Comments by Larry A. Willis, owner of Innovative Technologies, a shooting sports design company, and the holder of several patents for reloading equipment. He can be reached at larrywillis.com, 1480 Guinevere Dr., Casselberry, FL 32707, 407/695-2685
How to Find the Best Gunsmith
When selecting a gunsmith, it’s very important to know that very few are skilled at working on all types of firearms. Gunsmithing requires an extensive amount of special tools and equipment. However, it is common for them to farm out some portion of their work to other specialists that can assist when needed. Another important consideration is that just because a gunsmith can do an awesome job of accurizing a .45, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the guy you want building your next benchrest rifle. It’s always a good idea to find a specialist that works on the same type of weapon that you want serviced.
You wouldn’t go to an eye doctor for a heart operation – no matter how good a doctor he is. Do your homework and check references before selecting a gunsmith. It’s a good idea to actually see some of the projects that a perspective gunsmith has done. Then find how long it took to complete them. The best gunsmiths will quickly admit that their expertise doesn’t include working on all different types of firearms.
Before I learned how to find the best gunsmith, I was often disappointed at the poor craftsmanship that was performed on my guns. That convinced me (over 30 years ago) to do most of my own gunsmithing. I’ve found that doing it myself usually provided the very best results. However, the time it takes to get perfect results can be considerable – sometimes even ridiculous.
After taking every shop course in high school, I worked in a machine shop for two years. Since then, I’ve been lucky to always have access to a machine shop and a wide variety of special tools. This machine shop belongs to one of my shooting buddies. We’ve worked for decades designing, repairing and building custom guns and unique parts for our guns as well as for local gun shops. Hopefully, we’ll be able to produce some of those unique gun parts in the near future and make them available to other shooters.
I now find it easy to respect the work done by “skilled” gunsmiths, because I understand the amount of time it takes to do quality work. It’s hard to imagine producing top quality work and being profitable enough to stay in business. Skilled gunsmiths do exist; and believe me, they really earn their money. Many of them seldom bill you for the full amount of time they actually spend while working on your guns.
Specific gunsmithing experience is just as important as knowing how to use a wide range of tools. You’ll find that the best gunsmiths are real craftsmen, and they’re proud of their handywork. That’s a another important quality to look for when selecting a gunsmith. I’ve found that it’s a common mistake (and sometimes very costly) to select a gunsmith just because he lives nearby. It’s far better to select someone that has earned a good reputation doing the specific type of gunsmithing that you’re looking to have done.
Read more in our December 2012 issue. Back issues are available.