Camden military vet looking to open gun museum - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Camden military vet looking to open gun museum

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

A gun collector and veteran is planning on putting up a military museum in Camden. He has one of the most impressive collections in the country, and he hopes it will attract tourists to downtown.

"When I find something today, it's as exciting as the first thing I ever found," said Ross Beard. 

And Beard has found a lot.

"I've been collecting 73 of my 83 years," said Beard. "My Godfather got me started when I was 10 years old."

It helps when your godfather is legendary FBI agent Melvin Purvis. He got the ball rolling, but Beard's curiosity and love of history did the rest. 

"It's the race to get there. To beat someone else to it. It's a lot of fun," said Beard. "Keeps you young!"

Beard's contracting job took him around the world, and he'd rarely come home without a new piece. He got so many that he sent a large part of his collection to Columbia to help start the South Carolina Military Museum. Now he wants to bring that history into Camden.

"This town has wonderful antique shops, wonderful jewelry stores, ladies like to come here and shop, and some of the men don't like to go shopping, but you know they'll go to a museum and look at rare guns, and I've got some rare ones," said Beard. "Camden's been real good to me, and I'd like to help the merchants if I can."

It's early in the process and there are a lot of specifics to be nailed down, but Beard hopes to get it done. One thing's for sure, he's got enough stock.

"My cat's learned to walk sideways to get around them all, and I've learned to do the same," joked Beard.

His living room would do the trick, but he's got plenty more in storage, and there will always be more along the way.

"As long as I can crawl up to a gun, I'll be collecting," said Beard. "I've sworn off collecting like my friend who quit smoking. He said it's nothing. I've done it a thousand times!"

Now until Beard gets his museum going in Camden, you can check out a portion of his collection at the South Carolina Military Museum. It's open Tuesday through Saturday and admission is free.

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