Skip to main content

Weird Weapons: Strange Artifacts in the US Navy's Archives

Naval archives tour

(Image credit: U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford/RELEASED)

Karen France, head curator for the Collections Management Division of the Naval History and Heritage Command, showed Rear Adm. Kate Gregory, commander of the Naval Facilities Command and Chief of Civil Engineers, weapons in the historic small arms vault during a tour in 2013. The division is combing through its archives to make sure all items are correctly catalogued.

Gold-Plated AK-47

gold-plated AK-47 from Iraq

(Image credit: U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford/RELEASED)

Julie Kowalsky, the small arms curator with the Collection Management Division of the Naval History and Heritage Command at the Washington (D.C.) Navy Yard, displays a gold-plated AK-47 taken in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The weapon was most likely used in formal ceremonies. On the shelf is a briefcase submachine gun that was donated to the CMD by an NCIS Field Office.

Gold-Plated AK-47

gold plated AK 47 from iraq

(Image credit: Collection of Curator Branch: Naval History and Heritage Command, distributed under a Creative Commons license)

A close view of a gold-plated AK-47 captured in Iraq.

Gift Pistols

pistols in the naval archive

(Image credit: U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford/RELEASED)

Julie Kowalsky, the small arms curator with the Collection Management Division of the Naval History and Heritage Command at the Washington (DC) Navy Yard, reads off the display card about the gift of two .45 caliber Alamo model Colt revolvers and knife set given to the cruiser USS Texas for her Sept. 10, 1977 commissioning by Ross Perot, a former naval officer and future presidential candidate.

Experimental Weapons

historical weapons in US Navy archives

(Image credit: U.S. Navy Photo/RELEASED)

Julie Kowalsky, the small arms curator with the Collection Management Division of the Naval History and Heritage Command at the Washington (D.C.) Naval Yard, shows experimental weapons designed by naval ordnance innovator Capt. John A. Dahlgren.

Mini-Machine Gun

mini machine gun from navy

(Image credit: U.S. Navy Photo/RELEASED)

Julie Kowalsky holds up an experimental minigun. This mini-machine gun never went into production.

Gold-Plated Gun

gold-plated pistol from brazil

(Image credit: U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford/RELEASED)

Small arms curator Julie Kowalsky shows the gold-plated and engraved pistol given to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Thomas B. Hayward during a visit to Brazil in 1982.

Japanese Grenade

japense grenade made of ceramic

(Image credit: Collection of Curator Branch: Naval History and Heritage Command, distributed under a Creative Commons license)

A ceramic grenade taken from Japan during World War II. Near the end of the war, when metal was scarce, the Japense military turned to ceramics.

Civil War Amputation Kit

civil war amputation kit

(Image credit: Collection of Curator Branch: Naval History and Heritage Command, distributed under a Creative Commons license)

An amputation kit from the Civil War held in the Navy's archives.

Souvenir Lamp

navy souviner lamp

(Image credit: Collection of Curator Branch: Naval History and Heritage Command, distributed under a Creative Commons license)

A souvenir lamp in the Naval collection. The painting is of the USS Enhance MSO 437, a minesweeper.

Sept. 11 Laptop

laptop from 9/11 attacks

(Image credit: Collection of Curator Branch: Naval History and Heritage Command, distributed under a Creative Commons license)

A partially melted laptop taken from the Pentagon after the 9/11 attacks. This laptop is held in the Naval archives.