Steampunk Gun exhibit opens at National Firearms Museum

Steampunk Gun exhibit opens at National Firearms Museum

A fanciful and unusual collection of one-of-a-kind steampunk gun creations is now on display at NRA National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia.

Steam-powered weaponry.
Operating this steam-powered device involves donning the brass & leather gauntlet, complete with its gauges for trigger pull. (2015 NRA exhibit photo and description, copyright National Firearms Museum)

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2015 – An limited run exhibit of steampunk guns opens Friday at the National Rifle Association’s National Firearms Museum, located just across the river from the nation’s capital at the NRA’s headquarters building in Fairfax, Va. The exhibit offers fans of science fiction and fantasy a unique opportunity to view fanciful, one-of-a-kind steampunk-style weaponry in mint condition.

Promo poster for the film "Wild, Wild West."
Promo poster for the film “Wild, Wild West.”

Steampunk? Not familiar with the term? Thought by some to be an offshoot of cyberpunk, “steampunk” is a subgenre in science fiction and fantasy that offers an alternative Victorian Era where scientists and inventors have already created 20th and 21st century technologies. But in keeping with the times, these “Neo-Victorian” contraptions are primarily (though not always) wildly anachronistic designs, often though not always driven by steam power.

If you’re not a reader of steampunk stories or novels, you’ve likely encountered it in films like Disney’s 1954 cinematic re-creation of Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (allegedly rescheduled for a 2015 remake); the 1999 film version of TV’s “Wild, Wild West” starring Will Smith and Kevin Kline; and the 2003 film “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” starring Sean Connery and loosely based on a DC Comics-owned title.

The National Firearms Museum elaborates further on the topic on its website in conjunction with the opening of its new exhibit:

Continuously evolving, steampunk encompasses science fiction and elements of popular culture – including zombies, dirigibles, mad scientists, and Western gunslingers. For some, the lifestyle of corsets and cravats, ray guns and rocket ships illustrates and represents a favorable era that counters the sterile technology of modern times.

Just like steampunk, this exhibit is a meeting point of fantasy and history. It combines the fantastic world of steampunk and the reality of the modern steel canvas afforded by today’s real firearm designs.

Vampire gun.
Vampire gun in the museum’s Robert E Peterson Collection: “The ultimate sidearm for any vampire hunter, this elaborately engraved, silver-plated Colt .38 Special Detective Special revolver is fitted within a coffin-shaped ebony case that holds holy water, mirror, a wooden stake and silver bullets cast in the shape of miniature vampire heads.”

This small exhibit of contemporary steampunk-design weaponry is “made possible by ModVic, LLC and generous steampunk artists,” according to the museum.

While this very unusual new exhibit is intriguing enough to attract many visitors – particularly steampunk fans – the museum will also keep general visitors busy with a total of 15 galleries displaying some 3,000 firearms, a great many in pristine condition. Altogether, the museum galleries depict the history of firearms over roughly the past 700 years, including many weapons used in famous Hollywood films.

The National Firearms Museum is one of many intriguing local collections that are somewhat off the beaten path, remaining relatively unknown to D.C.-area residents and tourists alike. For D.C., Maryland, and close-in Virginia residents, it’s located in the Fair Oaks area Fairfax County, fairly close to the Fairfax County Government Center on Waples Mill Road, just off U.S. 50 West or exit 57A off I-66 Westbound.

Where: The NRA’s new Steampunk Weaponry exhibit are is now open for a limited run at its National Firearms Museum, located at NRA headquarters, 11250 Waples Mill Rd., Fairfax, Va. 22030. Numerous ongoing exhibits are available as well.

Museum Hours: 9:30-5 daily, except Christmas Day.

Phone: 703-267-1600.

Getting there: Traveling west from D.C., Maryland, or close-in Northern Virginia, take U.S. 50 West. Alternatively, get on either I-66 West or U.S. 50 West from the Capital Beltway in Virginia. From I-66 West, take exit 57A onto U.S. 50 East, then turn left on Waples Mill Road. If you’ve already chosen to take U.S. 50 West, you’ll be making a right turn on Waples Mill Rd. just past Jermantown Road.

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