If you’ve ever made the trip out to northwest Wyoming to visit the Cody Firearms Museum (CFM), you know it’s always been an extremely impressive collection of firearms and gun-related artifacts. The newly refurbished museum now puts the collection front and center in a way that will enthrall the average museum-goer and satisfy any avid gun enthusiast.
The original Museum opened in 1991, combining the impressive Winchester Factory Collection with several others. Despite the amazing artifacts on display, the museum was beginning to feel antiquated, dominated by large glass cases crammed with guns but with little context to tell their stories. The term “gun-quarium” has jokingly been used to describe the museum in the past, but after several years of hard work from museum staff, led by the museum’s curator, Ashley Hlebinsky, and assistant curator, Danny Michael, the newly reopened CFM is unlike any other gun museum you’ve ever been to.
The $12 million renovation has breathed new life into the museum and allowed even more of the amazing collection to be displayed within the footprint of the old museum. The museum is part of an impressive complex of five museums located within the Buffalo Bill Centre of the West in Cody, Wyo. A new intuitive layout lets you explore firearm history either by chronology or by theme.
The 40,000-square-foot museum now boasts a colorful, engaging layout that tells not just the story of individual guns, but conveys the broader history of both military and civilian firearm use. The cases are filled with everything from early Colt Paterson revolvers to the U.S. Army’s brand new M17 service pistol; from Tommy guns to fascinating John Browning prototypes; and from hunting rifles of the Old West to odd European prototype guns.
When you enter the museum for the first time, passing the beautiful new-gun fan and video greeting from a digital Ashley, you enter a space that feels inviting; for a moment you wonder what to look at first. You’re spoiled for choice. Turn left and you can browse 500 years of firearm development history in a series of cases and bays, evolving from a medieval handgonne all the way up to the latest FN SCAR. Take a right, however, and you can examine some amazing cutaway guns and play with some of the museum’s brand new interactive exhibits as part of the “Primer: Gun 101” gallery. This gallery teaches visitors the basics and allows them to work the actions of pistols, a shotgun and bolt- and lever-action rifles. These interactives are great for the kids, as is the free-to-play pistol simulator, which allows visitors to run courses of fire on a projected pistol range—a lot of fun.
The new museum is laid out in a series of seven galleries, which include a look at firearms of the West; military history— with firearms from conflicts spanning over 400 years; the science of firearms—an exhibit that looks at how they work, including an interactive section to experience various historic and modern trigger pulls; giving insight into firearm forensics; an exhibit dedicated to historic and modern sporting shooters with many recognizable names featured; and a gallery dedicated to the art of firearms—featuring many of the most ornately decorated firearms from the museum’s collection.
The hands-on aspect of the museum doesn’t end there. For the visitor that wants to browse every example of a certain firearm the CFM has—they have you covered. You can explore dozens of pull-out racks and drawers which house hundreds of guns of every kind imaginable. Pull one drawer—Glocks, pull another—original Winchester 1873 design drawings or a plethora of Colt revolvers. Downstairs, in the lower gallery, even more of the museum’s collection is on display, with hundreds more artifacts including various types of ammunition, shotgun shells, magazines and military and civilian firearms from all over the world.
Whether you’re a gun guy or girl, or just happen to stumble upon the museum on your way to nearby Yellowstone National Park, there is something at the CFM for you. The newly refurbished Cody Firearms Museum admirably aspires to engage with every visitor it can, to convey the rich and vital history of firearms.