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What Does it Take to be a Good Gunsmith?
Mr. Denny Crane brought up the subject that good gunsmiths are a Dying Breed. I can't say for sure whether that is really true or not. There are younger men in my area who are gun repairmen. But I've been thinking about the subject since reading his post. What does it take to be a good gunsmith?
First of all, he must be a good businessman. Accurate records are a necessity in the business, even more so in one related to firearms. But as any businessman, he must control costs and overhead. He must understand advertising. The world will not beat a path to his door if it can't be found. He must understand business relations.
Secondly, he must be a master machinist. Gone are the days of files and sledge hammers. Certainly an understanding of hand tools is a must, but he must know how to use machine tools for speed and the precision required. He must know woods and metals. He must understand bluing processes, and welding, soldering, and brazing.
And certainly he must understand firearms, and shooters. The best gunsmiths will turn no one away, whether the customer is bringing in a fine old L.C. Smith, a Holland & Holland Express rifle, an original Kentucky flintlock, a Colt Single Action, or a Gold Cup. He should consider no job too small or benesth his dignity.
Many young people are not willing to buckle down to this discipline today, preferring the fast-buck of working for the other man.
Fortunately I have run across a few of these, and I will continue to praise their work when possible. If you've encountered the same, let it be known.
I think there are "famous" guys to send your gun off to for some severe custom work. But it's nice to have a local guy that can do some simple stuff - sometimes, those are hard to come by. 1 local store by me had a gunsmith for a while (w/ a 2 week backlog before he could even look at it), but they got rid of the whole deal for whatever reason and sold all the tools.
Simple stuff like what? Replace a part? Most guns are pretty easily diagnosed and disassembled so that the owner can do that in an evening.
Every owner should have at his disposal a machinist's vise, correct screwdrivers, drifts and a soft faced mallet. Doesn't require a shop, just kitchen-table gunsmithing.
Putting on new sights - changing a firing pin - trigger job.
Sorry, but I have no vise at my home. Other than simple field stripping, I need someone else's help. If I wanted someone to change out the trigger connector's on a Glock - I need someone to do that unless I had someone to show me. Stuff like that.
I don't want to have to pay shipping for a simple job like putting on night sights. And, I have seen tons of pics on the various forums where people "tried" to do it themselves - and they ruined the finish around the sights and also on the sight. I think that is an area where there needs to be a local guy. Can the local guy do more stuff? I have no idea - these are only the kinda of things I usually need locally.
At this point in time I will say yes. It is very difficult to find young guys who will do any kind of work as stated in the conditions you posted. However, this will eventually change as with any profession in a democracy. When no one else is doing something, that tends to make it a very profitable venture at some point in time. I am sure that there will be plenty of people who would like to take up the hobby for a good pay day.
Something else that almost every do-it-yourselfer does with out much thought to it, is slip with the screw driver and booger up the end of the screw. It doesnt hurt anythying, and its so easy to do. But, when someone else is looking at it, they notice the mangled up screw heads, if even slightly damaged, and perhaps unconsciously that person thinks '...an amatuer has been in this gun before, wonder what they were doing?'.
Originally Posted by Shipwreck
I read in a gunsmithing book once, or may have heard it from a gunsmith, I cant remember - that slowing down when driving screws so you dont slip out of the screw head even once is perhaps the biggest single detail you can observe as one boogered up screw slot on the butt plate can make an otherwise flawless gun that youve poured your heart in to, look like a rush job. I know this to be true, not from gunsmithing, but from applying that observation to my other projects and it is indeed true that a sharp looking phillips slot with no sign of ever being violated with a screw driver, makes a tremendous difference in how the whole thing is seen.
Sorry to ramble.
A gunsmith had better understand files.
They are the critical tool for final adjustments
The best gunsmiths are good people persons also. I had a 'smith once try to tell me that I couldn't understand what he was going to do, and that I basically didn't need to know when I asked him certain questions, so that 'smith will never see any of my work, especially since he was wrong and just blowing smoke around to cover himself. Most of us who consider ourselves "gun guys" know what we want, we just don't have the tools or expertise to do it ourselves. But don't ever tell me that the work you're going to do is "beyond me" so you're not going to bother to explain it.
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