Anderson: Going great guns

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 3, 2013 - 11:28 PM

Known nationwide for its gun repair work, Ahlman's is a shooter's destination year-round in rural Morristown.

hide

With a gun showroom with thousands of guns, gunsmithing, multiple ranges, and events year round, Ahlman's Gun Shop in Rural Morristown has been a fixture in the gun industry since 1943. Here, Mike Ahlman, who is taking over the daily operation of the business from his dad Larry, stands among some of the thousands of guns in their Morristown shop.

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

MORRISTOWN, MINN.

Since before the turn of the last century, someone named Ahlman has lived on the same 200 acres where Minnesota's most storied gunsmithing shop and gun salesroom sits today.

Known nationwide for its gun repair work, gun modifications and customizing, Ahlman's receives more than 100 pistols, revolvers, shotguns and rifles daily from the local UPS driver -- and each day ships a like number of firearms back to their owners.

"If it wasn't 100 out every day for every 100 we take in, we'd be behind in our repair work in a hurry," said Larry Ahlman, 68, the family patriarch who took over the business in 1965 when his father, "Cap" Ahlman, died suddenly.

"I was just getting out of the Navy when Dad died," he said. "I had a lifelong interest in guns, so it was a natural fit for me."

As Larry spoke, his son, Mike, 41, heir apparent to the business, joined perhaps 10 customers on the showroom floor.

This was one day last week, and some of the patrons hoisted shotguns or rifles to check the firearms' feel and finish. Others moved casually among the 5,000 sale guns that Ahlman's stocks.

All the while in a room not too far away, 11 gunsmiths plied their craft, while a cash register calculated gun prices and taxes, ringing up one sale, then another and another.

So casual were the establishment's pace and attitude that instead of a gun buyer's Mecca, it could have been a shoe store at the Mall of America.

"We're in the middle of nowhere, so people don't get here by accident," Larry Ahlman was saying. "They have to want to be here."

That's particularly true in August each year, when thousands of shooters descend on Ahlman's from throughout Minnesota and around the nation, some dressed in Western garb for competitive cowboy matches, others intent on watching trick shooters or test-firing the latest sporting guns.

Still others come to discharge weapons they otherwise never could, including a .50 caliber long-range rifle, a machine gun, a Browning A-4 (blast a Chevy! Ahlman's advertises) and a 25mm anti-tank gun (knock out one of Saddam's tanks!).

The point?

Recreation, plain and simple.

"I love shooters," Ahlman said. "They're the salt of the earth and, in my opinion, the high rung of society. They camp out here. But we never have any incidents, and they clean up after themselves. There's never any trash. The off-duty deputy we hired last year to patrol said he hopes he gets the assignment next year."

Serious topic that guns are, particularly to those whose awareness of them is limited to what they read on a newspaper's front page or see on TV, humor underpins Ahlman's operation.

How else to explain the talking moose that greets customers outside the showroom?

Or a sign near the entrance that reads, "AHLMAN'S BANS people who ban GUNS ON THESE PREMISES."

Then there's the "zombie shoot" Ahlman's hosted last summer for owners of AR-style modern sporting rifles, otherwise known as assault-style rifles or, incorrectly, assault rifles.

"We were overwhelmed," Ahlman said. "We had 1,000 shooters come from all over the country. It was a lot of fun. They fired about 400,000 rounds a day."

'More gun laws won't help'

Gun shops nationwide, including Ahlman's, have seen changes since Dec. 14, when a lone gunman killed 26 schoolchildren, teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Where, for example, Ahlman's previously showcased spanking-new AR-15s and similar semiautomatic rifles for purchase, now only a relative handful of these modern sporting arms are displayed.

Each is a consignment, owned by someone else but offered for sale by the shop, usually at prices two or three times the original.

"We can't get many new ones any more, the orders are so backed up," Mike Ahlman said. "So some guys are selling theirs at marked-up prices. The same thing happened during the Clinton ban" in 1994-2004.

The possibility of reconstituting gun bans of any type disturbs Larry Ahlman.

Not because he might lose business. But because throughout his life, he's used sporting rifles and shotguns as prisms, in effect, to monitor -- and grow close to -- the natural world.

In southern Minnesota, for example, foxes were once plentiful and the subject of many long-ago Sunday afternoon hunts for him and his family.

Now coyotes have replaced foxes -- critters that are themselves targets of new generations of gun-owning hunters, many of whom employ .223-caliber AR-style rifles.

Similarly, the ducks Ahlman once hunted so successfully near Morristown have yielded to plentiful populations of Canada geese. And with them new generations of gun-owning goose hunters.

And the jackrabbits he once chased?

"The last one hopped around here 10 years ago," he said.

Similarly slow and subtle attempts to change gun laws are coming, Ahlman fears.

"I call it 'creeping conversion,'" he said. "Gun opponents know the way to make changes is to do it over a long period of time.

"But in the end, when the dust settles, the general public is going to be more educated about guns, and they're going to be more pro-gun than anti-gun.

"People will come to realize, as I have, that the problem isn't guns, and more gun laws won't help.

"The problem is a general degrading of society."

Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - LP: B. Wilson 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 8
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 2
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 3 FINAL
Oakland - LP: D. Otero 0
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 6 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Capuano 3
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
Colorado - WP: E. Butler 5
Boston - LP: R. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman 7
Milwaukee - WP: Z. Duke 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: M. Melancon 0
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: J. Cosart 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 2
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: C. Archer 3
Cleveland - WP: T. House 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: T. May 3
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 10
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Motte 8
San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: A. Cashner 3
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 5 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 8
San Diego 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
Miss State 34 FINAL
(8) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(14) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(24) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
(22) Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 0 FINAL
Portland 3
Houston 0 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
New England 0 FINAL
Columbus 1
San Jose 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
Seattle 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 4
D.C. 3 FINAL
Chicago 3
FC Dallas 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close