LEWISTON — Hundreds of hunters, collectors and gun enthusiasts filled the Lewiston Armory on Saturday for the 34th Annual Twin City Gun Show.
Some to trade. Some to buy.
Some to browse — and dream of buying.
“We always come,” said Eli White, a Greenwood gun enthusiast who toured the aisles with his wife and 1½-year-old son.
Organized by the Auburn Exchange Club, a local group that supports youth programs and charities, the two-day gun show draws buyers, sellers and browsers from throughout New England. This year, nearly 60 exhibitors ran 200 tables, showcasing handguns, hunting rifles, ammunition and military surplus gear.
Last year, nearly 3,000 people attended the show. Organizers expect this weekend to meet or exceed that attendance and the $25,000 it netted last year for community youth programs.
John Reid, owner of J.T. Reid’s Gun Shop in Auburn and one of the show’s organizers, explained the show’s popularity by saying, “It’s Maine. It’s New England.”
“We have the ultimate collectors come to this show,” he said.
To keep its guns with those collectors — and hunters and enthusiasts — and out of the hands of criminals, the show runs the same background checks required of a Maine gun shop. Buyers must present valid, current driver’s licenses, which are used to check criminal history and other background information with a phone call to the National Crime Information System. Buyers may be immediately approved, declined or told a more in-depth check is required.
Reid has seen criminals try to get around that system at other gun shows by waiting outside, approaching new buyers and asking to buy their just-purchased gun. To prevent that, the Twin City Gun Show posts officials outside and at the doors, and keeps a police officer on site.
“We see individuals trying to purchase firearms (outside), we get them out of here,” he said.
Although some gun shop owners balked at the background check system when it was instituted in the 1990s, Reid said many have come to like it.
“I can tell you, it’s a system that works,” said Reid, a former police officer.
At the table run by G-3 Firearms of Turner, the background checks meant some buyers could look into buying silencers for their guns, but would have to wait up to five or six months before an in-depth check gave them approval to buy.
Matt Reny, a sales associate for G-3, said that didn’t deter interest in silencers Saturday.
“It’s a hobby for people,” he said. “Some people like cars; some people like guns.”
G-3’s table also featured an array of handguns and rifles, priced from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.
Down the aisle, John Kennett’s table focused more on clothing and accessories. For his Scarborough-based Nonesuch River Outfitters, surplus military clothing and field gear was most popular.
“Hunters like it as an alternative to L.L. Bean and Cabela’s-type stuff,” he said, showing off a wool shirt for $14.
Across the armory, at Shane Mowrey’s table, ammunition and ammunition components were popular. The owner of Trident Ammunition in Houlton, Mowrey said the components allow gun owners to build their own bullets to save money or to create specialty ammunition for hunting and other hobbies.
“People primarily do it for recreation,” he said.
Target competition shooters Jeff Beebe of Sabattus and Kevin Wyman of Brunswick looked to trade their handguns Saturday. With gun shops spread throughout rural Maine, Beebe normally has a hard time comparing prices and items. Not at the show.
“Here, everybody shows up,” he said. “Everybody stays competitive.”