Annual Easter show features more than 800 tables at BMO Centre

 This year’s Easter weekend will mark the 50th anniversary of the Calgary gun show – the city’s largest exposition of firearms, military collectables, firearm awareness exhibits and educational displays. 

 Bob Heath, a firearm and military memorabilia collector, has been going to the Easter gun show for about 15 years. One of the things that keeps him coming back every year is its size and the variety of people that visit the event.

“It’s getting bigger; there’s more of a diverse attendance in terms of the people you see, people of all walks of life,” Heath said. “You see plumbers, carpenters, engineers, doctors, farmers and hunters.”

As a military collector, Heath doesn’t really go to the show to buy firearms; he likes to look for military artifacts that he can add to his collection.

“There are uniforms, bugles, pictures, plaques and all kinds of interesting things to see,” Heath said.

He recalled one of his greatest finds being an 1876 Canadian Red Ensign flag – which flew over Canada from the mid-to-late 1800s to 1965 – an artifact Heath believes to be a very valuable piece of Canadian history. 

“As soon as I saw it, I knew how valuable it was,” Heath said. “I didn’t pay much, the guy only wanted $15 for it, but he didn’t understand the significance and the age of the flag.” Various exhibits at the annual event.
Photo courtesy of: AACCA

The Alberta Arms and Cartridge Collectors Association – a non-profit organization also known as AACCA – co-ordinates the annual event.

Hank Holm, AACCA president, said this year’s show will be bigger and better, featuring more than 800 exhibition tables.

There won’t be a big celebration for the 50th anniversary, but there will be many new exhibits, two of which are a detailed, inflatable T-80 Russian tank and a genuine armoured personnel carrier.

Shows in previous years have featured many interesting people and entrepreneurs, Holm said.

“We have a guy come from Kenya – an artist – and he comes to sell his product. He paints wildlife scenes on leather.”

Holm also said that there are events to promote firearm safety and awareness while still making it fun and entertaining for younger groups.

The Alberta Hunter Education Instructors Association hosts the main educational exhibit.

The association has been participating in the Calgary gun show for about 40 years. Its main table features a laser-training booth where youth, or adults, can sit with an instructor with real deactivated firearms, and learn how to safely handle them.

The booth also incorporates the use of video games, where the participant can shoot virtual targets while receiving instruction.

“Basically it’s a start-to-finish training session for youth or adults that have never fired or handled a firearm, so they learn how to control the firearm safely and use it effectively,” said Bob Gruszecki, president of AHEIA.

The 50th annual Calgary gun show takes place April 6 and 7 at the BMO Centre. For more information, visit calgarygunshow.com.

rkadri@cjournal.ca