U.S. Army Ordnance Museum


#1

Does anyone know if the U.S. Army Ordnance museum move from Aberdeen to Ft Lee is complete or nearly complete? Their official website is not back up yet. I was thinking of going back that way from St Louis on my drive back to Bangor in April if they are fully open. I assumed that they would have best collection of military munitions on the East coast? Are there any other worth-while stops for cartridges & ordnance on the central/east coast up through New England?


#2

Aberdeen was always a little sparse on the small stuff, but they did have some nice items. Wright-Patt. AFB is supposed to have a good museum. Then there’s always Spfld. Armory. Anything at Picatinney?


#3

DK & Jonnyc–The Air Force museum at Wright-Pat. is fantastic for airplanes. Plan to spend the entire day. But, they have very little for cartridge collectors. Over by the B-52, they do have a nice display of Nucs, but not much else. I was surprised the first time I went there that they had all the Nucs there. I was a Nuclear Weapons NCO from 1969-1971 and every single bomb they had on display, even just the shape of them, was classified “Secret” and a couple were even “Top Secret” back then. I was not aware that they had been declassified until I saw them there in 2009. BTW, all the airplane displays are indoors, so don’t let rain stop you.


#4

Picatinny Ordnance Museum is gone. All transfered to Aberdeen. Aberdeen is mostly gone. Transfered to Va. The Va. Ordnance Museum is far from complete.I would not waste the gas until it is finished and that may not be until well into next year. Hard to imagine that their funds will not be cut. Of these, Picatinny was the only real ammo site worth visiting and spending time. The Aberdeen Museum had a small but very good ammo display.This was hand selected by Col Jarrett and Charlie Yust who were both collectors of the first class. I do not think that much if any of this will be displayed. The new Marine Corps Museum has gone the same way. In the old one you could see such treasures as the 40mm Jap caseless shells etc. Now none of this is on display. They new museum is more oriented to entertaining tourists than to study by scholars and collectors. Most of the ammo and small arms collections of the USA are not on display and are only open to limited research by special permission.


#5

It really sucks that they are closing all of these museums! Amazing how history is never a priority.

Jason


#6

I have been to the USAF museum at Wright-Pat several times, and it’s definitely a good stop. As earlier stated, there’s not a lot there if you are interested only in small arms and other munitions. It’s outside the base fenceline, so no access problems for anyone. Just watch out for the space aliens from Roswell.

There was a fairly good “heritage” museum here at Lackland AFB up until maybe 8 years ago, with some reasonably interesting munitions and aircraft weapons displays, such as an airborne 105mm howitzer, WWI Lewis gun, etc. Then those items were all removed and replaced with much less-interesting (to me) things, which was probably done in the interest of greater political correctness, tolerance, and cultural diversity. I haven’t been there for a long time, so maybe it’s better now - or more likely not.

So far as I know, Lackland AFB still has the USAF Security Forces (formerly Air Police) museum with a lot of uniforms, weapons, and accoutrements; however, nothing really all that interesting and unusual and in my opinion not worth a visit unless you are a former Air Cop. Unless you have business there to warrant a gate pass, it’s tough to get on base unless you are a military retiree.


#7

Not specifically ammunition, but probably the BEST arms museum in the U.S. is the “Frazier History Museum” in Louisvill, KY. Originally the Frazier Museum of Historical Arms" it was renamed to make it more appealing to the public, but it is SUPERB! Three full floors of exhibits, the top flor being done by The Royal Amouries in Leeds. Live demonstrations of swordsmanship etc on the second floor (along with tons of exhibits) and more on the ground floor. I HIGHLY reccommend paying the piddling fee for the audio headsets for the tour that will really explain a lot and even disinterested family members may find that tolerable. Excellent mix of “audio video sit down and watch how chain mail is made” type stations, full size dioramas from key events in English colonial history, and artful display cases with cool and historic stuff.
They usually have some sort of temporary exhibit in one area, and it will probably be Civil War related for a while.
Figure 2-3 hours minimum, and a return visit would still find plenty of stuff to see.
http://www.fraziermuseum.org/

And, if you want to venture into the DC area, the NRA National Firearms Museum is one of the top 3 arms museums in the U.S. Very nicely done. I think the public still has access to the very good cafeteria in the other side of the building. Free parking in back. Free admission. Superbly done. Again, not much in the way of ammunition, but otherwise loaded with great stuff. Plan on an hour or more.
http://www.nramuseum.com/

If you go back to Maine via the NY Thruway, the Remington factory in Ilion has a small arms museum, but also offers factory tours which are pretty interesting. Museum is hard to fined but entrance is on the NE corner of the big brick complex. Check with them about tours as they are sort of sporadic, and you may end up with one just for your car load. (All their ammo stuff is done in Arkansas, so this is just guns.) Maybe an hour with the tour included, otherwise 20 minutes.
http://www.remington.com/pages/our-company/our-company/company-info/ilion-firearms-plant.aspx

Springfield Armory in Springfield, Mass, is a Mecca and again, not much ammo stuff, but worthy of a pilgrimage on a regular basis. Located in bad part of town, but Armory Museum is surrounded by what is now a Community College, and once inside the fence it is pretty secure. THeir introductory film covers technology and mass production and is pretty interesting. Figure about an hour or so.
http://www.nps.gov/spar/index.htm


#8

Agree about the Frasier. I went there having only a couple of hours to spend, and then returned the next day for three more hours. Magnificent, especially the armour tableaus on the top floor and the Gatling at the entryway.

Is sort of across the street from the famous H&B Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory, also interesting and a worthwhile experience to take that tour as long as you are close by, even if you are not a baseball fan.


