Trade show embraces frontier spirit

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Jim Jaskoviak holds an antique double-barrel shotgun. This firearm was produced in England over 150 years ago. Jaskoviak said it was the weapon that won the West. It allowed families to hunt squirrels, rabbits and birds with ease. Over a century later this firearm is still in working order.

NEW ULM — Last night’s snowfall did not affect the second day of the Trade Fair and History Event at Turner Hall.

Frontier enthusiasts continued to sell their wares and educate the public on frontier-era living.

When the Trade Show first came to New Ulm 37 years ago the show emphasized black powder rifles, and today this is still a major part of the show.

Several vendors have antique style flint-lock rifles for sale. Some of the firearms are modern replicas while others are collectible antiques.

The Iowa Black Powder Federation (IBPF) is a mainstay at the trade show. The group has been coming to the show for decades. Jim Jaskoviak got involved in the group because it merged two of his hobbies: hunting and history.

“Once these two things collided I lost interest in modern firearms,” Jaskoviak said.

The IBPF focuses on traditional black-powder firearms. They will not feature any firearms made after 1840. Jaskoviak said after 1840 the industrial revolution began and the rifles were mass-produced. IBPF sees this as the end of the frontier era.

IBPF sells and collects two type of frontier era rifles, the flint-locks and the percussion cap rifles. The flint-lock models used black powder, which was ignited with a piece of flint. This firearm was not as efficient as the percussion-cap rifle, which started being produced in 1820, but frontiersmen preferred the flint-lock rifles.

Jaskoviak said that in the frontier days if you needed to replace the flint, it could be easily found in nature. The percussion caps could only be found in stores, which were uncommon and possibly non-existent the farther west a person traveled.

It was not until the 1850s the percussion-cap rifles became common in America.

Another of the benefits of the old-fashioned rifles was their durability. Jaskoviak has several antique rifles, some that are over 150 years old, that will still fire to this day. Jaskoviak has a working rifle that is a combination of two separate firearms. The stock is from a flint-lock rifle that was rebuilt with a percussion-cap barrel. After test-firing the combination weapon, he found it to be accurate to 25 yards.

The sale of firearms in the United States continues to be controversial subject, but the antique firearms are rarely a concern. Jaskoviak said at best the firearms he collects and sells could fire is two rounds a minute. The biggest restriction for these frontier-era rifles is “refueling” them.

Jaskoviak said the black powder used in each rifles is heavily regulated. It is considered an explosive and is a highly corrosive substance, which is why the rifles need to be cleaned after every round fired.

If a black powder gun is not cleaned immediately, the barrel will begin to deteriorate within a day. For these reasons the ancient firearms are not exactly the weapon of choice for criminals.

Since the trade fair is held each year in March, it is always a gamble whether the weather will hold out. Event organizer Mike Emery said last year a snow storm hit on the second day and the event needed to close down early. The snowfall this year was not enough to turn anyone away.

The New Ulm Trade Fair is one of several statewide frontier-themed events, but the New Ulm Trade Fair is special because it is typically the first one of the season. As the temperatures warm and the snow melts, hobbyists will have even more opportunities to embrace the frontier spirit.


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