I like to be sold.
I like to walk into a clothing store, a car lot, a wine store, real estate office, bar or restaurant and watch a knowledgeable professional salesperson move me towards what I should want, not what I asked for. There is something comforting knowing a class of careerists listen in an effort to search for proper underlying context in an attempt to service their clients. I gladly pay an extra 10-15% as tribute to these much maligned and ever disappearing artists. Call it a form of consumer therapy in these dark and trying times. So as I walked around the Phoenix Coliseum through the various booths that made up the Arizona Gun Show, I hoped to find such an individual.
My goal: find a Mannlicher Carcano rifle similar to the one ‘used’ by Lee Harvey Oswald in the Kennedy Assassination. The helpful folks at Legendary Guns told me this open air gun market in the former home of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns would be the best place to start. Oswald used a 6.5m 91/38 but since November 23, 1963, those rifles have become major pieces for gun collectors. The average selling price for this caliber Carcano ranges anywhere from $325-$10,000 depending on the condition of the weapon thus rendering it cost prohibitive for a writer on a budget. I was hoping a replica or close in caliber Carcano in the $170-$185 range.
Initially luck was not on my side.
The first group of 10 booths were selling handguns, bayonets and military issue body armor, not a rifle to be found. The next 10 were just about the same except they sold ammunition and knives as well. The third group sold rifles but they were old Winchesters and other Wild West era guns. Finally near the closed off team entrance to the gym floor, I found several antique rifles including a 7.35m 91/38 Carcano. I pulled up a picture of Oswald’s rifle on my phone and could see I had found an (near) exact match.
Unfortunately, the booth operator was nowhere to be found. “He’ll be back in a minute,” the Captain Kangaroo looking salesman-selling police badges and knives two booths down said. Ten minutes later, I was still waiting for the booth man to come over and talk price. Captain Kangaroo offered to go get his neighbor for me if I watched his merchandise.
I glared at the various people with holstered weapons and shoulder slung cannons as they fingered the Captains knives and admired his genuine Tombstone era lawman badges while I wondered what had become of the modern salesman. It’s sales 101 whether you’re behind a bar or trying to move old paperback copies of On the Road on Second Avenue: be where the customer can easily reach you. Questions need to be answered, objections overcome, prices negotiated.
Just as my annoyance level reached it’s New York peak, a 6’5” 320 mammoth in a bright red shirt and khaki slacks came behind me. Obviously this man couldn’t sell. He walked away from his inventory, leaving no proxy to sell his stock. Obviously, I was dealing with an inferior salesperson: one who could be had. I anticipated an easy time talking him down from the sticker price of $200. He was a hick from the sticks, a denizen of the Wild West who flunked Horse Trading. Game on. I asked him to tell me about his Carcano. “It’s a Kennedy Killer son.”
Sold American for $200.