LEWISTON — Gun dealers and eager consumers closed a weekend-long success for the Exchange Club of Auburn’s annual gun show at the Lewiston Armory Sunday.

Gary Hamilton, owner of Neilson’s Sporting Goods and Hamilton’s Gun Shop in Farmingdale, said, “I’ve been doing this show for 15, 16 years,” about as long as he’s been in business, by Hamilton’s reckoning.

Hamilton, who doesn’t frequent a lot of shows, said he’s made a point of frequenting the Lewiston event.

“It’s a very good show,” he said. “Glock is always the No. 1 seller.”

Handguns are always a big seller according to Hamilton, who sells both new and used as a mainstay.

“Last year, there was a real spike (in sales),” Hamilton said. “It’s coming off the high, though, but ammo’s still hard to get.”

Hamilton said he has no idea why there appears to be an ammunition shortage.

“I don’t know why,” he said. “Nobody knows — everybody’s guessing.”

It would be understandable that military rounds may be scarce during a protracted war; however, Hamilton said common bullets such as .22, .22 magnum and .243 are getting hard to find nationwide.

Hamilton said it’s been a good year at the show so far.

“I’ve bought a lot and I’ve sold some,” he said. “I’ve had a good year at the shop, too.”

Across the floor of vendors, a delicate kind of etiquette took place as men and women perused the wares — each with the muzzle pointed either at the floor or high toward the ceiling, index finger outside the zip-tied trigger guard.

Paul Oleston Sr., owner of Apollo Tactical Firearms LLC in Topsham, is a disabled veteran with 14 years of service.

I’m just a small shop, trying to get my name out there, he said. 

“The guy who builds my guns is a former Marine Corps sniper,” Oleston said. “Everything we build is all custom,” Oleston said of his company, authorized distributors for Spikes Tactical, Stag and DSG Arms.

Oleston was pleased with the turnout Sunday.

“(I) sold a couple custom ARs yesterday and several accessories,” he said.

With the AR-15 making so many national headlines, Oleston turned the floor over to his builder.

Fred Moody, a Marine veteran and current National Guard Blackhawk crew chief from New Hampshire, said, “You take a weapons system like that, that’s all black — it’s absolutely scary looking,” Moody said. “One of the things that Apollo Tactical Firearms does is they take this approach, and they’ll paint it and color it.”

“Let’s say, for example, this gun (he pointed to a black AR-15) could be any color you want — pink, it could be white — for all intents and purposes, we could have the Gucci pattern put on it to make it less intimidating looking.”

As a builder, Moody explained what sets Apollo apart.

“The difference with Apollo Tactical is, they build each system with the highest quality parts,” he said, “not to say that some of the other gun manufacturers use a lower quality — it’s just the approach in the way they build weapons systems. It’s built with love.”

Moody displayed a bolt with the texture of a fine frying pan, describing how the transit of gases and carbon that makes the firearm work can dirty and foul up the bolt in other designs. The part Moody uses can simply be taken out, wiped off and put back in service.

Going into great detail about recoil and the mechanics of firing a rifle like the AR, Moody stressed the need for quality parts to maintain accuracy.

“One of the things in marksmanship is finding that right stance and the right breathing and it’s following that,” Moody said. “By using some of these components and higher-quality components, it’s more of a systematic approach and it’s tighter.”

Moody displayed an array of options for the AR system. Akin to going to a car dealership and being offered interior choices from cloth to the finest imported leather, he described choices in charging handles — the little doohickeys that actually pull back the bolt to load the first bullet from a magazine.

Other options include bolt releases and rail systems, a fancy name for a composite fore stock. All of these things Moody chalked up to “creature comforts” and refinements to make the shooter less apt to move their body and throw off their shot.

But why, you may ask, would you need an AR-15 with scary black paint, a palm-actuated charging handle and a flash suppressor?

