The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Visit – Idaho Military Museum

Photos by Q Concepts

If you’re in the Boise area and looking for a healthy sampling of vehicles and weaponry to check out, you’re in luck. You can even save a few bucks doing so. History and firearms buffs will definitely want to pay a visit to the Idaho Military Museum. And since admission is free, that’s about the only “paying” you’ll be obligated to do.

“One thing we pride ourselves on is we don’t charge an admission into the museum. We go into it feeling that military history has already been bought and paid for, and we’re trying to make it available to the public so they can see what their fathers and grandfathers utilized in their careers,” says Jeff Packer, chief curator and executive director of the museum.

Some of the aircraft you can check out at the Idaho Military Museum are a F86A and MiG-21.

Some of the aircraft you can check out at the Idaho Military Museum are a F86A and MiG-21.

Visitors can view an impressive amount of local memorabilia, including some from those who served at Gowen Field during WWII.

Visitors can view an impressive amount of local memorabilia, including some from those who served
at Gowen Field during WWII.

Get up close and personal with the controls inside this F4-G cockpit simulator.

Get up close and personal with the controls inside this F4-G cockpit simulator.

Opened originally in 1995, the Idaho Military Museum moved to its current facility in 2000. It was the brainchild of several officers and enlisted personnel working in conjunction with the Idaho State Historical Society to preserve Idaho’s military history. Initially located on Gowen Field, it now resides just a stone’s throw from the Boise Airport.

Many troops disembarked for beach invasions in WWII courtesy of a DUKW just like this one.

Many troops disembarked for beach invasions in WWII courtesy of a DUKW just like this one.

It wasn’t long ago that an M901 ITV (Improved Tow Vehicle) was a battlefield mainstay.

It wasn’t long ago that an M901 ITV (Improved Tow Vehicle) was a battlefield mainstay.

The 75mm Japanese Mountain Gun was another common fixture in the WWII Pacific Theater.

The 75mm Japanese Mountain Gun was another common fixture in the WWII Pacific Theater.

Gowen Field was built in 1941 for the Army Air Corps as a training base for B-17 and B-24 bomber crews, so an impressive amount of memorabilia from this time period is on display. Although none of his personal effects reside at the museum, Jimmy Stewart was, in fact, a trainer at Gowen Field before he began talking to invisible rabbits and winning Oscars.

Ask granddad if he remembers being transported on an M548 Tracked Cargo Carrier or firing an M102 Towed Howitzer.

Ask granddad if he remembers being transported on an M548 Tracked Cargo Carrier or firing an M102 Towed Howitzer.

Displays of Vietnam War items like these uniforms and M60 can also be seen at the museum.

Displays of Vietnam War items like these uniforms and M60 can also be seen at the museum.

The majority of the pieces in this collection were donated by local service members or families thereof, with some items on loan from the Idaho State Historical Society as well as the Idaho Military Division. Because of the amount of artifacts in the museum’s collection, rotations do occur every few months, so your chances of seeing something new on a return visit are pretty good. The museum houses everything from Civil War-era items to the Spanish-American War, up through the Korean and Vietnam wars.

An example of an M30 4.2-inch “four-deuce” Mortar.

An example of an M30 4.2-inch “four-deuce” Mortar.

A pair of M1A1 75mm Pack Howitzers can be found at the entrance to the museum.

A pair of M1A1 75mm Pack Howitzers can be found at the entrance to the museum.

Some of the exhibits you can see include a WWII-era PT-23 trainer, which took its last flight on the day they added it to the collection. You can also check out F-4 and F-16 cockpit simulators, guns galore from various wars, relics from the now-defunct Farragut Naval Training Station, and actual Medals of Honor that all have significance to Idaho residents and people who have come through Gowen for training.

In front of the museum you’ll find an assortment of vehicles, aircraft, and artillery pieces. An F-86, MiG 21, and RF-4C Phantom are all in full view, along with tracked and wheeled vehicles, such as an 1897 75mm French Field Gun, M1 Abrams, M60A3, M728CEV, DUKW, and various armored personnel carriers.

Before drones, aerial target practice was carried out with RC planes like this OQ-19 Radio Controlled Aerial Target.

Before drones, aerial target practice was carried out with RC planes like this OQ-19
Radio Controlled Aerial Target.

Center left: Various Air Force uniforms can be found at the museum as well as this F4 ejection seat.

Center left: Various Air Force uniforms can be found at the museum as well as this F4 ejection seat.

Thankfully Idaho hasn’t fallen victim to the PC culture and lets history speak for itself with the educational work they do with local school districts. The staff periodically brings artifacts to the classrooms to show students differences in Axis and Allied weaponry and uniforms to further their knowledge on wartime relics and their development.

They also offer a History of Firearms class for Boise State University’s history department, where students can attend an evening lecture on the evolution of weaponry. A select few are even taken to a local range for a chance to fire everything from a flintlock rifle to belt-fed German and Japanese machineguns … makes us wish we’d gone to college in Idaho!

Bottom right: The M1857 12 pounder Napoleon cannon traces its lineage back to the American Civil War.

Bottom right: The M1857 12 pounder Napoleon cannon traces its lineage back to the American Civil War.

At least once a year they hold events for the public that are held in conjunction with different organizations. Such occurrences include a recent collaboration with a local military vehicle collector’s association. During the event, bivouacs for various countries were set up in period-authentic fashion. It’s occasions like this that bring the collection to life and go a step further than just showing items in glass cases or sitting idly in a parking lot.

Tours are self guided and at least one docent is available to answer questions. Video and flash photography are allowed. Although you’re not dropping any coin to get in, donations are always welcome and it’s worth spending a few minutes in the gift shop to see if anything tickles your fancy. This facility is definitely one to add to your museum bucket list.

ww2 machine gun

Idaho Military Museum

Address
4692 W. Harvard St.
Boise, ID 83705
Hours
Noon to 4 p.m.
Tuesday-Saturday
Closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas
Admission
Free
Phone
(208) 272-4841
URL
museum.mil.idaho.gov


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