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Petzal: Some Peeves from a Gunsmith

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July 27, 2009

Petzal: Some Peeves from a Gunsmith

By David E. Petzal

If there is a more put-upon group of people than gunsmiths, I can't think who it might be. These gunsmith gripes are from John Blauvelt of Wallkill, NY. I would add one of my own to the list: People who chew a gunsmith's ear off about what they should buy, then go buy it at Wal-Mart to save $3.68.

Filthy guns. Just because you are having your gun repaired by the gunsmith does not mean that he is going to clean it for free.
 
Supplying your own parts. Usually goes like this-- "I bought these used parts off of EBay and tried to install them myself...." Try this the next time you go to have your car repaired. See where your auto mechanic tells you to put those parts.
 
"I want to pick your brain." This is the start of the phone conversation that then goes on for a half hour. What the hell. I was sitting here with nothing to do, waiting for you to call for free advice on how to install the parts you bought on EBay.
 
Gun puzzle in a box. Starting line while holding cardboard box: "I took it apart to fix it, and I cannot get it back together."  So now I have to put it back together, find out what's not working, and then take it apart again to fix it, then reassemble it again. Of course I am not to charge extra for this.
 
"How much?" The customer wants 47 different custom things done and is trying to find the cheapest gunsmith to do them. This list usually comes in the form of an e-mail and was sent to every gunsmith he can find on the internet. You never hear back from him.
 
"That repair is almost the price of the gun." The gun was bought by his father, used, in 1927, and is a Sears Roebuck brand. My usual reply: "Gasoline was also 10 cents a gallon then. What are you paying now? "
 
Thanks for allowing me to vent.

Comments (65)

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Mmm. I have a counterpeeve. I had a 10-MLII fired with a factory approved pyrodex load from which I could not extract the breech plug. I sent it to Savage to have the breech plug extracted, with a note saying that I'd appreciate if they cleaned it because I couldn't because the breech plug was stuck. The longer the burned dex sits in the gun is bad. They took out the breech plug but did not clean it. Worse, they took the ramrod and stuck it into the uncleaned barrel, so that the brass on the rod was oxidized by the pyrodex.

There are times when a smith needs to turn their brain on, no matter how backlogged they may be.

On "How Much?" Tough crap to the smith. You wouldn't make an open ended repair commitment on your car. If they don't like the competition, they should price their service competitively enough to secure the contract. The only people that I know who get open-ended commitments to someone else's cash are Congressmen looking at taxpayers' incomes.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sb Wacker wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

And plumbers mike.
SBW

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Gun puzzle in a box?

I wished I had a dime for this one!

Hasd a fella who decided to take apart his Nylon 66!

GOOD LUCK SUCKER!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from 175rltw wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I've noted a certain surliness to a fair number of gunsmiths that can only be reduced/ relieved by the liberal application of cash. No issue there, the tire kickrs/ brain pickers have got to drive those guys nuts. My issue is when I go back 3-4 times for work, because the guy is a craftsman- and he's still sullen. Hey, clearly I am a repeat customer, hell I'll bring you a bottle of Bourbon at Christmas even- so cut the crap. Of course the other side of that coin is that I've never been a notedly cheerful guy either- so I should probably be more understanding. but still. dammit.

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from buckhunter wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I just wish there was a GOOD gunsmith in my area to answer my stupid questions.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from vtbluegrass wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

If you know what is broken or what improvement you would like to a gun the gunsmith should have some idea of the price. If you call them up with no idea what you gun woes are then asking for a price is a bit annoying.
I used to have a good gunsmith a retired old man who would talk at length about anything guns if you went to his shop. He also did excellent work wood, metal, or replacement parts for essentially minimum wage plus parts. Now I have moved to an area where the only gunsmith is a Remington licensed smith whom I would barely classify as a gunsmith.

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from Beekeeper wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Dave as for the list I agree with you on all but the price shopping. I'm not about to drop off a gun and ask for certain services to be rendered with out knowing what an estimated cost will be. A fool and his money will soon part ways...

+9 Good Comment? | | Report
from ingebrigtsen wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Luckily i have a retired gunsmith`s brains to pick and to discuss things with and he is redulent with advice even when none is asked for, and i have some interesting ideas myself that luckily have met his approval for the most part.. But if he wasnt retired he wouldnt have the time to give me advice i should think.. Quality gunsmithing is timeconsuming and time wasted is money lost. So unless u want the quality craftsmen of the industry to loose theire jobs then by all means buy cheap crap like the remington 770 and such..

btw. what would people in here think of a shotgunbarrel that could stabilise slugs and not ruin a shotload by fraying the edge of the load moving down the barrel with rifling???? seriously id like to know cos i kinda figured it out :)

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from duckcreekdick wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Another trick is for the customer to want to buy easily installed parts from the gunsmith and put them in himself.
Customers do not want to understand that it takes just as much time and care to make a firing pin for a $250 SxS beater, as a $2500 Merkel. Try that logic next time you need an engine rebuild for your 1972 Pinto.
"Why isn't every part available for a cheap pump shotgun made in 1928?" Can you go to NAPA and get a new distributor for your 1932 Studebaker?
The "gun puzzle" thing is usually preceded with "my dumb brother-in-law took this apart. Heh-heh!"
No, if you are lucky to have a good gunsmith and not a shade-tree blacksmith, realize your good fortune and try to stay on his good side. Most of us are not in it for the big bucks and like the sign in the diner says, "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."
Oh, and Mike Diehl, Savage probably didn't charge for for getting out that breechplug you forgot about cleaning last season. And 4-0 steel wool will get that ramrod looking as good as new.

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from Vic wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Well I do most of my own gunsmithing, because finding a gunsmith worth his salt is a difficult proposition. I have found I do better work than most of them.

As for the rifled barrel that doesn't damage shot on the way out, okay, but I would think the centripitol force generated by spinning the shot would cause the shot to spread quickly. Good for close combat, but bad for anykind of birding.

Vic

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I agree that any craftssman should be able to give a reasonable estimate for the cost of most repairs or say that he has no clue as to how long it will take or cost to fabricate parts. That might tell you a lot about his experience. Giving free estimates and some advice is a necessary evil for the self employed businessperson.

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from ingebrigtsen wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Well my idea entails no rifling at all and try spinning the water in a glassfull by spinning the glass.. same goes for my idea. so it would perform just as well as an unrestricted smoothbore but be able to shoot solid objects like slugs with a twist..:)

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

"Oh, and Mike Diehl, Savage probably didn't charge for for getting out that breechplug you forgot about cleaning last season. And 4-0 steel wool will get that ramrod looking as good as new."

You've read alot into the case that is not correct.

I did not "forget to clean it last season." I brought it home from the range, was unable to remove the breech plug within an hour of returning from the range, and mailed it to Savage the following day because I was concerned with (1)avoiding damaging the breech area should I attempt to devise some way on my own to remove the plug, and (2) having it properly cleaned without delay. I provided credit card information with the letter along with my request to have it cleaned as soon as the plug was removed. My wishes were clear, and the savage tech/smith that serviced the firearm did a poor job of it.

While I am an admirer of Savage firearms for their accuracy, durability and price point, the service that I received in that instance definitely warrants mention as an unsatisfying experience.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Also, I can't imagine any circumstances where I would choose steel wool to clean brass. You might get the tarnish off, but what you will have won't look anything remotely like "good as new" because after all steel is a much harder metal than brass, regardless of the coarseness of the steel wool you choose.

To clean the rod end I used a fine copper brush and a mild, diluted brass polish.

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from Tim Platt wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

It's the same in every business.... welcome to the club. People want free advice, free estimates so they can take them to your competition, and then they scream "that is more than I paid for my house". Yeah in 1950 for twelve thousand bucks... now it's worth $150,000. $250,000 last year.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from crm3006 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Reminds me of an old hometown gunsmith that I used to frequent and learn from. Prominately displayed on his wall was a Labor Rate sign:
Labor- $8.00/ hour
If you watch- $15.00/ hour
If you help- $20.00/ hour

+8 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kim wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Afriend of mine had the same problem with the breech plug in his black powder. Went hunting fired 2 rounds, got home and could not get the plug out. Never did come out. Gunsmith told him to buy a new gun. As far as talking to customers and prices for repairs go that is part of earning the consumers business. Don't like doing it then close up shop or keep on and your customers will dwindle to nothing and you'll close anyways. If you are a reputable gunsmith with a good manner and knowledge with reasonable prices you will always have business and the riff raff will soon filter out.

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from ggmack wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

i am also lucky to have a retired gentleman that does gun work for some of the locals. he is not a gunsmith does not call himself that and does not want to be called that, he does it because he was an engineer for 35 years. he does good work as is a straight talker.

I know about grandads 22 got one sitting right here. ted williams signature edition. semi auto my butt. More like a bolt action. shoot pull " bolt " to the rear shoot again, repeat as neccisiary.

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from CavRecon wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

It seems that neither business acumen nor people skills are required (nay permitted) to become a "gunsmith."

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

"free estimates so they can take them to your competition"

That is as it should be. If their estimate is truly competitive, the customer will return.

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I got another one for you Dave;My local smith, nice guy that KNOWS his stuff, but works for a gun shop so he only makes an hourly wage. Customers seem to ALWAYS complain about the price(as dictated by his boss)while this guy barely makes 27K a year!
He plans to go into business for himself so, but that brings headaches as well. Anyway, I tip him generously when he does any job for me and I have yet to be unhappy with his work.
My advise;If you find a gunsmith you can trust;HOLD ON TO THEM WITH BOTH HANDS!

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from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

My comments on various:

>... was unable to remove the breech plug within an hour of returning

yes! not talking about the nipple, btw, but the durn little tiny plug seems to freeze up instantly. After reading it was good to get it unfroze I have had them break a piece of themselves off trying.

>It's the same in every business.... welcome to the
>club. People want free advice, free estimates so
>they can take them to your competition...

yes, this is very familiar and a sore subject for those of us who have to deal with it ... to everyone else it sounds like complaining about just going about things right. It's hard to see the other side of the story, but remember the little guy tends to get the shaft.

>Surly

does seem to be an oddly typical characteristic

>If their estimate is truly competitive

Can't argue with that, but when it comes to service, the price is the least important thing. The older I get, the more I realize this. If I paid $100 to a gunsmith and got it done right, when it seemed he was $20 higher than everybody else, that extra $20 is going to be long forgotten soon enough. But the job that wasn't done right is going to stick in the crawl for that $80 for the rest of my life! That's not to say I would be happy to find out I was paying $100 for a $10 job!

>If you find a gunsmith you can trust;HOLD ON TO THEM
>WITH BOTH HANDS!

Amen! & if he charges a [little] more cheerfully pay the difference!

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from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Another shop sign seen:

Advice: Free
Good Advice: $5
Accurate Information: $20

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from cliff68 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Evertbody should have to work for the public for at least a year or two. I think this would provide a much better customer relationship. It's easy to get grumpy without even knowing it when dealing with customers over the years. The worst ones are the fellas who think they know more than you do-then why are you here? That being said customer PR is an art in itself. Sometimes it's much tougher than the actual work itself, and you don't get paid for the countless hours talking. Well most of the time!

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from Tim Platt wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Get a bigger hammer and some solvent... that breech plug will come out.

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from bonedoc33 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

My counterpeeve: Gunsmiths that think just because I am bringing a gun to them that I know nothing about guns and try to feed me a load of crap about them. I do much of my gunwork myself, but there are some things I do not have the time or the tools to do.

