson donated their factory reference and prototype collection of 1,462 firearms to create the Smith & Wesson Gallery of Firearms History. It is supplemented by donations from collectors, including those of Smith & Wesson historian and writer Roy Jinks. The Smith & Wesson Collectors Association helps out by sponsoring a large case displaying changing exhibitions, and often features rare guns borrowed from private collections. Thus the Gallery has two parallel missions: a general area history and the Smith & Wesson story.

Highlights of the collection include four sumptuous Smith & Wesson revolvers, decorated in the Art Nouveau style by Tiffany & Co., which were exhibited between 1893-1901 at four World’s Fairs. An unusual and elegant experimental .32 caliber pistol is on display, designed in 1894 by Joseph Wesson, son of Daniel Wesson. There is a highly embellished Smith & Wesson Model 29, decorated in an interpretation of the Classic style, and was shown at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

The display aesthetic is vibrant but, for S&W collectors, will be heavy on computer graphics and light on guns. When museums are bequeathed factory collections, there is a responsibility to show them. Of the 91% of guns in storage, for which there is no accessible catalog, there is a fine collection of prototype and skeletonized guns, including a mouthwatering S&W Model 3 ‘Russian’. The archive contains more than 400,000 Smith & Wesson documents, including beautifully rendered drawings. Springfield Museums are in the process of digitizing this collection to make it available on-line.

Jinks, R.G., Krein, S.C., Smith & Wesson, Charleston, (2006)
Springfield Museums