Here’s a way to make guns more exotic for your customers. Contracting with a company like Seattle Engraving allows any shop with an FFL sell customization options for serious profit.
by Charlie Briggs
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A fascinating company recently opened a new facility near me in Brandon, Florida, a suburb of Tampa. Located in a kind of an out-of-the-way industrial area, I would have never known about them had they not contacted me as one of the only remaining gunsmiths in the area – many of the other gunsmiths have died while I just celebrated my 80th birthday! [That’s one way to further establish your shop’s business! – Ed.]
The company, Seattle Engraving (SeattleEngravingCenter.com, 813/330-7620), in a nutshell, buys and stocks a large inventory of factory-new firearms and does elegant engraving and plating with 24 karat gold. They sometimes add diamonds, rubies, or other precious stones. The company had contacted me hoping I could disassemble 20 guns a week or more, ship the parts to their west coast plating facility, and then receive the plated parts back for reassembly and sale. However, I told them I was just too old and tired to take on a large undertaking like that, especially because it would also compete with my existing two or three guns per week work from existing customers and referrals. Fortunately, for all of us though, the company had back-up plans. By the end of the interview I immediately saw a big potential for readers of American Gunsmith; hence this article.
Founded in Seattle, Washington in 2013, Seattle Engraving operated there until January 2021 after deciding to flee the embattled Seattle area, moving its headquarters and engraving facility to gun friendly central Florida . Plans are underway to move their plating facilities here as well.
Haysam Gamil, the President and CFO, is a master engraver and master manufacturing jeweler. He gave me a personal tour of the company’s automated computer-controlled laser engraving machines and the computerized workstations where engravings are conceived prior to being sent to the engraving machines. In addition to the CNC engravers, Haysam personally hand engraves unique firearms for special jobs. If you’ve never witnessed hand engraving, you’ve missed a lot! “Drawing” a hardened carving tool through steel, without making the slightest error, is unbelievable work. For some jobs, precious stones may be inlaid. Moissonite diamonds, often described as the world’s most brilliant stones, are sometimes inlaid into that slides of 1911, Browning High Powers, Glocks, or Beretta 92 handguns as well as AK-47s. The company normally doesn’t do this on AR-15s, however, as they are primarily aluminum or polymer, neither of which are conducive to electroplating.
A company spokesman explained the marketing side of the business: “Our retail division regularly displays at southeastern gun shows plus the annual SHOT Show, and is supplemented by our retail counters in the front of this building. However, outside the United States our firearms are sold all over the world through wholesale distributors, while inside the U.S. we sell through a growing list of dealers, which we’re expanding through venues like the last SHOT Show in Las Vegas.”
This is where my ears pricked up: “By going to our website, SeattleEngravingCenter.com, and supplying the necessary information, FFL holders can request to become dealers. Upon approval, they will be entitled to a 15% discount.” This is where many of you readers come in and can benefit. The firearms pictured here (visit their website for even more pictures) often sell for $3,000 to $4,000, sometimes even more! If you encounter a customer looking for a really special firearm for themselves or as a gift, 15% of $4,000 is a quick $600 profit for you! I don’t know about you, but I’d need to do a number of trigger jobs or various repair jobs to make a profit of $600, and this is without the broken taps and/or drill bits, or the cuts and blood blisters we often encounter at the bench.
Another important thing they explained to me: Seattle Engraving does not take orders for one-off custom guns, such as featuring customer’s names, graduation dates, hunting scenes, etc. This is due to possible errors in communication; perhaps caused by a customer’s imagining how the finished firearm might look compared to how the finished product actually looked. It’s a little like when you see a movie after reading the book – it’s often not exactly the way you perceived it, right?
In the interest of thoroughness, I also did a little research into do-it-yourself plating of firearms and parts. I found an interesting firm in Layton, Utah: Gold Plating Services, Inc. (GoldPlating.com, 801/546-6200) that can offer quotes. They have a minimum $500 job charge.
Caswell, Inc (CaswellPlating.com, 855/CASWELL) is a firm I have personally worked with in the past, although on a small scale for work on triggers, grip screws, etc. You would probably want to talk to their Tech Support people before undertaking anything as large as a handgun slide or frame, much less an AK-47 barreled receiver! Finally, there’s a somewhat obscure firm called Texas Platers Supply (214/330-7168, 2453 W. Five-Mile Pkwy., Dallas TX 75233). They have been featured in several interesting articles but do not seem to have a website.
Regardless, I’m afraid that a DIY plating job will be a long way away from the gorgeous work I’ve seen at the Seattle Engraving facilities, and then there’s the engraving itself. But good luck. There’s obviously an interesting market for these beauties and we have an opportunity to jump into it!
Read more in the August 2022 issue.
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