National Firearms Museum in Fairfax

The Virginia-based headquarters of the National Rifle Association has a small museum in the first floor of its building, filled with more than 2,000 guns and lots of interesting history. Some of the guns in the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia, go as far back as 1350 and include everything from hunting and sporting guns to police
and personal defense weapons.

It’s a bit of a trek outside of Washington, but it will be worth it to gun aficionados and people who like action films. History buffs will even get something out of the significance of many of the guns. Some you can admire for their beauty with pearl handles and artistic designs, and others you can admire for their history and significance in the world.

It’s hard to describe each of the more than 2,000 guns on display at the museum. But here are a few highlights:

  • Many of the guns are historical and with each display is a brief description of their role in history. There’s a large display of Gatling guns, which were mechanical repeating guns that looked like small cannons introduced during the Civil War.
  • There’s an over-under shotgun owned by the Nazi soldier to take over after Hitler. It was presented to Dwight D. Eisenhower, who then gave it to the General of the Armies John Pershing.
  • The museum is also home to one of the oldest guns in the New World. It’s an Italian wheel-lock carbine brought over from England by John Alden, who was a settler in the Plymouth colony.
  • There’s a gun recovered from the World Trade Center on 9/11 that belonged to a NYPD officer.

The museum also has a separate room for Hollywood guns, including personal Colt pistols belonging to Tom Selleck and a registered Magnum belonging to Clark Gable. And then there are guns that were seen in movies, including the Beretta 92 with silencer that Mark Wahlberg used in The Departed, along with the body armor worn by Matt Damon in the same movie. You can see the Heckler & Koch 94 used by Bruce Willis in Die Hard. Several other guns on display are from movies like the Book of Eli, Reservoir Dogs, and Lethal Weapon.

The museum has also some interesting history lessons, including the discovery of gun powder, the birth of organized shooting, toy guns, and plenty of war history. You’ll see guns used for buffalo hunting on the Plains to guns used in the War of 1812.

Other Features

The museum has several kiosks throughout that visitors can use to get information and videos about the exhibits. There’s also a library available by appointment only, an NRA indoor range, a cafe that serves breakfast and lunch, and a gift shop that sells firearms related books and NRA souvenirs.

Bringing Children to the Museum

Exposing kids to guns is a controversial topic so it takes some thought if you want to take children to this museum. But they will learn a lot of history and may also appreciate the beauty and artistry of some of the guns. However the museum lacks any hands-on or interactive displays.

Open daily 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Admission: Free

11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, VA 22030


Phone: 703-267-1600

Plenty of free parking, even some spots reserved for museum visitors.

Public transportation: The closest Metro stop is Vienna. From there, it’s possible to take a taxicab or a bus to the museum.

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