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GUNS Magazine February 2010 - Page 12
GUNSMITHING • Hamilton S. Bowen • BE YOUR OwN GUNSMITH Save a buck for something else. or most of us, watching a craftsman plying a craft with which F we are not familiar, whether it be wiring a house, roping a steer, performing neurosurgery or writing a short story, engenders a certain sense of awe. How in the heck do they do that? Surely, it is magic! Well, no, probably it isn’t. More likely, it is the result of thousands of hours of work, practice, trial, error and dogged determination. However, there is virtually no skill, even gunsmithing, which can’t be acquired on at least a rudimentary level with just a little study and practice. Many comparatively simple gunsmithing jobs land on the benches of gunsmiths every day simply because the gun owner was intimidated by the prospect of touching his gun with a screwdriver. No need for that. Most guns are relatively simple mechanical contraptions and virtually anybody who can walk and chomp gum simultaneously can do a good deal of work with just a little patience and practice, armed with a few simple hand tools. Iron sight installations on rifles are a good example. Suffering from optical menopause and can’t see ordinary barrelmounted sights on your favorite deer rifle? No biggie. Chances are, Lyman, of proper tools for the job will, in the long run, probably cost enough in time, treasure and blood-pressure meds to have warranted purchase of the proper tools in the first place. We’ll cover the basics in a future column but, in the mean time, if you do not already have them, lay hands on gunsmithing supply catalogs from Brownells and Midway and the MSC tool and start reading. Along with some decent tools, you will need a place to work. I have worked in my lap, in a car, in the back of a pickup, at the kitchen table, in a garage and under the open sky, even in the rain. Your best work, however, will be done in organized, dedicated space around a vise, if you can manage it. There are precious few living spaces which can’t accommodate something. Marbles or Williams still make a proper click-adjustable peep sight which will work miracles. Installation usually takes no more than a screwdriver and, perhaps, a different front sight. Sure, there are a few tricks but nothing an old dog can’t learn with a little informed contemplation or, heaven forbid, a perusal of the enclosed instructions. Start Here If you feel your fingers getting itchy and you are edging towards the gun cabinet, here are a few notions to contemplate before launching your career as your own gunsmith. You will need to invest in some tools. Lack Experience There is no substitute for experience in any trade. Unfortunately, hobbyist and amateur gunsmiths often have little chance to acquire much since their exposure to a specific firearm may be limited to the one they have. But there is another way. If you are uneasy about launching into a job on an expensive gun, scare up a beater and practice on it. I have, for example, a couple of Mannlicher-Schoenauer carbines in need of restoration. Before I embark on the woodwork, I’ll practice and test the varnish, shellac and stains on some wood scraps and an old Marlin M57M I’ve been wanting to tidy up a bit for a “tractor” rifle. Just to keep my hand in, I’ll also install a recoil pad, not because a .22 Magnum kicks but because my Marlin was made for a generic person about 8" shorter than me and I need a longer length of pull. Might shorten the barrel while I’m at it. Vicarious experience is nothing to sneeze at so I would suggest getting a hold of books on gunsmithing. These are a wealth of useful information and will help you get started on a job on the right track. For the deadly serious, the NRA Summer Gunsmithing Schools are a great way to pick up experience you’d otherwise take years to acquire. DetailstrippingthiswonderfuloldSmith&Wesson.22Outdoorsmanforathoroughcleaningand lubeisasimplematterandwellwithintheabilitiesofmostrevolvershooters. 12 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • FEBRUARY 2010