The last showdown I had with a gunsmith was over my newest A-Bolt in 7mm WSM. I wanted it glass bedded, recrowned with a recessed target crown on an 11 degree angle and a trigger job to remove creep and overtravel and set the weight at 2 pounds even. First he wanted to argue about the crown angle saying it should be 17 and not 11 degrees, then he didn't like my preferred trigger weight. He really pissed me off when he asked "What's the point?" I finally told him because it was what I wanted and that if he didn't want to do the job to give me my damn rifle back so I could take it elsewhere.

He huffed and said he would do it, and that is when I told him to piss off. I took my rifle to my local Gander Mountain to have the work done; it took the smith there two days to get my rifle back to me, the work was impeccable and he didn't argue. He just did what I asked with no hoiler than thou attitude.

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from OrangeNeckInNY wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I had a stuck breech plug once, but the solution was a ratchet and socket, because we all know that all-in-one tool that comes with the gun is worthless. With a ratchet, you could slip a pipe extension on the handle and "gorilla" the breech plug out. Next time, put some anti-seize compound on the threads of the breech plug.

As for "smiths" not getting paid for their time, I happen to be apprenticing for a master bow tuner and I see it every day - people come in for free advice and just take up the time in a day. They come in to test fire a bow, then go somewhere else to buy it. Then a week or two later, they come back to our shop saying the bow won't shoot for shit. Nine time ouf ot 10, the other shop's bowsmith dicked it all up and we end up undicking it. So instead of buying a bow from us and getting free bowsmithing in setting up the bow, they're now spending up to $200 to get the bow set up correctly.

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from RJ Arena wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I used to have this sign over my desk,
"QUALITY"
"SPEED"
"CHEAP"
"YOU CAN ONLY PICK TWO"
seems to apply to many trades,including gunsmiths.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

"Next time, put some anti-seize compound on the threads of the breech plug."

Another who has presumed alot without knowing the facts. I used Birchwood Casey choke tube lube on the rifle per factory recommendation before that shoot and since.

The only explanation I can offer is that when loaded to a full factory specified charge some of the burned pyrodex crud worked into the thread. But even that is challenging for me to imagine; breech plugs are milled to pretty fine tolerances in Savage rifles. It is noteworthy that I never had the problem before that incident when I used Accurate Arms 5744 and have not had the problem since then when I stopped using p-dex and went back to AA 5744.

The point is, however, is that it was stupid for them to put the rifle back in the mail that way and have it take a couple weeks to get to me, replete with ramrod dropped into the barrel into the burned crud rather than stowed in it's proper sheath underneath the barrel. *That* kind of smithing isn't worth any price.

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from ishawooa wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

All the statements are certainly true and commonplace with the majority of gunsmiths I have had the priviledge of knowing. My local smith and long time friend has a sign which says something like:
gunsmithing labor $50.00 per hour, you watch $75.00 per hour, you help $100.00 per hour
Two other trades that immediately come to mind who have to deal with similiar customers are saddlemakers/repairmen and farriers (not to be confused with a horseshoer since the former is trained and knows what he is doing while the latter is learning how on your valuable horse) but I won't bore you with their valid comments at this time.

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from socalshooter wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I learned a long time ago that the best deal in anything is not always the cheapest price. The concept of good value is the real bottom line.

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from Jack Ryan wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I heard they are taking applications at Walmart.

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from ranger2 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I try to avoid paying anyone to work on anything I own. As valuable and limited as my time is, I would rather learn how to do something myself and pay for tools than to hand over my gear and let someone else tinker on it. I do make exceptions when I find a smith, (mechanic, electrician, fill in the blank) that is really good, is easy to get along with, and does not mind sharing their knowledge. They are far few in between, but I am always happy to pay them generously for a job well done, and return for future service. The other types that do lousy work, overcharge for what they have done, are gerneral bullsh*tters and the like~ not only don't get any repeat business, they may get a foot in the a** at the same time. And I tell everyone that I run into that they are not worth consulting.

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from OrangeNeckInNY wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

"'Next time, put some anti-seize compound on the threads of the breech plug.'

Another who has presumed alot [sic] without knowing the facts. I used Birchwood Casey choke tube lube on the rifle per factory recommendation before that shoot and since."

Choke tube lube is fine and dandy...for choke tubes. You need the breech plug anti-seizing compound made especially for breech plugs. T/C makes a very good one which I use and when you apply it to the threads correctly, all the way into the breech, there is no opportunity for pyrodex or triple-seven to work their way into the threads.

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from 175rltw wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

When i worked at a 4 wheel drive shop people would come in and want an oil change. My SURLY bos would look at them and quote a pretty outrageous price- you know 150 bucks or so and they'd just stare at him. I did a few oil changes on those rigs, but most folks were like EFF that, and left. I'd be like Walter, what gives, and he'd be like "This ain't Jiffy lube, this is a custom shop- besides, you saw the mud 6 inches deep caked on that thing, did you really want to do tht job?" Side note, he'd always give me 20 bucks on the spot for those jobs just for dealing with all the dirt. Bottom line is all Walter had time for was building real fast cars that were born before 1950, and building one off jeeps- if you wanted 4 inch leaf spring lift, and we were slow, no sweat, but that didn't get his motor humming so to speak. If a guy can keep the bills paid cherry picking jobs and turning away customers, more power to him. I know I was happier at that shop than I would have been at a general mechanic shop too.

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from Zermoid wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Mike Diehl,
Did you mail the whole rifle?
Just wondering why you included the ramrod in the first place. I would have only mailed the barrel.

Also, I'm assuming it wasn't an octagon barrel?
A padded bench vice and a open end wrench works wonders on octagon barrels! Had a TC Hawken rifle a few years back, had to do that a couple times, clamp the barrel upside down and hopefully any marks will be on the underside of the breech plug.

Other question is WHY did you have to remove a breech plug just to clean it? Or can't you clean up pyrodex with hot water like real black powder? (I always used black powder) Bucket of Hot water and a tight fitting patch and jag sucks in water thru the flash hole and does most of the cleaning. Occasionally I'd take out the plug to give it a good bore brush cleaning from end to end just to be sure the groves were clean and no residue was building up in the end of the barrel.

May also want to try Blue Locktite, the removable kind. sets up like rubber in the threads and keeps dang near anything out of them.
Recently bought a cheap used german 22LR SAA style revolver which is mostly aluminum castings/forgings and all the screw threads were full of that powdery white aluminum "rust". So as some screws were loose, and that really tightening screws into aluminum is not a good idea, I locktited every one. They should stay in place with just a barely finger tip tightening and not have any more corrosion in the threads!
Just be SURE not to get the "permanent" locktite, you use that stuff you might as well just weld the parts together! Short of torching and hopefully burning the stuff out you will never get a screw out once that is used.

I'd like to also add my own Pet Peeve, when someone brings in a virtually destroyed gun and asks if they can pick it up either later today or tomorrow. Had that asked a couple times, told them "Sure!, it won't be done but you can pick it up anyway if you'd like."
One apologized, the other left with the gun.

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from nc30-06 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I am a professional pilot and can relate to this blog. I have doctors, lawyers, etc. call and want an estimate for a trip. After spending the time to set everything up and when I give them the cost, their reply is "I can go on the airlines for much less". Well no sh*t. You are paying for the convenience and the flexibility to leave when you want to, plus the first class service. You don't get that on the airlines. Now I just tell them to go on the airlines and walk away.
It would be the same for a good gunsmith, and the "whatever Mart" example.
Luckily, I have a great gunsmith, and I pay his price. Yeah, the price sometimes is hard to pay, but the satisfaction trumps it everytime.

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from nc30-06 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

And one more point. Many people regard gunsmiths as "shadetree mechanics" of a sort, just like they regard pilots as glorified taxi drivers.

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from Ferber wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

C'mon guys...expect your barrel to be cleaned, too? Do you expect a detail job when you go to a car wash? Do you really have to get cost comparisons for no-brainers like scope mounting, trigger adjustment, recoil pad replacement? Sure for replacement barrels/rechambering and such. Hard knowing who's a good gunsmith? Good or bad, particularly when it comes to gunsmithing, the reputations are as well-known as Jefery Dahmer's or Ronald Regan's.

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from duckcreekdick wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Being one of those "surly" gunsmiths, I would've been happy to do Bonedoc33's glass bedding and 11 degree crown, but I would pass on the 2# trigger job. Gander Mountain has better liability insurance than me. From what I gather from this "my way or the highway" attitude, a lawsuit would be entirely likely.
RJ Arena: Another one is "Do you want it done quick, or do you want it done right?"

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from ChevJames wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

What I hate is when you turn your firearm over to a 'smith, and it comes back with all manner of scratches and dings.

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from Jeff Bowers wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I've seen quite a bit of the above myself.

It really helps to have a real respect for a gunsmith. In Ga., I hung out at a small place called DeerCreek Gun Shop in Marietta. I was learning the more intricate details about some things, and he was helpful, informative, and never much put out with me. In return, I never bought stuff anywhere else if he had it, or could get it. If I was going to go elsewhere for something and have him work on it, I always asked his advice in advance.

During those years, I never overpaid for anything, learned a great deal, and in many cases ended up with better than I would have picked on my own.

Attitude is everything.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

You guys pay $50 to $85 an hour for labor down at the automotive repair shop and your wife or significant other pays her hairdresser $40-50 an hour, so why begrudge your gunsmith's wages?

Regarding scratches and dings, I would hold him to the same standard as the Ford dealer. You ding it, you pay for it. I have 2 gunsmiths that I use. One is a notorious builder of semi-custom rifles and the other primarily a handgun & shotgun guy. Both are cantankerous bastards, but I call first to see if one can take the work and ask when is a good time to come by. To me, that sets the stage for a positive visit. I explain what my expectations are, he agrees to perform the work (usually with a rough $ estimate), and I go away and wait for his call that it is done. I pay without bitching and thank him for the job well done. He may not remember you well if all goes smoothly, but rest assured that he will darn sure remember you if you are a jerk.

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from Del in KS wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Guess I am fortunate to live in a town that has multiple good gunsmiths. I usually drop in and BS with the guys at Ultra-Coatings Inc every couple weeks. BTW they are growing and moving to the other side of the state line. They will be doing gun camo dipping in addition the Cerakote and other services.

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from Del in KS wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Dave,

When I ordered my ER Shaw rifle at "The gun shop" in Olathe they had 3 Cooper's on the shelf that I examined. I agree you are absolutely right about their quality. I understand the fella at Cooper Arms that loves Obama is gone now. Rumor has it that a young trophy wife from the left coast led him astray. Still did not want to spend that kind of money when the Shaw is likely just as accurate.

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from blueridge wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

This posting is close to my heart, and it affects the essence of a man or woman's character. Thoughtful people make good sportsmen, and good 'smiths. Crass, shallow, 'I'm in a hurry, darn it!'-types, make another, larger group. Some are learning to go from the bottom feeder group upward, finding that their way is simply the wrong choice for a better result.

A gunsmith has chosen a hard path for his family and his bank, but is very special to those us who appreciate his profession. [I am NOT talking about the gunshop owner who grinds off the claw mounts from a German rifle and poorly installs aluminum ones, calling himself a 'gunsmith'. I'm talking about a machinist, a perpetual student of the art, who does what he does, well.]

Someone referred to the ultimate test of a 'smith...it is word of mouth. If they are quality workmen, they will have quality reputations. They deserve to make a living, and they deserve our patience while they make right what fools or circumstance has made wrong.

Patronizing the price got us a society with no cobblers to repair our shoes...it can surely get us an America with no gunsmiths. And, who can we blame but ourselves? Would you want YOUR child to become a gunsmith? Work Saturdays, and all deer seasons...and listen attentively to the ignorant complain about items whose nomenclature they cannot spell? And whose achievents they don't wish to afford?