“Let me ask you this,” Moody said. “Any person can go down the street, you can go to your local dealership and buy a Corvette Z06 that does 200 mph, right? The speed limit’s only 65,” he said, laughing. “Why do you need a car that does 200 mph?”

“So, for this weapon system, you can take that bolt out, you can shoot .22s out of it, you can shoot .556 out of it, you can change up some other components, so versatility-wise, you can change so many things on it to incorporate whatever your needs are.”

Moody listed a number of possible combinations with the receiver and barrel saying, “As far as versatility, you can change this into just about anything.”

Speaking to the brutish appearance of the AR, Moody said, “It’s frightening because it’s not taught any other way than it being frightful.”

“You can take any one of these guns and you can turn it any color you want,” Moody said. “But the minute some knucklehead out there does something stupid with it, it becomes frightening.” 

Moody pointed to recent changes in our culture, such as children on a playground finding themselves suspended for pointing their finger like a gun during play.

“As a society, I feel we’ve gotten away from teaching our kids the fundamentals of safe weapons handling,” Moody said. I think as a society, we’ve failed the fact of incorporating this safety, this idea about weapons handling with the youth.”

Moody also points a finger at the movie and video game industry for perpetuating the glorification of gun violence and improper weapon handling.

Having grown up around weapons, Moody said he has taught his own children from an early age with AirSoft guns, how to safely handle weapons and instilling an understanding that “(guns) kill things.” For that, Moody said, they respect them and they don’t touch them when not in use.

Across one wall, nearly half the length of the armory, G3 Firearms from Turner displayed their wares, advertising automatic weapons and silencers.

Owner Chris Jordan, who said he started with seven guns in his shop, has now entered his 10th year, fourth as a full-time enterprise.

Business was brisk as Jordan chatted with his associates periodically, making deals on firearms and ammunition for his patrons, many of which appeared to be return customers and friends.

The big seller for Jordan over the weekend show?

“It’s been, in all honesty, AK-type rifles,” he said. “We sold like five of them yesterday.”

Jordan said handguns are always popular sellers at G3, but AKs were the top item for this venue.

Despite selling some fully automatic weapons, Jordan assures they are not flying out the back door, and all sales face stringent National Firearms Act guidelines, where each firearm is tracked, registered and of course, taxed.

Jordan said he doesn’t bring any fully automatic weapons to the show. Well, none except his own — a Chinese-made, registered AK-47 to the tune of $22,000. An indulgence, Jordan said, that almost bought him a posterior kicking from his wife.

Jordan said as the business was developing, he had sold all his transferable automatics.

“Last year was a good year, so I bought a toy back for myself,” he said.

Don’t get too excited about running out to buy a silencer, either, Jordan said, those too are governed by the NFA. Besides, Jordan said, “it’s not going to make you a ninja,” describing the Hollywood-driven fascination with them.

Jordan said he does move a lot of silencers though, adding there were over 150 in transfer at the moment.

“They’re a lot of fun,” he said, which takes some of the sting out of the $200 transfer fee.

Looking down the tables of firearms, Jordan said he thinks they have the largest display at the show, but since it’s a local show for him and the only one he does, he likes to make the best of it. He said he would rather spend time with his family on the weekends.

Despite being surrounded by firearms all the time, Jordan doesn’t hunt.

“I’d put the family through the windshield to save a squirrel,” he said, laughing.

For Jordan, targets are game enough — especially when those targets are binary explosive targets, a big seller at the shop.

“I have a good time; I love my customers,” Jordan said, citing an overwhelming sense of community and honesty among their good qualities.

Throughout the event, dealers said there have been no problems with the National Instant Background Check System utilized at each sale.

A charity event, the gun show put on by the Exchange Club of Auburn is now in its 38th year, according to member William Murphy of Rangeley.

“We give it all away to the kids in the community,” Murphy said. It’s to the tune of $30,000 each year from the gun show alone, he said.

Murphy said the club carefully made sure that all state and federal regulations were adhered to, two ATF agents were present all weekend and that NICS checks were made for each firearm.

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