Whitetail season is just around the corner, and hunters are looking for the best deals for the best gear available. Dealers and gun show promoters are picking up steam after the traditionally slower summer months. Show promotions in Michigan increase from about once a month to once a week. With all that in mind, I set out Saturday morning for Birch Run in central Michigan to have some fun and get my first of this season’s flavor.
We’ve all been to them. A bazaar with just a little of the bizarre, gun shows are great opportunities to buy, sell and trade our firearms commodities. From standard guns and ammunition, to accessories and collectibles and even a sausage booth, the gun and knife show at the Birch Run Expo Center in Birch Run, Michigan had a little of everything for everyone there.
Promoter Doug Carl has been running the Birch Run event on a monthly and bimonthly schedule for 25 years, and is Michigan’s biggest gun show promoter. This is his biggest show, with 700 tables and hundreds of dealers. An unassuming middle aged gent, Carl is a dealer himself, and also runs shows in other Michigan locales on a weekly basis during the fall (for a full lineup go to www.migunshow.org.)
The weather may have played a part in what Carl described as a slow business day, as it was rainy and chilly. Still, there were a few thousand customers in the Expo Center, who could buy anything from an AR-15 to an 1892 Centennial Edition Browning. As dealer Jeff Kuehn pointed out though, a lot of the business done is not in actual firearms, but in accessories.
“What a lot of people like to do is buy their weapons and then buy accessories to customize them to whatever they need.” Kuehn said “I barely sell guns myself, just a few pieces from my personal collection.”
Though some dealers buy used weapons and refurbish them many, like Walt Kellaway prefer to buy and sell as is, saying that it’s not worth the time to invest in repairing someone else’s guns. For dealers like him, the real money is in ammunition, which has recently been a problem.
“There’s an ammo shortage since a lot of people started hoarding in 2009.” Kellaway said. The ripple effect is that 75% of his business, which is tied up in ammunition has been slower than usual. On top of that, as fellow dealer Don Till pointed out many ammunition manufacturers have contracts with the U.S. government. For a brief period that drove ammunition prices up, but now manufacturers are flooding the market trying to keep up with demand. Prices are correspondingly dropping, which hits the margins that some of these small market dealers count on.
But if firearms, hunting and home defense are not your thing, then perhaps Mike Morris’s knives would spark your interest. He builds the knives in his shop from used farriers’ rasps. He uses diamond wood, the same material used in many rifle stocks, or Micarta, the material used for most handgun grips, for the handles. Morris has been featured in Blade magazine, and his knives are truly beautiful.
“I’m one of those guys where my morning commute is only 18 steps from my bedroom,” says Morris, who has been making knives for 26 years but only a year and half full time. “My shop is out in my garage, and I can build most knives in four to five hours. If you saw me do it, you’d say it’s easy, but I always say it’s taken me 26 years and four hours to build the pieces I make.”
Temperatures are dropping, and cabin fever is starting to set in. It’s time to get outside and feel the chill air before the sun rises. If you’re getting out there soon, you’re going to be outfitting the gear you’re going to need. Make sure to check out your local gun show, since chances are that whatever you’re looking for is sitting on a dealer’s table.