Thanks, Dave.

Blue

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from Carney wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

All of the trades have their positive and negative people -- on both sides of the counter -- and most of my choices on who I serve and who I let serve me are based on their attitude (all things being equal). There is one guy in a neighboring town that I wouldn't buy a gun from no matter how good a deal it was as his attitude is unnecessarily abrasive and condescending.

In my dealings (gun; auto; electricial; plumbing;...), I try to be a loyal customer as it is better to have good friends than a few extra dollars.

AND some sage advice: It's much better to make friends of your customers than to make customers of your friends!

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from Phil VanHagen wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Pet counter peeve:
Finally getting the wok back 6-8 months after it was supposed to have been done. I have known only one (!) gunsmith (unfortunately now retired) who always had the work completed on the date promised.

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from blueridge wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Amen, Carney. Well said. Loyalty to a good craftsman is its own reward. The best of a gunsmith's art walks out the door, never to be seen again by the man who labored over it.

Blending wood and steel together, artfully, is something to behold. Humoring the public with its crazy ideas can try the patience of a Saint.

They have to know that their very name is anathema to the politcally correct world, and they will not likely be invited to the school's Show and Tell. Yet, may their tribe increase.

Blue

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from jimmied wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I will join in on the counter side. I asked some of my shooting buddy's what gunsmith they recommend. All said to go to "Slam Bang" (Real name not used), he was the best all around gunsmith in town. I had 3 rifles that I wanted new Pac Nor barrels installed.I had faith in these guys and that was my downfall. Slam Bang (SB) had wore out reamers and all three ended up having out of round chambers. I showed "SB" the fired brass and he said nothing was real bad and the rifles all shot just fine. I pointed out the necks of the fired brass was crooked. Not only had out of round chambers but also had out of center chambers. This was verified by a chamber cast. His remark was unbelievable, he said if they shoot, it proved they would be "Minute of Deer" accurate at 100 yards. I bitched and moaned but SB said he did nothing wrong and his work was good. Moral to the story, choose your gunsmith like you choose your heart specialist, very carefully. I went to a real no bull sh*t smith and he installed new Pac Nor barrels and made rectangle dinner bells with the screwed up barrels. I gave my shooting buddy's Christmas gifts and asked to see SB's work. They all 3 said he never worked on their guns, they all said they heard he was good and that was why they said to use him. My fault but I look at it like this, I now have major bucks invested in something that reminds me of a turd that has baby powder sprinkled over it. You know the smell if you have visited an assisted living home. Life is sometimes a bitch.

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from yohan wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Yup ,..so heres the high and dry ,.. no one likes to pay for service. NO ONE !!

But if you actually need the service , then you have to expect to pay for it. Like medical servcice maybe ?? ,. escalating on a scale three times that of income if your not unemployed. Makes ammo prices ands smithing work look like chump change.
Then if you cant afford it you may well f ing die,.
and they take your house right after you do,.. to cover the bill.
But hay ,. who cares right?? secod ammendment and all that
Question is if were sick and or dead,.
who's gonna shoot the guns??

Then there is the plumber I recently had do some work ,. didnt think to ask what he charged because I knew the guy ,.
So just said please do this and that. Last I knew it was about $55 and hour
Well it aint $55 an hr no more folks his fee is about $100.And Im told thats on the low end .Ok ,..~

Still If the service is of a decent quality meaning it acomplshes the goal and in line with industry standards ,.. then its worth it .If you can afford it .

Problems arize (sticker shock) when a person just dosen't know how much is normal for the service.

I paid a chyropractor ( sp? ) a good chunk one summer ,. with no effect. But because I believe in them and what they do.
(Don't give one Flying F what standard internest says about this .
I tried another one,.highly recomended by a frend
He actually charged a bit more ( per pop ) ,.. but he got me back in shape ( from old boxing injury)
No trouble since and that was years ago
Regular doc wanted to put me on pain pills and muscle relaxants turn me into Michal Jackoson.
Take the long pill ride to neber neber land yuk yuk
and if that didnt work operate ,..
Saints preserve us from from evil cause thats what that guy was~ evil.
Or Hmmm possibly just one of the crowd that cut for money?

Also had an old quack Dentist try to bill me for work he didnt do ,..which really pi$$ed me off .
I suggested maybe my attorney get invoplved in the discussion At which point the old thief backed right off.
Problem with Dentists is,. Who"s the the dental cop in your section of Camelot ?
Who but he or she, actually knows what they did in your mouth. Now thats a bunch that badly needs more referees YUK YUK

Lets see chyro's dentists plumbers MD's"'medical costs ,.
Oh yea ,..insurance companies ,.

If we get that under control your gunsmith bills will
seem like kisses from the one you love.

Then ( this aughta spark the tinder) of course the genius populous that voted for Howdy duty and the hunter ( twice )

Which was the same collective genius that opend the gates to the finacial rape that lending deregulation allowed Wallstreet robber Barons to perpetrate.
Fleecing the U.S, and global population in a way and on a scale that even for me( being in that business) is hard to fathom.
I believe there should be a death penalty for scum like that.Cause the likes of that profile Madoff included have done something very close to killing entire families.Generaltions of savings and econimic power now missing from our economy.

If we had had,.. regulation and tansparency in the dirivitive markets ,. transparecy in the "dark commodity " markets meaning,.. regulate the unregulatd oil speculation . (think ole Georgey His buddy Dick didint know about THAT market?)
Not to mention the two wars sparked by the same genius hiding out in texas now
Which as you recall was based on evedence of weapons of mass destruction as thin as a fart in Sierra Leone on a windy day .

However,.. that said yuk yuk I tend to lean a little toward Mr Diehl and a few others in that .
Knowing what a gunsmith is and does ( my father was one ) I can say with some confedence. That the real good ones are usually when working in a good mood ,.. the good ones know they are good the customer knows it and the world its right.

That some pi$$y arrogant mutt who is constantly cranky
condecending and confrontational has no business in that business is a given .As almost for certain he dosent know what he's doing.

I had to explain to one a few years ago when he took an attitude with me ,. that
As I was certianly convinced based on our brief convesation he was with out question the piccaso of his trade.
and that for sure his fecies must smell like strawberry ice cream ,even though his skin looked as though his diet was heavily suplemented by meth cocain.

If he really did succeed in pi$$ing me off .
He would forth with become my next project.
and that he could be assureed he did not want that.
Which did to some extent take the wind out his sails.

However by then I was conviced this little Pr k did not posess the intelligence to fathom his own stupidity ,.. at which point I calmly gathered up the firearm I was about to leave there and made my exit never to return.
Must say after that I steered a ton away from that shop ,..hopefully I helped to cloths them down,. which ultimatly did happen.

Never spend time argueing with idiots .
They will drag you down to their level ,.
then beat you with experince only idiots posess.

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from blueridge wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Dear jimmied...
Sorry to hear of your rip-off by a pretend gunsmith. You really did not enquire of satisfied customers, and that is one of life's lessons, I guess. You did your part, pointing out the obvious shoddy work...what gunsmith school or machine shop would ever try to pass off such stuff as that? You are not on the other side, but on the right side of the counter. Find a good gunsmith, get your son to marry his daughter.

Blue

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from T.W. Davidson wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

All:

There's a gunsmith in my town whom I consider to be a good 'smith, a good guy and a good friend. Part of the reason he's a good guy and a good friend is that he enjoys (or seems to, anyway) showing/teaching me simple repairs and/or improvements to my rifles. A couple of years ago, he and I removed a mildly damaged .257 Roberts barrel from the broken-beyond-repair Rem. 700 action it was connected to, repaired the barrel, reamed it to .257 Ackley Improved, and put the revised barrel in another Rem. 700 action. It was a fascinating learning experience and the cost was reasonable. It was during this time that I learned he was an experienced and competent 'smith, and a good teacher.

But then my friend fell ill and was unavailable for quite some time. Meanwhile, I had a rifle I wanted to update and make super-accurate, and I had read articles about a big name high-end gunsmith down near San Antonio with his own line of custom rifles, so I called this person and talked with him. While on a business trip down that way a few weeks later, I took my rifle to his shop, the purpose being to get a new barrel in an A.I. caliber chambered just so, to get some trigger work done, to glass-bed the action in the composite-fiber stock I provided, and to put an all-weather non-reflective coating on all external metal parts of the rifle.

I spent significant time in person with the big name high-end gunsmith. I thought he was almost insufferably arrogant, but I also thought he paid attention to what I said to him, so I didn't mind too much. I carefully explained exactly how I wanted the chamber of my rifle to be reamed and why, and the gunsmith said, "No problem." I even provided the mint-condition reamer with which to do the job, and he said, "Great." I also provided fireformed AI cases (that had been fired in another rifle which I had chambered with the same reamer) and explained that I wanted the new barrel to be headspaced to fit the fireformed cases I left with him. The 'smith said, "I do this all the time. Not a problem." I also talked to the gunsmith about throat length and explained why I wanted the throat to be at least a certain length to fit certain bullets, and he said, "Will do." Nothing I asked for was in the least bit difficult or even out of the ordinary for an experienced, competent, pays-attention gunsmith to accomplish for any customer. My local 'smith, if only he had been available, would not have blinked twice at any of my requests, and the job would have taken no more than two weeks (if that), and I very likely would have been welcomed on scene to help get the job(s) done (which would have been fun and interesting). Also, the total cost would have been, even with the new barrel and chambering added in, within three digits. Reasonable.

Nearly a year later I received the repaired and supposedly vastly improved rifle from the big name high-end smith down near San Antonio with his own custom line of rifles. It cost a lot of money for the new barrel, the chambering, the bedding, the small trigger repair/adjustment, the all-weather coating, etc. In fact, the total cost went well into four digits, which I thought was (grotesquely) high, but I paid it without a word of complaint or grumble. After all, I was dealing with a big name high-end 'smith with his/her personal line of custom rifles, and therefore I believed I would be getting a really terrific, and terrific-performing, rifle from him. I even thought, naively, that I would be receiving a rifle from him that matched the specifications and instructions I had given to this gunsmith in person when I had dropped the rifle off with him nearly a year previously.

A week or so after I received my rifle the high-end gunsmith I went to the range and tried to chamber some of those fire-formed cases I mentioned earlier--loads made from the same batch of cases I had taken to the gunsmith 9 months earlier. Then an interesting thing happened: I couldn't close the bolt on any of the previously fireformed rounds (made in the other rifle I mentioned above)I loaded into the rifle--and since I couldn't close the bolt on any of them, I couldn't fire them either. (This pissed me off.) In fact, I could barely get the bolt closed even on a standard .257 Roberts factory round. (This pissed me some more.) Then I noticed the rifle's throat (in this long-action rifle) was chambered short in length (around 2.88"), as opposed to the 3.1"-3.2" seating depth I had specifically asked for. (I got hotter.) In other words, the big name high-end gunsmith had ignored or disregarded about half of the specifications and instructions I had given to him.

My use of the English language in reference to this particular big name high-end gunsmith became, for quite some time, very robust and vigorous. Even now, months later, my uncensored thoughts about this particular 'smith are not fit for polite society.

Yes, my "improved" (and certainly very expensive) rifle (with its all-weather coating) looks fantastic. True, the trigger is as good as any I've ever touched off on any hunting rifle. And true, this AI rifle puts factory rounds (since those were the only rounds I had with me that would chamber in the go**amned thing at the range)in groups measuring well under an inch at 100 yards, even though the factory cases were being fireformed (to the AI chambering) in the new chamber with each shot, which usually degrades accuracy a bit.

I'm still too angry--and feel far too ripped off--to write a civilized letter or email to the big name high-end gunsmith near San Antonio and tell him what I think about his work on my rifle. But that day will come.

