Rock Island Arsenal Museum Rock Island, IL

During World War II, the  little-known Rock Island Arsenal was an enormous manufacturing facility for the United States military. Some 84,945 machine guns were built here plus 715,000 machine gun barrels and 5,000,000 metallic belt links to feed machine guns their bullets (replacing cloth ones). In addition, the Arsenal overhauled or modified tens of thousands of rifles, carbines, and pistols and manufactured hundreds of thousands of parts for other weapons systems.  At its peak in July 1943, 18,675 people worked here, almost one-third of them Rosie the Riveters.[i]

The museum is located in a handsome limestone building which houses a fantastic collection of  small arms. Displayed in cases, cabinets, and on the walls are over 1,200 pistols, rifles, machine guns, swords and artillery pieces  used by the United States military, by our special forces, and by the militaries of  a half dozen other countries. The rifles and pistols go back to  the earliest days of our nation and continue up to and include the guns carried by our soldiers today. Important models include a collection of rifles used in the Battle of Little Bighorn (including an iconic Winchester rifle), a Springfield rifle, a gold plated M60 machine gun (read why when you get there), plus the iconic M1 Garand carbine (Serial #2), and the Browning submachine gun, both of World War II.

The nearby outdoor Memorial Field is the second part of your visit with 31 large artifacts on display including an M50 Antitank gun, an M4 Sherman tank (hit by a German shell at the Battle of the Bulge – still visible), a M22 Locust Light Tank,  an M65 Atomic Annie, the U.S. Army’s nuclear cannon,  plus  various artillery pieces, rockets, antiaircraft guns and other large guns.

And yes this is an island – also called Arsenal Island — a 946 acre federal military reservation.  It is in the Mississippi River between East Moline, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa. Check website for identification requirement and make sure your insurance and tags are up-to-date.

Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 12noon – 4PM

Visit museum website

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