National Firearms Centre
The National Firearms Centre (NFC) are the custodians of the national collection of firearms.
The collection was started in 1631 by Charles I as part of an initiative to introduce some commonality and efficiency in the procurement of equipment and weapons. After a major fire at the Tower of London in 1841 the majority of the firearms collection was moved to the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield.
The collection developed in to what was to come to be known as the Enfield Pattern Room as the national reference collection of firearms.
The Pattern Room collection was moved to Nottingham in 1989 when the Enfield site was closed, and was finally re-unified with the rest of the Royal Armouries firearms collection from the Tower of London in 2005 when it was gifted by the MOD upon closure of the Nottingham site.
The scope of the collection has broadened over time. It includes any firearm or weapon up to 40mm. Originally the purpose of the collection was to provide a national reference resource, primarily with British weapons. During WWI however, it became apparent that the collection also needed to reflect the wider design characteristics and practical capabilities of all firearms. The proportion of foreign weapons was therefore increased from that time with an emphasis on acquiring examples of innovative concepts and design principles.
The NFC holds several thousand weapons in a secure environment. The collection is arguably the most extensive and varied of its type in the world. Included in that collection are a variety of unique weapons, prototypes and initial items from the production line. Those weapons are available to be inspected by academics and researchers who have a need to study their design and technical aspects.
The collection also comprises an extensive selection of books, photographs, technical information and engineering drawings.
The NFC also applies the unique knowledge, technical resources and expertise in support of a variety of Government Departments as well as providing operational support to the MOD and the Police.
Below is a selection of some of our more interesting or important objects. Click on each image to enlarge it. For more information about each object click on its title, which will open a new page.
Often described as ‘Rocket Propelled Grenade’ in the west, ‘RPG’ actually stands for ‘Hand-held antitank grenade launcher’ in Russian.
Dates from 1986 | Object number: PR.9054
The Baker Rifle, made famous in the Sharpe series, was the first military rifle issued to the British Army.
Dates from 1807 | Object number: XII.148
After WWI armies began to look for a new class of automatic weapon, one that could fire fully automatically but be carried and fired by one man.
Dates from 1945 | Object number: PR.13316
One of our jousting horses, we call him Charlie for short.
Dates from 1996
A very large, heavy and powerful pistol operated by a gas piston – a system borrowed from military rifles.
Dates from 1995 | Object number: PR.120707
Though famous for its WWII service, this was the first widely-issued self-loading rifle adopted for military service anywhere in the world.
Dates from 1944
The aluminium and plastic AR15 (M16) was designed by Eugene Stoner in response to a requirement for a new lightweight U.S. infantry rifle.
Dates from 1970
The reason why the United States currently has an ‘M4’ Carbine, though the two weapons have nothing in common.
Dates from 1947 | Object number: PR.5478 and PR.1027
Mechanically based upon the German FG42 automatic rifle of the Second World War, the M60 was designed as a belt-fed light machine gun firing.
Dates from 1970 | Object number: PR.92
The Lee-Enfield .303 rifle was designed in the Victorian era and went on to arm the majority of British soldiers in both World Wars.
Dates from 1940 | Object number: PR.5899
The P90 was an early example of the Personal Defence Weapon. More powerful than a sub-machine gun, more compact than a rifle or carbine.
Dates from 1995 | Object number: PR.10641
This was the first British weapon to be made using interchangeable parts, thanks to the American system of manufacture.
Dates from 1854 | Object number: XII.979
The first true ‘assault rifle’, i.e. a select-fire weapon chambered in an intermediate calibre between pistol and rifle rounds.
Dates from 1944 | Object number: PR.5357
The Vickers machine gun was a development of the original 1884 design by the American-born Sir Hiram Maxim.
Dates from 1920 | Object number: PR.188 and PR.189
The standard-issue service revolver of the First World War carried by officers, who did not typically carry a rifle and bayonet.
Dates from 1916