I took the rifle to another gunsmith I trust. In a little over an hour, we got the rifle throated to where I need it to be; we fiddled with the chamber ever so slightly so that the bolt will now comfortably, safely, close on my huge stash of previously fireformed cases; and I fired (safely, no problems at all) some of my handloads in it to see how everything worked (just fine, very accurate). Total cost with this particular gunsmith to do half the job that the big name high-end 'smith down near San Antonio completely failed to do? About $120.

Moral of the story: Build a relationship with a good, competent, local gunsmith. Be skeptical regarding gun magazine articles about high-end gunmakers--because while maybe the gunwriters are getting rifles that shoot like a dream and fit the specifications provided to the high-end gunsmiths by the writers (unless the writers simply shoot whatever is shipped to them), that well might not be the case with Joe Consumer. You and me. Build a relationship with good, competent, local gunsmith and you won't have that problem.

Obviously, I'm not going to do business ever again with the big name high-end gunsmith. And if any of you know who I'm talking about, neither should you.

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from elmer f. wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I am no gunsmith, not even close. i do tinker with my own stuff. but i also know my limits. when it involves more than i feel confident in doing, i do not mess with it, i just take it in. everyone should be that way. your first "peave" really strikes a nerve with me also. would you go to the doctor after digging a ditch in 90 degree sun all day long without cleaning up first? not unless you chopped half of your toe off with the shovel! i was a professional mechanic for more than 35 years. my take on someones elses "machinery" was this. if it looks like they tried to take reasonable care of it, i woiuld bend over backwards, stay late, and even take parts off from something else to get them running again in a reasonable time period. if it was obviously rode hard and put away wet (if at all), i really did not care when i got to it, or how much it cost, or when they got it back. if you take your gun into a gunsmith not working properly, and he has to SCRAPE 15 years worth of caked on burnt powder residue and rust to find out what the problem is, why would he want to do his best work on something you obviously care little about? clean the thing up before you take it to him so he can see what he is looking at for heavens sake! personally, if i had to clean something that badly gunked up, i would charge double the time, and cost just to get it to where i could look at it. a gunsmith is a great resource, not just to keep your steel in good working order, but to help you with all aspects of shooting. treat him the way you would want to be treated. with sincerity and respect. and for the love of mike, buy something from him. he needs to make a living too!

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from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I understand where a gunsmith is coming from and how fustrating it mimght be to hear such things but I must admit that I have been known to ask such things and say such statements. But then again, I ask it to the same gunsmith that is my buddy... most of the times I just ask the qestions because I know it bothers him. One more that bothers him is: "How soon can you get this gun back to me". Boy does he love hearing that one.

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from yohan wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Good one Mr T W Davidson ,..
Reasonable men excpect reasonable treatment,. Even if it is from Big Name Gunsmiths with their own custom line of guns near San Antonio

I peronally do not know the name of this apparent pontificating premodona you speak of ,.
But you seem to know enough about what your saying that I believe you .
Not that that,.. is a big deal one way or the the other
Yet with out overselling myslef I have over the years managed to become aquainted with a number of people in a number of different locations.

I will pass the word on the Big Shot gunsmith with his own line of custom guns near San Antonio

Could say I just hate guys like that
But hate is to strong a word ,.. hate is also one hell of a lot of work ,..
But I can and will say this pretty easily.
Guys like that rankle my fur like few other things

So trust that any I know ,.who to my knowledge
may as much as come near that place will here what you said .

Have a good day

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from duckcreekdick wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Re: T.W. Davidson

When you initially went to the range with your new rifle, did it not chamber your reloads because of the short throat or because of a short chamber? If you gave this big-name gunsmith a few of your reloads to test fire, there is no excuse for him to send that rifle out the door without being correct. I always show my customers the test fired case. I also show them how the bolt closes with the Go gauge and does not with the NoGo gauge. Simple precautions that inform the customer and keep future complaints to a minimum.

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from crm3006 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

T.W. Davidson-
Good comment on a sorry state of affairs. I think I know of whom you are writing, and if it is the same jerk, I declined to let him work on my .375 H&H after a two minute phone conversation.
My questions to you are: 1. Why did you allow
a year to pass before recovering your firearm? (I would have been on his a$$ so bad by phone and e-mail after about three months he would have gotten the job done to get rid of me.)
2. Why did you not take a few of your custom loads with you when you picked up the rifle?
On a custom job like that, even dealing with a big name high-end gunsmith near San Antonio, I would "trust but verify."
I know, hindsight is 20-20.

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from T.W. Davidson wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Yohan, Duckcreekdick, Crm3006 . . .

Thank you for your comments and questions. My reply:

When I took the rifle to the high-end gunsmith, he told me it would take 4-6 months before he would ship it back to me. I thought this was a long wait, but then again, I was dealing with a high-end rifle guru, and he told me he had a hefty backlog of orders, so I said nothing.

A week or so after I dropped the rifle off with the gunsmith, I sent him an email in which I specified and reiterated (very politely) all the separate repairs/improvements I wanted done to the rifle. I did this because I wanted to eliminate the possiblity of errors or misunderstandings between the gunsmith and myself, and because I wanted the job done right on my rifle. When I didn't receive a reply, I printed out a copy of the email and sent it to the gunsmith via regular mail--and enclosed with that letter several fireformed cases with neither powder or primers in them, but various bullets seated in them to overall cartridge lengths of 3.1"-3.2". I called the gunsmith a week later to make sure he got the package (he did).

I was then silent for the next 5 months or so. Mr. Polite was I.

When I didn't hear anything at all from the high-end 'smith for another several weeks--it was if he had fallen into a black hole--I called him and asked for a status report on my rifle. My impression from his answer was either that he was still waiting for the new Leija barrel to arrive, or, worse, he had not ordered it yet. I politely pressed. It became clear the 'smith had not ordered the barrel yet. Still polite on my part, I made it clear that he should have done so months earlier and advised him to get on with it before we both died of old age. I pointed out that I had already paid him half the estimated total cost for the repaired rifle, and there was certainly enough money there to order several barrels, not just the one single barrel I needed.

(Truth: I came very close at this point to demanding my rifle back, ordering a new barrel from a supplier, and getting the work done somewhere else, but I was engaging in a long-term effort to Improve on My People Skills (which I'm told now and then are lacking by people who love me--they tell me, for instance, that in my work as a criminal defense attorney it is probably less than polite to look at a client and say, "You're guilty as sh*t. And you're gonna go to prison unless I can pull off a miracle, which, frankly, you don't deserve because you're a dope-dealing scumbag. Stop committing crimes, dumb*ss."), so I was very polite and patient even though I felt like stomping on the floor and shouting at the big name high-end 'smith, "Where the f*ck is my god*damned rifle?"

About 9 months after I dropped my rifle off, the big name high-end gunsmith near San Antonio shipped it back to me in a nice plastic case, with my reamer in the case and a receipt. I noticed, however, that there were no newly fired cases with the rifle, nor was there a paper target with a hole or holes in it, nor was there any of the fireformed brass I had given him, nor was there the chronograph data sheet the 'smith told me he provided to all his customers for each of their rifles after he test-fired them.

I checked the bore of my repaired and improved rifle. It was dusty. It appeared to have never been fired. Ever.

As I mentioned in my first chapter of this story, the chamber of the repaired and improved rifle was so tight that even factory ammo could barely fit in it. The throat length was cut, I believe, to standard .257 Roberts SAMMI specifications of around 2.78"-2.88" rather than the 3.1"-3.2" I specifically requested.

The bolt on the repaired and improved rifle would not close on empty fireformed brass (made from my other rifle chambered with the same reamer I loaned to the gunsmith). Even when I fired standard factory ammo in the rifle and then made brand AI handloads for it with the newly fireformed brass empties, the throat on the barrel was cut so short that I was forced (until I fixed the problem by using another gunsmith) to seat my bullets so that the cartridge overall length was no more than around 2.88"--an infuriating situation to deal with in a long-action rifle.

Bottom line: the chamber was excessively tight and the throat was excessively short, likely because the high-end 'smith did not use my reamer, certainly because he ignored my instructions and specifications, and absolutely because he never bothered to test my rifle with any of the ammo I left for him.

Someday, a few months from now, when I can comfortably resist loud rauccous cursing at the thought or mention of the big name high-end gunsmith, I'll send him a letter telling him what I think about his attention to detail and the quality of his work. If he treats other customers the way he treated me--and deprives them of significant sums of money while doing so--his business won't last, nor should it.

T.W. Davidson

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from crm3006 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

T.W. Davidson-
My compliments to you sir. You have more patience, tolerance, political correctness, and love of your fellow man than I.

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from duckcreekdick wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Looks like you had all your bases covered, T.W. This "high end gunsmith" might not be in business long at this rate, and good riddance. Maybe he is the same guy I heard about that forgot to take into consideration the thickness of the Remington 700 recoil lug on a barrel job. When the customer shot the rifle for the first time and extracted the case with a neck barely 1/16" long, it was obvious the "gunsmith" did not know his job.

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from AlaskanExile wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Understand the mantra of the modern American Consumer:
"I want it all, I want it now, and I want to pay less than you did".
These problems are not unique to gunsmiths. Anyone who is a craftsman (woman) who has valuable skills is losing the value of those skills because we are awash in junk from the Far East! Most of the junk for sale today is not worth fixing.
Explain to me why I can buy a new printer for my computer for $49 that prints, copies and faxes, but a three-pack of cartridges for it costs $54?

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from Jere Smith wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

T.W. You are a much more polite person than I would have been.

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from libertyfirst wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I sure loved this column. Great reading and pretty informative as to peoples thoughts about gunsmiths.
I sold my stock, shut down the woodburning stove, took the glass cases out and cover the milling machine and lathe with oilcloth. This happened 14 years ago and I still get 30-40 calls every September to see if I can fix something or put something together. I don't have a license anymore so I have to say no, but I'd be lying if I said the terrific comments from these old customers and friends weren't appreciated. I opened my store,not to sell stuff but to build rifles on the 98 mauser action. I always thought that these actions made excellent rifles and I still do. I've got a safe full of ones I've built all with mauser actions and they all shoot.
Gunsmithing,I never thought, was hard work. I loved every day that I spent in that shop. There was always someone with a deer jerky recipe or a story about his trip to Vegas or a young guy with a 243 that could kill every woodchuck at 3 1/2 miles away. There used to be a guy that would try to get the guys huddled around the woodstove to shoot dice up against the handgun case. No one ever bet more than a nickel or two. Pretty lowbrow I guess. Everyone was poor. Poor state, poorest county.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 36 weeks ago

@Zermoid:

"Did you mail the whole rifle?"
Yes.

"Just wondering why you included the ramrod in the first place."
Didn't occur to me that it'd be a problem. Lesson learned.

"I would have only mailed the barrel."
On a 10ML2 that'd be the barrel and breech, which you'd have to remove from the trigger assembly.

"Also, I'm assuming it wasn't an octagon barrel?"
Correct. Blued round tapered.

"Other question is WHY did you have to remove a breech plug just to clean it?"

The short answer is that one should keep an in-line as clean as possible. A longer answer is that if you can't remove the breech plug then ultimately when the vent liner fails you won't be able to service that either -- in which event you possess an odd-looking club rather than a rifle.

"Or can't you clean up pyrodex with hot water like real black powder?"
You can. When I received the rifle back I cleaned it with hot water. Now, however, I just use smokeless AA 5744. Caveat: yes, MOST people should never fire smokeless powder in a front stuffer. That said, the 10ML is DESIGNED to shoot smokeless and it does it well. Shooting AA 5744 in a 10ML2 is specified in the Savage user manual for this rifle. As ever, ONLY use the propellant or explosive specified by your rifle manufacturer.

