What’s your favorite gun? Browning Arms Museum has many

Slim Jolley (that’s her legal name, not her description, but she is both) is one of the hardest working volunteers at Union Station.


Just about every day you can find her in the archive, down in the car museum, running the gift shop (when there’s one to run) or out back in the restoration shop wielding red-hot rivets.


But mostly she’s up in the Browning Arms museum. She has shot rifles, including Brownings, since she was a little girl and really loves it up there.


She gets lots of fun questions, such as where can someone buy ammunition (there’s a national shortage caused by hoarding), how often do tracer bullets appear in belts of ammo (every 5th, usually), and which is more dependable, the Browning 1911 or a German Luger (the Browning, by far, of course.)


I found her there last week, sitting in the cool semi-dark surrounded by dozens of mounted rifles, shotguns and pistols, the legacy of John Browning and his family. There are some real gems — prototypes made by John, the first commercially successful rifle they ever made — but which ones stir up Slim’s juices the most?


Two. “I’ll show you,” she said, and led me first to what looks like a roughly-made pistol, not fancy or anything, but she said it’s the pistol of her dreams.


What she was showing me was the .22 caliber semi-automatic hammerless pistol, invented in 1914, patented in 1918, and later called the Colt Woodsman. Slim said this handmade prototype was built by John Browning’s brother Edmund.


“They showed us that at a gun meeting a while ago and you could move the slide back and forth with one finger, just like butter,” she said. “I’ve been shooting for 70 years and I’ve never had a gun that snuggled into my hand like that one.”


Sadly, she said, “they won’t let me take it home to play with it.”


Her other favorite hangs on the wall just to the left of the pistol. A display case shows three .22 caliber rifles, one of the Brownings’ more successful products after the design was sold to Winchester, but these are special just to look at.


The top one is her favorite, a specially finished target rifle, with checkered stock, a deeply curved  “schutzen” butt stock, sharp sights and rigby flats.


Volunteer Slim Jolley with her favorite .22 rifle (top)

The museum isn’t sure who the original owner was, but Slim said it could have been Gus Becker, the Ogden beer baron. Gus competed in the 1924 Olympic Games on the US shooting team and would have used such a rifle. Matthew Browning probably finished it, she said, he was the family member who did that sort of work.


Whatever, it’s just pretty to look at, she said.


The rifle she misses most in her life is the one she used as a young girl, a model 1890 .22 caliber rifle that sold for $16 in 1894. Slim inherited it from her grandmother. “She used to shoot Apaches with it,” she said.


Sadly, it disappeared somehow, she’s not sure, when she went away to school, so all she can do is look at the ones in the display case in the museum.