BENNINGTON — Charlie Jewett retired from his career this summer and moved to Old Bennington, something he said he wished he'd done 30 years ago. Now he and his partner are the proud owners of the Bennington Armory gun store on Main Street.
A diverse selection lines both sides of the store walls, from antique to target shooters. A round table sits in the middle of the store to encourage conversation and coffee, Jewett said. He's been collecting guns most of his life and opened the shop to get rid of the collection of a friend who had passed away. The partner, Peter Laplante, is also a "gun nut" but specializes in surplus: military accessories, clothes, backpacks and random war memorabilia.
"Vermont has the best gun laws in the country. It has constitutional carry," Jewett said. "Yes they lean to the left, but they also want to be left alone. Freedom seems to be paramount. It's just a different feel here. I feel free."
The two opened up shop about a week ago and have since had a positive experience, Jewett said.
"I've been collecting all my life," he said. "I figured I'd get rid of my collection. It's always been a dream of mine to go to Europe for buying trips. I want to go to Switzerland. I want to go to England. I love Swiss and English guns. Maybe fill up a container, bring them back here and sell them."
Jewett got his first gun at 5 years old – a 410 shotgun from his grandfather. The partners have shot in NRA (National Rifle Association of America) smallbore rifle competitions for years.
"I've always liked antique guns and well-made target rifles, things like that," Jewett said. "Most gun shops you walk into are loaded with plastic guns. There's probably only a dozen guns in here that are less than 50 years old."
All guns on display are ones Jewett collected, but pistols in the front counter casing belonged to his friend who passed.
He predicts most retail to occur online, but hopes to make it "a destination for Bennington."
A staple for the store is a tiger displayed in the front window that was killed after attacking people in a village in India in the 1930s by a man in Schenectady, N.Y.
Jewett admires Vermont for its loose gun laws and mentioned that states with stricter gun control have high rates of crime.
"I'm pro gun and pro second amendment. All you have to do is look at the parts of the country where they have the most gun control and that's also the areas with the most crime," he said. "If you create a bigger pool of victims, you'll see a bigger pool of predators. That's just the way it is. Most of the shootings that do happen are in gun-free zones. Law abiding people will obey that but the predators don't. I think an armed society makes for a polite society."
The gun collector said he wishes there was an establishment in the area where children could be educated on proper gun safety. He said he thinks children should be taught at an early age what to do when confronted with a gun. Jewett taught his children at 5 years old how to open a gun, make sure it's empty and to not point it in a dangerous direction.
Jewett used to restore buildings for a living and lived in Troy. In December, he and his wife sold their house and moved to Old Bennington.
The Bennington Armory is located at 445 Main St. and is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. It's motto is "old guns bought, sold, traded and talked about." Call 802-753-7482 for more information.
Contact Makayla McGeeney at 802-490-6471.