As the foremost institution in the nation for interpreting firearms, the Cody Firearms Museum is undergoing an exciting renovation in order to be an even stronger destination for both firearms enthusiasts and the general public. Opening in the summer of 2019, there will be more firearms on exhibit, additional historical context, new multimedia displays, and a wide array of interactives.
For now, you can find firearms on display throughout the Center’s other museums including a temporary exhibition featuring the best in our collection.
Keep reading for a sneak peek of what’s to come!
Area 3: Story of the West
This area of the Cody Firearms Museum explores the firearm as a tool and symbol of the American West. Expect to immerse yourself in the realities of life on the frontier.
From the Barrel of a Gun
Guns shaped the West in many ways
Firearms greatly shaped the American Western experience and landscape. People used firearms as tools not only for self-defense, but also to feed themselves. Hunting wildlife provided settlers with food and money. Hunters pursued vast herds of bison for hides to make leather belts that drove the nation’s factories. Firearms also helped win and lose territorial wars that would ultimately dictate the modern political boundaries of the American West.
Myth and reality—creating the Wild West
The gun that won the West and other legends have shaped our views of the West
When you think of the American West, what comes to mind? Buffalo Bill? Annie Oakley? John Wayne? Chances are the characters associated with western popular culture dating back to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shape your perceptions of the American West. These stories often make it difficult to distinguish the reality behind the myth.
The Golden Age of Manufacturing
The creation of brand names we know and remember
The American Civil War marked the birth of many manufacturers we associate with the American West—Colt, Winchester, Smith & Wesson, and Remington. These manufacturers created their own niche markets and competed dramatically with one another to fuel creativity and innovation. Gun manufacturing in many ways set the stage for the American Industrial Revolution.
Hunting the Frontier
From an industry of trade to one of conservation
Firearms transformed the hunting experience in the American West. American Indians realized the power of firearms to defend hunting territories. Europeans demand for pelts established the fur trade and market hunting throughout North America. As populations of wildlife declined, sport hunters like Theodore Roosevelt organized the Boone and Crockett Club to lobby for conservation policies that established a more sustainable use of wildlife.
What could you afford in the West?
Reality of the everyday gun
The average homesteader owned a firearm for self-defense and hunting. However, it may not be the gun that you think. For many, the cost of a Winchester was out of reach. Therefore, the most popular gun in the West was utilitarian and affordable. In reaction to widespread ownership, individual towns regulated the use of guns impacting the individual making their home on the frontier.
A look at local gun shops in the American West
The names Winchester, Colt, Smith & Wesson and Remington meant something in the American West. But these major players were not the only game in town. Individual gun designers like John Browning and the Freund Brothers sold their products in little shops in the West, but created big ideas for guns that they would often sell to major companies.
We hope you enjoy the newly renovated Cody Firearms Museum when it opens next summer!