@Orangeneck
"You need the breech plug anti-seizing compound."
I'll try it but as noted before I used what the factory manual said I should use.

@Ferber
"C'mon guys...expect your barrel to be cleaned, too?"

Yes, given that the propellant in question was pyrodex and that I asked them to do it and included payment. If you take your car to a mechanic and he says "well the problem is that you have some nasty solvent kicked up from the road into your brake pad, I replaced the brake pad but left the nasty solvent all over your caliper just so that it would get all over your new pad and f**k it up" you'd be irritated.

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from burksmithy wrote 4 years 17 weeks ago

A true gunsmith should guarantee his work. Customer satisfation means repeat customers. No matter how old we are there is always something new to learn.

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from Beekeeper wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Dave as for the list I agree with you on all but the price shopping. I'm not about to drop off a gun and ask for certain services to be rendered with out knowing what an estimated cost will be. A fool and his money will soon part ways...

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from crm3006 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Reminds me of an old hometown gunsmith that I used to frequent and learn from. Prominately displayed on his wall was a Labor Rate sign:
Labor- $8.00/ hour
If you watch- $15.00/ hour
If you help- $20.00/ hour

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from Carney wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

All of the trades have their positive and negative people -- on both sides of the counter -- and most of my choices on who I serve and who I let serve me are based on their attitude (all things being equal). There is one guy in a neighboring town that I wouldn't buy a gun from no matter how good a deal it was as his attitude is unnecessarily abrasive and condescending.

In my dealings (gun; auto; electricial; plumbing;...), I try to be a loyal customer as it is better to have good friends than a few extra dollars.

AND some sage advice: It's much better to make friends of your customers than to make customers of your friends!

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I agree that any craftssman should be able to give a reasonable estimate for the cost of most repairs or say that he has no clue as to how long it will take or cost to fabricate parts. That might tell you a lot about his experience. Giving free estimates and some advice is a necessary evil for the self employed businessperson.

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from bonedoc33 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

My counterpeeve: Gunsmiths that think just because I am bringing a gun to them that I know nothing about guns and try to feed me a load of crap about them. I do much of my gunwork myself, but there are some things I do not have the time or the tools to do.

The last showdown I had with a gunsmith was over my newest A-Bolt in 7mm WSM. I wanted it glass bedded, recrowned with a recessed target crown on an 11 degree angle and a trigger job to remove creep and overtravel and set the weight at 2 pounds even. First he wanted to argue about the crown angle saying it should be 17 and not 11 degrees, then he didn't like my preferred trigger weight. He really pissed me off when he asked "What's the point?" I finally told him because it was what I wanted and that if he didn't want to do the job to give me my damn rifle back so I could take it elsewhere.

He huffed and said he would do it, and that is when I told him to piss off. I took my rifle to my local Gander Mountain to have the work done; it took the smith there two days to get my rifle back to me, the work was impeccable and he didn't argue. He just did what I asked with no hoiler than thou attitude.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Mmm. I have a counterpeeve. I had a 10-MLII fired with a factory approved pyrodex load from which I could not extract the breech plug. I sent it to Savage to have the breech plug extracted, with a note saying that I'd appreciate if they cleaned it because I couldn't because the breech plug was stuck. The longer the burned dex sits in the gun is bad. They took out the breech plug but did not clean it. Worse, they took the ramrod and stuck it into the uncleaned barrel, so that the brass on the rod was oxidized by the pyrodex.

There are times when a smith needs to turn their brain on, no matter how backlogged they may be.

On "How Much?" Tough crap to the smith. You wouldn't make an open ended repair commitment on your car. If they don't like the competition, they should price their service competitively enough to secure the contract. The only people that I know who get open-ended commitments to someone else's cash are Congressmen looking at taxpayers' incomes.

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from Tim Platt wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

It's the same in every business.... welcome to the club. People want free advice, free estimates so they can take them to your competition, and then they scream "that is more than I paid for my house". Yeah in 1950 for twelve thousand bucks... now it's worth $150,000. $250,000 last year.

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from nc30-06 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I am a professional pilot and can relate to this blog. I have doctors, lawyers, etc. call and want an estimate for a trip. After spending the time to set everything up and when I give them the cost, their reply is "I can go on the airlines for much less". Well no sh*t. You are paying for the convenience and the flexibility to leave when you want to, plus the first class service. You don't get that on the airlines. Now I just tell them to go on the airlines and walk away.
It would be the same for a good gunsmith, and the "whatever Mart" example.
Luckily, I have a great gunsmith, and I pay his price. Yeah, the price sometimes is hard to pay, but the satisfaction trumps it everytime.

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from RJ Arena wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I used to have this sign over my desk,
"QUALITY"
"SPEED"
"CHEAP"
"YOU CAN ONLY PICK TWO"
seems to apply to many trades,including gunsmiths.

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from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

My comments on various:

>... was unable to remove the breech plug within an hour of returning

yes! not talking about the nipple, btw, but the durn little tiny plug seems to freeze up instantly. After reading it was good to get it unfroze I have had them break a piece of themselves off trying.

>It's the same in every business.... welcome to the
>club. People want free advice, free estimates so
>they can take them to your competition...

yes, this is very familiar and a sore subject for those of us who have to deal with it ... to everyone else it sounds like complaining about just going about things right. It's hard to see the other side of the story, but remember the little guy tends to get the shaft.

>Surly

does seem to be an oddly typical characteristic

>If their estimate is truly competitive

Can't argue with that, but when it comes to service, the price is the least important thing. The older I get, the more I realize this. If I paid $100 to a gunsmith and got it done right, when it seemed he was $20 higher than everybody else, that extra $20 is going to be long forgotten soon enough. But the job that wasn't done right is going to stick in the crawl for that $80 for the rest of my life! That's not to say I would be happy to find out I was paying $100 for a $10 job!

>If you find a gunsmith you can trust;HOLD ON TO THEM
>WITH BOTH HANDS!

Amen! & if he charges a [little] more cheerfully pay the difference!

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from Sb Wacker wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

And plumbers mike.
SBW

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from Zermoid wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Mike Diehl,
Did you mail the whole rifle?
Just wondering why you included the ramrod in the first place. I would have only mailed the barrel.

Also, I'm assuming it wasn't an octagon barrel?
A padded bench vice and a open end wrench works wonders on octagon barrels! Had a TC Hawken rifle a few years back, had to do that a couple times, clamp the barrel upside down and hopefully any marks will be on the underside of the breech plug.

Other question is WHY did you have to remove a breech plug just to clean it? Or can't you clean up pyrodex with hot water like real black powder? (I always used black powder) Bucket of Hot water and a tight fitting patch and jag sucks in water thru the flash hole and does most of the cleaning. Occasionally I'd take out the plug to give it a good bore brush cleaning from end to end just to be sure the groves were clean and no residue was building up in the end of the barrel.

May also want to try Blue Locktite, the removable kind. sets up like rubber in the threads and keeps dang near anything out of them.
Recently bought a cheap used german 22LR SAA style revolver which is mostly aluminum castings/forgings and all the screw threads were full of that powdery white aluminum "rust". So as some screws were loose, and that really tightening screws into aluminum is not a good idea, I locktited every one. They should stay in place with just a barely finger tip tightening and not have any more corrosion in the threads!
Just be SURE not to get the "permanent" locktite, you use that stuff you might as well just weld the parts together! Short of torching and hopefully burning the stuff out you will never get a screw out once that is used.

I'd like to also add my own Pet Peeve, when someone brings in a virtually destroyed gun and asks if they can pick it up either later today or tomorrow. Had that asked a couple times, told them "Sure!, it won't be done but you can pick it up anyway if you'd like."
One apologized, the other left with the gun.

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from blueridge wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

This posting is close to my heart, and it affects the essence of a man or woman's character. Thoughtful people make good sportsmen, and good 'smiths. Crass, shallow, 'I'm in a hurry, darn it!'-types, make another, larger group. Some are learning to go from the bottom feeder group upward, finding that their way is simply the wrong choice for a better result.

A gunsmith has chosen a hard path for his family and his bank, but is very special to those us who appreciate his profession. [I am NOT talking about the gunshop owner who grinds off the claw mounts from a German rifle and poorly installs aluminum ones, calling himself a 'gunsmith'. I'm talking about a machinist, a perpetual student of the art, who does what he does, well.]

Someone referred to the ultimate test of a 'smith...it is word of mouth. If they are quality workmen, they will have quality reputations. They deserve to make a living, and they deserve our patience while they make right what fools or circumstance has made wrong.

Patronizing the price got us a society with no cobblers to repair our shoes...it can surely get us an America with no gunsmiths. And, who can we blame but ourselves? Would you want YOUR child to become a gunsmith? Work Saturdays, and all deer seasons...and listen attentively to the ignorant complain about items whose nomenclature they cannot spell? And whose achievents they don't wish to afford?

Thanks, Dave.

Blue

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I got another one for you Dave;My local smith, nice guy that KNOWS his stuff, but works for a gun shop so he only makes an hourly wage. Customers seem to ALWAYS complain about the price(as dictated by his boss)while this guy barely makes 27K a year!
He plans to go into business for himself so, but that brings headaches as well. Anyway, I tip him generously when he does any job for me and I have yet to be unhappy with his work.
My advise;If you find a gunsmith you can trust;HOLD ON TO THEM WITH BOTH HANDS!

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from socalshooter wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I learned a long time ago that the best deal in anything is not always the cheapest price. The concept of good value is the real bottom line.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

"Oh, and Mike Diehl, Savage probably didn't charge for for getting out that breechplug you forgot about cleaning last season. And 4-0 steel wool will get that ramrod looking as good as new."

You've read alot into the case that is not correct.

I did not "forget to clean it last season." I brought it home from the range, was unable to remove the breech plug within an hour of returning from the range, and mailed it to Savage the following day because I was concerned with (1)avoiding damaging the breech area should I attempt to devise some way on my own to remove the plug, and (2) having it properly cleaned without delay. I provided credit card information with the letter along with my request to have it cleaned as soon as the plug was removed. My wishes were clear, and the savage tech/smith that serviced the firearm did a poor job of it.

While I am an admirer of Savage firearms for their accuracy, durability and price point, the service that I received in that instance definitely warrants mention as an unsatisfying experience.

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from Del in KS wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Dave,

When I ordered my ER Shaw rifle at "The gun shop" in Olathe they had 3 Cooper's on the shelf that I examined. I agree you are absolutely right about their quality. I understand the fella at Cooper Arms that loves Obama is gone now. Rumor has it that a young trophy wife from the left coast led him astray. Still did not want to spend that kind of money when the Shaw is likely just as accurate.

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from T.W. Davidson wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Yohan, Duckcreekdick, Crm3006 . . .

Thank you for your comments and questions. My reply:

When I took the rifle to the high-end gunsmith, he told me it would take 4-6 months before he would ship it back to me. I thought this was a long wait, but then again, I was dealing with a high-end rifle guru, and he told me he had a hefty backlog of orders, so I said nothing.

A week or so after I dropped the rifle off with the gunsmith, I sent him an email in which I specified and reiterated (very politely) all the separate repairs/improvements I wanted done to the rifle. I did this because I wanted to eliminate the possiblity of errors or misunderstandings between the gunsmith and myself, and because I wanted the job done right on my rifle. When I didn't receive a reply, I printed out a copy of the email and sent it to the gunsmith via regular mail--and enclosed with that letter several fireformed cases with neither powder or primers in them, but various bullets seated in them to overall cartridge lengths of 3.1"-3.2". I called the gunsmith a week later to make sure he got the package (he did).

