gun museum
Travis Smola

8 Gun Museums You Have to Visit in Your Lifetime

You need to put these firearms museums on your bucket list.

History and firearms seem to go together as well as Forrest Gump put it: "Like peas and carrots." And when it comes to museums catering exclusively to firearms and arms memorabilia, there is no shortage of options on ones to visit.

But which ones are the best of the best? Well, we've done the research and narrowed it down for you. Here are eight gun museums you need to visit at least once.

We've noted which ones have more of a focus on military history and which ones focus more on the actual design and manufacturing of specific firearms. No matter what you like, we're sure you'll find something that will interest you here.

1. Dragonman's Military Museum: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Whether you're a veteran or just have an interest in firearms and military history, this incredible museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado is a place you'll want to check out. This museum is the private collection of Mel Bernstein, although he goes by the nickname "Dragonman."

There aren't many people out there who own their own fully-functional army tank, but Mel does. He has collected literally thousands of arms and armor and other pieces of military memorabilia over the years from WWII to Vietnam and more. And unlike most museums you'll visit, he claims they are functional and ready to go if he needs them. There aren't many gun museums that offer this much American and world history. Oh and he also owns a gun shop and target range on the premises. Talk about a great gift shop!

The only catch is that this is gun collection is privately-held and you have to make arrangements to either join one of his Sunday guided tours or request a group tour via reservation.

2. The J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum: Claremore, Oklahoma

This museum proudly boasts that they have the largest privately-held firearms collection in the world. Considering they have about 12,000 firearms in their collection, they may be right!

The collection is one amassed by J.M. Davis and represents a lifetime of gun collecting. He first started displaying his collection in the Mason Hotel in Claremore, Oklahoma and accumulated the collections of several other avid collectors in his lifetime. Before he died, he transferred the whole collection to a trust who then gave them to the state of Oklahoma.

This collection has a wide variety of old west firearms including lever-action rifles, revolvers and more. In fact the place has something for everyone with a collection of Native American artifacts and other unique items like musical instruments and beer steins. Best of all, visiting the Davis Arms museum is completely free!

3. The NRA National Sporting Arms Museum: Springfield, Missouri

This one is a two-in-one stop for anyone who loves outdoor rec (like hunting and fishing) as well as shooting. That is because the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum in Springfield, Missouri is located inside a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World.

This is a place to go if you want to see firearms that belonged to historic figures like Theodore Roosevelt or Annie Oakley. They even have a few from outlaw Jesse James.

And if you're into movie and TV, they have some Hollywood guns used by Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. At around 1,000 firearms, this gun collection isn't quite as large as some of the other museums on this list, but it is a hit with tourists. And you get the bonus of going to Bass Pro Shops while you're at it. This is another gun museum that is absolutely free to visit.

4. The NRA National Firearms Museum: Fairfax, Virginia

The National Rifle Association actually operates three separate firearms museums. This one is in Virginia and contains 3,000 guns representing a little bit of everything from the entire history of firearms. We're talking from the earliest ancient flintlocks to semi-auto and automatics used in more modern conflicts. They even have a flintlock owned by a pilgrim who arrived in America via the Mayflower.

This museum also has a collection of Hollywood guns including Clint Eastwood's signature Smith and Wesson .44 from the "Dirty Harry" movies.

The collection also features a haunting reminder of the terrorist attacks in New York on 9/11, a revolver that belonged to NYPD Officer Walter Weaver. The handgun was later recovered in the rubble after the building's collapse. Just like the other NRA museum, admission is free.

5. The John M. Browning Firearms Museum: Ogden, Utah

If you're up on your firearms history, you already know what a prominent figure John M. Browning was when it came to ushering in a whole new wave of firearms design, especially when it comes to automatic or semi-automatic firearms.

The John M. Browning Firearms Museum in Ogden, Utah is perfect for anyone fascinated with the inner workings of firearms and everything that makes them tick. You'll not only learn about the life of Browning, you'll also learn about how his revolutionary designs took the gun world by storm and how many of his designs are still in use to this day.

Admission to the museum is only $5 for adults and $3 for children. Students can get a discount of $4 with a student I.D.

6. Cody Dug-Up Gun Museum: Cody, Wyoming

Most of the museums on this list are full of pristine firearms that have been preserved for decades or even hundreds of years. The Cody Dug Up Gun Museum is the exact opposite. These guns are dirty, they're grimy, and they're beat-up. This is a place filled with true relics.

Most of the collection is made up of old west relics that will have your imagination churning, but there are also haunting, half-destroyed relics from famous battles like the D-Day invasion of Normandy beach in WWII and from iconic gangster conflicts in the 1920s and 30s.

Helping to add to the atmosphere are the unique displays which place the rusty old guns with pieces of old driftwood, barbed wire, and desert sands to really set the mood.

As far as gun museums go, this one is very unique and often overlooked by tourists who spend more time the popular Buffalo Bill Center of the West nearby, but this place is definitely worthy of your time. Oh, and the owners are proud supporters of the Second Amendment and support concealed carry in the museum. What's not to love about that?

7. Cody Firearms Museum: Cody, Wyoming

Gun Museums

Travis Smola

The great thing about visiting Cody, Wyoming is you can get in two great gun museums on one visit. The Cody Firearms Museum is just one of five museums at the expansive Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Don't let the huge price of admission deter you, this place is worth the walk-through. You might have to budget a whole day to see all five museums, especially if you like firearms.

Currently the museum houses some 7,000 firearms, spanning the entire history of guns and ammo. You'll see everything from old flintlocks to old west revolvers to the latest in modern military hardware. They definitely have some very strange and weird pieces in their collection that you won't find anywhere else.

The other museums at the center give you loads of Native American history, the life story of William F. Cody (aka "Buffalo Bill,") western art, and natural history. If you can't find something you like here, you're not human.

And the Cody Firearms Museum is slated to get even better in 2019. They are expanding and will be adding another 4,500 guns to their exhausting set of displays next year.

8. Gene Autry Museum of the American West: Los Angeles, California

If you love the American west, this is the place for you. This museum features extensive exhibits on cowboys and the old west. And if you like Colt revolvers, you'll love the Autry museum. They have a whole exhibition dedicated specifically to Colts and their place in history.

This museum also features another of Theodore Roosevelt's guns, his single action army revolver. And if you're a fan of Gene Autry, obviously the museum has a collection of his western art and music and acting memorabilia.

Admission to the Gene Autry museum is $14 for adults and $6 for kids. Students and seniors can get a discounted rate of $10.