Gun buff heaven

16 August 2004
By Matthew Schulz

Enough guns to stage a coup filled the Melbourne Showgrounds in Ascot Vale for the quarterly Arms and Collectable show late last month. But not a shot was fired. Event organiser and antique weapons dealer Roland Martyn said collectors would never dare fire any of the hundreds of rare arms. The weapons included 18th century duelling or officers' pistols from the time of Captain Cook and Australia's gold rush, rifles brought here from America's wild west, and World War I and II relics.

"Many of them work, but there's no way you'd try it, they're too valuable and irreplaceable," he said.

The risks of destroying the antique or serious injury was reduced by the fact that bona fide collectors kept pieces without ammunition. "Some of these are just superb pieces of workmanship, many of them family heirlooms," Mr Martyn said.

About 2500 visitors from across the country visited 130 exhibitors' displays of: ceremonial swords, replica armour; memorabilia collected by Aussie diggers in several wars, including medals, flags and souvenirs; and unusual weapons fit for a super spy, such as a single-shot rifle hidden in a cane.

Not that anyone was taking any chances. The show is the biggest of its type in Australia, with metal detectors and security guards strategically positioned at the Government Pavilion.

Modern weapons including handguns, target pistols, and hunting rifles were also for sale. Mr Martin stressed that every person buying met stringent licence checks.

He said gun and militaria collectors remained very concerned about the effect of new Victorian weapons laws on their ability to hold rare weapons.

Antique and Historical Arms Collectors Guild president Gordon Morgan, near his display of early Victorian police arms, said such weapons were highly prized for markings that made it possible to trace a weapon's past.

He said the guild was lobbying Victoria to exempt such muzzle-loading revolvers from the new laws, in line with New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

"They're treating this in the same way as a modern magnum pistol, and the rest of the world think we're nuts," Mr Morgan said. "Australian arms collectors don't want to be fingerprinted, apply for new licences, have back-to base-alarms, and bars on the windows. It's ridiculous."

Mr Morgan said the likely alternative was to lose valuable pieces of Australian history to overseas collectors.

"We want to show the Government they've got a lot to lose," he said.

This article can be found in the Leader, Moonee Valley Gazette, Monday, 16 August 2004.

© Copyright 2005 The Antique and Historical Arms Collectors Guild of Victoria. All rights reserved.