Even Danny, the Curator of the Cody Firearms Museum, dropped the OG (Original Gangster) line explaining the legend of Bill Cody during my tour of the Firearms Wing of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Museum.
Like a boss, this buckskin wearing bad boy was a showmen, a soldier, and last but not least a mighty hunter. What’s more impressive than him earning the Congressional Medal of Honor during the American Civil War, or taking 4,000 plus bison in a year in a half to feed Kansas Pacific Railroad workers, is that his legacy and memories live on and are enshrined in Cody Wyoming as if the man never died. As the saying goes, “Hero’s get remembered, but Legends never die.” - The Sandlot
The Buffalo Bill Center of The West houses five separate museums: The Buffalo Bill Museum, The Plains Indian Museum, Whitney Western Art Museum, Draper Natural History Museum, and the NEW Cody Firearms Museum. I personally came to visit the Firearms portion of the museum as I was in the area for a hunt. I ran out of time just visiting the firearm portion of the museum; the facility is immense.
Losing myself in historical facades of time and technology, I felt almost overwhelmed with curiosity. I didn't know where to start or end. Thankfully I had the curator of the museum, Danny Michael, to walk me through and point out significant Winchester history. My main focus was Winchester and the roll it played across the West and the development of this iconic brand over time. After all and in good part, The Cody Firearms Museum exists based on Winchester’s donations of firearms and funds.
Inside the labyrinth of display cases exist some of the coolest and significant artifacts from firearm antiquates. The Hunt Volitional Rifle the oldest direct ancestor to Winchester’s lever action, the progression of the lever action caliber, presidential commemorative rifles, concept military rifles, legendary Hollywood rifles, Oliver Winchester’s personal rifles, and so very much more. One branch of the Firearms portion of the museum led me into the military section. Danny promptly took me to the Winchester golden nugget. We discussed Winchester recently taking over full management and operational control of the Lake City Army Ammunition plant making them the the world’s largest small arms ammunition manufacturer. The rifle he took me to was Winchester’s Light Weight Military Rifle. Only a fist full of these .224s were created to compete for the military bid in the 1950s. The rest is history that you will have to pursue for yourself.
There are many rabbit holes I could take you down in this article, but the take away point is that you have to visit this place and explore the greatness on your own. I found myself overcome with the experience and the amount of information to be gleaned from this wing of the museum. I scheduled several hours to explore the museum and honestly didn't make it past the firearm portion.
In 2019, The Cody Firearm wing was redesigned, containing new interactional exhibits and hands on learning for both the young and experienced. I was blown away with every turn and new room I entered by the sheer amount of eye candy. Talk about a kid in a candy factory! This place is a whole new level; I’m talking about Willy Wonka!
After three or so hours of wandering and listening to Danny drop deep knowledge on the historical pieces as he concluded the “abbreviated tour,” we stopped just above a sign called the “Gun Library.” I said “Wait, there’s more?” We went down the spiral floor case to a room that contained a few more open faced cases and a hallway with red lockers. The lockers reminded me of high school, only each of the alphabetical lockers you pulled out had a stack of vertically stored historical guns. Of course, I wanted to see the Model 70 section. I was drawn to a particular model 70 with moose and sheep engraved in gold ingots on the receiver. Guess I’m a bit partial to Alaska’s State Rifle and drawn to sheep and moose hunting. All I can say is one day isn't enough time to spend at such a significant place. I’ll be back…next time I will be bring my wife and family along for the ride.