Gun enthusiasts descend on Natchez

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 17, 2008

NATCHEZ — Listening to antique knife and gun collectors and dealers talk about their collections, it’s hard not to be captivated.

The Natchez Bowie Knife Show was a room full of history — wars, revolutions, coups, battles, triumphs and losses — with each weapon having a story to tell.

And the owners of each piece were more than emphatic about doing just that Saturday.

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Tom Power, collector and dealer from Texas, told the story of the Berdan Sharpshooters.

The sharpshooters were a unit in the union army of the Civil War.

The guns they used revolutionized the way wars were fought, Power said.

Before with the old shotgun, it had to be loaded from the front. It was time consuming and a soldier had to stand up to do it.

With the Berden sharpshooter guns, they were loaded quick and easily in the back.

This allowed the soldiers to fire rapidly, but also, they never had to stand up and expose themselves to their enemies. They could stay low to the ground.

“That’s why the tactic changed,” Power said from the way it used to — with opposing soldiers facing each other in a line.

“That’s one of the most important guns in American history,” Power said.

During the Battle of Gettysburg, 30,000 Confederate soldiers were stopped by 125 Berden Sharpshooters, he said.

Dr. Ancel Tipton, collector from Jackson, could tell stories about his knife from Czechoslovakia, or the one from Russia, or Switzerland, or even Romania.

But he’s too tied up talking about his love of a certain kind of knife.

“My interest lies more in military fighting knives or law enforcement knives,” he said.

Especially the Applegate-Fairbairn, a police and military knife.

He has the original model, that’s very dagger like, propped up next to the new sleek modern model for comparison.

Tipton said a knife is an essential back up to a gun, which can run out of bullets, misfire or jam.

A knife is reliable, he said.

The knives of Jason Baldwin, a previous president of the Antique Bowie Knife Association, tell a story of the Indian War, the Civil War and others.

“My passion and focus is an early Bowie knife,” he said listing a timeline of 1830-1855.

For the three men, collecting antique weaponry, whether they do it for fun or a living, has always been in their blood.

For Power, he said he grew up in Boston, Mass., and just because of his location, it was inevitable he would become a history buff.

“It’s my passion,” he said.

He’s been dealing for 30 years, he said.

He’s had an instance where he’s gotten grief over his guns, but he said without them, how we live today wouldn’t be possible.

“Whether you like them or not, you can’t take them out of history,” he said.

Baldwin has been a full-time dealer for seven years, he said, but a collector for life.

“I’m always on a treasure hunt,” he said.

One of the major draws of the convention was half of a coconut shell.

No ordinary coconut shell, it had been fashioned into a ladle that was used by Jim Bowie on the sandbar of that infamous fight.

It was in the possession of Ellis Joubert, collector, who explained that men back then were “men of means.”

“Nothing went to waste back then,” he said.

And when they traveled to the sandbar, which was a remote location, they didn’t just bring themselves they brought supplies.

Joubert also had an old spoon that belonged to the Bowie family.

Silver and heavy with “J.B.” etched on the back, the spoon could be dated back to the very early 1800s, Joubert said.