The Presidents’ Guns: 9 Presidential Firearms

Photos from the NRA's National Sporting Arms Museum
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Guns have been integral to our country since November 15, 1620. Why then? It’s when Miles Standish and his troops carried matchlock muskets as they explored Cape Cod and the New World. Throughout our country’s history, notable athletes, actors and actresses have been hunters, shooters, or both. As the most powerful person in America is our President, let’s have a look at some of their favorite firearms and fun they have had while shooting them.

The National Rifle Association’s National Sporting Arms Museum located at the Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri is where you will find firearms owned and shot by four American Presidents. Of particular interest are the following:

1. Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland Colt
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Grover Cleveland owned a rare Model 1883 Damascus-barreled Colt 8-gauge shotgun. Part of what makes Cleveland’s gunning iron so unique is that it’s the only 8-gauge Colt ever produced. It’s engraved with full coverage factory craftsmanship, inlayed in 18kt gold, and carries Cleveland’s name on the trigger guard.

2. Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt spoke softly and carried a big stick, and he practiced what he preached. Enter his Frederick Adolph .450-500 NE double rifle. The double rifle was originally commissioned by a wealthy Chicago businessman who drowned in 1910 while on an Alaskan hunt. Adolph presented the .450-500 NE to Roosevelt to use on an African safari. Roosevelt never used the rifle in Africa, so the rifle sat on display at the original Abercrombie and Fitch in Manhattan.

3. Dwight D. Eisenhower

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President Eisenhower on a quail hunt. NRA Museums, NRA

Dwight D. Eisenhower loved to play golf, but he was also an avid hunter and, in particular, a quail hunter. Robert Woodruff, the president of Coca Cola, presented the Winchester Model 21 side-by-side 20 gauge shotgun choked skeet in/out to IKE with an inscription: “To a straight shooter from a friend.” Five gold stars indicative of Eisenhower’s military rank were engraved in the bottom of the receiver. When IKE wasn’t shooting skeet on his backyard range in Pennsylvania he hunted quail on Woodruff’s Georgia plantation and elsewhere. While you’re at the National Sporting Arms Museum be sure to see then-General Eisenhower’s personal sidearm, a Colt M1911A1.

4. John F. Kennedy

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John F. Kennedy was known for his sizable gun collection and enjoyment of shooting. However, he never got to see this exquisite New Frontier Colt manufactured specifically for him. With a Presidential Seal, his monogrammed initials, and a gold PT boat inlay complete with a matching PT-109 serial number it remains unfired and on display.

5. Harry S. Truman

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Presidential firearms appear in other parts of the country, too. Harry S. Truman was an avid hunter, shooter and firearms collector, but one firearm held a sweet spot in his heart. It was a London-made guild gun, a percussion 12-gauge side-by-side passed down from his father John Truman. According to Mr. Truman’s cousin, Fred, Truman’s dad fell from his horse onto the shotgun and thereby damaged the hammer. The shotgun is marked by George Goulcher; Goulcher was an ex-Pat Brit living in New York who made components used by gunsmiths unable to create their own parts.

6. Richard M. Nixon

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Richard Nixon's A-5. Photo courtesy of James D. Julia and Sons

Richard M. Nixon’s Browning Auto-5 is known as the gift-that-wasn’t. The A-5 was to be presented to the President by Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) in 1970. The spectacular, ornate 12-gauge shotgun came with a modified choke, a 28-inch barrel, and a 2 3/4 inch chamber. Elaborate scrolling, gold inlays and a highly-figured walnut stock paled in comparison to the fact that the serial number for this A-5 was 2,000,000. Nixon declined the gift, leaving the A-5 to be stored in the Browning archive vault. After 15 years, the shotgun was loaned to the National Shooting Sports Foundation for display. In October 2015, the shotgun was sold by the legendary Maine auction house, James D. Julia and Sons. The winning bid? A cool $54,625.

7. Jimmy Carter

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Jimmy Carter shooting in Georgia. Photo courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum

Most recently, Jimmy Carter is known as a fly rodder, but he’s a shooter and a hunter as well. He owns two handguns, four shotguns, and three rifles and hunts for big game, small game and waterfowl. Here he is teaching his young daughter Amy how to shoot, and plinking a bit in the backyard of his Plains, Georgia home.

8. George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush

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Left: President George H. W. Bush; right: President George W. Bush George Bush President Library and Museum

It’s common for father’s and sons to hunt together, but what happens when a father and son are both presidents? Then you’re likely to find George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush hunting together. Their home state of Texas is well-known for quail, and they are a favorite game-of-choice for these two patriots. But as fathers and sons frequently differ, Bush 41 is a side-by-side man while Bush 43 favors over/unders.

9. Barack Obama

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President Obama shooting skeet. Pete Souza/The White House

Barack Obama grabbed headlines for many policies, none so much as his 2012 interview with the New Republic. He stated for the record that he shot skeet “all the time” at Camp David, and the White House supplied support through a series of pictures. Historians can hash out the apparent differences in his political-versus-personal view of firearms, but one thing is for sure; his gun mount needs some work.

Related: Presidents’ Guns: Firearms and the Commander-In-Chief