Barrels of fun: The Saugerties gun show

(Photo by David Gordon)

(Photo by David Gordon)

In the weeks leading up to the gun show held last weekend at Kiwanis Ice Arena, residents debated whether it was appropriate to hold such an event just down the street from the junior/senior high school. But by the time the sun dawned on a beautiful Father’s Day weekend, the controversy was forgotten, and hundreds of attendees came out to revel in the fine craftsmanship of all manner of weapons and enjoy the company of those who share their passion.

The event featured many firearms and ammunition, but also a variety of knives, camping equipment, posters and clothing. Parts, such as barrel assemblies and firing mechanisms, were also on display along with the complete weapons or at booths specializing in the parts alone.

The show drew some 40 vendors, who purchased a total of 150 tables at a cost of between $60–$72 each, said Cathy Petronis, one of the organizers.


Some came to admire or purchase a collectible old weapon too valuable to shoot. Others had more pragmatic concerns. One attendee, Bob, who declined to give his last name, said he was looking for a weapon to shoot coyotes. “Just look around the edge of town; there are some open fields, and you’ll find them right there,” he said. “The last one I saw was just south of here.”

Chris Zaccheo, of Zaccheo’s Gunsmithing in Tillson, said some of the colorful sporting rifles he had on display are intended to interest more women in hunting or sport shooting. In fact, several dealers had colorfully decorated weapons on display. The selection expanded well beyond black and tan or camo.

Paul Mathewson traveled from New Hampshire to sell his luggage and packs at the show. Worth the trip? “You’ve got to see beautiful areas like this,” he said. “It looks very historic, a lot of the buildings.”

With many knives on sale, a sharpening station was not out of place. Surprisingly, not all the knives people bring for sharpening have been used, said Tim Candlen. “I get a lot of pocket knives, hunting knives, axes and tools,” he said. Some people buy knives and immediately bring them to him for sharpening. “Manufactured sharp is not as consistent as what I do, and it won’t last as long,” he said.

One of the largest knife displays was Zahid Butt’s Damascus steel knives. They’re called Damascus knives because the method — heating, folding and refolding strips of metal — is believed to have originated in Syria, said Butt, the managing director of Elmsford-based Bounish Edge Tools.

Santos Lopez was not displaying weapons. He had military clothing, packs and other military items on display. “We don’t sell a single weapon; we just sell AR-40 chocolate and clothing. We make you look good.”

The AR-40 chocolate is a bar cast in the shape of an AR-40 magazine. “They actually will fit inside a real M4,” he said. “We sent some to Afghanistan, and we have pictures of some of the troops eating them in Afghanistan.”

Would war be more humane if everyone fired chocolate ammunition? Not quite, but perhaps other more durable consumer goods would give the disaffected of other countries something to do and cultivate goodwill toward American culture. “If you want to stop war real quick, you should bombard the country with iPods, Play Stations, magazines and Sports Illustrated,” Lopez said.

Jerry Giardina of Rochester sold backpacks he designed as well as magnifiers and other accessories. He was one of many dealers who did not specialize in firearms.

One dealer, who identified himself only as Jerry,  had several flags bearing the Nazi swastika in his display. The object was not to glorify Nazism, but to ensure that the horror of this belief would not be forgotten. “My father was part of the U.S. forces that liberated Dachau. He said it wasn’t what they show you on TV. I had a salesman that called on me that sold restaurant china and he was a survivor of Auschwitz. He said I should sell this so that people never forget.”

James Masten of North Creek, New York said he sells enough stock to make it worth the trip. “I sell a lot of these, Winchesters,” he said. Most of his weapons are used, as Winchester has gone out of business. His display also contained a number of folding rifles, which are easy to carry, that use .22 long rifle ammunition.

Another collector of older Winchester models, Tim Johnson of West Hurley, said he deals primarily in collectable firearms. “We don’t sell any junk,” he said. “Unfortunately in the United States, the quality is not what it used to be.” He picked up a 1936 Winchester Model 71 Deluxe, which he described as “an investment gun.” Manufactured to sell for about $100, this model can bring in more than $4,000 on today’s market. “The quality of these guns is what makes them so valuable.”

Johnson said he is as interested in buying quality classic weapons as in selling them, and the gun business is not his primary employment. “I have two jobs,” he said. “I work for the county.”

Police Chief Joseph Sinagra said the show was peaceful and orderly and he considered it a great success. There were no reported protests or disruptions throughout the weekend, he said. In fact, he bought a “challenge coin,” originally a coin depicting one of the armed services, now used by many others as collectors’ items. Sinagra said he has about 30 of them.

In general, customers and dealers were forthcoming and ready to discuss their products and interests. Only one dealer refused to discuss his products, saying, “You are not a friendly person as far as I’m concerned. You work for the press. You’re going to spin it.”

While the emphasis was on hunting or collectible weapons, some of the signs offered for sale presented a different impression. Pictures of weapons, many stylized, carried slogans like, “there is nothing here worth dying for,” “Warning, this property is protected by the Good Lord and a gun,” “if you can read this you are in range” and “The average response time of a 911 call is 40 minutes; the response time of a .357 is 1400 feet per second.” A less aggressive sign offered, “if you can read this, thank a teacher; if you can read this in English, thank your military.”