Petzal: Why You Should (or Should Not) Buy a Custom Rifle

First, let's define our terms. A true custom gun is a one-of-a-kind rifle stocked in wood with a price tag of $10,000 and up. What I'm blathering about are synthetic-stocked semi-custom rifles, made in small numbers, to standardized designs, by shops employing two to ten people, and carrying price tags of $3,000 to $6,000.

Second, there is no logical reason to buy one. I love the things, and use them almost exclusively, but there is nothing they can do that I couldn't get done by a good factory rifle. So why bother?

*When you pay all that money what you are buying is the ideas and skills of the man who made the rifle. If you get one of Melvin Forbes' Ultra Lights, you purchase the 20 years he spent as a country gunsmith fixing other peoples' mistakes and the two years he spent supporting himself as a shop teacher while designing a rifle that weighed 5-and-change pounds with scope.

*You buy perfection. When custom rifles leave the shop, they are supposed to work perfectly. Not well, not good enough, perfectly. If they do not, they will be made to.

*You buy exclusivity. Not every honyak in camp will be carrying a rifle made by Mark Bansner, or Nosler, or Kenny Jarrett. This is important to more people than you would think.

*You buy the cutting edge of performance--the last 1 percent that money can purchase. No factory trigger will pull as well as a Jewell. No factory barrel will quite equal a Lilja, or a Schneider, or a Pac-Nor, to name three. No factory stock will combine the uncanny light weight and strength of a High Tech Specialties stock.

If some or all of this is important to you, start saving your money.