Taking Aim

On Display
Exhibition Type
Long Term Display
A display case with historical guns and the exhibition title Taking Aim

Admission: Included with Museum Daily Admission

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About the Exhibition: For centuries, Virginians have relied on firearms to advance their best and worst impulses—to put food on the table, to protect themselves, to enforce or defy the law, to defend or conquer territory, and to liberate some and enslave others. 


  • A massive 7-foot, 4-inch English long fowler often referred to as the “Woodson” musket. According to family tradition, the oldest part of the musket (dating to the mid-1600s) was used by Lt. Col. Thomas Ligon, who helped Sara Woodson defend her Prince George County home during the Third Anglo-Powhatan War. Many Woodson descendants refer to themselves as “potato hole” or “washtub” Woodsons based on their relationship to Sara Woodson’s sons—John (10 years old) and Robert (12 years old). During the skirmish, John was reportedly hidden under a washtub and Robert in a “potato hole” (cellar). Many well-known figures in U.S. history are related to the Woodson family including Dolly Madison (first lady of the United States) and Jesse Woodson James.
  • A Model 1911 pistol (VMHC) belonging to U.S. Army Col. Charles Hancock Reed, who participated in the rescue of Lipizzaner horses of Vienna’s Spanish Riding School during World War II.
  • Whitworth Rifle with Davidson Telescopic Sight (VMHC) Used during the American Civil War, this firearm is often referred to as the world’s first sniper rifle.
  • Examples from the VMHC’s extensive collection of firearms produced by Richmond’s Virginia Manufactory of Arms. Established by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Manufactory produced firearms and edged weapons to arm the state’s militia from 1802 to 1821. Virginia was the only state after the American Revolution to successfully arm its own with locally manufactured weapons.

Inside the Taking Aim Exhibition

Taking Aim Featured Artifacts

Close-up of a musket's flintlock, with an exterior bridle and is engraved with a floral pattern and is marked "Collicot"
"Woodson musket"

The Woodson firearm was designed as a fowling firearm and generally is called a long fowler, used for shooting birds, although it could also be used as a wall-mounted gun. The flintlock has an exterior bridle and is engraved with a floral pattern and is marked "Collicot," the name of a lock maker in Bristol, England, about 1750. On loan to the VMHC Collection, 1929.8. The weapon was conserved by Courtney B. Wilson and Associates of Ellicott City, Maryland, in 1995 with gifts from Woodson descendants.

Colt, M1911 .45 caliber pistol with magazine.
Pistol of Colonel Charles Hancock Reed (1900-1980) of Richmond, Virginia.

Image of a horse rearing up on its hind legs is in the center of the patent information text, and Col. Reed's social security number is engraved on the right side of the barrel. From the VMHC Collection, 2021.9.1.