At 39, Chris Metzger is much too young to have ever used any of the antique weapons being shared at Sunday’s antique arms show in Freeport.
But that doesn’t mean it didn’t bring back memories.
“My grandfather got me started at a very young age,” Metzger said of his collection of military and historical memorabilia, which he described as slowly taking over his Rocky Point home.
His first acquisition were bayonets passed down from his grandfather, who brought them home from the Pacific, where he was stationed on a minesweeper during World War II.
At the show, Metzger was happy to show off his newest purchase - a handcrafted model of a German U-boat, created by a German prisoner of war in Elmira, N.Y. during World War II. Metzger bought it from Tom Flanagan, a fellow member of the Long Island Antique Historical Arms Society, the organization hosting the show at the Freeport Recreation Center.
To Metzger, the model boat represented a lot. Historically, it’s a glimpse of how prisoners of war in America spent their days. Personally, it triggered memories of his childhood, when his grandfather would build him model airplanes.
“To think about all the work that was put into this,” he said. “It’s amazing. This wasn’t made on an assembly line and boxed up.”
Like most members of the society, Metzger said the show on Sunday is less about guns and weapons and more about history. Collectors and enthusiasts have an insatiable appetite for the stories behind each of the items they display, and shows give them the opportunity to share their finds and their knowledge with others.
John Fucci, 72, of East Meadow, was displaying his collection of French pistols from the 1700s and American-made Winchesters from the late 1800s, or “the gun that won the West.”
“There’s a whole club of people who just collect Winchesters,” said Fucci, who is president of the arms society. “This is America’s gun.”
Taking each long-barreled gun out of its stand to show off the craftmanship, Fucci explained the details of each with the practiced knowledge of an art historian. He pointed out ornate medal work on a pistol that signified it must have been worked on in the Middle East, where that type of decoration was standard. He picked up a French pistol, made in 1740, and pointed out the gold overlay on its barrel.
“That would have been for royalty only,” he said.
The only question left unanswered, Fucci said, was the same one that would be asked about each of the items on display that day - “so how did it get here?”
David Gruner, 69, of Riverhead, organizes the arms shows three times a year for the society and is a collector himself. He said gun clubs and enthusiasts can sometimes get a bad wrap from people concerned about modern weapons and violence, but that behind each collection is someone who is very concerned with keeping this country’s history alive.
“The people that helped form this country are no longer with us,” he said. “But these are things that they’ve left behind. They are physical remnants of our past, and that’s what this is all about.”
Pictured above: A gun is shown at an antique arms show hosted by the Long Island Antique Historical Arms Society at the Freeport Recreation Center. (Feb. 27, 2011)