By Tammy Sapp
The minute you lay your eyes on the 180 or so percussion muzzleloaders flanking the staircase leading to the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum, you know you’re in for an amazing tour. During the museum’s Aug. 2 grand opening, all eyes in the crowd of 500 visitors were glued to the top of those stairs. They were there to hear speakers such as Kyle Weaver, NRA’s executive director of general operations; Richard Childress, founder and CEO of Richard Childress Racing; Bob Ziehmer, director of the Missouri Department of Conservation; and Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops. And they were there to see more than a thousand firearms that trace our country’s history of hunting, conservation and freedom.
An estimated 13,000 people toured the museum the first three days it was open. With the museum’s location in the heartland of America at Bass Pro Shops’ “granddaddy of all outdoor stores” in Springfield, interest in the museum is expected to remain high. Nearly four million people visit the Bass Pro Shops Springfield location each year, making it one of the most popular destinations in Missouri. Missouri Governor Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon noted that fact in a grand opening proclamation he issued that states “thanks to the outstanding partnership between Bass Pro Shops and the National Rifle Association, Missouri will have yet another attraction to draw visitors from all over the world.”
This museum had its beginnings when Johnny Morris visited the NRA National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Va. Awed by the collection, Johnny wanted to bring this artistry and history of sporting arms to the heartland of America where millions more people could see it. Sharing the museum’s artifacts with a wider audience was a goal NRA was happy to embrace. With a commitment to sharing sporting arms history, Bass Pro Shops offered its resources to help create the National Sporting Arms Museum. Bass Pro Shops donated the space and designed and built the 7,500-square-foot museum while NRA provided the firearms, text and storylines for the exhibits. Because of these partnership contributions, admission is free for museum visitors.
“This museum was born of the generosity and vision of Johnny Morris working with Wayne LaPierre and with the help of Richard Childress, beginning years ago,” said NRA museum director Jim Supica. “I am extremely proud to be associated with this museum and with the team who put it together, from the construction crew, store managers and amazingly talented graphics, layout and visualization team to the NRA staff who worked on the design and installation.”
Nearly 10 years in the making, the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum traces the development and evolution of hunting arms in America from pre-colonial times to the present.
“Being able to share a sporting arms collection that tells the story about the history of hunting and conservation is really special,” said Johnny Morris. “I hope visitors enjoy stepping back in time and seeing the types of firearms used by Lewis and Clark, Theodore Roosevelt and others.”
Visitors can see this one-of-a-kind collection by visiting the NRA National Sporting Arms museum, which is located at 1935 S. Campbell in Springfield, Mo. The museum will be open every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and admission is free. For more information about the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum, visit http://www.basspro.com/nramuseum.