Page 2 of 2 Previous

Continued: Anderson: Going great guns

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

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

  • related content

  • 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.

  • 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

NY Mets 8 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Yankees 1
Detroit 5 FINAL
Baltimore 4
Toronto 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Cincinnati 2 FINAL
Cleveland 4
San Diego 3 FINAL
Seattle 4
Chicago WSox 6 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Kansas City 13 FINAL
Texas 2
Oakland 9 FINAL
San Francisco 2
Wisc-Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Milwaukee 8
Arizona 6 FINAL
Colorado 3
Univ of Minnesota 1 FINAL
Minnesota 3
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 105
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Orlando 100
Cleveland 120 FINAL
Toronto 112
Utah 84 FINAL
Boston 85
Charlotte 115 FINAL
Brooklyn 91
Denver 100 FINAL
Minnesota 85
Detroit 85 FINAL
New Orleans 88
LA Lakers 94 FINAL
Miami 100
Philadelphia 118 FINAL
Oklahoma City 123
Memphis 102 FINAL
Houston 100
Sacramento 85 FINAL
San Antonio 112
Milwaukee 93 FINAL
Golden State 102
Portland 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Ottawa 3 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
NY Rangers 1 FINAL(OT)
Detroit 2
Pittsburgh 1 FINAL
Colorado 3
Montreal 1 FINAL
Anaheim 3
Longwood 65 FINAL
Presbyterian 61
Campbell 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 80
Ohio State 77 FINAL
Penn State 67
Maine 66 FINAL
Albany 83
Duquesne 81 FINAL
Fordham 66
George Washington 67 FINAL
George Mason 51
Tennessee 78 FINAL
LSU 63
Notre Dame 71 FINAL
Louisville 59
SE Missouri St 74 FINAL
Morehead State 79
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Mount St Marys 58
Hartford 63 FINAL
New Hampshire 67
Wagner 68 FINAL
Robert Morris 91
Long Island 70 FINAL
St Francis-NY 79
La Salle 50 FINAL
Saint Josephs 55
Providence 79 FINAL
Seton Hall 66
UCF 45 FINAL
South Florida 74
Binghamton 57 FINAL
Stony Brook 62
UMBC 39 FINAL
Vermont 66
Sacred Heart 85 FINAL
Bryant 91
Richmond 56 FINAL
Massachusetts 53
Wake Forest 51 FINAL
Duke 94
Purdue 66 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Miami-Florida 67 FINAL
Pittsburgh 63
St Bonaventure 64 FINAL
Saint Louis 48
New Mexico St 69 FINAL
TX-Pan American 48
Houston 68 FINAL
Tulane 63
Howard 62 FINAL
NJIT 71
TCU 70 FINAL
Oklahoma State 82
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
Tulsa 47
USC 74 FINAL
UCLA 85
Miss State 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Utah State 53 FINAL
Wyoming 76
St Johns 67 FINAL
Marquette 51
SIU Edwardsville 66 FINAL
Eastern Ill 78
Air Force 66 FINAL
Fresno State 68
Nebraska 57 FINAL
Illinois 69
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Nevada 62
Boise State 68 FINAL
San Jose St 51
San Diego St 60 FINAL
UNLV 58
Oregon 65 FINAL
Oregon State 62
UC Santa Barbara 98 FINAL
Hawaii 90
Toledo 64 FINAL
Northern Ill 68
Wake Forest 69 FINAL
Boston College 53
Eastern Illinois 35 FINAL
UT Martin 68
Austin Peay 69 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 72
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
NC State 56
Massachusetts 55 FINAL
St Bonaventure 49
Auburn 71 FINAL
Florida 49
Penn State 63 FINAL
Indiana 68
Clemson 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Davidson 63 FINAL
La Salle 74
Loyola-Maryland 46 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Boston U 48 FINAL
Colgate 58
Coll of Charleston 58 FINAL
James Madison 107
Delaware 76 FINAL
Elon 77
Drexel 58 FINAL
Northeastern 42
Hofstra 75 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 76
Towson 56 FINAL
William & Mary 68
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Akron 67
Ball State 85 FINAL
Central Michigan 69
Buffalo 55 FINAL
Bowling Green 47
Western Mich 65 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 74
Ohio U 69 FINAL
Kent State 56
Youngstown St 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 73
Illinois-Chicago 54 FINAL
Wright State 74
Alabama 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Detroit 60 FINAL
Milwaukee 56
Purdue 58 FINAL
Wisconsin 56
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