cody firearms museum ribbon cutting
(top) The entrance to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming. (bottom) Curator of the Cody Firearms Museum, Ashley Hlebinsky and Peter Kuyper, CFM Advisory Board Chair, cut the ribbon at the installation’s opening ceremony. courtesy of Cody Firearms Museum

When the Cody Firearms Museum first opened its doors in its current location at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming back in 1991, a gallon of gas cost $1.14 and George H. W. Bush occupied the Oval Office. To say that a lot has changed since then would be an understatement.

Cody Firearms Museum
One of the many halls of displays at the new Cody Firearms Museum. courtesy of Cody Firearms Museum

Museum design across the board, regardless of content, tended to display lots and lots of whatever it was they collected in giant glass cases with very little context. Basically, it was just stuff sitting in giant aquariums.

In fact, in 2017, a bunch of museum professionals gathered in Cody (including yours truly) and it was there that the term “gunquarium” was coined. The definition is “a giant display case full of guns and devoid of information.”

new gun exhibit cases cody firearms museum
The new exhibit features an entire case of cutaways (background) and a display all about ammo (foreground), the latter of which is often ignored in museums. T. Logan Metesh

When the Cody Firearms Museum reopened its doors on July 6, 2019, after undergoing a $12 million renovation, it was obvious that curator Ashley Hlebinsky and assistant curator Danny Michael had worked very hard to ensure that the term “gunquarium” no longer applied in their 40,000 square foot exhibit space.

a thompson model 1921 in a glass case at the cody firearms museum
This Thompson Model 1921 jammed during a robbery in New York City, where it was left behind. The police took it and traded it to Winchester for riot guns. T. Logan Metesh

After touring the galleries last week, I can confirm that they have indeed done away with the old ways and have created a thoroughly modern and striking museum devoted to the history of all things firearms unlike any other in the world.

“We are so excited to open the new Cody Firearms Museum,” Hlebinksy says. “Striking a balance between exhibition and interactivity, the new CFM serves both enthusiast and non-gun audiences in a way that firearms history museums have not done in the past.”

the pieper model 1908 pistol
This Pieper Model 1908 pistol is engraved, “W.R.A. Co.” which harkens back to the collection’s roots when it belonged to Winchester Repeating Arms Company. T. Logan Metesh

The Cody Firearms Museum of 2019 is nothing like the one of 1991. As Hlebinksy said, the museum now boasts a number of interactive exhibits.

Visitors can work the action on flintlock and percussion pistols; feel the difference between a heavy “New York trigger pull” and a crisp competition trigger pull; explore different kinds of rifle sights; line up fired bullets to check striations under a microscope like a forensic ballistics analyst; and more.

two handguns on display in a glass case at the cody firearms museum
A Colt Paterson (L) and Colt Walker (R) pay homage to Colt’s impressive early designs. T. Logan Metesh

For the people who loved the old museum (and there are plenty), don’t fret. Many favorite design aspects have been incorporated into the new galleries. You can still walk through (and smell) the gun shop; stand under the massive Winchester factory stone; and explore pull-out displays on the lower level, which showcase the collecting aspect of firearms.

All told, more than 10,000 of the museum’s 30,000 guns and artifacts are on display. Being able to have fully one-third of the collection on display is a fantastic benchmark for a museum of any kind. Facilities with collections that size are often lucky if they can get 10 percent in front of visitors.

a collection of winchester rifles
This case of chrome-plated, Winchester-made M1 Garand rifles are quite a sight! T. Logan Metesh

Whether you’ve been plenty of times before or are considering making your first trek to the land of “Buffalo Bill” Cody, now is the perfect time to do it. Ashley and Danny did a wonderful job renovating the museum, ensuring that it will continue to be the most-visited of the five museums at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

More Photos from the New Cody Firearms Museum below:

entrance to the cody firearms museum
Visitors to the new museum will see a new take on an old design, with an updated “gun fan” at the entrance, similar to the one previously on display. T. Logan Metesh
Cody Firearms Museum
One of the military galleries at the Cody Firearms Museum, displaying a Colt Single Action Army revolver, a Smith & Wesson Schofield Revolver, a Winchester Model 1897 Shotgun, a Springfield Model 1899 Carbine and an assemblage of cap-lock and lever action rifles. courtesy of the Cody Firearms Museum
colt ar15 model gun in a glass case
This Colt AR15 Model 01, with its now-iconic green furniture, is the 548th one ever made. T. Logan Metesh
cody firearms museum
A shot from the museum’s Firearms in Western History gallery. courtesy of the Cody Firearms Museum
Cody Firearms Museum
The stunning Cody Firearms Museum Research Library. courtesy of Cody Firearms Museum
Cody Firearms Museum
A look at the museum’s Embellished Arms gallery. courtesy of the Cody Firearms Museum