One of the things that I really like about the J.M. Davis firearm collection is its diversity. Most of the other firearms museums focus primarily on top-quality artifacts. Davis wanted one (or one hundred) of everything. While that may seem to some like Davis collected a whole lot of “junker” guns with a few gems thrown in, truth be told, he captured a microcosm of humanity.
I get to meet many different people in my job as curator, and many of them have something in common: a plain, inexpensive, utilitarian firearm from their family’s history. Do not get me wrong, I am not putting down these people, their ancestors, or their guns. I, too, have several of these plain, inexpensive, utilitarian firearms from my family’s history.
Many people have their grandfather’s old single-shot break-open shotgun. Many of these shotguns are what firearm collectors call “Hardware Store Guns”. Hardware Store Guns are inexpensive shotguns, rifles, or revolvers commissioned by a regional or large local hardware store (or a mail order catalog company) from any one of several firearms makers who would put the Store’s desired verbiage on the gun.
These Hardware Store Guns could be afforded by average farming families, small town workers, or big city apartment dwellers. Farming families could use these plain shotguns for shooting crop-ruining varmints, dispatching a fox in the hen house, or chasing off unwelcomed night visitors of the four- or two-legged varieties. Small town folks might have similar needs and maybe some good old fashioned plinking (from back in the days when people didn’t shutter at the thought of a child knowing how to safely handle and shoot a .22 rifle, and none of those kids EVER shot up their schools). Folks living in big cities, just as every American no matter where you live, might want the ability to protect their families’ God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of (safety and of) happiness.
My point to all of this is that the average hard-working, mortgage-paying, child-feeding American who wanted to purchase a firearm scrimped and saved until they could afford a simple, inexpensive, yet functional firearm. If they took even fairly decent care of it, it (and the recorded memories made with it) could be passed down to future generations. Great Grandpa Schubert’s Belgian .32 rimfire rifle and Granddaddy Witt’s Smith & Wesson .38 Victory Model revolver may not be as pretty to look at or as monetarily valuable as a mint, unfired Winchester ’73 “One-of-One Thousand”, but the unfired gun does not have any wonderful family stories to pass down.
Come see the greatest collection of Working Man’s Guns at the J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum, on historic Route 66 in Claremore, OK. We are open Monday through Friday 8:30 to 5:00, Saturday 10:00 to 5:00, and Sunday 1:00 to 5:00. For more information call (918) 341-5707 or visit our website: www.thegunmuseum.com. Bring the family and make some of your own memories.