I was then silent for the next 5 months or so. Mr. Polite was I.

When I didn't hear anything at all from the high-end 'smith for another several weeks--it was if he had fallen into a black hole--I called him and asked for a status report on my rifle. My impression from his answer was either that he was still waiting for the new Leija barrel to arrive, or, worse, he had not ordered it yet. I politely pressed. It became clear the 'smith had not ordered the barrel yet. Still polite on my part, I made it clear that he should have done so months earlier and advised him to get on with it before we both died of old age. I pointed out that I had already paid him half the estimated total cost for the repaired rifle, and there was certainly enough money there to order several barrels, not just the one single barrel I needed.

(Truth: I came very close at this point to demanding my rifle back, ordering a new barrel from a supplier, and getting the work done somewhere else, but I was engaging in a long-term effort to Improve on My People Skills (which I'm told now and then are lacking by people who love me--they tell me, for instance, that in my work as a criminal defense attorney it is probably less than polite to look at a client and say, "You're guilty as sh*t. And you're gonna go to prison unless I can pull off a miracle, which, frankly, you don't deserve because you're a dope-dealing scumbag. Stop committing crimes, dumb*ss."), so I was very polite and patient even though I felt like stomping on the floor and shouting at the big name high-end 'smith, "Where the f*ck is my god*damned rifle?"

About 9 months after I dropped my rifle off, the big name high-end gunsmith near San Antonio shipped it back to me in a nice plastic case, with my reamer in the case and a receipt. I noticed, however, that there were no newly fired cases with the rifle, nor was there a paper target with a hole or holes in it, nor was there any of the fireformed brass I had given him, nor was there the chronograph data sheet the 'smith told me he provided to all his customers for each of their rifles after he test-fired them.

I checked the bore of my repaired and improved rifle. It was dusty. It appeared to have never been fired. Ever.

As I mentioned in my first chapter of this story, the chamber of the repaired and improved rifle was so tight that even factory ammo could barely fit in it. The throat length was cut, I believe, to standard .257 Roberts SAMMI specifications of around 2.78"-2.88" rather than the 3.1"-3.2" I specifically requested.

The bolt on the repaired and improved rifle would not close on empty fireformed brass (made from my other rifle chambered with the same reamer I loaned to the gunsmith). Even when I fired standard factory ammo in the rifle and then made brand AI handloads for it with the newly fireformed brass empties, the throat on the barrel was cut so short that I was forced (until I fixed the problem by using another gunsmith) to seat my bullets so that the cartridge overall length was no more than around 2.88"--an infuriating situation to deal with in a long-action rifle.

Bottom line: the chamber was excessively tight and the throat was excessively short, likely because the high-end 'smith did not use my reamer, certainly because he ignored my instructions and specifications, and absolutely because he never bothered to test my rifle with any of the ammo I left for him.

Someday, a few months from now, when I can comfortably resist loud rauccous cursing at the thought or mention of the big name high-end gunsmith, I'll send him a letter telling him what I think about his attention to detail and the quality of his work. If he treats other customers the way he treated me--and deprives them of significant sums of money while doing so--his business won't last, nor should it.

T.W. Davidson

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from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Another shop sign seen:

Advice: Free
Good Advice: $5
Accurate Information: $20

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from duckcreekdick wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Another trick is for the customer to want to buy easily installed parts from the gunsmith and put them in himself.
Customers do not want to understand that it takes just as much time and care to make a firing pin for a $250 SxS beater, as a $2500 Merkel. Try that logic next time you need an engine rebuild for your 1972 Pinto.
"Why isn't every part available for a cheap pump shotgun made in 1928?" Can you go to NAPA and get a new distributor for your 1932 Studebaker?
The "gun puzzle" thing is usually preceded with "my dumb brother-in-law took this apart. Heh-heh!"
No, if you are lucky to have a good gunsmith and not a shade-tree blacksmith, realize your good fortune and try to stay on his good side. Most of us are not in it for the big bucks and like the sign in the diner says, "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."
Oh, and Mike Diehl, Savage probably didn't charge for for getting out that breechplug you forgot about cleaning last season. And 4-0 steel wool will get that ramrod looking as good as new.

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from Jeff Bowers wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I've seen quite a bit of the above myself.

It really helps to have a real respect for a gunsmith. In Ga., I hung out at a small place called DeerCreek Gun Shop in Marietta. I was learning the more intricate details about some things, and he was helpful, informative, and never much put out with me. In return, I never bought stuff anywhere else if he had it, or could get it. If I was going to go elsewhere for something and have him work on it, I always asked his advice in advance.

During those years, I never overpaid for anything, learned a great deal, and in many cases ended up with better than I would have picked on my own.

Attitude is everything.

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from cliff68 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Evertbody should have to work for the public for at least a year or two. I think this would provide a much better customer relationship. It's easy to get grumpy without even knowing it when dealing with customers over the years. The worst ones are the fellas who think they know more than you do-then why are you here? That being said customer PR is an art in itself. Sometimes it's much tougher than the actual work itself, and you don't get paid for the countless hours talking. Well most of the time!

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from 175rltw wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I've noted a certain surliness to a fair number of gunsmiths that can only be reduced/ relieved by the liberal application of cash. No issue there, the tire kickrs/ brain pickers have got to drive those guys nuts. My issue is when I go back 3-4 times for work, because the guy is a craftsman- and he's still sullen. Hey, clearly I am a repeat customer, hell I'll bring you a bottle of Bourbon at Christmas even- so cut the crap. Of course the other side of that coin is that I've never been a notedly cheerful guy either- so I should probably be more understanding. but still. dammit.

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from Kim wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Afriend of mine had the same problem with the breech plug in his black powder. Went hunting fired 2 rounds, got home and could not get the plug out. Never did come out. Gunsmith told him to buy a new gun. As far as talking to customers and prices for repairs go that is part of earning the consumers business. Don't like doing it then close up shop or keep on and your customers will dwindle to nothing and you'll close anyways. If you are a reputable gunsmith with a good manner and knowledge with reasonable prices you will always have business and the riff raff will soon filter out.

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from vtbluegrass wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

If you know what is broken or what improvement you would like to a gun the gunsmith should have some idea of the price. If you call them up with no idea what you gun woes are then asking for a price is a bit annoying.
I used to have a good gunsmith a retired old man who would talk at length about anything guns if you went to his shop. He also did excellent work wood, metal, or replacement parts for essentially minimum wage plus parts. Now I have moved to an area where the only gunsmith is a Remington licensed smith whom I would barely classify as a gunsmith.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

You guys pay $50 to $85 an hour for labor down at the automotive repair shop and your wife or significant other pays her hairdresser $40-50 an hour, so why begrudge your gunsmith's wages?

Regarding scratches and dings, I would hold him to the same standard as the Ford dealer. You ding it, you pay for it. I have 2 gunsmiths that I use. One is a notorious builder of semi-custom rifles and the other primarily a handgun & shotgun guy. Both are cantankerous bastards, but I call first to see if one can take the work and ask when is a good time to come by. To me, that sets the stage for a positive visit. I explain what my expectations are, he agrees to perform the work (usually with a rough $ estimate), and I go away and wait for his call that it is done. I pay without bitching and thank him for the job well done. He may not remember you well if all goes smoothly, but rest assured that he will darn sure remember you if you are a jerk.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

"Next time, put some anti-seize compound on the threads of the breech plug."

Another who has presumed alot without knowing the facts. I used Birchwood Casey choke tube lube on the rifle per factory recommendation before that shoot and since.

The only explanation I can offer is that when loaded to a full factory specified charge some of the burned pyrodex crud worked into the thread. But even that is challenging for me to imagine; breech plugs are milled to pretty fine tolerances in Savage rifles. It is noteworthy that I never had the problem before that incident when I used Accurate Arms 5744 and have not had the problem since then when I stopped using p-dex and went back to AA 5744.

The point is, however, is that it was stupid for them to put the rifle back in the mail that way and have it take a couple weeks to get to me, replete with ramrod dropped into the barrel into the burned crud rather than stowed in it's proper sheath underneath the barrel. *That* kind of smithing isn't worth any price.

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from OrangeNeckInNY wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I had a stuck breech plug once, but the solution was a ratchet and socket, because we all know that all-in-one tool that comes with the gun is worthless. With a ratchet, you could slip a pipe extension on the handle and "gorilla" the breech plug out. Next time, put some anti-seize compound on the threads of the breech plug.

As for "smiths" not getting paid for their time, I happen to be apprenticing for a master bow tuner and I see it every day - people come in for free advice and just take up the time in a day. They come in to test fire a bow, then go somewhere else to buy it. Then a week or two later, they come back to our shop saying the bow won't shoot for shit. Nine time ouf ot 10, the other shop's bowsmith dicked it all up and we end up undicking it. So instead of buying a bow from us and getting free bowsmithing in setting up the bow, they're now spending up to $200 to get the bow set up correctly.

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from OrangeNeckInNY wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

"'Next time, put some anti-seize compound on the threads of the breech plug.'

Another who has presumed alot [sic] without knowing the facts. I used Birchwood Casey choke tube lube on the rifle per factory recommendation before that shoot and since."

Choke tube lube is fine and dandy...for choke tubes. You need the breech plug anti-seizing compound made especially for breech plugs. T/C makes a very good one which I use and when you apply it to the threads correctly, all the way into the breech, there is no opportunity for pyrodex or triple-seven to work their way into the threads.

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from nc30-06 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

And one more point. Many people regard gunsmiths as "shadetree mechanics" of a sort, just like they regard pilots as glorified taxi drivers.

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from T.W. Davidson wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

All:

There's a gunsmith in my town whom I consider to be a good 'smith, a good guy and a good friend. Part of the reason he's a good guy and a good friend is that he enjoys (or seems to, anyway) showing/teaching me simple repairs and/or improvements to my rifles. A couple of years ago, he and I removed a mildly damaged .257 Roberts barrel from the broken-beyond-repair Rem. 700 action it was connected to, repaired the barrel, reamed it to .257 Ackley Improved, and put the revised barrel in another Rem. 700 action. It was a fascinating learning experience and the cost was reasonable. It was during this time that I learned he was an experienced and competent 'smith, and a good teacher.

But then my friend fell ill and was unavailable for quite some time. Meanwhile, I had a rifle I wanted to update and make super-accurate, and I had read articles about a big name high-end gunsmith down near San Antonio with his own line of custom rifles, so I called this person and talked with him. While on a business trip down that way a few weeks later, I took my rifle to his shop, the purpose being to get a new barrel in an A.I. caliber chambered just so, to get some trigger work done, to glass-bed the action in the composite-fiber stock I provided, and to put an all-weather non-reflective coating on all external metal parts of the rifle.

I spent significant time in person with the big name high-end gunsmith. I thought he was almost insufferably arrogant, but I also thought he paid attention to what I said to him, so I didn't mind too much. I carefully explained exactly how I wanted the chamber of my rifle to be reamed and why, and the gunsmith said, "No problem." I even provided the mint-condition reamer with which to do the job, and he said, "Great." I also provided fireformed AI cases (that had been fired in another rifle which I had chambered with the same reamer) and explained that I wanted the new barrel to be headspaced to fit the fireformed cases I left with him. The 'smith said, "I do this all the time. Not a problem." I also talked to the gunsmith about throat length and explained why I wanted the throat to be at least a certain length to fit certain bullets, and he said, "Will do." Nothing I asked for was in the least bit difficult or even out of the ordinary for an experienced, competent, pays-attention gunsmith to accomplish for any customer. My local 'smith, if only he had been available, would not have blinked twice at any of my requests, and the job would have taken no more than two weeks (if that), and I very likely would have been welcomed on scene to help get the job(s) done (which would have been fun and interesting). Also, the total cost would have been, even with the new barrel and chambering added in, within three digits. Reasonable.

