Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Legendary Gun Dealer Passes

Marty Mandall died this morning. He was 81.

Marty got out of the army, and started in the gun business in the 60s, back in his native Brooklyn. In 1974 he lifted his business whole, and moved it to old town Scottsdale; one of the first big gun stores in the area, and the only one in Old Town.

I knew Marty pretty well, and he was a character. I was a Mandalls customer, then a friend of the family, then an employee.

I helped shut the store down in 2004; in one of the biggest auctions of class III and rare and unusual firearms in years... of course it was also one of the biggest collections of cheap pre'68 European pocket pistols ever as well...

... because that was Marty Mandall.

Marty really was a legend... for both good and bad reasons. As a business owner he was a disaster. Marty was, to put it gently, nuts. He mostly hired fellow nutjobs and malcontents to work there.

He had a casual disregard for safety, accounting, record keeping, following the rules in general.

He also loved life. Every minute.

Marty would cheat you. Straight up. He wasn't exactly greedy, and there wasn't any malice in it... it wasn't even about the money; it's just that he thought of the whole thing as a game. As far as he was concerned if he skinned you raw, it's because you didn't play the game well enough.

On the other hand, if you did, you could get some spectacular deals (and I did).

Marty ran the shop more as his own private collection than as a business. On the guns that he particularly liked, he would set the prices so high that no-one would want to pay them, so he could just keep the thing, stare at it and fondle it.

Either that, or he'd buy 10, or 20, or 50 of the things; without regard as to whether he could sell them or not.

When we shut the shop down, we had over 200 $2000 plus Hammerli target pistols. In fact, for years, Marty was Hammerlis only importer in the united states; and was their number one dealer all through the 70s and most of the 80s.

In direct contrast to his other business practices, he donated a bunch of pistols to olympic shooting clubs, and jr. marksmanship teams.

A friend of mine is a former IDF sniper. He came to the U.S. in the mid 70s with his American wife; and they had no place to live. Marty put them up for a few months while they got their feet under them.

Marty donated a great deal of money and goods to support Israel; something most people never knew.

He would buy the absolute craziest things. When we cleaned out the store to get ready for the auction, we found hundreds of pairs of rubber waders... as in wade into a river waders. Thousands of left handed holsters. Hundreds of GI 1911 hammers in their original packaging.

In the same case, we had $3000 swarovski scopes, and $30 swift ones.

We had dozens of these $3,000 swiss target rifles. Marty loved 'em but we only ever sold one in the entire history of the store.

He bought dozens of these special editions, collectors editions, commemorative editions; some worth thousands, some worth... basically nothing.

On the other side of things, he bought dozens of these truly awful Turkish shotguns, which were only good as wall hangers.

He loved gold plated pimp guns.

He loved screwing with peoples minds.

He loved dirty jokes, and bad puns, and single entendre, and slapstick.

He had rather severe obsessive compulsive disorder; but hid it from everyone until it got out of hand toward the end of his life. It was the driving force behind his collecting mania, and yes it was a mania (hundreds of rubber waders remember)

Marty was one of the last of the breed... for good or ill; and the world is poorer for this loss.