The Insider’s Guide to an Alaskan Gun Show


Keep your hand on your gun,
Don’t trust anyone.
There’s only one kind of man you can trust
he’s a dead man
or a gringo like me.

– Ennio Morricone, “A gringo like me”

I need an AR-15.

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Let me rephrase that. I need to pay for law school tuition. I need replace the timing belt in my car. I need to finally finish reading “Infinite Jest”, this book stopper. I want to an AR-15 – right now. It’s not so much a need, in the sense of Maslow’s hierarchy, but a need, in the sense “this thing is awesome to shoot and it’s more accurate than the Chinese SKS I’ve been rocking since 2020”.

I shot my buddy’s Bushmaster in the woods, and with every faint tinkle guided by a red lead dot of Wolf .223 ammunition on the steel gong we had set up 150 yards away, I knew I was needed – that I wanted – one.

So I decided, in my infinite wisdom, to participate in the gun show.

The Mat-Su Veterans Gun Show is held annually in Anchorage, and it serves as a gathering point for gun nuts, vets, and war surplus enthusiasts to drop in and return old guns. of surplus complacency, growling of approval or disapproval at the condition of a wooden butt or a worn bolt. Here, AR-15s rub shoulders with M1 Garands, rusty bayonets share table space with “Authentic! Ka-Bar sailor knife! Like Rambo!” and dusty ammo boxes are lined up or displayed piecemeal, like artifacts from another America.

Naturally, I like it, and I get into the habit of going to everyone.

I brought a (non-crazy) friend with this one, and as she opens the passenger door of my Suburban (which still smells slightly fishy, ​​due to a Kenai-related cooler accident), I try to give him an idea of ​​what to expect.

“There are a lot of things, and a lot of them are going to be overpriced,” I explain as I cross the parking lot. “The gun show can be vicious, man, I’m telling you.”

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“At least there’s a food truck,” she said. And indeed there are, parked just outside the venue, decked out in a grinning otter.

” Firearms ? asks the smiling counter clerk outside the front door, and I respond by shaking my head. “Well,” he laughed, putting my five dollars in an overflowing crate, “I don’t know if you knew that, but there’s a whole lot for sale in there.” Non-Gun-Nut Friend and I laugh dutifully. It’s a good joke, delivered with well-honed timing. I’ll give it to him. We are each given a red raffle ticket, for draws throughout the day. I don’t have a clue what’s being drawn, but it adds to the appeal.

The venue is filled with plastic folding card tables, the kind I might have skipped after a particularly vicious game of beer pong a few months ago (but now I’m an adult with an adult job). Each table is lined with guns, ammo boxes, old military surplus and hundreds of other assorted items. It’s more of a swap meet than a gun show, with stalls selling hand-knit earrings and scarves, fly rods and fishing gear that appears to be older than ‘Eisenhower, and a whole table for homemade jerky.

“Well, it’s a good show to buy, but not a lot to sell this year,” a salesman wearing a US Marines baseball cap laments loudly to a fellow, adjusting a rack of guns. We enter the crowded room.

“$750 for an SKS?” I said quietly to my friend. “Are you shitting me?”

“Is it a lot? she asks. He is. Gun prices seem to have risen steadily since Joe Biden was elected in 2020, and even before that when COVID sent everyone into a paranoid tailspin. Prices at gun shows have always been a bit extortionate – in fact, in gun circles there’s a running joke about the older gentleman who refuses to lower the price of his gun rack. old M1 Garands or 1911 .45s. “No offers – I know what I got, son!”

Now inflation has also affected the prices of guns, as well as gasoline, groceries and just about everything else. But people still want guns. And so, $750 for a Chinese SKS, which was once available in barrel for $100 a gun. The days of cheap and plentiful weapon surpluses from the communist bloc are over. Going through table after table of gear, I realize there’s no way I’m picking up an AR here for less than $700.

That’s fine – I really only came to kill on a windy, rainy afternoon, and maybe pick up some cheap ammo for my 10mm. The AR can wait.

