Anderson: Having a ball with ballistics

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 24, 2013 - 10:40 PM

Gun shop’s weekend event seeks to send the message that guns and fun go together nicely.

 

Statistics are difficult to find indicating just how many people wake up in the morning wanting to drive a tank.

But whatever the number is, the opportunity presents itself again Sunday near Morristown, Minn., not far from Owatonna, at the annual Ahlman’s Shooters Roundup.

About 15 tanks will be on hand, and rides in them will be available, part of a shooting-sports and family-fun festival at which fully automatic weapons also are on hand for test-firing.

“Last year a guy spun off quite a few rounds with a full auto, and I asked how much it cost him,’’ said Mike Ahlman, heir apparent to the famous Ahlman’s Gun Shop, located near Morristown and host of the annual roundup.

“He said, ‘$50, and worth every penny.’ ’’

Begun in the early 1990s as a venue for rifle manufacturers to exhibit their wares, Ahlman’s Shooters Roundup in the years since has morphed into a 40-acre attraction that is a slice of Americana like few others.

“We like to think we’re promoting the sport of shooting on a large scale,’’ said semiretired Larry Ahlman, Mike’s dad. “We don’t pretend to make any money on it. In fact, it costs us money. But it’s family friendly, and everyone has a good time.’’

A big draw at the roundup each year are the western melodramas that play on an open-air stage, the climaxes of which feature, well … shootouts.

“In one play, a guy gets shot and falls into a tank of water, and another gets shot off a roof,’’ Mike said. “Actually, in the end, everyone gets shot.’’

Including zombies — but that occurs on the Zombie Trail, in which participants ride in side-by-side ATVs along a route with five stations that feature zombie targets and zombie-ready firearms.

“You can shoot an AR-15 and other guns,’’ Mike said, adding:

“Also, for $5 you can shoot a .22 long rifle at a target that has a melon on top. You’ll blow fruit everywhere, and get a sonic boom with it, too.’’

Today is the second and final day of the roundup, and when the event closes at 5 p.m., about 800 melons will have been vaporized.

“And it was hard to get the melons this year,’’ Mike said. “It’s been a tough growing season.’’

• • •

However much humor and good times are central themes of the Ahlman’s Roundup, the event has a serious side, too.

Its central goal, as Larry said, is to celebrate and promote the shooting sports, and aids to this end include the tanks, machine guns, zombies and the plays that highlight cataclysms requiring fast thinking and even faster guns (that shoot blanks).

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  • Rick Mandler of Wells, Minn., was among the crowd giving shooting a shot at at Ahlman’s Shooters Roundup on Saturday. His choice was a .45-caliber machine gun.

  • Smoke filled the air as Civil War re-enactor Jason Grimm of the Battery 1 First U.S. Artillery helped Mike Walker of Albert Lea, Minn., fire a Gatling gun. There’s also are western melodramas replete with shootouts.

  • A sign tells how and why to get to famous Ahlman’s Gun Shop.

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