This past July I took a road trip to Wyoming and Colorado to shoot a couple of pistol matches and to The Rockies. One of the stops was in Colorado Springs to see the USAF Academy and other places in the area. There are many things to explore in the area from the mountains to the small towns. Outside of town is Dragonman Gun Shop/Range and is a must see for shooters.
To many folks visiting Dragonmans/Colorado Springs Military Museum might not be a “touristy” thing to do. For shooters and those who love military history this is a must see. The Dragonman is Mel Berstein, a Vietnam Veteran. He has a passion for military history, firearms and things that make lots of noise.
Before we continue, I am sure you wonder how Mel got his nickname. When he lived in NYC, he built a motorcycle that looks like a fire breathing dragon is wrapped around it. The neighbors used to say, there goes the Dragonman. Hence the Dragonman was born and is now a legend in the firearms industry.
When you pull into the property you will drive past a dirt bike race track, a paintball arena and several ranges. You are created by various mannequins and civilian vehicles as well. After your drive up the road that takes a few minutes because Mel’s property is nearly 250 acres, you come to the shop. It looks like a bunker, for good reason; to protect the contents.
Inside the door you will seen hundreds of rifles on the walls, hundreds of handguns in display cases, in the back corner there are dozens of historic fully operational machineguns and through the inner door if it is open is the machine shop where firearms and vehicles from the museum are maintained. You did not misread that, Dragonman has a museum, Colorado Springs Military Museum behind the shop that houses a couple thousand mannequins in military uniforms from all periods of service, thousands of historical military artifacts including hundreds of items Nazi concentration camps, current and recent Veterans have provided Mel with dozens of unique items from OIF/OEF, they are life size dioramas and the center piece over two dozen fully functional armored vehicles and dozens of non-armored vehicles (nearly 100 total). Everything in the museum is operational and ONE HUNDRED PERCENT REAL, they are no reproduction items.
Normally tours are given on Sundays or by appointment, but Mel was gracious enough to take me an abbreviated tour so I could share it with the readers of GATDaily.com. To say the collection is breath taking would be an understatement. I say that having been to many museums around the world. It also sends shivers up your spine when you see the area reserved for the concentration camps.
My tour started with Omaha/Utah Beach and the invasion of Fortress Europe on D+1. These dioramas depicted a command bunker, a medic area with supplies, signal lights, weapons, flares, kitchens; everything that was used on the invasion save for a landing craft or Sherman tank. You could spend a couple of hours just looking at all of the small items here and in every area and still not see it all.
After that we ventured into the Pacific Theater area. You will see antique Samurai Swords carried by Japanese officers, suicide kits complete with cyanide, countless photos and relics from both sides. Take time to look at the original photos from the surrender on the USS Missouri and other action in the Pacific.
After that we breezed through the Korea, WWl, Vietnam areas taking time to look at the vehicles used by the troops in The War to End All Wars (WWl). They are all over 100 years old and still run. One of the mannequins is a horse with WWl as it would have been use by cavalry; this war was the transition from horse cavalry to motorized cavalry. Again the small artifacts are endless and must be seen.
From there we went into the area commemorating our time in SE Asia from Desert Storm to OIF/OEF and ongoing operations in the GWOT. What is amazing about this area are the artifacts including one of Saddam Hussein’s scrapbooks. The troops from the 4th ID operated with special operation forces searching for Hussein and they donated it to the Colorado Springs Military Museum. Many of the uniforms of the Iraqi Republican Guard come complete with bullet holes and stains. To say the artifacts in this room are breath taking is an understatement.
We finished the whirlwind tour in the Nazi machinegun bunker. This area is the most chilling because of items from The Holocaust including uniforms from the death camps, manacles used to move the victim’s bodies and the cans of Zyklon B that was used to gas Jews, Gypsies and any other group the Nazis sent to Auschwitz, Treblinka, Dachau, Sobibor and others. You will find items the Jews used in the Warsaw Ghetto to fight the Nazis and just to live. This area will give you chills. If you take the tour, make sure you get photos of these items. We must ensure the world remembers how evil man can be.
We finished the tour the most unique item here or anywhere in the world. This is an engraved/inlayed serial numbered belt buckle (#1) of Hitler’s personal body guards. What makes the buckle unique is that it is a three barrel 22short pistol. This last ditch pistol gave the guard three up close and personal single shots to protect Hitler. Like all other German firearms the workmanship is amazing and precise.
To say this is a brief description of Dragonman’s and Colorado Military Springs Military Museum is an understatement. I could post all the photos I took and they would not show a tenth of the sights. If you want to see the museum it is open on Sundays at 10AM March through November for tours or if you have nineteen friends you can schedule a tour. Dragonman has events throughout the year at his compound including his annual machinegun shoot, this year it is September 14th and 15th. You can get information about the shop and museum at https://www.dragonmans.com/ For videos search facebook for Dragonman or Colorado Springs Military Museum, you will be amazed. In closing I assure the museum is worth the trip, I plan to make another road trip so I can get the full tour.