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The NRA National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia, consists of 15 galleries, comprised of 85 exhibit cases housing 3,000 firearms in a 15,000-square-foot facility. The Museum details and examines the nearly 700-year history of firearms, with a special emphasis on firearms, freedom, and the American experience.

Each gallery is evocative of a period in American history, from the stockade fort at Jamestown to the gun factories of New England. Life-sized dioramas include a 19th-century riflemaker’s shop, a trench on the Western Front in WWI, and a shelled-out town square in Normandy in WWII. The firearms tell the stories of how they were used to provide security and sustenance to the early colonists, how they were used to secure our freedom and independence, and how they’ve been used to maintain and preserve those liberties ever since.

Also within the galleries are tales of exploration, manufacturing, competition, hunting, and recreational shooting sports.

“The Robert E. Petersen Gallery” opened in 2010. It has been called “the finest single room of guns anywhere in the world” and features masterpieces of firearms engraving, exquisite British double rifles and shotguns, and the largest collection of Gatling guns on public display.

“Hollywood Guns,” located in the William B. Ruger Gallery, features 120 actual guns used in movies and television over the past 80 years. They range from the first revolver John Wayne used on camera through guns from recent Academy Award winners, such as the silenced shotgun from “No Country for Old Men” and the Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifle from “Hurt Locker.”

Other favorites in the exhibit include the Beretta pistol used both by Mel Gibson in “Lethal Weapon” and Bruce Willis in “Die Hard” and the .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson carried by Clint Eastwood in “Dirty Harry.”

The Museum is open 364 days a year (closed only on Christmas Day) from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free, so be sure to check it out when you’re in the area.

And if you haven’t already, sign up today to become an NRA member!