This afternoon I had the pleasure of touring the National Rifle Association National Sporting Arms Museum in Springfield, MO. (Yes, that’s the actual name though all signage and most references to it will abbreviate to “NRA” and, thus, avoid the redundant “nationals”).
Most people who hear “NRA Museum” will think of the NRA Firearms Museum located in Fairfax, VA.–that location is their largest of three both by square footage and number of items on display. The sporting arms museum is built into a wing at the “Granddaddy of all Bass Pro Shops.” Ironically, the granddaddy is only the second largest Bass Pro. But for only being the second largest NRA museum and the second largest Bass Pro Shop, it still houses an impressive collection of firearms ranging from the early colonial period clear up to modern Colts, Smith & Wessons, and Winchesters. It’s also, impressively, free to enter during regular store hours. The only downsides: 1. It’s in Missouri—in fact this Bass Pro Shop is one of the major tourist highlights of Missouri so that probably tells you a lot about the state (I should note I was born and raised there so I’m allowed to make fun of them). 2. There is not a single Glock in the exhibit—even among the cutaway collection and the large array of custom engraved guns. Even AMT made the cut, but a Glock is “just a tool…”
Speaking of Glocks being a collectible; you just never know who will collect what—it seems that there’s really someone out there for every one (in this case I’m referring to a collector for every gun). Until today, I did not know that the Winchester model 70 was a collector piece. To me, that was always a hunting rifle while the lever actions were the collectible ones. A full section of the museum is dedicated to pre-64 Winchester model 70s with what the placards say is one of every variant made, including a couple that are the only known examples to have ever left the factory. The coolest one, in my opinion, had a full nickel finish and is known as the “Radio Model.” At first look, I assumed that was due to its appearance being similar to a car’s radio antenna but upon closer inspection, it is because Winchester actually built a radio into the butt of the rifle! I’m not sure why anyone would ever need that feature, but on the other hand, I’m not sure why everyone didn’t copy that stroke of genius! Just think of it, you could shoot at Bambi with the Bambi soundtrack playing right there in your ear!
Unfortunately, photography is prohibited without special permission so I was only able to capture a few of these stealth cell phone photos. Pictured here is one of the rarest guns I found: one of the 200 Savages made for military trials to compete against the Colt 1911. I’m not sure how many were nickel plates of the 200, but a very small number.
And here is an example of many of the exquisitely engraved firearms of all makes and models with several banks of display wall dedicated to that genre. My favorite was an AMT Government model, not because the engraving was that special, but only because it’s an AMT in a firearms museum!
So if you ever have to drive through the middle of the country and find yourself in Springfield, you absolutely MUST stop in a check out the Bass Pro Shop—not just for the NRA Museum—the entire store is impressive both in size and all the oddities on display. After you’ve finished up, make sure you go eat at Lambert’s Cafe where they are known for throwing dinner roles at customers—like, literally. Missouri is a special special place…