Life can be complicated sometimes. Things you think should be simple too frequently end up being far more complex than they have a right to be. And usually it’s because the person trying to do the job doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing. Read on for a few distressing tales of gunsmithing woe. . .
A long time ago I was playing like Chuck Connors and twirling my .44 magnum Winchester model 94 carbine. Since I was an idiot, I ended up dropping it and breaking off the front sight. I accepted that stupidity definitely has a price and took it to a local gunsmith. He installed a replacement sight that was obviously not the original. I inquired as to why he couldn’t get a sight to match the original. He had no answer.
Took it out to the range, the sight flew off on the second shot. Took the gun back. Another inferior sight brazed on the end. This one lasted all of five shots. Took it back again. Insisted he contact Winchester and get a true replacement sight. A week goes by…nothing. Two weeks…nothing. A month later I return to the store (gunsmith rented out the back of a sporting goods store). No gunsmith. He’d packed up and left.
Took a deep breath and contacted store manager. Asked for my money and my rifle back. He couldn’t refund the money since the gunsmith operated as a separate business. OK, I’ll deal with that later. Go get my gun. He disappears into the back. Twenty minutes later, I have to have someone go get him. No gun.
Apparently all the in-process inventory was packaged up and shipped. WTF? Where? Don’t know, some other gunsmith. When did I need it back, he inquired. In about 5 minutes or I call the cops, I answered. He didn’t have the gun. Stalemate. Ended up taking 6 months to get my gun back. With, of course, another incorrect sight improperly installed. Sold rifle shortly thereafter, unfired.
A friend of mine borrowed a shotgun from someone and left it in the trunk of his car. The trunk leaked, gun got wet, stayed there for 6 months, turning a beautiful shade of rust. My friend’s a complete idiot. I can’t imagine anyone loaning him anything, much less a gun. Much much less a family heirloom. Apparently. A very nice looking blued steel shotgun. Friend does the right thing and takes it to a gunsmith to have the barrel stripped and re-blued.
The gunsmith doesn’t do that work in-house and ships it off. Gun disappears for close to a year. My friend and the gun owner have multiple arguments over it. Justifiable. Gun finally returns…Parkerized. WTF? Yup, military grade BS parkerization job. Not just the barrel, either, but the action too. A brilliantly blued action that now looks like shit.
Last weekend, the front sight flew off the end of my .45 Colt Combat Commander. OK, that happens sometimes. Took it to a local gunsmith. Big shop in the back of a major gun store. Three gunsmiths on duty. No front sights in stock for a narrow tenon. The most popular American handgun ever. Been in production for over 100 years. The majority of which use the narrow tenon front sight. And none in stock. Could he order one, I asked.
It’d be better if I just got one myself and brought it to him, he answered. He did have one (count them – ONE) sight package for a Colt 1911. Wide tenon front sight. Which would require him to machine my slide to accept a wide tenon. And the sight package? The radioactive glow-in-the-night sights at $130. Plus TT&L. Well over $250 by the time it’s all said and done. For an old, beat up range toy. No thanks, I’ll figure something else out, I answered.
I’m now surfing the web looking for a narrow tenon front sight and a tenon staking tool. Guess I’ll have to brush up on my (self-taught) gunsmithing skills.
My wife often asks why I never hire a professional. The above is a good start at answering her question. Cars, guns, bikes, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, I do all repairs myself. I’d rather do it wrong three times myself (and learn something in the process) then pay someone else to do it wrong once.
I know anecdotal evidence isn’t always – or even usually – conclusive, but does anyone have any good gunsmith stories? I’m talking local, back of the sporting goods store gunsmith stories. Shipping stuff off to high end, high dollar custom shops doesn’t count. I don’t care that Bill Wilson does good work, I’m not paying him to replace a front sight on a beat up antique. And if anyone is in the Clear Lake / Webster / League City area outside of Houston, can you recommend a good gunsmith?