#9

Many years ago a group of us started a “founding society” to establish an ammunition museum. We got some support from Olin but no other interest. Most museums don’t want to deal with live ammunition and don’t want to bother inerting it either. There are just not enough people interested in the details of ammunition history and production. Most junior collectors know more about ammo than most of the manufacturers. There are millions of members in the NRA but only about 1000 in the IAA. It is all in the numbers.

The Picatinny museum was the gem for ammo collectors and that was largely bigger caliber ordnance and fuzes.

I have offered ammo displays to many museums over the years. No interest. The NRA which would seem to have a natural interest only wants a smattering of shells.

It was only politics and connections which enabled us to get a display in the Smithsonian. It was totally produced without cost to the museum.

If the IAA ever gets a million members there is hope.

Don’t hold your breath.


#10

The Springfield armory looked promising, but I read online that the pattern room with all of the best guns and some ammo items is now closed to the public? Am I understanding that correctly as far as the rare & interesting (valuable) stuff being closed to the public?


#11

Matt

the pattern room was the best ever Museum for weapons and ammo…

regards
gyrojet


#12

The MoD Pattern Room in Nottingham closed some years ago and its collection was put in store while they sorted out what to do with it. Fortunately, a move to sell it off was defeated (probably Herb Woodend’s last fight!). It was transferred to the Royal Armouries Museum at Leeds and renamed the National Firearms Centre. It is now in a purpose-designed and very secure location. It still has all the stuff it used to, from pistols to automatic cannon, and has an ammo collection although that has never been out on display.

As with the old Pattern Room, it is not open to the public to wander in. It is necessary to request permission to visit, with a reason for doing so and providing various personal details, several weeks in advance. They only allow very small numbers of visitors at any one time since the staff have to supervise them, so you can’t depend on visiting when you want. What is different is that there are tight restrictions on photography.

I used to have personal contacts there but no longer. I haven’t visited for a few years so I’m not sure who to contact to get in now.

There is also a small but excellent collection of small arms at the MoD Academy at Shrivenham, near Oxford. They also have an ammunition collection focused on larger stuff, with a very wide variety (including rockets) for teaching purposes. Some rarities there which will get large-calibre guys salivating…Again, it is not generally open to the public (it’s inside a secure military base) so you have to have a reason to visit and arrange it in advance. The simplest way is to attend one of the conferences held there - if you can get on them!


#13

I have not been there, but I was told that the West Point Museum is pretty good. They claim to be “the oldest and largest diversified public collection of miltaria in the Western Hemisphere.” Also, “while only a portion of the collection is on display, all artifacts are available for cadet academic instruction, special exhibition and research.”

Just reading the couple paragraphs on the website, http://www.usma.edu/museum/ , makes it sounds pretty interesting.

They also have the original Pitman cartridge collection and a lot of his original research that was donated to them years ago. It is in private collection but the curator, Les Jensen, told me he would be happy to show me it if I visited.


#14

The National Firearms Centre, found in near proximity to the Royal Armouries in Leeds, is a remarkable collection but you do need a very good reason to visit, permission is not granted merely on request. Once permission is given you have to arrive with your passport and go through a complete search, to be repeated on departure. You also have to pay 45 UK Pounds (about 70 US Dollars) per hour for honouring them with your presence. This fee certainly concentrates the mind when it comes to your list of priorities.

Once you’re in the collection itself you’re escorted by both a curator and an armourer. You tell the curator what it is you want to look at, he takes you to the rack and the armourer gets the item down, makes it safe and passes it to you. Once you’ve done the procedure is reversed and you can move on to the next place. This does make everything rather slow and I found that 3 or 4 items per hour were all that could be managed. Believe me, the breadth and quality of the collection is eye-watering and to have to walk past oft thought on treasures without being able to stop is no fun whatsoever. Idle curiosity it not encouraged … a pity, as I tend to both idleness and curiosity.

Happy collecting, Peter


#15

Wow - that has changed a lot since my last visit to the NFC. No charge then, and I could wander about…


#16

I think Matt was asking about Springfield Armory’s storage areas when he used the term “Pattern Room.” They used to offer tours (for a small fee) of thevupstairs area, about the same size as the Museum itself, filled with shelving and racks and drawers. Lots of goodies there, but sadly no descriptive information at all to tell what is interesting about them, or organization to group like stuff together. Strictly museum storage practices, not exhibits or even particularly useful for researchers. This was almost exclusively rifles and pistols- probably 95% longarms. Probably 80% of the material is standard pattern stuff, like duplicates or variations not needed in the exhibits. The rest is experimental, tooling, prototypes, some cutaways (e.g.- about a dozen M1917 Enfields by Winchester- full length- and sectioned in various areas). I think they still allow access by researchers by prior appointment, but no longer offer the public tours.

The basement storage area is much smaller and off limits to the public, but I was privileged to get in there once. This area is for automatic weapons and as I recall went up to about 40mm. I don’t know enough to fully appreciate what was there, but it is a gold mine for some researchers.

The Pattern Room in the UK is a bit out of the way for a visit if driving from St. Louis to Maine, but looks like it is certainly worth a visit.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point Museum is another excellent museum with lots of good stuff, and worth the visit. Figure an hour or two. It is free and “outside the gate” so no security hassles, (like if you have ammo in the car…). Highly recommend a visit there.


#17

used to be you could make an appointment at the U.S army ordnance museum and they would remove anything you wanted from the display cases or let you examine anything in the arms room. i spent 3 days there photographing different weapons about 15 years ago in the highly entertaining presense of dr robert atwater. their small arms collection was exceptional…