Confessions of a Nambu Nut;

or How to Become an Exhibitionist in Eight Easy Lessons

by Teri

            “Hi, my name is Teri and I’m an exhibitionist”. Don’t get me wrong, though--what I love to exhibit is my collection of Japanese handguns. Over the last  few years I have developed what I think may be the largest collection of them in Canada, and I spend hours planning and setting up displays so others can see what I’ve done. So what’s a nice university professor like me doing spending her time showing off a bunch of Imperial Japanese relics?

            Well, how about getting an ego boost, connecting with others with similar interests, and getting leads to help find those items that never seem to turn up in the local gun shop? I have to confess, I love it when people compliment me on my display, and if I get a prize, so much the better! Japanese handguns might seem like an obscure interest, but my displays have connected me to lots of people who want to talk about my hobby (OK, I admit it, they mostly end up listening to me talk about it!). Many of these connections have led to acquisitions. In fact, I have been given (yes, given, free) many items just because people could see from my display that I had a passion for something they had no use for.

            Displaying your collection also contributes to the preservation of the entire firearms recreational community. Maybe you aren’t cut out to be a lobbyist, a public speaker or a letter-writer, but gun shows are the lifeblood of our firearms community, one of the few times we gather in large numbers. The more displays we have, the more people come to shows. The more people come to shows, the more firearms businesses thrive, and the more new people we attract to collecting, shooting and hunting.    

            Maybe you’re thinking, “Hey, I’m no millionaire, who’d be interested in my stuff?” Well, chances are you may have the makings of a display already, or at least a good start on one. Here are a few pointers that may help to nudge you into taking that first step.


1. Be a big fish in a small pond. So what if you can’t match the guy with 100 Lugers or Purdys? What about doing something no one else is doing? When was the last time you saw a display of Italian, Chinese, Indian, Yugoslavian or Polish firearms? Besides often being cheaper than the mainstream collecting fields, non-traditional displays can also help spread an appreciation for firearms among new or underdeveloped demographic groups, including women and the ethnic minorities that make up an increasing share of Canada’s population.

2. Play to your strengths. What makes a good theme for a display depends on you. Do you have a heritage language that would give you an edge in researching a topic? Then try displaying guns from your family’s homeland. Are you a technical type? Try a display based around the technology of your favorite gun, or different ways of approaching a technical problem in firearms design. Have a rich family hunting tradition? Think about a display of several generations of “first hunts”, showing the guns, trophies and experiences involved. I’ll bet that will elicit some powerful memories and engaging stories--some of which may even be true!

3. Express yourself. Tired of hearing about the superiority of the Colt 1911A1 over your lowly Iver Johnson? Think your Carcano is better than any old Mauser? How about a display comparing them head-to-head? You might not make many converts, but you are sure to generate some interesting discussions, and maybe even find a few like-minded enthusiasts to hang around with.        

 4. Two (or more) heads are better than one. You may know all about the guns, but do you have a sense of design flair? If you are a traditional male gun owner, why not ask your wife or girlfriend for some tips on how to display your “stuff” to best advantage? Chances are she has more experience decorating (notwithstanding the wonderful job you did in the rec room with the knotty pine panelling and illuminated beer signs). Do a little show-and-tell with your kids. What questions do they ask about the design and history of your treasures? This is bound to generate lots of hints on what the casual visitor to your display may find of interest. Maybe your kids could even come up with a computer presentation that could be incorporated into your display. Besides the immediate benefits to your exhibit, this process can be a great way to build spousal and family involvement.

5. Every gun has a story, but only you can tell it. Ever walk by a display with a hundred guns that look pretty much alike and are differentiated by little more than a postage-stamp size tag with a model number? This may impress someone who is already an enthusiast in your specialty, but what about the other 99.9% of visitors? Tell people why this or that piece is interesting and different from the others you are showing. What need was it created to address? What innovative features did it have? What were its strengths and weaknesses?

6. Man (or woman) does not live by guns alone. Bring your guns to life. What kinds of accoutrements were used with them? Bayonets? Holsters? Ammunition? People also want to know the historical context. Show them photos, period items and other things that show how, when, where, why and by whom they were used. My display includes everything from ammo and cleaning rods to medals and sake cups.

7. Hang around. After you have spent all that time and money building a collection and setting up a display, don’t abandon your “babies”. Your security should be good enough that you don’t have to hang around, but if you don’t, you’ll never get to hear visitors’ comments, strike up chats, and make connections. You’ll be missing half the fun—and the benefits.

8. Remember, even Rembrandt started off with stick figures. So what if your display isn’t ready to win “Best in Show” the first time out? You have to start somewhere, and the feedback you get by displaying will help to improve from the beta version to a polished final product that will turn heads. Don’t wait till it’s perfect—book that table now!


Teri is a Calgary collector specializing in Imperial Japanese handguns and militaria. She maintains an extensive website showcasing her collection at


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Last Revised: July 4, 2006. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.