Nearly a year later I received the repaired and supposedly vastly improved rifle from the big name high-end smith down near San Antonio with his own custom line of rifles. It cost a lot of money for the new barrel, the chambering, the bedding, the small trigger repair/adjustment, the all-weather coating, etc. In fact, the total cost went well into four digits, which I thought was (grotesquely) high, but I paid it without a word of complaint or grumble. After all, I was dealing with a big name high-end 'smith with his/her personal line of custom rifles, and therefore I believed I would be getting a really terrific, and terrific-performing, rifle from him. I even thought, naively, that I would be receiving a rifle from him that matched the specifications and instructions I had given to this gunsmith in person when I had dropped the rifle off with him nearly a year previously.

A week or so after I received my rifle the high-end gunsmith I went to the range and tried to chamber some of those fire-formed cases I mentioned earlier--loads made from the same batch of cases I had taken to the gunsmith 9 months earlier. Then an interesting thing happened: I couldn't close the bolt on any of the previously fireformed rounds (made in the other rifle I mentioned above)I loaded into the rifle--and since I couldn't close the bolt on any of them, I couldn't fire them either. (This pissed me off.) In fact, I could barely get the bolt closed even on a standard .257 Roberts factory round. (This pissed me some more.) Then I noticed the rifle's throat (in this long-action rifle) was chambered short in length (around 2.88"), as opposed to the 3.1"-3.2" seating depth I had specifically asked for. (I got hotter.) In other words, the big name high-end gunsmith had ignored or disregarded about half of the specifications and instructions I had given to him.

My use of the English language in reference to this particular big name high-end gunsmith became, for quite some time, very robust and vigorous. Even now, months later, my uncensored thoughts about this particular 'smith are not fit for polite society.

Yes, my "improved" (and certainly very expensive) rifle (with its all-weather coating) looks fantastic. True, the trigger is as good as any I've ever touched off on any hunting rifle. And true, this AI rifle puts factory rounds (since those were the only rounds I had with me that would chamber in the go**amned thing at the range)in groups measuring well under an inch at 100 yards, even though the factory cases were being fireformed (to the AI chambering) in the new chamber with each shot, which usually degrades accuracy a bit.

I'm still too angry--and feel far too ripped off--to write a civilized letter or email to the big name high-end gunsmith near San Antonio and tell him what I think about his work on my rifle. But that day will come.

I took the rifle to another gunsmith I trust. In a little over an hour, we got the rifle throated to where I need it to be; we fiddled with the chamber ever so slightly so that the bolt will now comfortably, safely, close on my huge stash of previously fireformed cases; and I fired (safely, no problems at all) some of my handloads in it to see how everything worked (just fine, very accurate). Total cost with this particular gunsmith to do half the job that the big name high-end 'smith down near San Antonio completely failed to do? About $120.

Moral of the story: Build a relationship with a good, competent, local gunsmith. Be skeptical regarding gun magazine articles about high-end gunmakers--because while maybe the gunwriters are getting rifles that shoot like a dream and fit the specifications provided to the high-end gunsmiths by the writers (unless the writers simply shoot whatever is shipped to them), that well might not be the case with Joe Consumer. You and me. Build a relationship with good, competent, local gunsmith and you won't have that problem.

Obviously, I'm not going to do business ever again with the big name high-end gunsmith. And if any of you know who I'm talking about, neither should you.

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from duckcreekdick wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Being one of those "surly" gunsmiths, I would've been happy to do Bonedoc33's glass bedding and 11 degree crown, but I would pass on the 2# trigger job. Gander Mountain has better liability insurance than me. From what I gather from this "my way or the highway" attitude, a lawsuit would be entirely likely.
RJ Arena: Another one is "Do you want it done quick, or do you want it done right?"

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from elmer f. wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I am no gunsmith, not even close. i do tinker with my own stuff. but i also know my limits. when it involves more than i feel confident in doing, i do not mess with it, i just take it in. everyone should be that way. your first "peave" really strikes a nerve with me also. would you go to the doctor after digging a ditch in 90 degree sun all day long without cleaning up first? not unless you chopped half of your toe off with the shovel! i was a professional mechanic for more than 35 years. my take on someones elses "machinery" was this. if it looks like they tried to take reasonable care of it, i woiuld bend over backwards, stay late, and even take parts off from something else to get them running again in a reasonable time period. if it was obviously rode hard and put away wet (if at all), i really did not care when i got to it, or how much it cost, or when they got it back. if you take your gun into a gunsmith not working properly, and he has to SCRAPE 15 years worth of caked on burnt powder residue and rust to find out what the problem is, why would he want to do his best work on something you obviously care little about? clean the thing up before you take it to him so he can see what he is looking at for heavens sake! personally, if i had to clean something that badly gunked up, i would charge double the time, and cost just to get it to where i could look at it. a gunsmith is a great resource, not just to keep your steel in good working order, but to help you with all aspects of shooting. treat him the way you would want to be treated. with sincerity and respect. and for the love of mike, buy something from him. he needs to make a living too!

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from ChevJames wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

What I hate is when you turn your firearm over to a 'smith, and it comes back with all manner of scratches and dings.

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from libertyfirst wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I sure loved this column. Great reading and pretty informative as to peoples thoughts about gunsmiths.
I sold my stock, shut down the woodburning stove, took the glass cases out and cover the milling machine and lathe with oilcloth. This happened 14 years ago and I still get 30-40 calls every September to see if I can fix something or put something together. I don't have a license anymore so I have to say no, but I'd be lying if I said the terrific comments from these old customers and friends weren't appreciated. I opened my store,not to sell stuff but to build rifles on the 98 mauser action. I always thought that these actions made excellent rifles and I still do. I've got a safe full of ones I've built all with mauser actions and they all shoot.
Gunsmithing,I never thought, was hard work. I loved every day that I spent in that shop. There was always someone with a deer jerky recipe or a story about his trip to Vegas or a young guy with a 243 that could kill every woodchuck at 3 1/2 miles away. There used to be a guy that would try to get the guys huddled around the woodstove to shoot dice up against the handgun case. No one ever bet more than a nickel or two. Pretty lowbrow I guess. Everyone was poor. Poor state, poorest county.

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from ingebrigtsen wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Luckily i have a retired gunsmith`s brains to pick and to discuss things with and he is redulent with advice even when none is asked for, and i have some interesting ideas myself that luckily have met his approval for the most part.. But if he wasnt retired he wouldnt have the time to give me advice i should think.. Quality gunsmithing is timeconsuming and time wasted is money lost. So unless u want the quality craftsmen of the industry to loose theire jobs then by all means buy cheap crap like the remington 770 and such..

btw. what would people in here think of a shotgunbarrel that could stabilise slugs and not ruin a shotload by fraying the edge of the load moving down the barrel with rifling???? seriously id like to know cos i kinda figured it out :)

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from 175rltw wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

When i worked at a 4 wheel drive shop people would come in and want an oil change. My SURLY bos would look at them and quote a pretty outrageous price- you know 150 bucks or so and they'd just stare at him. I did a few oil changes on those rigs, but most folks were like EFF that, and left. I'd be like Walter, what gives, and he'd be like "This ain't Jiffy lube, this is a custom shop- besides, you saw the mud 6 inches deep caked on that thing, did you really want to do tht job?" Side note, he'd always give me 20 bucks on the spot for those jobs just for dealing with all the dirt. Bottom line is all Walter had time for was building real fast cars that were born before 1950, and building one off jeeps- if you wanted 4 inch leaf spring lift, and we were slow, no sweat, but that didn't get his motor humming so to speak. If a guy can keep the bills paid cherry picking jobs and turning away customers, more power to him. I know I was happier at that shop than I would have been at a general mechanic shop too.

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from CavRecon wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

It seems that neither business acumen nor people skills are required (nay permitted) to become a "gunsmith."

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from Clay Cooper wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Gun puzzle in a box?

I wished I had a dime for this one!

Hasd a fella who decided to take apart his Nylon 66!

GOOD LUCK SUCKER!

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from crm3006 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

T.W. Davidson-
Good comment on a sorry state of affairs. I think I know of whom you are writing, and if it is the same jerk, I declined to let him work on my .375 H&H after a two minute phone conversation.
My questions to you are: 1. Why did you allow
a year to pass before recovering your firearm? (I would have been on his a$$ so bad by phone and e-mail after about three months he would have gotten the job done to get rid of me.)
2. Why did you not take a few of your custom loads with you when you picked up the rifle?
On a custom job like that, even dealing with a big name high-end gunsmith near San Antonio, I would "trust but verify."
I know, hindsight is 20-20.

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from crm3006 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

T.W. Davidson-
My compliments to you sir. You have more patience, tolerance, political correctness, and love of your fellow man than I.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Also, I can't imagine any circumstances where I would choose steel wool to clean brass. You might get the tarnish off, but what you will have won't look anything remotely like "good as new" because after all steel is a much harder metal than brass, regardless of the coarseness of the steel wool you choose.

To clean the rod end I used a fine copper brush and a mild, diluted brass polish.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

"free estimates so they can take them to your competition"

That is as it should be. If their estimate is truly competitive, the customer will return.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 36 weeks ago

@Zermoid:

"Did you mail the whole rifle?"
Yes.

"Just wondering why you included the ramrod in the first place."
Didn't occur to me that it'd be a problem. Lesson learned.

"I would have only mailed the barrel."
On a 10ML2 that'd be the barrel and breech, which you'd have to remove from the trigger assembly.

"Also, I'm assuming it wasn't an octagon barrel?"
Correct. Blued round tapered.

"Other question is WHY did you have to remove a breech plug just to clean it?"

The short answer is that one should keep an in-line as clean as possible. A longer answer is that if you can't remove the breech plug then ultimately when the vent liner fails you won't be able to service that either -- in which event you possess an odd-looking club rather than a rifle.

"Or can't you clean up pyrodex with hot water like real black powder?"
You can. When I received the rifle back I cleaned it with hot water. Now, however, I just use smokeless AA 5744. Caveat: yes, MOST people should never fire smokeless powder in a front stuffer. That said, the 10ML is DESIGNED to shoot smokeless and it does it well. Shooting AA 5744 in a 10ML2 is specified in the Savage user manual for this rifle. As ever, ONLY use the propellant or explosive specified by your rifle manufacturer.

@Orangeneck
"You need the breech plug anti-seizing compound."
I'll try it but as noted before I used what the factory manual said I should use.

@Ferber
"C'mon guys...expect your barrel to be cleaned, too?"

Yes, given that the propellant in question was pyrodex and that I asked them to do it and included payment. If you take your car to a mechanic and he says "well the problem is that you have some nasty solvent kicked up from the road into your brake pad, I replaced the brake pad but left the nasty solvent all over your caliper just so that it would get all over your new pad and f**k it up" you'd be irritated.

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from Del in KS wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Guess I am fortunate to live in a town that has multiple good gunsmiths. I usually drop in and BS with the guys at Ultra-Coatings Inc every couple weeks. BTW they are growing and moving to the other side of the state line. They will be doing gun camo dipping in addition the Cerakote and other services.

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from Tim Platt wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Get a bigger hammer and some solvent... that breech plug will come out.

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from ishawooa wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

All the statements are certainly true and commonplace with the majority of gunsmiths I have had the priviledge of knowing. My local smith and long time friend has a sign which says something like:
gunsmithing labor $50.00 per hour, you watch $75.00 per hour, you help $100.00 per hour
Two other trades that immediately come to mind who have to deal with similiar customers are saddlemakers/repairmen and farriers (not to be confused with a horseshoer since the former is trained and knows what he is doing while the latter is learning how on your valuable horse) but I won't bore you with their valid comments at this time.

