Numbers down, but show a success

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January 27, 2016 2:14 PM

Author and gun dealer Wilf E. Pyle stands with his wife by their exhibit on Winchester trapping rifles at the Gun and Sportsman Show on Sunday. The exhibit was designed to show the contrasting features of Winchester trapping rifles over the decades.

The Lloydminster and District Fish and Game Association (LDFGA) had its annual Gun and Sportsman Show over the weekend, and despite some expected low numbers, organizers said it was a success.
Larry Chambers, treasurer with the LDFGA, said the event had 1,655 people visit the event on Saturday, which is only slightly less than then last year, which saw 1,800 on the opening day.
“We kind of expected with the economic conditions it would be down a bit, and it is a little, but not significantly; we’ll see how it goes today,” he said at the show on Sunday.
“Other than that we do have probably more vendors than we’ve ever had, we’ve got a pretty good variety of stuff for sale.”
Among the variety were firearms in all shapes and sizes, bullet collections, marine items, clothing and pieces of art shaped from sheet metal.
Les Short of Northern Lights Metal Art had a cross section of pieces on display depicting different animals, flowers, cowboys and regular signage that were all up for sale.
This year was Short’s fifth or sixth time at the show, he couldn’t put his finger on the exact amount of appearances, with his business that’s been running nearly as long.
“It started off as a hobby and that lasted about two weeks,” he said, adding that as people saw his work demand began to grow.
“I started off small, I was just going to do it for myself and a few friends, but people saw it and wanted to buy it.”
Short said when he started making the metal art he began with around $20,000 worth of equipment, but his operation expanded and now he has upwards of $100,000 in gear needed to make his creations.
The majority of his pieces are made with rural tastes in mind so he avoids what he calls the “artsy – fartsy” stuff that may appeal to aficionados from a city centre. 
“I also have to think, what do I bring to a show like this? What’s going to sell? And I tend to stick with stuff that rural people would like, so it’s mainly rural people I cater to.”
This will be the last year Short is at the helm of Northern Lights Metal Art because he’s selling out to a younger couple that will take over the bulk of the operation.
He said he’ll stay on board to sell for the couple though, so keep an eye out for Short at next year’s event.
Not all the exhibits were just for show, however, with author and gun dealer Wilf Pyle having a table set up to show the contrast between old and new Winchester trapper rifles.
He said Winchester made rifles for trappers in the 1900s and 1920s, but beginning around 1979 they started making a modern model, which was especially popular when it came out.
“Of course Winchester closed in 2005-06 so that particular model ceased to exist,” said Pyle.
“So what I’ve done here is put down a collection of various trapping models - different calibers, different sizes of cartridge, different cartridge types, different designs.”
His display had rifles made between ‘79 and ‘05 and he pointed to the trigger safeties as an example of contrasting elements that came out through the years.
One of the rifles used a cross-bolt safety, while another used what is called a “tang” safety mechanism, and then the earliest of these models used a half-cock on the gun’s hammer to ensure against accidental firing.
“So we have a contrast of the three and as time went on you were able to add features,” he said, gesturing to the top of the gun where an owner may want to add a scope sight.
“In the early ones you couldn’t mount a scope, on the modern ones you can, I put together the contrast, that’s what I was trying to show.”
So with all of the contrasting features between older and modern models, which one is the best?
Well that comes down to a matter of preference, according to Pyle.
He said one camp will insist modern rifles are superior in terms of wood quality, gluing and metal used to make the guns compared to turn-of-the-century models.
The other argument is that the older guns involved less machining, providing more hand work done in the rifles’ assembly, which is an attractive aspect to others.
“Some prefer that,” he said.
“It’s a matter of personal choice.”

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