Saturday, February 26, 2005

A Mild Disappointment--Internet Sales

This week Bill and I had a minor disappointment. Sigh. First, I have to set the stage for you.

The other day a blogger attended a gun show and met a firearms dealer from Amherst, New Hampshire. This dealer had a nice display of old Colts and other guns. The blogger had picked up the dealer's card, but couldn't find it and sent Ten Ring an e-mail asking for information since we live in New Hampshire.

We'd never heard of this dealer. We hit the Yellow Pages and couldn't find him. We did a Google search for gun stores in Amherst and no luck.

We were nonplussed. We've been to a lot of gun stores, but here was a dealer we'd never heard of, in a town that is a ten-minute drive from our World Headquarters. Needless to say, our surprise was immense. Could it be we'd left a stone unturned, a gun store unvisited? Perish the thought.

Then, the blogger found the dealer's address and website and e-mailed it to us. We went there and saw guns, accouterments and accessories galore. There were old guns, new guns, military guns, hunting guns, good prices, and good quality. While we scrolled through the merchandise lists we could only say, "Wow, just wow."

Don't get me wrong, some stores have more guns, some even have better prices, but here was a store named "Down East Antiques" that's only a few minutes away from us. And, on a road we've driven down a hundred times, but we've never seen it. And, they had guns that we want to add to our collection.

Hmmm...maybe we'd not found it since it had "Antiques" in the name and not "Guns." Time for a personal contact.

I called Down East Antiques. No answer. I left an e-mail on Thursday asking about store hours and impatiently waited for that friendly chime telling me a new e-mail was in my mailbox. It came yesterday. I had a frisson of anticipation as I opened and read it. "What," said I, "no store hours. Internet and gun show sales only. Aaaarrrrgghhhh." Oh, I felt crushing waves of disappointment, hurled small objects into the computer screen, and ranted spit-flecked expletives. Then, I told Bill and he experienced pains that Hamlet had not.

Okay, I'm exaggerating, but we were mildly disappointed. We'll do business with, just like we do business with other Internet gun outlets. But, its not the same.

Speaking for myself, I like walking into a store and peering at guns in their glass cases. I like to smell gun oil and that faint hint of nitrates clinging to guns. I like to pick up a gun and feel cold steel and warm wood beneath my fingers. I like to open the actions and peer into bores lit with a small light. I like to do a quick and careful field strip and look at internal parts. I like to look at nicks and scratches that are mute evidence of everyday wear and use--part of a gun's history and worthy of preservation. I like a serendipitous find where I turn to Bill and say, "Look what they have! I've been wanting one of those."

Internet sales give you variety and access to firearms, or antiques, or books, or even Beanie Babies that you'd never have otherwise. Internet sites are wonderful tools for collectors, but it's just not the same. A cold search engine reduces the chance of a purely serendipitous find. Pictures no matter how generous (and the site is very generous with pictures) can't replace physically examining a firearm. And, that feeling you get roaming down an aisle of racked military rifles can never be captured on a website.

So, that's our disappointment. Minor, but still sad. Time to curl up with a book and a teddy bear and drown my sorrows in a cup of cocoa. I'm not sure what Bill is going to do.

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