The Pioneer Village Armory

This article originally appeared in the Mar/Apr 1980 issue of Pioneer Magazine

by Ron Van Woerden

Hanging over the entrance to the building modeled after the original 1860 Ordinance Building at Fort Douglas, is an imposing five-foot replica of the first rifle invented by John Browning. This rifle originally hung outside the Browning Arms store in Ogden in the 1880’s, and today serves as the entry to one of the nation’s finest collection of arms.

The Sons of the Utah Pioneer’s Arms Collection contains everything from knight’s armor used in medieval Europe to the modern fire arms of today. The collection also includes old hand tools, on loan from the Browning family, which were used primarily by Jonathan and John Browning in making and repairing firearms. The well-lighted showcases display weapons used by gunfighters of the old west as well as arms used in American wars from the Revolution to the Civil War.

The first real guns – called matchlocks- are among the most interesting. Developed in Europe in 1475, these were fired by lighting the priming powder with a match or lighted wick. They were crude and undependable, for rain or wind would extinguish the match and moisture would keep the priming powder from lighting. A refinement of this gun – the flint lock – is also represented in the museum. The Flintlock was the mainstay of the American Pioneer. Daniel Boone and other early Americans made the Flintlock long rifle famous. A later refinement – the cartridge arm – is also on display.

Another rare item of interest is the coffee grinder gun, one of a possible five in the country. During the Civil War, one of these guns was issued to each regiment. An actual coffee grinder is enclosed in the stock of the rifle. The drawback is that it is so small, it could hardly serve a regiment.

Firearms may not always have an appeal for everyone, some approve, others disapprove of their use. But they were an important and seemingly necessary part of our Pioneer Heritage. We can learn from the past, and this exhibit has much to teach. A visit to the Gun in Pioneer Village is an educational and fascinating journey.


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