” 10 millions ? a salesman scoffs as I examine a box of 180 grain bales. “I don’t know if I’d trust this for my bear gun – maybe if I had nothing else with me…” Considering I packed a Smith & Wesson 10mm in a holster of chest all summer across bear country isn’t exactly the most heartening thing to hear, but opinions about guns abound. Everyone seems to have one. The wheelgun guys swear by a few big .44 or .454 hogleg bullets, while the 10mm crowd hopes more bullets on target will do the job. I am firmly in the latter camp, but, examining a shiny Colt Anaconda revolver chambered in .44 mag, I confess to myself that revolvers have more sex appeal.

“What do you think?” I ask my friend as I touch the price of an Old-West style single-action revolver. “Can I pull off the cowboy look with this and a hat?” She laughs, which I take to mean no, and puts down her gun.

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Dry Gas Walker

Eventually, I’m making my first (and only) purchase of the show – a book by Larry Kaniut about bear encounters in Alaska called “Some Bears Kill”. It’s for my dad, who adores these books, and who loves reading aloud particularly macabre passages even more: “The grizzly tore my face, ripping out my eye and leaving the skin hanging down in a bloody curtain . I clapped my hand over my mouth, only to find my jaw was gone and my teeth were shattered like seashells. Etc.

We slowly make our way to the back of the great hall, chatting with the vendors about prices from time to time. After hemming and chopping, my friend ends up buying a blue butterfly knife and swinging it in a few test strokes. I tell her she should try getting into some Mortal Kombat-style street fighting with it. A guy recognizes the jacket I’m wearing as Swiss Alpenflage camo and compliments my taste for semi-dark camo blends.

“I love everything the Swiss have ever done, man!”
“It’s a weird little country,” I’m of the opinion, “but they’re doing good things.”

Intermittently, the loudspeaker blared on the muffled chatter calling for a raffle ticket number – “801 please come to the front of the room? 801?” I’m still checking my ticket, and it’s turns out it’s never the right one. I haven’t won a raffle since the grand opening of the West Marine on Dimond in 7th grade, where my ticket won me a life jacket to inflate. My stash of luck for life ran out by the time I was 12, it seems.

Everywhere are old .30-40 Krags, 8mm Mausers, the ubiquitous Ruger 10/22s that pop up like roaches in every gun safe in the world, Glock 19s, shotguns from Countless makes and calibers, and sprinkled like hidden treasures, AK47s polished and oiled to perfection, with price tags to match. The gun you can get – no kidding – for three chickens in Afghanistan costs more than a grand here. That’s life.

Signs and apparel here reflect the distinctly Republican bent of the gun show crowd — an entire booth is dedicated to “Let’s Go Brandon” and Thin Blue Line merchandising, from flags to stickers to koozies from beer. Elsewhere, one of the vendors is listening to a Trump speech at full blast from a portable speaker, so the ex-president’s words seem to come from everywhere and nowhere as you pass the booth. “Let’s get our police back there, get our drug dealers off the streets…..”

One of the stalls, selling a variety of handguns, has a sign that adds 5% each to the price of “Upside down hat, baggy pants, body piercings, ugly tattoos, and purple or orange hair”. Any combination of three or more of the above, depending on the sign, will result in “No Sale”. This, I point out to my friend, seems quite a hard line to take, and just to be contrary, I tip my hat back as I pass.

Eventually, we decide that, barring a sudden rise in bitcoin prices or a long-lost relative who stumbles and dies, none of us are going to spend any more money. I’ve long debated buying a cheap truck gun to throw in the glove compartment, but that’s a buy for later. As we leave, I hear a snippet of a conversation between two salesmen – “And then I thought, should I stab him or massage him?” and realize that I probably don’t want to listen anymore.

Every time I attend an event like this – gun show, shooting with friends, hunting trip – I think in the end I will have a better understanding of my relationship with guns fire or weapons in general. In an America where the gun has never been so politicized, any writing that touches on guns, even tangentially, seems compelled to speak a higher truth. About Capital G Gun as a paradigm, as a tool, as a political bargaining chip.

But I didn’t come to a higher truth at the gun show today. Guns are pretty cool; I grew up around them and I think the constitutional right to manage them is pretty much essential. As far as higher truth goes, I don’t think you can do much better than that.

But I’ll be damned if I pay $40 a box for 10mm ammo, I’ll tell you what.

Jacob Hersh was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. He recently earned a degree in political science from Washington State University. He’s back in Alaska to take a year off before going to law school. He was described as neurotic, emotionally distant and unhealthily obsessed with national politics – all by the same person.


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