Not Your Daddy's Deer Rifle
Ann Arbor Arms preaches self-defense
by Sally Mitani
Zingerman's is everywhere this month: when a reporter walked into the new Ann Arbor Arms store on Jackson in September, the man behind the counter was wearing a "Camp Bacon" T-shirt.
Its wearer, Bobby Thompson, is an Iraq war vet, an expert on firearms, and the store's ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) compliance manager. And though Thompson himself hasn't actually been to Zingerman's three-day annual bacon fest, his wife, C.C., is a manager at Zingerman's Roadhouse.
Ann Arbor Arms--"or A3, as we like to say," says store owner Holli Pinon--opened in September, tucked into a small strip mall next to the Arthur Murray dance studio. Pinon (pronounced Pin-yon), who owns the store with her husband, Bill, emphasizes that it's not just a gun store, but has a broader mission: "a combination of personal defense, protection, emergency preparedness, and survival," which also describes their life history. "My husband grew up in Oregon in a military family. He's always been around guns. We lived in Florida for twenty years, and we've had to be in tune with hurricanes and preparedness. Then coming up here we realized Michigan has the same needs because of ice storms, blizzards, [heat waves], anything that's going to knock the power out."
The Pinons built a classroom upstairs where they'll be doing firearms training, including classes for CPLs [concealed pistol licenses]. "In addition to that, we'll be doing survival and emergency preparedness classes, basic defense classes, situational awareness, how to protect yourself."
Pinon knows "survival" is a loaded concept, freighted with not only political connotations but various goofball ones. The threats her store is equipped to deal with "could be anything--as absurd as zombies, EMP [electromagnetic pulse], or financial crisis, to just the [heat wave] we had this summer where people didn't have electricity for three days. Zombies are not a major concern of mine. We're a little tongue-in-cheek on the zombies and EMP, but, well, maybe not so much on the financial crisis." In October,
the zombies were perhaps having more of an airing than usual--gruesome rubber zombies are popular year-round for target practice, but they also make good Halloween window dressing.
On the preparedness front, the back half of the store looks a good deal like REI, with water filtration systems, hand warmers, glow sticks, flashlights, emergency blankets, compasses, freeze-dried food, and many-pocketed clothing. And crossing into Sons of Anarchy territory, a large selection of Buffs, that versatile tubular head- and neckwear favored by the show's outlaw cyclists. But "the rifles and shotguns we carry are designed for home defense use," says Thompson, "rather than sporting use."
"They look scarier than they are," says Holli, noting that the weapons are semi-, rather than fully, automatic--they fire one shot each time the trigger is pulled. But unmellowed by polished wood or even graceful arabesques of forged steel, models like the "Black Rain Ordnance AR 15" sure do look scary. Made mostly of black polymer, often with hollow, triangular stocks and pistol grips, they could have come straight out of a war-themed video game.
Thompson recommends a shotgun for home defense rather than a handgun. "You hear that sound of a pump-action shotgun shell being racked, and you know what it is," he explains. "The sound alone is a deterrent." (And if you're just looking for that sound, you don't even need the gun. "There's an app for that!" Holli and Thompson both say at the same time--available online, not through their store.)
Thompson and Pinon don't always recommend guns. "The first day we were open, a gentleman came in and asked for a recommendation for his daughter who was going off to Michigan State," Thompson says. "My recommendation was for her not to have a firearm or a Taser, but to go through a 'Refuse to Be a Victim' course."
Ann Arbor Arms, 5060 Jackson Road, 531-6650. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m.
[Originally published in November, 2012.]