Hours for the Auburn Exchange Club's gun show today are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is $8.
LEWISTON — John Reid sold 226 tables and turned another 20 vendors away — there wasn't enough room in the Lewiston Armory. Businesses large and small were eager to sell guns and gear, and on Saturday, people were buying.
About 2,000 came out for the first day of the Auburn Exchange Club's 36th annual gun show, the largest of its kind in Maine. Reid, exchange president and owner of Reid's Guns and Cigars in Auburn, said he'd sold close to 30 firearms before 3 p.m., "the vast majority for personal protection."
"You can't pick up the paper without some sort of crime," he said, either on the state, local or world stage. "I think people are becoming more susceptible and reacting to it."
In Maine, interest in handguns and concealed weapons permits spiked so much recently that the state started warning applicants it might take as long as 90 days to approve a permit, three times as long as the standard 30 days.
"People are looking for home protection," said Jennifer Chiavelli, owner of Cool Hand Luke Firearms in Bucksport, working a table next to Smith's Smokehouse's open bins of smoked salami sticks.
It was her shop's eighth appearance at the show. She's noticed more interest from female customers in the past five years.
Around the armory floor, whole families walked around checking out merchandise, many with young kids in tow.
Don DeMatteis of Litchfield, the only vendor to participate all 36 years, saw two types of buyers when he started: serious collectors and hunters.
"One wanted high-condition, good-value, investment-grade firearms; the other wanted shooting guns they could use in the field," DeMatteis said. "Of late, I see a lot more interest in handguns" for protection and target-shooting.
DeMatteis' Antique Clock Shop specializes in Winchester collectibles. He brought cases filled with old parts for collectors looking to make old guns whole again.
"Business has been very good," he said.
Sellers offered antique and new firearms, ammo, camouflage, knives, books and every manner of accessory. Several had signs to announce they were also buying.
"It's almost like treasure hunting," said Chris Guiry, a shotgun collector who drove two hours to meet friends at the show. "You see things here you might not see in southern New Hampshire, things that come out of the attic. I've seen some really pristine Christmas presents that got put away and never came out."
Reid said every firearm sale at the show was subject to a background check. Attendance was a little slower than normal on Saturday, which he blamed on the nice weather. In past years, after expenses, the show has raised about $20,000, all of which goes back to the community in donations and scholarships, he said.