Living in Northern Virginia, meaning I practically live in Washington DC, would have made writing about places to visit a snap if I were to write about the Smithsonian or any number of other DC museums.
However I thought this to be too easy and I wanted to tell you about one of the places you should visit in Northern Virginia and not Washington DC.
One of my favorite spots to visit personally is the NRA’s National Firearms Museum in Fairfax Virginia. It is located roughly 23 miles outside of Washington and has become a Northern Virginia institution of sorts.
No, this is not a club for “Gun nuts” this is a very real museum that chronicles all sorts of firearms throughout American history. Many of the firearms on display are the actual historical pieces.
National Firearms Museum opened in 1998 and from the start was designed to be a place of teaching and learning rather than politics.
The museum is quite truthfully overflowing with different firearms which necessitated that each weapon has a tag with a number and you’ll have to check the index to find out it’s history.
A good example is Smith and Wesson Model #3 that belonged to Jesse James. When you check the index you’ll find out that Jessie’s mother sold the gun after her sons death for $39. Turns out that she sold it to someone as a souvenir.
The museum doesn’t only hold historical weaponry as one might expect. Inside you’ll find all sorts of firearms ranging from Jesse James to the latest and greatest in American firearms.
You will also find firearms that were war trophies from all of the wars that the United States participated in.
To document all the weaponry that the museum has on display would require me to write a book about the size of an encyclopedia. I haven’t checked but it is entirely possible that such a book already exists anyway.
There is so much to take in that you’ll probably want to make return visits because there is such a volume of weaponry and history to take in that you couldn’t possibly take it all in at once.
For example, if Jesse James doesn’t interest you then perhaps Napoleon does and you’ll find his side arms here or how about the Shah of Iran.
Personally I had a lot of fun seeing the display of 14 pistols used by Ed McGivern, who is considered by many to be “the fastest gun in the world.” I haven’t tried my skills against his but given that reputation I doubt I would want to try. Not for fear of being shot, as that isn’t the point of the quick-draw anymore but rather because I’d be embarrassed and laughed out of any venue where such a contest would transpire.
I would be negligent if I didn’t mention that there is a firing range at the National Firearms Museum. This may come as a surprise to some folks but the firing range is wheelchair accessible and if you’re a member of the NRA then the cost of using the range is much lower though you don’t have to be a member to use the range.
Guns are a major part of the museum but there is quite a bit of artwork as well which includes a portrait of William B. Ruger, founder of one of the largest firearms manufacturers as well as bronze statues and the like.
The gift shop has some very unusual items for sale but I’m not going to go over them all now. However, if you need a special Christmas or birthday present for that special someone then this may be the place to buy it.
National Firearms Museum
Address: 11250 Waples Mill Rd., Fairfax, VA