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from buckhunter wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I just wish there was a GOOD gunsmith in my area to answer my stupid questions.

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from AlaskanExile wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Understand the mantra of the modern American Consumer:
"I want it all, I want it now, and I want to pay less than you did".
These problems are not unique to gunsmiths. Anyone who is a craftsman (woman) who has valuable skills is losing the value of those skills because we are awash in junk from the Far East! Most of the junk for sale today is not worth fixing.
Explain to me why I can buy a new printer for my computer for $49 that prints, copies and faxes, but a three-pack of cartridges for it costs $54?

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from duckcreekdick wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Re: T.W. Davidson

When you initially went to the range with your new rifle, did it not chamber your reloads because of the short throat or because of a short chamber? If you gave this big-name gunsmith a few of your reloads to test fire, there is no excuse for him to send that rifle out the door without being correct. I always show my customers the test fired case. I also show them how the bolt closes with the Go gauge and does not with the NoGo gauge. Simple precautions that inform the customer and keep future complaints to a minimum.

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from duckcreekdick wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Looks like you had all your bases covered, T.W. This "high end gunsmith" might not be in business long at this rate, and good riddance. Maybe he is the same guy I heard about that forgot to take into consideration the thickness of the Remington 700 recoil lug on a barrel job. When the customer shot the rifle for the first time and extracted the case with a neck barely 1/16" long, it was obvious the "gunsmith" did not know his job.

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from blueridge wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Amen, Carney. Well said. Loyalty to a good craftsman is its own reward. The best of a gunsmith's art walks out the door, never to be seen again by the man who labored over it.

Blending wood and steel together, artfully, is something to behold. Humoring the public with its crazy ideas can try the patience of a Saint.

They have to know that their very name is anathema to the politcally correct world, and they will not likely be invited to the school's Show and Tell. Yet, may their tribe increase.

Blue

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from blueridge wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Dear jimmied...
Sorry to hear of your rip-off by a pretend gunsmith. You really did not enquire of satisfied customers, and that is one of life's lessons, I guess. You did your part, pointing out the obvious shoddy work...what gunsmith school or machine shop would ever try to pass off such stuff as that? You are not on the other side, but on the right side of the counter. Find a good gunsmith, get your son to marry his daughter.

Blue

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from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I understand where a gunsmith is coming from and how fustrating it mimght be to hear such things but I must admit that I have been known to ask such things and say such statements. But then again, I ask it to the same gunsmith that is my buddy... most of the times I just ask the qestions because I know it bothers him. One more that bothers him is: "How soon can you get this gun back to me". Boy does he love hearing that one.

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from Vic wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Well I do most of my own gunsmithing, because finding a gunsmith worth his salt is a difficult proposition. I have found I do better work than most of them.

As for the rifled barrel that doesn't damage shot on the way out, okay, but I would think the centripitol force generated by spinning the shot would cause the shot to spread quickly. Good for close combat, but bad for anykind of birding.

Vic

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from ranger2 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I try to avoid paying anyone to work on anything I own. As valuable and limited as my time is, I would rather learn how to do something myself and pay for tools than to hand over my gear and let someone else tinker on it. I do make exceptions when I find a smith, (mechanic, electrician, fill in the blank) that is really good, is easy to get along with, and does not mind sharing their knowledge. They are far few in between, but I am always happy to pay them generously for a job well done, and return for future service. The other types that do lousy work, overcharge for what they have done, are gerneral bullsh*tters and the like~ not only don't get any repeat business, they may get a foot in the a** at the same time. And I tell everyone that I run into that they are not worth consulting.

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from jimmied wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I will join in on the counter side. I asked some of my shooting buddy's what gunsmith they recommend. All said to go to "Slam Bang" (Real name not used), he was the best all around gunsmith in town. I had 3 rifles that I wanted new Pac Nor barrels installed.I had faith in these guys and that was my downfall. Slam Bang (SB) had wore out reamers and all three ended up having out of round chambers. I showed "SB" the fired brass and he said nothing was real bad and the rifles all shot just fine. I pointed out the necks of the fired brass was crooked. Not only had out of round chambers but also had out of center chambers. This was verified by a chamber cast. His remark was unbelievable, he said if they shoot, it proved they would be "Minute of Deer" accurate at 100 yards. I bitched and moaned but SB said he did nothing wrong and his work was good. Moral to the story, choose your gunsmith like you choose your heart specialist, very carefully. I went to a real no bull sh*t smith and he installed new Pac Nor barrels and made rectangle dinner bells with the screwed up barrels. I gave my shooting buddy's Christmas gifts and asked to see SB's work. They all 3 said he never worked on their guns, they all said they heard he was good and that was why they said to use him. My fault but I look at it like this, I now have major bucks invested in something that reminds me of a turd that has baby powder sprinkled over it. You know the smell if you have visited an assisted living home. Life is sometimes a bitch.

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from ggmack wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

i am also lucky to have a retired gentleman that does gun work for some of the locals. he is not a gunsmith does not call himself that and does not want to be called that, he does it because he was an engineer for 35 years. he does good work as is a straight talker.

I know about grandads 22 got one sitting right here. ted williams signature edition. semi auto my butt. More like a bolt action. shoot pull " bolt " to the rear shoot again, repeat as neccisiary.

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from yohan wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Good one Mr T W Davidson ,..
Reasonable men excpect reasonable treatment,. Even if it is from Big Name Gunsmiths with their own custom line of guns near San Antonio

I peronally do not know the name of this apparent pontificating premodona you speak of ,.
But you seem to know enough about what your saying that I believe you .
Not that that,.. is a big deal one way or the the other
Yet with out overselling myslef I have over the years managed to become aquainted with a number of people in a number of different locations.

I will pass the word on the Big Shot gunsmith with his own line of custom guns near San Antonio

Could say I just hate guys like that
But hate is to strong a word ,.. hate is also one hell of a lot of work ,..
But I can and will say this pretty easily.
Guys like that rankle my fur like few other things

So trust that any I know ,.who to my knowledge
may as much as come near that place will here what you said .

Have a good day

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from Phil VanHagen wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Pet counter peeve:
Finally getting the wok back 6-8 months after it was supposed to have been done. I have known only one (!) gunsmith (unfortunately now retired) who always had the work completed on the date promised.

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from Ferber wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

C'mon guys...expect your barrel to be cleaned, too? Do you expect a detail job when you go to a car wash? Do you really have to get cost comparisons for no-brainers like scope mounting, trigger adjustment, recoil pad replacement? Sure for replacement barrels/rechambering and such. Hard knowing who's a good gunsmith? Good or bad, particularly when it comes to gunsmithing, the reputations are as well-known as Jefery Dahmer's or Ronald Regan's.

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from Jere Smith wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

T.W. You are a much more polite person than I would have been.

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from ingebrigtsen wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Well my idea entails no rifling at all and try spinning the water in a glassfull by spinning the glass.. same goes for my idea. so it would perform just as well as an unrestricted smoothbore but be able to shoot solid objects like slugs with a twist..:)

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from Jack Ryan wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I heard they are taking applications at Walmart.

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from yohan wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Yup ,..so heres the high and dry ,.. no one likes to pay for service. NO ONE !!

But if you actually need the service , then you have to expect to pay for it. Like medical servcice maybe ?? ,. escalating on a scale three times that of income if your not unemployed. Makes ammo prices ands smithing work look like chump change.
Then if you cant afford it you may well f ing die,.
and they take your house right after you do,.. to cover the bill.
But hay ,. who cares right?? secod ammendment and all that
Question is if were sick and or dead,.
who's gonna shoot the guns??

Then there is the plumber I recently had do some work ,. didnt think to ask what he charged because I knew the guy ,.
So just said please do this and that. Last I knew it was about $55 and hour
Well it aint $55 an hr no more folks his fee is about $100.And Im told thats on the low end .Ok ,..~

Still If the service is of a decent quality meaning it acomplshes the goal and in line with industry standards ,.. then its worth it .If you can afford it .

Problems arize (sticker shock) when a person just dosen't know how much is normal for the service.

I paid a chyropractor ( sp? ) a good chunk one summer ,. with no effect. But because I believe in them and what they do.
(Don't give one Flying F what standard internest says about this .
I tried another one,.highly recomended by a frend
He actually charged a bit more ( per pop ) ,.. but he got me back in shape ( from old boxing injury)
No trouble since and that was years ago
Regular doc wanted to put me on pain pills and muscle relaxants turn me into Michal Jackoson.
Take the long pill ride to neber neber land yuk yuk
and if that didnt work operate ,..
Saints preserve us from from evil cause thats what that guy was~ evil.
Or Hmmm possibly just one of the crowd that cut for money?

Also had an old quack Dentist try to bill me for work he didnt do ,..which really pi$$ed me off .
I suggested maybe my attorney get invoplved in the discussion At which point the old thief backed right off.
Problem with Dentists is,. Who"s the the dental cop in your section of Camelot ?
Who but he or she, actually knows what they did in your mouth. Now thats a bunch that badly needs more referees YUK YUK

Lets see chyro's dentists plumbers MD's"'medical costs ,.
Oh yea ,..insurance companies ,.

If we get that under control your gunsmith bills will
seem like kisses from the one you love.

Then ( this aughta spark the tinder) of course the genius populous that voted for Howdy duty and the hunter ( twice )

Which was the same collective genius that opend the gates to the finacial rape that lending deregulation allowed Wallstreet robber Barons to perpetrate.
Fleecing the U.S, and global population in a way and on a scale that even for me( being in that business) is hard to fathom.
I believe there should be a death penalty for scum like that.Cause the likes of that profile Madoff included have done something very close to killing entire families.Generaltions of savings and econimic power now missing from our economy.

If we had had,.. regulation and tansparency in the dirivitive markets ,. transparecy in the "dark commodity " markets meaning,.. regulate the unregulatd oil speculation . (think ole Georgey His buddy Dick didint know about THAT market?)
Not to mention the two wars sparked by the same genius hiding out in texas now
Which as you recall was based on evedence of weapons of mass destruction as thin as a fart in Sierra Leone on a windy day .

However,.. that said yuk yuk I tend to lean a little toward Mr Diehl and a few others in that .
Knowing what a gunsmith is and does ( my father was one ) I can say with some confedence. That the real good ones are usually when working in a good mood ,.. the good ones know they are good the customer knows it and the world its right.

That some pi$$y arrogant mutt who is constantly cranky
condecending and confrontational has no business in that business is a given .As almost for certain he dosent know what he's doing.

I had to explain to one a few years ago when he took an attitude with me ,. that
As I was certianly convinced based on our brief convesation he was with out question the piccaso of his trade.
and that for sure his fecies must smell like strawberry ice cream ,even though his skin looked as though his diet was heavily suplemented by meth cocain.

If he really did succeed in pi$$ing me off .
He would forth with become my next project.
and that he could be assureed he did not want that.
Which did to some extent take the wind out his sails.

However by then I was conviced this little Pr k did not posess the intelligence to fathom his own stupidity ,.. at which point I calmly gathered up the firearm I was about to leave there and made my exit never to return.
Must say after that I steered a ton away from that shop ,..hopefully I helped to cloths them down,. which ultimatly did happen.

Never spend time argueing with idiots .
They will drag you down to their level ,.
then beat you with experince only idiots posess.

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from burksmithy wrote 4 years 17 weeks ago

A true gunsmith should guarantee his work. Customer satisfation means repeat customers. No matter how old we are there is always something new to learn.

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