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Custom Gunsmithing

One of the most difficult things I must accomplish is to get folks to understand exactly what I do.

This task is frustrated by practically everything written about Gunsmithing. That's because writers write about the experiences they see in front of them. And, they don't see examples of what I do.

Let me quote a passage from one of the many writers I respect and enjoy reading. Sam Fadala has written a number of books on muzzloading blackpowder rifles and the many and varied sports centered around those fine guns. He's a very through researcher and explains his subject well. I respect his work.

In his book, "The Complete Blackpowder Handbook - 3rd Edition", there's a chapter on "The Custom Muzzleloader". Within that chapter (on page 84 to be exact), is the following statement. I quote from the book . . .

"Finding and buying parts has become more of a problem in recent times than in the past. I've listened to complaints from gunsmiths who have trouble finding the parts they really want to work with." . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . "After all, parts that can't be located and purchased must be handmade by the smith, and that takes time. My own Mulford long rifle has many metal pieces handmade by the artist." . . . . . End quote.

Did anything strike you there? It did me. I'll explain in a minute.

Fadala goes on to describe the extreme skills required of the gun smiths as they assemble and tune their purchased parts. He says "these steps require time, patience, knowledge, and skill." It's all true. Imagine the additional time, patience, knowledge, skill (and tools and machinery) that would be required if they were ACTUALLY MAKING the parts!

Now you see my point. The gunsmiths in the first quote were "complaining" that the parts they wanted were not available - good heavens, they might actually have to MAKE something from scratch!

The gulf between assembling purchased commercial parts OR designing, manufacturing, and assembling handmade parts, is a gulf so wide most can't see across it.

The economic comparison of commercial parts to handmade parts is a no-contest every time. Commercial will always cost pennies on the dollar to handmade. (Unless you have layers of middle men inflating commercial prices, and slave labor providing handmade products). The unbelievable requirements of tooling and machinery needed to make each and every component of a project is staggering. So, most Custom Gunsmiths will buy commercial parts from which to make their custom rifle. Most work in a small shop and hardly have room for a complete machine shop anyway. Doesn't that just make sense to buy as many parts as are available? If that suits you, sure. BUT, we can just go buy a commercial rifle too - right? Wouldn't that just make sense?

It seems to take folks so very long to absorb the idea of actually designing and manufacturing each and every part of a project. I don't buy a lock assembly, I manufacture each of the dozens of parts which go into an assembly I personally build to my own design specifications. I've assembled all of the machinery, all of the cutters, tools, jigs, and blueprints, to make each of my rifles from an idea and a few raw materials.

Understanding this concept is instrumental in us developing a type of working relationship which can be successful. I can tell you honestly, the price I ask does NOT account for the effort expended. I build my rifles for those who bother to become friends. My products are not simply catalog items which are being retailed. The level of involvement required from me, over and above the cost of the product, is so significant that I'm simply only willing to do it for those who have taken the time to understand what I actually put into my work.

One of the tools I've set up to develop this working relationship is my payment program. This is not simply for the purpose of spreading out the cost. The regular contact between us, over the months which pass, allow us to mature the project and allows me to become familiar with the personality I'm working with. While I have many wealthy customers who could purchase my work (or my entire business for that matter) without need for a payment program, they still comply with my request for such regular payments and contact. In this way, those who are blessed with plenty and those who are blessed with enough are made equal in terms of the ledger book. As we maintain the program, we develop the concept of the project, and; in the end, I make my work for a friend.

Link to Man At Work

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